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Just Back from Paris and Alsace!

 
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BG



Joined: 20 Jul 2006
Posts: 29
Location: Cambridge, MA (USA)

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:40 am    Post subject: Just Back from Paris and Alsace! Reply with quote

This is an account of our trip to Paris and Alsace, with emphasis on – what else – food! We have a bit of history with the City of Light – I was there for 11 months in 1974-5 as an impoverished student doing graduate work at the Faculte des Sciences (Univ. of Paris VI, Pl. Jussieu). Then we were in Paris for about 4 months in the summer of 1989 as I worked for the European branch of a U.S. company. After 1989, we seemed always to vacation south of the Alps (Italy, Spain, Greece), until 2003, when we joined a bicycle tour chasing the Tour de France in the Pyrenees, 2004 (self-guided biking in Provence), and 2005 (biking in the Dordogne).

We’d always wanted to see Alsace and its Route des Vins, so on Tuesday evening, May 22, we flew to Paris for 4 nights, followed by 6 in Alsace, and one more in Paris. In Paris, we had no specific plans ... just kind of wandered a different direction each day and saw where our feet took us. In Alsace, the self-guided bike tour was organized by Discover France (www.discoverfrance.com).

So what was different after 18 or 32 – 33 years? Well, Paris sera toujours Paris, but it changes too – and happily, we thought much was for the better. In 1989 we felt disappointed by many restaurants, and we couldn’t seem to find a decent baguette or croissant. My wife advanced the theory that the PTT made all the baguettes at a central location and then distributed them through le pneumatique!

Other great new things:
– Lots of bicycles, with designated bicycle lanes and routes leading right out into the countryside.
– Updated Metro lines and stations, and even more extensive RER service; surface tram lines; a really positive attitude, it seemed, toward energy conservation, toward keeping Paris livable, and away from the car-centric mentality.
– Much larger portion sizes! (mais attention, contrary to the title of a recent best-seller, French women [and men] do get fat!).
– People seemed more friendly to us Yankees. The election of M. Sarkozy? And for the first time ever, a Parisian complimented me on my French! (Modesty aside, I have studied French a lot; I’m sure I have an American accent, but I’ve gotten pretty good with the soft “r”, and my vocabulary, grammar, and general knowledge of how to say things has improved over the years; this is supposed to forestall Alzheimer’s and other dreads).
– The TGV Est Europeen starts service on June 10; it will reduce the train time Paris-Strasbourg from 4 hours to 2 hrs 20 minutes! But our “old” Corail train was beautifully smooth and comfortable, not to mention absolutely punctual. By comparison, Amtrak is some kind of cruel joke. Don’t get me started!

So we were delighted with our stay in Paris and also in Alsace, with its wines, its unique Franco-Allemand Rhine culture, its beautiful villages just a few km from each other and surrounded by vines.

Now for les bonnes addresses:

Apart'hotel Citadines, 64 rue des Innocents, a few steps south of Forum Les Halles. OK, not a lot of charm, but it was modern, comfortable, and quiet, had a small fridge and stove and basic utensils, and was a few steps from Metro/RER Chatelet/Les Halles. Also, not a bad price for a central Paris hotel.

Creperie St-Honore – near the hotel, a good place for a light dinner on that first jet-lagged evening.

Chez Janou – 2, rue Roger Verlomme (3rd Arr., Metro Bastille or Chemin-Vert), a Provencal bistro recommended by friends, and now by us! Reasonably priced; start with one of dozens of Pastis on offer, drink a Cote de Provence Rose, and sit at the tables on the street.

La Grille Montorgueil – 50, rue Montorgueil, a block north of Metro Les Halles in a lively district. A cheery informal bistro with a surprisingly large choice of entrees and plats, a good wine list, and very moderate prices. Duckling in a stock flavored with figs and honey was perfectly prepared.

Restaurant Moissonnier, 28, rue des Fosses St. Bernard (5th, Metro Jussieu or Cardinal Lemoine), a tradition of fine Lyonnaise cuisine in the shadow of the university where I studied in 1974-5. We ate there in 1975 – I had saved every centime for a hot date. We enjoyed it just as much as an old married couple 32 years later.

Patisserie Stohrer, 52, rue Montorgueil, a treasure (indeed the interior is classed as a national treasure, and there’s one of those Histoire de Paris signs outside). Everything is beautiful and delicious – breads, pastries, prepared foods ... worth a special trip.

Boulangerie Julien, 75 (or so) rue St-Honore, and other locations. Now we know there are decent baguettes and croissants in Paris.

Boulangerie Gosselin, 125 rue St-Honore, winner of Best Baguette in Paris. Julien and Gosselin were where we got our morning croissants to have with breakfast in our room. The coffee came from a brulerie in the Place de l’Horloge a few blocks to the east, near where we lived in 1989. By the way, a little brulerie where I bought my coffee in 1974-5 just up rue Monge from Place Maubert is still there; and it has the same roasting machine!

Maison Kayser, 14 rue Monge, roughly opposite my old brulerie (see previous para), has many kinds of breads and pastry, as well as sandwiches and other things to take away for lunch (nowhere to sit in the shop).

Relais Desserts, 85 (or so) rue St-Dominique, not far from the Champ-de-Mars and Eiffel Tower, a tiny gem, just wide enough for the scrumptious display case, a narrow aisle, and a row of small tables. We had a perfect light lunch there consisting of salads, a few spears of marinated white asparagus, and some very refined charcuterie. I wish I could just pick this place up and take it home!

