The City of Love

We wanted our last day in Paris to be a relaxing one. No lines, waiting, or traveling but just enjoying the final day of our holiday. Waking up later than normal, we decided to have a nice, long, sit down breakfast, or brunch really, as we would call it back home based on the time. For a small €13.50, we both began with a savory type crepe that consisted of ham and cheese, and an egg on top. 

Our next course was a sweet crepe. I ordered the apricot and Daniel went for chocolate. 

We concluded with a tasty americano. 

Now that our bellies were full, we could officially start our day. We stopped to purchase a box of macaroons to bring with us as we walked along the banks of the river and throughout the gardens surrounding Notre Dame. With blooming flowers, cherry blossom trees, and the sun shining brightly, our day was off to a wonderful start. 

Recommended to us as a must visit, we decided to stop at a book store called Shakespeare and Company. This was the first English bookstore in Paris, which opened its’ doors in 1951. It was started by an American named George Whitman, who allowed people to sleep in the bookstore in exchange for helping out. Over 30,000 people have slept within the beds among the bookshelves since it’s opening. 

Entering the bookstore, you’re immediately met by the smell of old books and wooden floors. The store itself is full of nooks and crannies, and different rooms and levels, and is surrounded by and fully stocked with floor to ceiling book shelves. As you walk along, the floors creek underfoot reminding you of the age and history of the shop. Above one of the entrances, painted on the wall, you’re reminded of George Whitman’s philosophy: Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise. 

To the left of the bookstore, and with a separate entrance is the rare books selection. We entered the tiny room to see what constituted “rare” and were surprised not only by the age, but the price! The shop keeper informed us that his most expensive book that he housed was In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway. This was Hemingway’s first major work, and was first published in Paris before being reeditioned in the U.K. and USA. It was priced at €2000. Your more mainstream books, like Ken Kesey’s One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was €800. 

Being as the sun was shining, we were feeling quite warm, and it was our last day, we felt it was essential to stop for a gelato. I had been eyeing up a shop since we arrived, who construct a beautiful rose shape out of gelato and then place a macaroon on the top. It was obvious this was where we had to stop. 

With our picnic lunch in hand, we wandered to Jardins du Luxembourg to relax. These gardens were constructed alongside the Luxembourg Palace in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France. The main pool and palace area is surrounded by numerous statues of queens and famous women of France. 

Each path you take leads you to a new garden or fountain which is beautiful and unique in its own way. 

After endless strolling, we finally decided on a place to sit down where we could open our newly purchased bottle of Veuve: a 2008 vintage rosé. Posing the bottle and snapping pictures, as any amateur photographer would, I was surprised when I turned around to see something else sparkling in the sunlight: a ring! As if anything couldn’t be more romantic, I of coursed said yes, we popped our champagne, and enjoyed our final day ever more! 

Leaving the gardens even more in love, we stopped at a little bakery to purchase our final treats. Being obsessed with macaroons, I tried a vanilla one, while Daniel stuck with his profiteroles. 

Next door was a wine shop, where we purchased a delicious €9 bottle from the cutest old man. He chilled the bottle for us, and even opened it so we could enjoy it right away in a park close by. 

For our final evening, we made a reservation at a place called Les Papilles to not only make our last meal a great one, but to also celebrate our exciting news. This restaurant has a set meal each night, which changes constantly, for around €40. We ordered a recommend bottle of wine and then our meal began with broccoli soup. They served us each separate, garnished bowls, and then the soup in a pot. It was heaven!

Our main course consisted of duck and vegetables. 

Next, to cleanse our palate we had a strong cheese, accompanied by a fig jam. 

Mango panna cotta was served for dessert, and of course we finished with an espresso. 

Our meal was perfect, and our day was perfect. Not only did I fall in love with Paris, but I fell even more in love with my new fiancé! 

The City of Long Lines

Paris is full of sites and opportunities to explore a city unlike no other. We set a big agenda out for ourselves to do everything super touristy that we could, and to see the main must sees on our list. Our first stop was the Louvre. We bought tickets ahead of time online, thinking this would help to avoid massive line ups, but instead it enables you to line up in a long line of people who bought tickets. Big tricksters! Once we went through security, we already had our plan mapped out to explore the Denon section of the museum, mainly the French paintings and the Greek and Roman area. 

