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Champagne, Chocolates and Christmas, but no Chanel - Paris and Alsace

Champagne, Chocolates and Christmas, but no Chanel - Paris and Alsace

Feb 10th, 2014, 06:15 PM
  #1  
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Champagne, Chocolates and Christmas, but no Chanel - Paris and Alsace

This is an overdue Trip Report. My husband and I were in Paris and the Alsace area for two weeks from December 10th thru the 25th. This was a food oriented trip and I have an extra few pounds to show for it that I'm working off now in spin class!
Our flight over was uneventful. We have flown Premium Economy with Air France on our past few flights and feel it is worth the additional cost. The extra cost is about $200 each way, but the seats are wider and more leg room. It doesn't feel so much like being in a cattle car!

We were picked up by Victor's Cab Service when we arrived at CDG. I know several others have mentioned this service. They are excellent. Very professional and punctual.
We spent 7 nights at a Paris Perfect apartment in the 7th (Clairette). It was right off Rue St. Dominique and Rue Bordonnais and a stones throw from the Eiffel Tower and the Champs de Mar. It was beautifully decorated and very comfortable. The kitchen was very small, but not an issue. There was a gorgeous view of the Eiffel Tower if you were right up at the window and looked to the left. The view was a bit oversold in the write up, but it was a great location that my husband loved because he could always find his way back to the apartment by looking for the Eiffel Tower! I liked the residential feel of the 7th, but not sure if I would stay there again for two reasons: it is more remote for the metro and the rates are much higher. Buses were VERY easy to get on from this apartment (just across the street), but getting back was a problem on several occasions. Bus stops going in the opposite direction aren't always by the stop you got off at. I highly recommend using www.ratp.fr website. It will tell you what bus to get on and where to catch it and how long it will take. All you do is enter in an address of where you are and where you want to go. The Paris Perfect people told us about this site. Very useful!!!

As this was a more food focused trip, I will give you the prices of all the places we ate and other purchases we made. We didn't go to a lot of museums on this trip. We have been to Paris on numerous occasions and, being the holidays, just wanted to enjoy the city all decked out and all the great food this time of year. We did go on a Paris by Mouth Tour of St Germain and my husband spent one day at Le Cordon Bleu, which he really enjoyed. I spent a lot of time at Chowhound, John Talbott's Paris blog and Paris by Mouth researching restaurants.

Our first night, we walked to Le Casse Noix (15th). It was an unpretentious, warm and friendly place. We really enjoyed our meal and would go back without question. I can't seem to find the check from this meal, but think it was under $100 for two with wine. I usually had a glass of champagne as an aperitif and we always had wine, so those would obviously add to the tab.
The next day, we had reservations at La Table D'Aki (7th). It is a one-man show. The food was fabulous but VERY expensive. This is the only other place that I can't find a receipt for. My husband paid cash a lot early on in the trip and we must not have kept the receipt. I had a sole with very intricate seasonings. I think my husband had scallops. The restaurant is small and bit austere for my taste, but I'm glad we were able to experience his talent.

I will continue tomorrow.
chutney is offline  
Feb 10th, 2014, 09:49 PM
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I love visiting Paris and Alsace. We were in Alsace last September for the second time.

Love Premium economy but for us it is $2000 each extra per flight. I can eat a lot of good food and drink lots of good wine for that upgrade cost. So its economy for us.

Look ing forward to your next instalment.
aussie_10 is offline  
Feb 11th, 2014, 09:12 AM
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I always love a food-focused trip. Great start, chutney - looking forward to more!
YankyGal is offline  
Feb 11th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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I am not a foodie but I am always interested in reading about what else you did.
kerouac is offline  
Feb 11th, 2014, 10:30 AM
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looking forward to the Alsace part.
bilboburgler is offline  
Feb 11th, 2014, 10:51 AM
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Looking forward to reading more about Paris & Alsace and of course the food! ;-)
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Feb 11th, 2014, 02:20 PM
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The next day we headed over to Notre Dame to climb the tower. We arrived about 11:00 and only had to wait about 15 minutes to enter. One of the beauties of Paris in December! I had always wanted to do this, but the lines were always so long. What a spectacular view! And seeing the gargoyles up close was the main reason for the climb. We didn't go up to the highest level, because were running short on time for our lunch reservation at Le Saotico( 2nd). This was another recommendation from John Talbott. It was one of our favorite restaurants during our trip. It's in the banking district, so not a destination unto itself, but well worth going out of your way. We walked there from Notre Dame. It was jammed packed when we got there for a 1:00 reservation, filled with locals from co-workers out to lunch to Mothers with their daughters. We sat at a little table by the window, out of the way of the crowd -perfect! I know I had fish and my husband had a risotto with truffles and escargot. I only got a bite, but was fabulous! My recollection is that I had a salad with smoked salmon for an entree. I don't remember what the other entree was. Lunch with 2 glasses of wine each , entree and plats came to 87EU or $119. We stayed in that evening and enjoyed pate, cheese, smoked salmon,carrot salad and champagne (of course!) That was our routine, if we ate lunch out, we ate dinner in. Also, John, (DH), had to leave the apartment at 7:00 to get to Le Cordon Bleu for his one day class.

