Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Our original plan had been to take the night train directly from Paris to Rome. However, we discovered when we started making train reservations that they were upgrading the direct train to Rome and it wasn't running. Since we would need to make a connection in Milan which involved switching train stations, we decided it would be wise to overnight in Milan. Good thing we did - because of an "animal impact incident" we had about an 90 minute delay in our travels and we would have likely missed our connection.

The cab ride from the train station to our hotel was most interesting - our driver had a wooden shelf built next to his steering wheel where his laptop sat. Every time he slowed down he either shuffled his iTunes playlist or checked Facebook. And some people think I am addicted to technology!

We took the subway to the center of town to see the cathedral. It is a most striking view when you emerge from below into the square where the cathedral looms in front of you. Unfortunately, the moment was spoiled by all the men who are trying to give you a "gift" of a friendship bracelet.

It costs 12 euros to take the elevator to the roof of the cathedral, but it is a view unlike any other and well worth it. You get to to walk along the spires and buttresses - be sure to wear shoes with a grip because the stone is polished and slick.

The Milan Duomo is like an over the top wedding cake - every surface is covered with gargoyles, angels, or decorative carvings. The center roof has rennovations going on, so not quite as spectacular as it would be without the scaffolding.

Even the door is totally carved with scenes of Bible stories. In contrast, the interior was unremarkable.

I'm really glad we were somewhat forced to overnight in Milan and grateful I could see this amazing structure!

Le Billebaude - Paris

My two favorite meals of the trip were in restaurants that were totally empty when we entered, which goes to show that you can't always judge a restaurant by a crowd. I discovered Le Billebaude through a flyer at our hotel. Since the reviews on TripAdvisor were good and it was nearby (across from Le P'tit Troquet where we had eaten the night before) we thought we would give it a try. The man who greeted us looked at us funny when we asked if we would need a reservation and told us to come back at 7:30 :-) - yes, crazy Americans who get hungry early! (Note: it was mid-week, TripAdvisor recommended reservations.)

The restaurant has maybe a dozen or so tables. Interesting large picture of a wild boar on the wall - I asked what Le Billebuade meant and it has something to do with hunting that didn't translate into English.

The menu was on this chalk board! Lots of interesting choices!

Starters were a salad with crayfish and a beet vinaigrette and stuffed quail. I don't think I'd ever had quail before, so here was my chance! It was served cold - the stuffing was all the various bits minced up and seasoned like a sausage and it was served with a delicious onion jam. Different, but quite good!

Both main dishes had sauces that made you want to pick up your plate and lick them clean! Top picture is the lamb with tarragon sauce and the bottom is the sea bass with mushroom sauce. The sea bass was on a bed of soft mashed potatoes and the entire dish was a perfect blend of creamy and savory!

This meringue for dessert was at least 5 inches tall and quite impressive. It was torched so It had a bit of that burnt sugar flavor like creme brûlée. Floating in yummy sauce and impossible to eat the entire thing!

This hazelnut financier cake looked a bit dented in, but tasted wonderful. It was swimming in tangy apricot sauce.

Totally loved this meal - I recommend this place if you was looking for a French dining experience with some delicious foods that are a bit different than what you might get in the States.

La Billebaude

29 Rue Exposition, 75007 Paris, France


Monday, July 9, 2012

Le P'tit Troquet - Paris

On our first night in Paris, we decided to try a restaurant that was recommended by my friend Sally. Le P'tit Troquet is tucked away in a small street between the Rue Cler and the Eiffel Tower. We arrived about 7 pm without reservations and the tiny place was almost full, but they said if we could be done eating by 9:30 they could fit us in. (Not a problem for us American eaters.)

We both opted for the 33€ three course meal. There were about a half dozen choices for appetizer, entrée, and dessert.

For appetizers, I had the risotto with shrimp and my brother had the chicory pie with goat cheese. Beautifully plated.

For main courses we had the flank steak with a savory shallot sauce and the scallops. The scallops were especially tasty and the mashed potatoes that came with the steak were as soft as pillows. I saw some people next to us had the beef bourguignon which came in cute little pots and looked quite good.

For dessert, classic crème brûillée and an almond cake with apples. The almond cake was especially good blended with the toffee sauce and apples.