No visit to the Louvre is complete without seeing the Mona Lisa, who although was smaller than I thought, was stunning. It was such a neat experience to see such a famous piece of art. 

After our visit, we walked through the brightly coloured Jardin de Tuileries, along the busy Champs-Elysées, to the massive Arc de Triomphe. We waited in the line to purchase tickets so that we could travel to the top for panoramic views of the city. 

The Arc itself was created to honor those who fought for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Along the arc itself, inscribed on the inside, are the names of the generals, and beneath the arc rests the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I. 

Once we climbed the 284 steps, we were at the top of the Arc, which provided stunning views of the city, including the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and the Eiffle Tower. 

Seeing the Eiffel Tower in the near distance, made us excited to continue heading to our final destination. We climbed back down the stairs, sauntered along the streets, and finally arrived at the monument that has only been in our dreams! 

In awe, we walked around the Tower, snapping photographs, before settling down in a nearby park for our packed lunch. Having the view of the Tower in the background provided the perfect, and most romantic lunch. 

Deciding that you can’t visit the Tower without actually going to the top, we waited in a ridiculous hour line to purchase our €17 each tickets to go to the very top. Once through the ticket purchasing line, we waited in several more lines for each time we needed to ascend or descend a level. However, the stunning views at the top and the surreal feeling of being on the Eiffel Tower made it all worth while. 

After our Tower experience it was after 7pm, and we decided that we had to stay to see the Tower in the evening. We had a quick pit stop for crepes and an espresso, purchased a bottle of wine, and returned to see the beautiful structure lit up and glowing. We spent some time taking photos, and then sat in the park enjoying our bottle of wine, and wondering, does life get any better than this?

Realizing that we hadn’t ate dinner yet and it was almost 11, we hopped on the metro to head back to our home base location. We tried a cheaper €15 set meal just to see if there was any difference, and needless to say there was. The quality and flavors of the food were lacking, but being hungry and exhausted, we didn’t overly mind. 

For our first course, I had a leek tart and Daniel had a smoked salmon salad, accompanied by a bottle of wine. 

Our next course consisted of lamb for me, and duck for Daniel. 

Finally, we ended with apple tart and profiteroles. For the first time, we skipped our evening espresso, and promptly headed back to our house, our stomaches satisfied and our hearts full. 

But First, Champagne 

Waking up bright and early this morning, one would expect we would explore the beautiful city of Paris, but we decided that it was essential to visit the Champagne region to experience the world’s finest. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve been turned on to champagne, primarily because of my mom’s obsession with it. But I will say that my love for those little bubbles has blossomed, and being in France, it seemed like we had to take advantage of the situation. 

We hopped on the closest metro and headed to the train station. With over an hour to spare, we had our classic pan de chocolate and espresso, only to realize that we had arrived at the wrong train station! Mad panic, hearts racing, and quick navigational decisions, we reached where we actually should have been, with only minutes to spare. We boarded the train, exhausted already, yet so excited for our day!

Forty minutes later, we arrived in the city of Reims, smiles on our faces and ready to explore. We took the bus into town with our first stop being the Notre Dame Cathedrale. Again, the beauty and architecture continues to amaze me. 

After a bit of walking around town, we headed to our first champagne stop: Taittinger. This winery dates back to 1734 with the relationship between Jacques Fourneaux and the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise. Although this winery has another site where the majority of their champagne is produced and stored, the location we visited still housed a mere three million bottles in the cellar. After a brief historical briefing and tour, we headed into the tasting room to try out their Brut Reserve and the Comtes de Champagne, the second of course being the older and better tasting!

After a quick snack, we headed to our next stop: Veuve Cliquot. This was a dream of mine to visit this winery and was truly spectacular. They offered world class service and provided a true “experience” that made our three hour visit one we’ll never forgot. The history and empowerment that you feel as a woman visiting the estate is inspiring. Madam Cliquot was widowed at 27 and took over the job of running the estate.  She was an unstoppable business woman who developed several techniques in the champagne making industry, consistently being innovative and ahead of her times. 

The tour itself was fantastic, with history of not only Madam Cliquot but also about the use of the cellars during WWI. Afterwards, we were taken into the tasting room where we tried the classic yellow label, as well as the Grand Dame. The difference in a good quality champagne has become so much clearer. We truly loved this experience!

Our final destination took us to a small winery called G.H Martel, where we only did a small tasting of three of their varieties. The final option was their reserve that is aged in oak barrels and had a very unique, but delicious, taste to it. 