John says it was a wonderful experience seeing the institution itself, so much history. It is in a nondescript building on a nondescript street in the 15th. His take away was that the instructors were excellent, the morning demonstration was excellent, but the hands on experience in the afternoon was very limited. They did not rcereate the entire lunch, just the main course. He said if he were to do it again, he would only do the morning session.

That evening, we had reservations at Spring (1st). They seated us downstairs and I'm so glad they did! The "cave" is very romantic and quiet, compared to the craziness upstairs. The presentation and flavors were simple but elegant. I know we had a glass of champagne as an aperitif and a bottle of wine (the least exensive we could find!) and the tab came to 240EU or $329. I'm glad we were able to experience such a "hot" restaurant , but will probably be a one time experience based on the cost.

The next day, Sunday, we took the 11:16 train to Reims. We walked through the cathedral and then walked over to our lunch reservation, La Table Anna. I had a tough time finding a restaurant open on Sunday. It wasn't bad but nothing exceptional. The staff was very friendly and the restaurant was full of locals out for Sunday lunch.
After lunch, we walked about 15 minutes to the Pommery Champagne House for a 3:15 English tour. This was the only champagne house offering tours during the holidays. The rest were closed for, at least, the month of December.
More later.......
chutney is offline  
Feb 12th, 2014, 06:36 AM
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We do the same thing, chutney: if lunch is out, dinner is in and vice versa. We like the balance, both for our wallets and waistlines!

Carry on....
YankyGal is offline  
Feb 12th, 2014, 02:12 PM
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Thanks YankyGal,Bilboburgler, LowCountryIslander and and Kerouac for your interest and encouragement. I am not a creative writer, but feel it is important to give back to the forum that has helped me SO much in planning our trips.

Auusie: can't believe they charge that much for premium economy! It's a splurge for us as well, but we only take one big trip a year and it usually ends up being France or somewhere in Europe. We live beachside in Florida, so tropical vacations aren't a draw. Also, our area lacks a lot of "culture", so I crave the beauty and energy of a city like Paris (not to mention the food!)

Ok, where was I? Pommery Champagne House. The tour was 36EU for two, which included one glass of champagne each. There was a shop attached to the tasting area. We didn't buy any champagne. Actually my husband is not a big fan, but I LOVE it! That's why when I am in France I have a glass whenever I can! The caves were fascinating. So much history there. They are limestone caves that the romans dug out for building material. They go on for miles. Pommery had over a million bottles stored in the caves. They were also used during the French Revolution and WWII. Even if you aren't a fan of champagne, I highly recommend a day trip to Reims. The cathedral is also very much worth seeing. Most, if not all, of the French Kings were coronated at Reims Cathedral. We took a 6:00 train back (only a 45 minute train ride) and stayed in that night.

John had been looking forward to reheating the leftovers he brought back from the Cordon Bleu for our dinner that night. Well, we laugh about it now, but it was awful! It had all dried up (pork roast with potatoes)! I finished up the pate and cheese and we had a relaxing evening reading and emailing family at home. Before we went to bed that night, we took a walk over to the Eiffel Tower. I never tire of seeing it sparkle for those 5 minutes at the top of evening hour hour.

John had wanted to see the houseware dept at BHV. We had heard how huge it was. It wasn't exactly what we expected. It was really like going to Home Depot, but in the basement of a department store. From there, we went to L'Epicurean at Gallerie Lafayete. What an incredible food hall! We had lunch at a kiosk (not usre what else to call it) with bar stools that specialized in Iberian Ham among others) and Manchego Cheese and other Spanish cheeses. I had read so much about these hams and wanted to try them. It was all wonderful! Definitely a treat (expensive, but hey! we're on vacation!) The ham reminded me a lot of prosciutto. I know there are differences, but my palate isn't that refined! Lunch with one glass of wine each was 59EU or $80.

After lunch we walked over to Opera Garnier. All I can say is "WOW"! We didn't do a formal tour or rent the headsets, but we still enjoyed seeing the grand lobbies and the concert hall with the Chagall mural on the ceiling. Can't you just imagine it in the 1800s with everyone in their fineries? I hear the seats are very uncomfortable. Otherwise it would be fun to go see a ballet there.

We decided to break our rule and have dinner out tonight. We walked a block down the street and had dinner at Cafe Constant. They seated us upstairs. It was absolutely packed! I made the mistake of wearing a sweater I can't remember what John had, but I know I had beouf bourguignon. Our tab, with a bottle of wine, was 99.50EU or $136.

