Archive for June, 2011

Au Revoir, La Belle France… For Now

June 9th, 2011 | Rachel

The problem with epic vacations is they fly by entirely too quickly.

And so, Steve and I have reached our final destination of this two-week jaunt: Paris.

It was my idea to spend our last two nights there.  I had romantic visions of a hotel overlooking the Eiffel Tower and casual morning strolls for coffee and croissants from the nearby cafes.

Imagine my disappointment then when I bid on a hotel in the Eiffel Tower area of Paris through Priceline and was given a room in a hotel room outside the highway perimeter of the city.  I don’t know if that is even considered Paris.  Upon further investigation, I discovered the section of the map on Priceline that I chose had a microscopic growth on the far corner that extended over the perimeter.  I would have had to zoom out to see it.  This deviation was big enough for just one hotel, and of course that is the one I was given.

The only upside of this Pullman hotel (which is 4 star) was they initially gave us a room with a dirty bathroom and inadequate air condition, and when I complained we were upgraded to a large suite with a separate living room and two bathrooms.  Not a bad way to end a trip :-)

We both slept like rocks, and the next morning we set out for Montmartre.

View of Paris from Montmartre

A little pop culture trivia for you: Montmartre was the setting of La Vie En Rose, Amelie, and Moulin Rouge.  I love all of those movies!

We stopped and had lunch at one of the cafes, and then walked up the hill to the beautiful Sacre Coeur.

Shops and cafes in Montmartre

Sacre Coeur Basilica

We spent the afternoon doing touristy things like viewing the Eiffel Tower from the Palais de Chaillot and taking the boat tour down the Seine.  Our boat actually broke down while we were on the tour, so we spent more time waiting for the police and another boat to show up than we did listening to the recorded tour guide.

Thanks, Mr. Photobomb Guy

View of Notre Dame from our boat tour

That evening, per the recommendation of two photographers we met in front of the Eiffel Tower (I have them to thank for the new banner photo above), we went to the 13th District for happy hour (cute bars with a young clientele, not far from the universities).

Bar in the 13th District

That evening, we followed the recommendation of our concierge and headed to the Boulevard Saint-Germain for dinner.  There were dozens of great restaurants to choose from, and we ended up at one called Au Beaujolais.  There were so many interesting characters in this restaurant — including the host, server, and Canadian gentleman at the table beside us — that I felt like I was in a sitcom (sorry for the iPhone photos… my camera died earlier in the day).

The food was great too.  Since it was our last dinner in France, I stuck to the traditional dishes: French onion soup, beef bourguignon (amazing!!!), and creme brulee.  Steve had the lamb.  Everything was delicious.

The sky opened up in the middle of dinner, so we had a leisurely cafe au lait afterward as we waited for the worst of the rain to pass.

Paris in the rain

That concludes the updates for our trip.  Stay tuned for more photos as I get them sorted out.  I could say the trip was great, but that would be a gross understatement.  It was the trip of a lifetime, and I am convinced more than ever that I want to live there.  More on that later :-)

Au revoir!


Roadtrip Update: Cote d’Azur

June 5th, 2011 | Rachel

After we had our fill of wine in Bordeaux (if that is even possible), Steve and I drove east to the Mediterranean coast.  We stopped for one night in the adorable, medieval town of Avignon.  We didn’t have a hotel reservation before we arrived, so I picked a hotel in my Lonely Planet book, and we made several unsuccessful attempts to navigate the narrow, one-way streets of the old city.  Ultimately we parked at the parking deck in the center of town and walked to the hotel, which was full.  Ah, c’est la vie.

The next day we drove to Cannes, found a hotel for two nights, and picked up the Ducati Steve reserved.  Wanting to make the most of our 48 hours with the bike, we immediately set off on the Rue de Napoleon toward Castillon.


For our second day with the Ducati, we rode south on the coastal road to St. Tropez.

Passing through St. Raphael

Red cliffs of Massif de l’Esterel

Cove on the drive from St. Tropez to Cannes

We made it back to Cannes in time for the sunset that night.

Sunset in Cannes

We were sad to return the motorcycle on the third day, but we drove to Nice afterward and spent the afternoon on the beach, so the day wasn’t a total loss.

Pebble beach in Nice

The plan was to drive to Lyon next, but we stayed in Nice too long and only made it as far as Aix-en-Provence.  The next morning we drove to Paris, stopping for an early dinner in Dijon.

Dijon was full of friendly, quirky people, including several bachelors and bachelorettes dressed up in odd costumes (one bride was dressed as a surgeon super hero, two separate grooms were dressed in drag).  We also stocked up on mustard.


Popular square in Dijon

It was an eight-hour drive from Aix-en-Provence to Paris, but Dijon was the perfect pit stop.  Now, its just two nights left in Paris and then time to return home :-/

On The (French) Road… Again

June 3rd, 2011 | Rachel

Just a quick update on what we’ve been doing.

After our tour of northwest France, we headed south to spend some time amongst the grape vines.  We spent the first night in the city of Bordeaux.

Somehow I ended up on a date with Justin Bieber.

I learned that the French put butter on their oysters… and have bars with automatic wine dispensers.

The next day we went to a large flea market in the middle of the city.  We found the honey badger, but he doesn’t care.

The main event, of course, was the wine.  We spend two days driving around St. Emilion and Medoc, touring wineries, and drinking wine.

As a special treat, May 30 was Steve’s birthday.  We celebrated by visiting two wineries and eating lunch and dinner at two particularly delicious restaurants.

Stay tuned for more!