We had a little time left before our train ride back to Paris, so we explored a little more of Reims. 

Returning to Paris, we captured some night shots of the beautiful Notre Dame cathedrale and the surrounding square. 

Finally, the moment you’re all waiting for…dinner!! Tonight we dined in style in the Latin Quarter for our traditional €65 dinner. 

Course 1: We both selected the French onion soup, to accompany our wine, and were not disappointed. 

Course 2: I ordered the beef bourguignon, and Daniel ordered the confit duck. 

Course 3: Tonight, I decided that Daniel should try the creme brûlée, so instead, I selected the apple tart. 

Let’s not forget our espressos! The little restaurant had a great atmosphere with a local artist playing a piano and singing some lovely tunes. 


Paris: The City of Lights

We packed up our bags this morning, headed through our traboules to the train station, ready for our final destination: Paris! The train ride was a mere two hours, and with a baguette and cheese, the journey went rather quickly. 

Leaving the train station behind in a furry, we were ready to walk into the city of lights. Fun fact: Do you know why Paris is called the city of lights? Apparently, back in 1889, it was one of the first cities to start using streets lights. Using these lights meant that people no longer had to the spend the evenings in their houses, but could instead be safe and more productive. Perhaps that is why Paris is still a lively and bustling place!

Walking along the Seine River to our Air B&B, the sun shone brightly, the air blew through our hair (or maybe just mine), and we were completed surrounded by gorgeous views, every direction we looked: A long wavey river, massive boats, old buildings, and beautiful flowers. The view that caught my eye the most was that of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Pearched on the naturally formed Île de la Cité, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic French architecture, and home to the infamous Quasimodo. Although I thought I saw Quasi swinging to ring the church bell at 4:00pm, I know for certain what I saw was a gorgeous cathedrals surrounding by beautifully blooming cherry blossom trees. 

Finally, we checked into our adorably tiny but centrally located room, and set out to get our bearings in our new location. We ended up stopping along the way for another amazing dinner. We’re getting quite use to these €25 set meals. 

Course 1: For me mussels and for Daniel escargot, and of course an incredible bottle of Côte du Rhone wine. 

Course 2: I chose the duck while Daniel had the salmon. 

Course 3: I couldn’t resist a creme brûlée, and Daniel tried the profiteroles, and as always, was accompanied by an espresso. 

The crazy thing about Paris is everywhere you look, you’re surrounded by the most beautiful and incredibly old architecture. I just can’t get enough of it and am looking forward to exploring this city for the next few days. 

“Romaning” Around Lyon

Ready to explore Lyon, we woke up, bought a few groceries for an early lunch, and set out on foot. Walking through the beautiful graffitied streets, we saw many squares, cathedrals, and monuments, before arriving at our first destination, Parc de la Tête D’Or. 

This urban park covers around 290 acres and features a stunning lake, rose garden, zoo, foot pathways, and bikes and boats for renting. Entrance into the park and exploration is entirely free! We, of course, had to be super tourists, and rent the most ridiculously uncomfortable bike to tour around the park. 

Leaving the park, we continued walking to visit the Roman ruins. Due to it’s location and influence, Lyon was one of the most important cities during the Roman Empire rule, and grew rapidly in both size and wealth. Lyon has many Roman ruin remains including an amphitheater, theater, Odeon, and museum. 

We returned to the basilique to view the inside, since we heard it was a must see, and indeed it was. Floor to ceiling mosaics, many different chapels, and a crypt. This basilique is definitely on scale with the one we saw it Monaco. It was absolutely stunning! 

By this time, we were getting hungry, so we stopped for an afternoon snack: tarts and local beers, and sat down by the river. 

Afterwards, we attempted to get into a few restaurants, but I guess you need reservations for most of them, or perhaps our 8:00pm dinner time was prime time! We ended up eating at another local Bouchon and had an amazing feast: another three course dinner, bottle of wine, and espressos for €70. 

Course one: pate for me, lentil soup for Daniel. 

Course two: pike fish for me, chicken for Daniel. 

We concluded with the same local delicacy, praline cake, and an espresso. 

Lyon has treated us very well and has definitely been a place that we would return. The friendliness of the people, delicious local foods, endless sites to visit, historical information, and beautiful parks and streets should make this city a must see on anyone’s list! 