The next morning, we had to be at Poilane Bakery (6th) at 10:00am for a Paris by Mouth, Taste of St. Germain. There is a little restaurnat next door calle Cuisine du Bar, which is owned by Poilane. We arrived about 9:15 and had breakfast. I think we pais about 10EU each for an excellent croissant, toasted Poilane bread, jams, fresh squeezed oj and cafe au lait (in the big bowls - a childhood memory!) It really hit the spot! we met up with our group at 10:00. Our tout guide was named Diane. She is American and lives in the 9th. She wites for the Wall Street Journal Weekend section, among other publications. She used to be a staff writer with Gourmet before it wnet under. I think she also works with Saveur. The tour lasted from 10:00 till about 1:30pm. We both thoroughly enjoyed diane and the group we were with. there 6 total in the group. It was a great introduction in to some of the best foodie stops in St. Germain. Here is a list of the places we went:

Poilane - famous sourdough bread and WONDERFUL butter cookies. The shop had reindeer butter cookies hanging in the window like ornaments for the holidays!

Pierre Herme - We tried their holiday macarons, all very unusual. There was chocolate with truffle, foie gras with caramel and fig/noisette. I can't remember the other ones. They were interesting, but I would stick to the usual flavors!

Patrick Roger- He is an MOB in chocolate making. He is famous for his chocoale bars. They state the source for all the bars, such as Haiti, Madagascar, Papau New Guinea. There were probably 20 varieties. I can't remember which we tried, but there really was a difference between the different countries. We also tried some truffles and another chocolate with a crunchy hazelnut creamy interior. One of the best things I have ever eaten! We went back before our flight home and I bought boxes of these chocolates for my sisters and mother. We also bought three chocolate bars. He had a huge orangutan carved out of chocolate in the window!

Covered Market - we visited a highly rated cheese market and a butcher that is famed as the most famous butcher in France. Diane bought charcuterie that was hand made from the butcher and 5 different cheeses for us to try later with wine.

We then went to a very cute wine shop that had a back room where we were able to sit down and try our purchases with three different wines. It also gave us a chance to get to know our group a little better.

Our last stop before we parted ways was to a tiny shop that had only been open 6 months. The shop is called La Maison du Chou and specializes in petite patisserie de choux (little cream puffs). They had different cream filling and you pick your filling that the attendant fills into the tiny cream puff. I can't tell you how wonderful these were! If I was travelling to Pairs with children, I would definitely put this on my to do list.

Bottom line: we really enjoyed the tour. If you enjoy this kind of thing, I know you wouldn't be disappointed. We also went back to the cheese shop right before our trip home to buy Bordier Butter.


More later....
chutney is offline  
Feb 14th, 2014, 02:32 PM
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I ran across my notes for Le CasseNoix, Table d'Aki and lunch at Le Saotico.
Le CasseNoix - I had Ravioli with wild mushrooms for an entree and Dourade for a plate. Not sure what my husband had. We had an inexpensive Cote du Rhone. Tab was 115EU.

The only additional notes for Table d'Aki is that we had one glass of champagne and a demi of Puille Fuisse.

Le Saotico - I had Salmon tartare for an entree and Dourade on a bed of zucchini for a plate.
John had escargot in a puff pastry for an entree and grilled Tuna with a mushroom risotto for a plate. 2 glasses of wine each. It was a bargain for the quality of the food!
chutney is offline  
Feb 14th, 2014, 02:47 PM
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The evening after our Paris by Mouth tour we had dinner at Garance (7th). This was the standout, blowout meal of the trip. We were in a food coma after this dinner! This was, by far, this best meal we had on this trip. This was another recommendation from John Talbott's blog. It is a two story restaurant. The seating upstairs does feel like being in someone's townhouse. They also have seating at the bar for 6. We chose to sit at the bar and watch the action. The former sommelier at l'Arpege opened this restaurant and brought the chef, Guillaume Iskandar with him. Iskandar worked at L'Arpege and Septime. A+ credentials.
We chose the 5 course tasting, which turned into about 8 courses! They just kept bringing us plates! He personally brought out the first course to us. It would take two paragraphs to tell you everything we had. This is the one restaurant I still think about. I highly recommend it. We had one of the least expensive wines, think it was a burgundy. The tab was 214EU or $293. A bargain compared to Spring.
chutney is offline  
Feb 14th, 2014, 06:38 PM
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Chutney...really enjoying your report! I can relate to wearing a sweater inside Café Constant in early December...I broiled one year! ;-)
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Feb 14th, 2014, 07:17 PM
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Chutney, really enjoying your report, especially when it is about food..........you are making me long to go back to Paris.
Your Paris by Mouth Tour sounds great, adding it to my list for next time.
aussie_10 is offline  
Feb 15th, 2014, 06:40 AM
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Thanks Aussie10 and LowcountryIslander for your feedback.
I had written more last night, but got sidetracked and forgot to go back and submit.
I'll try and rememver what I wrote.
chutney is offline  
Feb 15th, 2014, 07:04 AM
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I'm also going to take a look at Paris by Mouth. Thanks for the suggestion.
Kathie is offline  
Feb 15th, 2014, 07:15 AM
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Well, I just tried to cut and past a web site to the trip report and lost everything I had just typed!

