• Mark Madonna

Bonjour Paris!


We arrived in Paris at 6am on Sunday. After customs and getting our bags and a taxi it was 730am and still the dark of night, they don’t have daylight savings in Paris. We arrived at Hotel Opera Elysees and went to check in. Our room wouldn’t be ready until 2pm. It was raining and on Sundays most restaurants are closed. We decided to head out and see what we could find. After a long, cold, unproductive wet trip we went back to the hotel. After another futile wet attempt in the opposite direction we came back again, resigned to the fear we would be sitting in the hotel waiting room until 2pm.

I looked up Paris restaurants on Eater’s website and found Café Mericourt. Our first breakfast in Paris was a wonderful experience in a fresh and bright bistro. John had the Shakshuka with poached eggs on top of a tomato sauce with red and yellow bell peppers with so much flavor we couldn’t believe it, the chewy French baguette was perfect for soaking up the sauce. We also had one of my favorite dishes of the week- Pancakes Sucre- orange water pancakes with lemon ricotta, maple cream, poached pears, grapefruit, pumpkin seeds and raisins.


After breakfast, we took a stroll down Champs Elysees. The rain came and went until we headed back to the hotel for a quick nap before heading to dinner.



I read amazing things about La Colimacon Marais, so I was excited when we entered a rustically decorated bistro. We started with escargot served in pastry and sweet red peppers filled with goat cheese. For our entrees we had duck confit and chateaubriand and more delicious baguettes. The service was exceptional but we were a little underwhelmed with our entrees but I think it may have been too much after such a long day of travel and walking in the cold and rain.



After dinner we happened upon Hombre, a small bear bar. A quiet Sunday night crowd witht he exception of two men who we dismissed gave us a chance to talk and relax as well as feel as though we had dealt with the stereotypical French wolf.

This was our short walk day, only 2.1 miles or 5,164 steps.





Monday morning, we woke up ready to head out to the Louvre. Although still overcast the rain had stopped. I think this was when I began to see what everyone loved so much about Paris. Looking out the window and walking down the streets I saw that every building had some beautiful ornament; facades with flowers or a bust on the side of the building, the winding streets and narrow sidewalks, statues on roundabouts.




At the end of our block we stopped in Boulanger Patisserie for our first delicious croissants, pain au chocolate, café American and orange juice. The orange juice in Paris is fresh squeezed. If you ever wondered what it would be like to have the bluebird of happiness sing in your mouth, have some French fresh squeezed orange juice.



We got to the Louvre and I feel like I turned around and around in awe. Before you ever enter the Louvre there is art everywhere. Every building is covered with statues and huge reliefs. The glass pyramids, the small Arc Di Triomph and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Inside gallery after gallery stretches into the distance connected by ceilings adorned with gold, reliefs and frescos. One of our favorite parts were the statues of marble, bronze and iron, statues so lifelike I couldn’t help but imagine them turning their heads to watch me as I walked past them. The largest crowd came for the Mona Lisa which we viewed quickly from the back of the room. We stopped at Goguette, think of a snack bar in the Louvre. Modern and bright, but quick and surprising. We had a scrambled egg on brioche, but the eggs were fluffy and light, the egg broken into tiny curds. A triple cheese sandwich was a very thin pressed sandwich with melted cheese with delicious brie that burst out from the first bite. We grabbed a coffee and headed over to the Eiffel Tower.




There are certain things I feel I must take a picture of every time I see it. Things like Bella sleeping, Big Ben, Disney castles and the Eiffel Tower. It was overcast, it was cold and the line is outside. First stop is considered the 2nd floor. You can climb over 650 steps or take a two-minute ride on a very (sardine can) packed elevator. After that another four-minute ride on a smaller elevator to the top. Being cold and cloudy was a bummer waiting outside in line, but the over cast view got me some beautifully dramatic views and pictures of the sunset.

We ended up in Le Marais again so we went to La Chat Zen for dinner. It was a small café. Steak Au Poive with a great sauce with nice big peppercorns and a fish and chips for John that actually tasted better than it looked. After 11,012 steps or 4.5 miles walking we were ready to call it a day and went back to the hotel.




Tuesday morning the sun came out and we headed out to see Notre Dame. We started out late and stopped in Les Tanins, a bistro on the way to the metro. It was lunch so we had a pre-fixe menu. We shared what was probably the best burger we've ever had with béarnaise and arugula salad and a risotto with a cream ratatouille.



We got off the train at Notre Dame at a beautiful library again adorned with numerous statues and reliefs we crossed the river and stopped to buy scarves. Outside Notre Dame we spent time looking at all the amazing art outside the building. It’s like seeing the forest for the trees, you look at an apostle and then see he’s standing on an angel, then you see above his head is a castle, and above that are angels or demons and above that is an archway filled with figures and above that… and on and on. Once inside the candles and quiet and peace inspired by the awe of the beauty and devotion envelopes you.




Next, we went to L’arc de Triomphe. Another iconic Paris image I don’t think I ever relized how big it really is. For centuries it was the largest man made monument at over 16 stories. The roundabout around the monument is also featured in pop culture as well. Six to eight lanes of traffic circle the monument with no painted or designated lanes, cars from the center suddenly decide to turn right, in front of four to six lanes of moving traffic and occasionally a cyclist works their way through. We took a tunnel under all of that mayhem to get a closer look. We took a trip to the top and got another perspective of the city. The city is so vast with most buildings six stories or smaller so you can see a great distance.