In Alsace, we stayed two nights at each of three hotels. The Discover France representative met us at the Colmar train station, took us to Guberschwihr, set us up on the bikes, and gave us route information each time he came to move the baggage to the next hotel. (He did a lot more, too, checking the bikes each time, chatting with the hoteliers, whom he knows well, giving us tips on restaurants for the nights that weren’t already booked, etc.)

Guberschwihr – Relais des Vignobles and its wonderful restaurant Belle-Vue. The next evening, the Taverne Medievale proved very fine as well.

Riquewihr – Hotel La Couronne isn’t as fancy as the Relais des Vignobles, but the warm, welcoming family made it a comfortable place to stay. Restaurant Le Schoenenbourg, just outside the city walls, may have lost its Michelin star, but I can’t possibly imagine anything about its impeccable setting, service, and cuisine that could be improved! Think of a kind of nouvelle Alsatian cuisine – traditional plates lightened and made more creative. The next night, the Tire-Bouchon was more informal, but equally tasty, again with creative touches by the friendly (and reassuringly ample-bellied) chef.

In Ottrott, about 4 km west of Obernai, we stayed at Le Moulin, run by Fam. Schreiber, an energetic, chatty, white-haired couple with a great hotel and a fine dining room. But Le Clos des Delices, across the street, was totally stunning – the comfortable room, the excellent, correct service, the food, and the wines of Domaine Schaetzel – how could anyone possibly improve on this!

In Obernai, Patisserie Gross (www.gross.fr) is just off the main square – just look at the web site and try to avoid salivating on your keyboard!

No wonder the Germans say that the good life is Leben wie Gott in Frankreich! We have to get back to Paris again before another 18 years go by ... we’d be 80 by then!

Oh, did I mention that we enjoyed our vacation?

Questions cheerfully answered and further details supplied in this thread or by PM.
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So nice to hear from you again, BG! The silence was deafening. Wink
And you've returned with such a glorious post to share--
will be read with great interest by many!
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BG



Joined: 20 Jul 2006
Posts: 29
Location: Cambridge, MA (USA)

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I sheepishly apologize for my long silence ... I registered, I chatted eagerly, then came work, then some travel, then more work, then more travel ... you know how it is. But as you can see, this trip really perked up my awareness of all things French!
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simona



Joined: 11 Mar 2005
Posts: 696
Location: israel

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm happy to hear you liked the Citadines Les Halles, BG. It's our "home" in Paris for several years now, and though I'm a Left wing veteran ( my 5 years in Paris in the 70' were spend in Rue de Grenelle, just off St. germain Des Pres) , I prefer that part of the city when a visitor. It's functional, simple, but so very central. And the Montorgueuil market is my everyday maeket when there. At the end of the street , coming from the Halles on your right, is a very nice rotisserie, where we buy range chickens, lamb legs and even canards and rabbits. and with a frisee salald, a good cheese 'My" cheese from big shop one on the right) the and a nice Bordeaux from across the street at Nicolas, as well as with a tarte from Strohrer, what does a mortal need more ( besides some scallops and srimps the next day...)
We had the luckof having wonderful deals at Citadines le Halles,( you have to enter the site every day or so before your trip, they have exceptionall deals ). In February, we had a special deal for 84 Euro for the studio, and got a large one ( more that the usual) on the 7th floor, facing the Sacre Coeur.
I also felt familiar with some other places you mentioned: Strohrer is "our" patiseriem I especially like they fruit Tarts and the "speciality of the house" I forgit the name: it's patissier pastry over puffpastry covered with caramel. Incredible ( I'm definitely not a chocolate person, but my husband is and liked the chocolate things).
As for the boulangeries, the one you mentioned further away from the hotel,is open on sundays I think, is indeed very vey good, Though for the morning croissants and especially the baguette, I didn't venture further away than PAUl, near the main entrance of the Les Halles Complex.
I'll try the Grille Montorgueil next time. We love Paris in the winter , so it will be in a few months
Erin, if you are not averse to hotel appartments, maybe you can try the Citadines, it's near the Marais, actually it's near everything, every bus, every Metro and RER Thank yo CB for getting me back there for a few minutes!!
Bon Voyages a tous!!

No more war, more time in Paris!!!
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
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Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a matter of fact Simona I was looking at some yesterday! I will have to check into Citadines.

BG, I am excited to read all of your wonderful info. It sounds like you had a wonderful time.
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simona



Joined: 11 Mar 2005
Posts: 696
Location: israel

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What is so covenient with the Citadines is that you can reserve today and can cancel up to noon on the arrival date. So meanwhile, if you get a better offer, you reserve with the new reduced price and cancel the old expensive one.
I stayed once at Citadines Bastille Marais which I enjoyed very much: it's smaller, nicer colors in the rooms, very well situated: just between the Bastille Market ( twice a week) and the Richard Lemoir/Oberkamf market ( different two days a week) and walking distance to marche d'aligre (every day except Monday) and 10 minutes walk to the Marais . Usually it's cheaper, but you have to check every now and then for deals.
Good luck,


No more war, more baguettes and croissants
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Barbara



Joined: 13 Nov 2004
Posts: 899
Location: Gold Coast Australia

PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

BG sounds like a wonderful vacation. Now I'm siting here feeling a little, actually a lot, envious of Pesto Man and Erin's upcoming trips.
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