ALSACE:

The next morning, we took the 10:55 train out of Gare d'Est to Strasbourg. We arrived at 1:15 and went to the AutoEurope rental office at the far end of the train station, only to find out we had chosen a different office when we reserved the car. This office had no extra cars, so we had to go across the road to the agency we had selected. Not a big deal, except that the office was closed till 2:00pm for the typical two hour lunch. This office specialized more in truck rentals and the like. So, if you are renting from AutoEurope, make sure you select the correct station!

The manager was very nice and upgraded our car to a slightly larger car that had navigation. The navigation really came in handy. We had planned on using our iPhones, but his was much more efficient. I think we will request navigation on our next trip to France in September. After we loaded up our bags, we left the car at the agency and walked over to the famous cathedral. I think it was about a 15 minute walk. There were lots of people out enjoying the day. The shops along the pedestrian area were decked out with Christmas decorations.

When we rounded the corner and saw the cathedral my jaw dropped! It is even more magnificent than I had anticipated. There was a large nativity scene set up inside on one side of the cathedral. The area aoutside the cathdral was packed with people enjoying the Christmas markets. A very festive atmosphere. I wish we had more time, but had to get back to the agency because we had to be in Riquewihr by 4:30 to check in to our apartment.
chutney is offline  
Feb 15th, 2014, 07:42 AM
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The drive to Riquewihr took about an hour. There are vineyards everywhere you look. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the summer and fall.

Riquewihr is a walled village. We were instructed to drive along the ramparts until we saw a certain set of wooden stairs. Luckily we found a parking spot nearby. I'll talk more about the parking situation there later.

Our apartment was actually IN the ramparts of the village. The apartments are called Les Ramparts de Riquewihr. Here is the web adress for our apartment. I think our apartment was called the White Stork.
http://i-love-riquewihr.com/o_13-EN.html

The apartment was absolutely beautiful! I think the prettiest palace we have ever stayed in all our trips to France. It was decorated all in whites and creams. They even had a white Christmas tree with lights on it. It was so nice at night to turn the overhead lights down and enjoy the Christmas tree. We always travel with a bluetooth Jambox so we can listen to music . Its a great way to unwind in the evenings. It was on the highest floor with a big covered porch. We only went out there a couple times because of the cold weather. It would be wonderful in the summer. You can see out over the roofs. Magical!

The kitchen had state of the art appliances. We had the hardest time figuring out the oven. All of the knobs look so different than ours at home. I forgot to mention, before, but both apartments we stayed in had a washer and dryer. A real life saver and allows you to pack a lot lighter.

Riquewihr is a fairytale village. We visited several other villages while we were in the area, but this was our favorite. Every shop and virtually every house was decorated for Christmas. Lots of Teddy Bears, Storks and the like. In the evening, the crowds are gone and the village sparkles with Christmas lights. Even the private homes next to our apartment had decorations in their window boxes. Every time I looked out our bathroom window I would see all the white Teddy Bears. A great memory.
chutney is offline  
Feb 15th, 2014, 08:49 AM
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Hi Chutney ~ We will be staying at one of those apartments in Riquewihr in late June, so I can't wait to hear what you did in the area, and where you ate!

And could you tell me how to pronounce Riquewihr?
wrenwood is offline  
Feb 15th, 2014, 12:20 PM
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Hi Chutney - We have visited Alsace twice, in 2011 and last year. We stayed in Riquewihr and Ribeauville.

In Riquewhir we also stayed in an ILoveRiquewhir studio apartment in the ramparts. Loved our little apartment and loved staying in Riquewhir. It is a very cute village dating back to the 1100s so yes it is very busy in the daytime. We especially liked early morning walks and late evenings when the crowds had gone. Not to mention our early morning trips to the little boulangerie. Riquewhir had some great little restaurants too.
We visited in September and it was grape harvest time and the countryside was beautiful. Loved visiting the many other cute villages with their half timbered houses.

In fact we liked Alsace so much we went back last year, a very underated area of France in my opinion.
aussie_10 is offline  
Feb 15th, 2014, 01:14 PM
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Aussie_10 : I agree. It's a very underrated part of France. The people were very friendly and we really enjoyed the restaurants we went to. We both got hooked on the flambé sat lunch time!

Wren wood - not sure iig we pronounced it correctly, but I just looked it up. It's pronounced Rick-veer.
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