We wrapped the day up walking around the Paris Opera House that Phantom of the Opera was based on. There was a chandelier that fell and killed a man that is believed to have inspired the scene in the story. We sat outside and had a quick coffee under heat lamps in a charming café facing the opera house.

Another Eater pick for dinner Tuesday night took us to Aux Bons Crus. This is what I imagines a French bistro to be and one of our favorite dinners. The restaurant was bright, and full of people enjoying life. We started with escargot in garlic butter and parsley and had for dinner the specialty stuffed cabbage in a brown gravy, we also had truffle ravioli and crepes suzette with flaming Grand Marnier for dessert.



After a mere 13 floors climbed, 9,424 steps or 3.7 mile walk we headed back to rest up for Disneyland.


We left the hotel for Disneyland Paris around eight Wednesday morning. A foggy train ride through suburban France and we arrived. It was 28 degrees when we got off the train. There was a heavy hard frost on steps and hand rails. John was cold, I was exhausted and we couldn’t find our way around. It wasn’t looking good. Just like Disneyland, California, the Paris resort is made up of a castle park and a movie studio park. The entrance into Disneyland Park is a six story structure that looks much more like a hotel than a Disney park we know.



The sun came out and things eventually warmed up. We made our way to Main Street and took the horse drawn streetcar down to the castle where we went to a princess breakfast with Aurora, Ariel and Cinderella. I was surprised by how excited I was about this.

Sleeping Beauty’s castle is the prettiest Disney castle I’ve seen. It’s built up on a hill on top of huge boulders with a waterfall. The walkthrough with stained glass and statues telling the story of Sleeping Beauty and ending in the dimly lit dungeon where you meet Maleficent’s silently sleeping dragon who awakens roaring and puffing smoke.



Once in Fantasyland we saw the attractions seem to be a little bigge and brighter. The funny thing is a lot of announcements including safety announcements are in English, followed by French, but the attractions themselves are in French. So Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and Snow Whit's Scary Adventures have songs, and characters speaking in French.


Another attraction unique to this park was Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. A topiary maze that ends at the castle of the Queen of Hearts where you get a view from above Fantasyland. Next we hit Pirates of the Caribbean which has always been my favorite. Elements of the movie were added but the main original ride was represented and again a little bigger and brighter and the song was part French, part English.



Top park entry gates shrouded in fog early morning, John and I at Pirates of the Caribbean and Skull rock.

We headed over to the studio park with the plan to ride two of the unique attractions there, Crush’s Coaster from Finding Nemo and Ratatouille The Adventure, a 4-D attraction where you run around as a rat through the kitchen and restaurant being chased by Chef Skinner and the kitchen staff this turned out to be one of our favorite attractions of the day.



Exhausted, we headed back to Disneyland Park for Illuminations and the “kiss goodnight”.

After an astounding 6.7 miles, 17,325 steps and ten stories climbed we headed back to the hotel. We stopped at a small grocery store near the hotel and had dinner in bed, surprisingly good sandwiches and fell asleep.




Our last full day we decided to head out and see a few more museums. We stopped for pastry and coffee at Les Saveurs de Battignoles where we had the most amazing lemon glazed cream puff. This was the most beautiful day. Sunny and blue skies. We made our way to a metro station that was closed and had to go back to the station we knew but we didn’t mind. By the time we got there it was noon and busy on the trains. We got our tickets and I put my wallet in my front pocket and got on the crowded train. Four stops later we emerged and I realized my wallet was gone. Paris pickpockets one, Mark zero. We stopped and cancelled cards and went on to the Rodin Museum.





Musee Rodin is mostly outdoor sculptures in a beautiful garden setting and we had the perfect day for it. The Thinker is surrounded by beautiful sculpted shrubbery with the dome of the Hotel Des Invalides in the background. The Gate to Hell is a massive bronze door sculpted with reliefs. The gardens also included The Kiss, sculptures of Victor Hugo and Adam and Eve.




We walked on to Musee D’Orsay around 2pm. We went to the restaurant on the 2nd floor but had just missed service so we headed up to the top level to the restaurant there. Quiche and a tartan in a gorgeous restaurant. It was kismet that we ended up on the fifth floor because the first gallery we entered blew us away. Many significant works by Signac, Seurat, Monet, Luce, Cezanne and Renoir. John and I both considered it the best museum we had ever been in.



Being Valentine’s day restaurant reservations were limited. Moulin Rouge was sold out. We hadn’t had crepes so another eater recommendation was Breizh Café. Highly regarded, the original Paris location led to restaurants in Japan and England. Breizh specializes in Oysters, Crepes and Ciders. I’ve never been a fan of ciders but the sweet cider was a pleasant surprise. We had deliciously fresh oysters and a recommended bleu cheese crepe appetizer. The entrées are buckwheat crepes. We had the Provence and Montmarte crepes. Overall this was the most disappointing restaurant. Service was painfully slow and aside from the appetizer and crepe Suzette for dessert everything was a letdown.



After only 4.3 miles or 10,494 steps we headed back to the hotel and got ready for the long upcoming day of travel home.


We've been home two days and I honestly believe I've never missed a place after vacation like I miss Paris. Jusqu'a la prochaine fois Paris, or Until next time Paris.

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MARK MADONNA

COLDWELL BANKER GUNDAKER

314-225-7478 314-849-2880

9964 Kennerly Center, ST LOUIS, MO 63128

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