Europe Trip 2016: France

It took me a while to finally make it through all of my France pictures but I finally did it. Enjoy!

This is the 3rd and final installment in my Europe Trip 2016 series (if you want to see the first two post check them out here and here). After a full week in the Netherlands Lara and I were so excited to be headed to France, Paris in particular. It was sad to leave the Netherlands, but we had a full week there and felt like we got a good feel for the country. 

We arrive via train in Paris and had a driver all scheduled to pick us up to bring us to our hotel. This is definitely the way to go, no stress about finding a taxi, or figuring out public transit. He drove us to our hotel, giving us a mini tour on the way, pointing out different attractions along the way and asking us if we had any questions. We made it to our hotel, The Hotel Louison, with no problem and were checked in by Pierre (!) and headed up to our small but lovely room with a gorgeous view. 

We quickly dropped our stuff off at the hotel and headed out to explore the city. First things first, a stop at the first crepe stand we saw to check one "must eat" off the list. Lara and I split a ham and cheese galette (the crepes savory sibling) which was hot and cheesy and so delicious. 


These are a few of the other treats that were for sale at the crepe stand. I wanted to try them all. 

I also "needed" to try a Parisian croissant, so on our walk to the Luxemberg Gardens we stopped off at a corner bakery for a quick bite. 

Spent some time walking through the Luxembourg Garden which was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, it started raining a bit while we were there, but it wasn't too bad. 


From the Luxembourg Garden we made our way to Notre Dame, one of the few "must sees" on my list for this trip. It was very impressive. I know nothing about architecture, but seeing this building up close was unbelievable. What a building, inside and out!


Just strolling along the Seine!

Made it to the Louve. Didn't feel the need to go in, but I had no idea how big the place is! Wow!


Although we were trying to save money, and be smart about what we spent on the whole trip, Lara and I knew that we wanted to have one really nice meal while in Paris. Since there are a million restaurants in the city we weren't sure how to go about narrowing down the choices. So we decided to ask Pierre at our hotel if he had any suggestions. He was very happy to assist. After asking us what kind of place we were thinking, he immediately picked up the phone, called a nearby restaurant and made us a reservation. It turned out to be a lovely little place called L'Epi Dupin. We could only get a reservation out front, outside the restaurant. Although it was a little chilly, it was still a pretty nice day so we were okay with this. 

We each order a three course meal and a glass of wine. The meal also came with bread and an amuse-bouche. Everything was so delicious, and the atmosphere was wonderful. It was the perfect night. 

I tried to remember what we ordered, but I don't know if I got it all right. I had to guess on what some of it was since it wasn't written down anywhere, at least not in English! The amuse-bouche was a chilled carrot ginger soup with parsley cream and a radish. Then you can see my three courses down the left side of the collage below: scallop soup with either sweet potato or squash puree (I can't remember which) - very light and delicious, followed by the vegetarian main which was an assortment of several things, an Asian cabbage slaw, quinoa, parsnip puree with what looked like fried bananas, cheesy celery root mash, an artichoke carrot salad, sauteed pears, and some sort of crunchy crackery thing, and I finished things off with a speculaas cookie with poached apples, caramel and vanilla ice cream. 

Lara's three courses are down the right side below; she had a raw vegetable first course with beet sauce, some kind of fish for her second course, and grapefruit dessert with mango sorbet. 


Enjoying the City of Lights after our wonderful meal!


Breakfast was absolutely perfect the next two mornings at the hotel. The food and the selection was fabulous. Meet and cheese, boiled eggs, several types of bread and pastries, yogurt, fruit, fresh juice and coffee. I had to make a real effort not to gorge myself!!


Right after breakfast I grabbed an umbrella and we headed out the door on a long but lovely walk to the Eiffel Tower, a second item on my "must-see" list of the city. Although I was a little worried about rain, the morning turned out to be perfect for walking. And the Eiffel Tower was certainly worth the walk! Again, I was impressed, it was much larger than I was expecting, and amazing to look at. 


We decided to go up the Eiffel Tower and I'm so glad we did. I think it was worth it. The view was great, and it was a really fun experience. 


