I learned that the richness of life is found in adventure. . . . It develops self-reliance and independence. Life then teems with excitement. There is stagnation only in security. - William Orville Douglas
Allow Myself to Introduce... Myself
Hello, I'm Josh. Kristen, the chief of this blog, is my beautiful wife. She's hired me at a very competitive blogger rate to post some neat stuff here.
In addition to her and my kids, I have a deep interest in travel, food, and drink. Coincidentally, that matches up well with "Bites and Sights."
My favorite part about writing is getting feedback. Please leave me some comments below to let me know what you think about this one.
The City of Lights
Paris is a town where everything is vividly alive. You feel its electricity from the moment you step off the your plane or train all the way to the Ile de la Cité. In between Haussmann's timeless style, fragrant boulangeries, statues of historical significance, and the many neighborhoods of Paris, you can sense immediately why this place has earned its image as the city of lights. The light of the town penetrates to your soul through all your senses - it animates you.
Kristen and I had the great fortune to reside in Paris from December 2006 through August 2007 while I completed some studies abroad and an internship. We experienced sensory overload, and along the way, we found some powerful hidden gems we fell in love with that are more or less off the beaten path. We'd like to share at least five we love in case you want to get a little something extra from your next visit or stay in Paris.
I stake my reputation on any of these that you will certainly get more than you expect. We can certainly share more, if you like this. Just let us know in the comments, or contact us.
In our inaugural post on sights, we give you these five treasures (hidden gems) to visit in Paris. Enjoy at your leisure.
5) The Rooftop Bar / Restaurant at Galeries Layfayette: I'm a huge fan of drinking (and eating) in places with really cool views. The Terrasee at Galeries Lafayette is a quiet, breathtaking oasis on the roof of one of the busiest, largest department stores in Paris (if not the world). We found this by accident while shopping the world famous "soldes" that occur in France every January and July. We went back many times not to shop, but just to sit perched on top Paris and soak it in. I like this vista better than the one at Sacré Coeur because you don't have to fight nearly as much of a crowd. It is as serene as it is visually stimulating.
4) The Marais and L'As du Fallafel: Does falafel come to mind when you think about Paris? I imagine not. I could probably count on my fingers alone how many times I've had falafel in my life prior to living in Paris, but once I had some from the "Ace" (note: "As" means "Ace," not what you might think), I was hooked. There's usually a long line, but it is completely worth the wait.
Going beyond the taste experience, one of my favorite features of this restaurant is its location, the Marais. The triangle of Rue des Rosiers, Rue Vielle du Temple, and Place des Voges features some of the best boutiques, museums (including the Picasso museum), and watering holes in the entire town. This is one of my favorite areas to get lost. You have nothing to lose.
3) Marché aux Puces de Paris / St-Ouen: This is not your run-of-the-mill flea market. Well, actually, some parts are. The main areas in the central buildings are unlike anything you will expect. Plan to spend lavishly if you're on a serious hunt for cool kitsch and furnishings. I'm not a huge shopper, but I loved digging through all the neat things people had for sale there. If I had some extra cash my pockets then, I could have filled a container with some great stuff.
2) Fête de la Musique: Every year on the Summer solstice (June 21st), the French retire from work early and celebrate live music for nearly (if not all) the entire night. In Paris, and all across France (seriously, everywhere), musicians of large and small notoriety form impromptu concerts for all around. The streets are packed with people eating, drinking, and being merry. The party goes on all night - the entire city is out and about.
1) Salon des vens de Vignerons Indépendants:Nowhere else (except for the other salons across France) will you find the highest concentration of some of the best wine growers in the world ready to serve you a taste of their best wines. For a modest entry fee (I believe it was just seven Euros when we went), you can go stand to stand to sample wines that will blow your mind. It is no secret the old world wines of Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and all of France's regions contain that je ne sais quoi, but you will never get to experience it anywhere else like this.
The alternative, which is not a very bad one, is to go to the regions themselves, vineyard to vineyard, to sample the individual wines. Here, you move five paces to the right. You have to be careful though - it is extremely easy to over indulge, over spend (after some drinks, you invariably buy bottles or cases), and just simply overjoy yourself at the Salon. If you are lucky enough to live in Paris (or plan on a longer stay), you could stack your entire cellar (cave or rack) with the best wines in the world, straight from the people who make it.
Honorable Mention: Fromagerie d'Auteuil After you spend some time eating and drinking your way through Paris, you find that there is a difference between good, better, and best (most of it is very good to start). We lived in the Porte d'Auteuil region for the second half of our stay, and we were very lucky to enjoy one of the best cheese shops in the entire state of France. As a matter of fact, if you visit the website for this particular shop, you see that its proprietor has been recognized as one of the best in France. If you make it out that far West in Paris, drop in this shop to sample and buy the best cheeses in France, pick up a baguette next door (this, coincidentally, is one of the best boulangeries in town), a bottle of wine from the wine shop or marché next to that, and make your way to somewhere picturesque to enjoy the meal of a lifetime.
Our best meals were often the ones we sourced from local stores and markets, just as simple as this (cheese, bread, and wine), more often than from the restaurants (you have to dig to find the right ones). More on this later - this is a topic all unto its own.
Have you been to or lived in Paris? What were your favorite hidden gems? Please share in the comments below! I'd love to learn about yours, and I'm sure I missed some others well worth a mention.
À Votre Santé!