Partie Trois: Paris, Pain au chocolat et Escargot

Part Three: PARIS!! Je t'aime, oh ville des lumières! (I love you, oh city of lights!) We were last in Paris 10 years ago for our 20th wedding anniversary. Maybe it was magical because we were in awe of how we came to be there. Perhaps we loved Paris so for the fact that it was our first trip abroad. Could be we were caught up in the romanticism of our anniversary away from home. Nope. Turns out, it is still an amazing place and I can't wait to visit again.

We departed from Milan aboard a night train and it was the one nightmare journey of our entire trip. I won't bore (or disgust) you with the details but we'd never been so happy to arrive at our destination, board the first taxi we could hail and land at our perfect hotel. The Renaissance Republique in le Marais, although part of the Marriott group, was a fantastic choice. (hats off to you, JB) Our room was ready within 30 minutes of our arrival and we wasted no time changing and heading out to make the most of our last few days in Europe.

Some bus-riding, walking, museum strolling hours later, we were ready for our first meal in Paris. Many of you know as do we, to move away from the tourist attractions by a few blocks to find the best eats--value wise as well as taste. We found the perfect cafe in the Saint Germain area, Le Concorde, to share a carafe of white wine and a most delicious lunch for our ravenous appetites. This is where I had the Calabrese salad that knocked my Skechers off! Up to this point on our trip, salads were scarce and not featured on most menus...in Paris, I was finally able to load up again on greens. The guys both enjoyed their hot entrees and I reveled in greens with olives, spicy salami, two cheeses and a simple vinaigrette. 

From our highly satisfying lunch, we strolled to another museum which was closed for the day, so we decided to explore the Saint Germain des Prés arrondissement, the area in which we had based our 20th anniversary trip. We took our son to see our beloved Hôtel d'Aubusson and sat in the famed Café Laurent located in their lobby to share a glass of champagne and toast the past 10 years. It was an emotional moment for me as I was overcome by gratitude for all the blessings of my marriage. 

That evening we dined at a true Paris institution, Brasserie Bofinger. (pronounced Bow-fawn-jee, you're welcome) James, though having traveled to Paris and other cities in France with his fellow students, felt he had been unable to truly sample the cuisine, being on a student budget. However, because he was now in Paris with his PARENTS (aka bearers of unlimited funds) it was time to rectify that horrible situation. And he wanted to try Escargot, that famous delicacy of land snails. Try them he did along with a lovely duck entree, which I also ordered. Our server was a funny young man who applied a lot of pressure on someone from our table to order the house specialty...Alsatian Sauerkraut. Each entree listed in this special menu section accompanied the cabbage dish that we normally think of as a side...however, it was the starring attraction. After much cajoling by our server, my husband ordered the Bofinger Sauerkraut featuring no less than 6 types of pork, boiled potatoes and of course, the infamous sauerkraut. Of course it was delicious! 

We ended our repast with a beautiful presentation of Crepes Suzette - what else?! And then were invited to tour the historic restaurant, taking pictures with their historic stained glass skylights on the second floor. It was a really fun night.

The following day began with breakfast in the hotel restaurant--such perfect service, really can't say enough positive things about our stay--and I have to admit the pastry basket is always my favorite thing to come to the table. Croissant, almond croissant, chocolate filled croissant...is there ANYTHING better than flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, pastry? My hubs and I arrived at the table before the college boy and when we attempted to order a replenishment of said basket, we specifically asked for more chocolate croissant, his favorite. At which point the server tried to bring us a plain croissant with chocolate sauce. Puzzled, we indicated that we wanted the pastry with a wedge of chocolate on the inside. Ahhhhh, the French refer to that treat as Chocolate Bread (Pain du Chocolat). Lesson deliciously learned. (Don't you just love getting an education while stuffing your belly?)

We visited another famous brasserie for our final meal in Paris. Have you seen "Something's Gotta Give" starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson? The final pivotal scene was shot in Le Grand Colbert with the stars consuming copious amounts of wine, champagne and brandy. We followed suit and had an immensely satisfying meal of smoked salmon, foie gras, au gratin potatoes, Côte de bœuf, roasted chicken, and frites. Our server was assisted by her 17-year-old son and they were charming and welcoming, making our last evening festive and memorable. 

And then we came home to the United States, and summer heat, and our sweet pup, and hearts full of precious memories. Sigh. It was lovely. Can't wait to go back.