This charming bistro was a perfect place to begin our short visit to Paris!

Le P'tit Troquet

28, rue de l'Exposition, Paris, France

01 47 05 80 39

Trip Advisor Reviews

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hotel Beaugency - Paris

I have friends who like to stay in the Rue Cler area (a Rick Steves favorite) when they visit Paris. One of the hotels they have used is the Hotel Beaugency which where we stayed at the beginning of our trip. Above you can see our room. It was pretty small but had nice wood floors and was clean and quiet. People at the desk were helpful and there was free wifi. The bathroom was a comfortable size and had lots of counter space. One thing to be aware of is that there is a tiny step as you enter the hotel. I managed to trip over it was rolled my suitcase in, falling onto the marble floor, and getting a big bump on my knee.

Really no view, just a narrow street below. Breakfast was an additional charge, so we opted to walk one block to the Rue Cler. We could smell the croissants baking as we walked up the street! Plenty of places to grab a light breakfast or to sit in a cafe.

Rue Cler is fun to explore. It is a pedestrian street with a market feel - produce, flowers, cheese, all kinds of French goodies for sale, and gives you a bit of a flavor of what it might be like to live in Paris - sigh..... It is about a 10 - 15 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower. It's somewhat farther if you want to walk to the Louvre or Notre Dame, but there is a nearby metro stop.

I liked the Hotel Beaugency - nothing special that made it stand out but it definitely met our needs. I thought it was a bit overpriced in comparison to the places we stayed in Italy, but I guess that's the cost of staying in downtown Paris. Here is their website if you want to see more: http://www.hotel-beaugency.com/

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Paris - before

I am recently returned from a two week trip to Italy. We used frequent flyer miles to get us to Europe and thus began and ended our trip in Paris. What a pity - having to bookend our trip with a few days before and after Italy with stays in Paris!

We arrived in downtown Paris around 5 pm. That allowed us enough time for dinner in the evening and a stroll to the Eiffel Tower. I had hoped to see the twinkle lights at night on the tower, but just too jet lagged to stay there until 10 pm.

We stayed in the Rue Cler area. It was fun to walk down the street filled with shops and see what was on display.

In the morning we walked along the Seine. I had recently been hearing about the "lock bridges" in both Paris and Rome. The new romantic custom to declare your true love forever is to write your names on a lock, connect it to the bridge, and then throw the key into the river. This is the view from the bridge that is right next to the D'Orsay Museum.

I am an art lover, so when you have only one day in Paris, it is hard to decide which museum to visit. Since the Louvre is closed on Tuesday, it made the decision to go to the Musee d'Orsay easier. Long 45 minute wait in line to get in. (If you stay in Paris for 2 days or more, definitely get the Paris Museum pass. You can walk to the front of the line and most museums and sites are included. We did this last trip and it was wonderful!). I enjoyed the wonderful impressionist art collection. Unfortunately no pictures of the artwork allowed, but I did take this photo of the main hall. It is an old train station that has been beautifully repurposed into the museum.

Cool view out the old train station clock onto the city. Reminds me of the movie Hugo. Look closely and you will see Sacré Coeur on top of the hill in the distance.

We picked up sandwiches at a nearby bakery and ate them on the steps of the d'Orsay. Unfortunately my poor French for a jambon (ham) sandwich was interpreted as salmon, which my brother didn't much like. My goat cheese quiche was devine!

A stroll through the courtyard of the Louvre.

Then a visit to Notre Dame. Always a favorite spot in Paris - I love going inside and seeing the stained glass windows.  We discovered another bridge behind Notre Dame absolutely loaded with love locks! I thought this was so cool!

We also went into Sainte Chapelle, which is a tiny jewel box of a church with the most stunning glowing windows. Two long lines here - for security and then to buy tickets. Unfortunately parts of the church and windows were under restoration, but I still loved seeing these gorgeous windows again!

 So that's what we did on the "before Italy" part of our trip. I posted more pictures of Paris here on Flickr.  I will post next about where we stayed in Paris and two wonderful meals that we enjoyed!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bonjour Paris, Ciao Italy

I'm back from traveling to Paris and Italy. I'm busily uploading photos and plan to share some great places to stay, food to eat, and things to see. Stay tuned!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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