“Only Lyon”

This morning we woke up to the beautiful sun shining through and finally gracing us with it’s presence in Nice. Of course, this was also the day that we were leaving Nice, so needless to say, the weather in Nice wasn’t so nice. Had the rain stopped for more than five minutes, I think we would have had a different experience, but regardless we made the most of it and were ready for the next leg of our trip. After a quick bus ride, mini photo shoot, and 30 minute plane ride with the amazing airline iHop (no they don’t serve pancakes!), we arrived in Lyon. 

The Lyon airport is quite a distance from Vieux Lyon where we were headed to, so we took an express bus, and two metros. Perhaps it took around hour, but the hospitality, and incredibly kind and helpful passerbys made our journey into town seamless. 

We had to wait an hour or so before meeting up with our Air B&B host, so we sat by the beautiful cathedral and did a toast to my Dad, being as it was exactly one year since his passing. We corresponded the time with our family in Ontario, so even though we weren’t able to face time them, we still knew that we will all doing a toast together, in Dad’s memory. 

After checking in and realizing our new home was part of Lyon’s traboules, we were excited to start exploring all that this beautiful city has to offer. For those of you who don’t know, traboules are these narrow passageways between houses that connect streets. They were originally used by silk traders and merchants as a way to access the river quickly. They’ve also been accredited with preventing complete German occupation within Lyon during WWII. Our home is within the longest traboules in Lyon. 

Walking through the narrow cobblestone streets, we stopped along the way for what is becoming our typical afternoon snack: crepes and an espresso. We strolled along the Saône before ascending 798 steps to reach the Basilique de Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière. The church was built in 1872 under the might of the Roman Catholic Church, and apparently excudes wealth. Unfortunately, it was closed once we reached the top, so we weren’t lucky enough to climb another 298 steps to get an even more panoramic view. I guess ours with have to do! Maybe tomorrow…

After taking the road path back down, we headed out for a traditional Lyonnaise meal at a local bouchon. We ordered 50cL of their local house Beaujolais wine and then our meal began with a melon soup. 

Next, I ordered the lentil and sausage appetizer, while Daniel tried the pate. 

For our main course, I had the goose which came in an incredible sauce, and Daniel had the fish. 

Our next course consisted of your choice of cheese. Mine was a local type and was very bold. I would describe it as a cross between Brie and blue cheese. Daniel had cheese and cream, which was also quite different but tasty. 

Next was dessert: strawberry tarte for me. It was delicious. Daniel had pears done in a wine/cinnamon sauce. 

Being our typical French selves, we ended our meal with an espresso. 

Three and half hours and €70 later, our stomachs were full and our hearts satisfied. If you’re ever in Lyon, visit this bouchon! It will not disappoint. 

One Year Ago Today…

…I lost my friend, my comic relief, my dad. This past year has been the hardest of my life with uncontrollable emotional outbursts and continual flashbacks, but I’m learning to cope. I’m learning that memories last a lifetime. I’m learning that these strange nuisances and occurrences are messages from you. I’m learning to live each day to its fullest and to love unconditionally. I’m learning that your inherited stubbornness can be used for the betterment. I’m learning to sing out loud and not care if it’s in tune or not. I’m learning to laugh everyday because it truly is the best medicine. I’m learning that if you watch Jeopardy every night you’ll get more than one answer correct. I’m learning that an ice cold Coors in a frosty mug can actually taste okay. I’m learning that beans really are a magical fruit. I’m learning that the beach truly is the best place to be. I’m learning to embrace my unique or rather quirkiness. I’m learning to be a forever kid. I’m learning to shoot for the stars. I’m learning that anything is possible if you set your mind to it and believe in yourself. I’m learning to tell those important to you that you love and care about them everyday. I’m learning that although you aren’t here in body, you’ll forever be here in spirit. I’m learning that I will never forget you, but that your memories and attributes will continue to live on through others. On today especially Dad, I’ll remember you. I love you forever and always! 

At 10:47am Ontario time, and 4:37pm France time, Daniel and I found a little café in Lyon to do a cheers to Dad. It was a bittersweet moment, but as the sun shone brightly upon us, I knew it was Dad shining his pearly whites through and cheersing us back. 

Thanks for watching over me Dad, for keeping me safe, and for loving me unconditionally. I can only hope that when I have my own children, they’ll always know how much I love them, just as I knew with you!