After the Eiffel Tower we did a lot of walking around and looking at whatever we could find. Thankfully we found a wonderful cheese shop where someone spoke a little English and we picked up a couple cheese to try! Oh how I wish we could find cheese shops like these in the States!

We picked up 2 different cheese from the HUGE selection. I wanted to try them all but we had to be realistic. We decided on the Epoisse Gaugry and a wonderful Roquefort. They were both amazing, and we ate them for several meals in a row!

And after even more walking Lara and I found a wonderful and unassuming little coffee shop. Up until this point in our trip the coffee has been good, but it had all been automatic, no hand crafted beverages in site. But finally at Cafe Fines we were able to sip on a couple of handmade cappuccinos, as well as a financier. The sweets case at this wonderful coffee shop was wonderful, I wanted to try them all. 

For lunch we went for the next of our "must-have" foods, a baguette! This was probably what I had been looking forward to the most. I love love love good bread. And I can say that baguettes will never be the same again. this was the best baguette I have ever had. The flavor, the texture, the chew, it truly was amazing. I can't even begin to explain why it was so good (I'm sure the location had something to do with it), it just was. We went back to the Luxembourg Gardens to eat lunch and it was just beautiful. The weather was cooperating, the sun was shining and the food was amazing. 

We did a little reading in the park after lunch to rest our feet, and then we were off with some more walking. This walking included some snacks of course! We had to get a canelé because Lara had never tried one (I'd only had one once before). They are just so good. Custardy and almost chewy and gummy inside (it really is good, I promise!) with the delicious flavor of rum shining through and a deep, dark and caramel-y exterior. I also couldn't resist the giant palmier. It was so crispy, sugary and light. A wonderful snack for that mid-afternoon slump. 




After a long day of lots and lots of walking, we made it back to our hotel. It was nice to just sit and relax for a little while after putting many miles on our feet in one day. 

On our last full day in Europe, Lara and I went on a tour of Normandy. It was a wonderful tour. Our tour guide was excellent and really knew the history and the area. The weather was absolutely perfect for our tour. I could not have asked for a better day. 

It was a fairly lengthy drive from Paris to Normandy, but it was easy and the countryside that we drove through was beautiful. Our first big stop was Omaha beach. I just can't imagine what it looked like on that June day so many years ago. On this day the sun was shining, the English channel was blue, and the beach looked pristine. 


We visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. A beautiful but solemn place. The crosses help put into perspective the loss that occurred during the invasion. 






Many, many names. 








And many, many crosses. 


After visiting Omaha beach we kept driving up the coast toward Point du Hoc. This is the highest point between Omaha and Utah beaches. There are still many old bunkers scattering the cliffs, and lots of craters that indicate where bombs landed. I was surprised that it was still so obvious after so many years. 



There was still one bunker there that was intact that we could walk through and get an idea of what it may have been like. I really didn't truly understand how a bunker was set up until I walked through this one. Very interesting. 

Here we are, overlooking the beaches. On the left we are looking down toward Omaha beach. On the left is a memorial that is at the tip of Point du Hoc, right on the edge overlooking the cliffs. I can't imagine what it was like for those American Rangers who climbed up these cliffs while under fire. 

After this it was time for lunch!! I had been looking forward to this because I was excited to try some of the Normandy specialties; cidre, camembert, seafood, and apple cake. The restaurant we stopped at delivered it all! We stopped in Arromanches at a place called Hotel de Normandie and feasted on all of these delicacies. I couldn't have asked for a better lunch. 

There is really no way to express how beautiful the countryside was. The views were stunning. 

After the long drive back to Paris it was time for one more quick meal. I wanted more crepes so we found a little creperie within walking distance of our hotel and settled in for a few more crepes and one last glass of cidre. 

We decided on one sweet and one savory. For the sweet one we had to try the crepe Suzette (homemade orange marmalade, flambeed with Grand Marnier). Lighting food on fire is always fun! As for the savory crepe, I kept it simple with sausage, onion jam and a mixed green salad on top. A great way to end the trip. 

Unfortunately, our shuttle to the airport arrived so early the next morning we missed breakfast at the hotel. I was bummed about this. But we managed to fit in one last French meal at the airport. The last of our French pastries. 


It was time to go home. But have no fear, I will be back!!