Three hours into our week in Paris, we realized that our trip would be completely centered around several things we were completely deprived of in Chiang Mai: Cheese, Bread, Wine, and Sidewalks. Luckily, we walked enough on sidewalks to compensate for the obscene amount of cheese, bread and wine we were consuming each day. Nothing says “time to move back home” like “outgrowing” all the clothes you have with you…
So why did we go to Paris? In a nutshell, my dad is a Rotary fanatic and is super involved in the youth exchange programs. Recently they became good friends with the Barbé family, because Zoé did a yearlong exchange in the town where my parents live. Because of my parents involvement Rotary Youth Exchange, I have “siblings” all over the world, people who have stayed with or have become very close with my family during their year in the USA. The Barbé family is one of those wonderful families, and they have an apartment in Paris where they very generously let us stay for a week! It. Was. Amazing.
Enough with the background, let’s talk about the food!
Anyone who has ever traveled to Southeast Asia can back me up when I say that the cheese there is just so, so sad. I ordered a ham and cheese panini at a cafe in Chiang Mai once, and I am 99% sure they used Easy Cheese to make it. Even the American Cheese slices are expensive and just melt into a gooey mess the moment you take them out of the wrapper. The fancy import grocery store stocks great imported cheeses, but they’re absurdly expensive. That didn’t keep me from window shopping, though. Whenever we visited the Rimping Market, I would lust over the fancy cheese while Kevin stood drooling over the imported beers. Sigh. That was a big event for us on weekends.
Enter Paris. The Barbé Family gave us SUCH an awesome welcome the night we arrived. Check out the spread they laid out:
There are so many things in that photo that make me so happy. Aside from 12 types of cheese (obviously, we tried every single type), there is a wonderful bottle of bordeaux, delicious foie gras (where have you been all my life, foie gras…), and two types of bread.
We also went out for a lot of cheesey dishes. One day we got French Onion Soup, which we learned is just called “Onion Soup” when you’re in France:
We also got a Croque Madame. If you’ve never heard of one of those before, it’s basically a Grilled Cheese sandwich on steroids (it even has ham!), topped with a fried egg. Are you salivating? I am too:
I don’t even know how to describe the bread culture in France in a way that does it justice. It is probably the best thing I have ever encountered in any culture I have ever experienced, ever. There are Boulangeries located all over the city, and locals tend to go out every morning to get fresh bread for the day. (Sidenote: Boulangerie is the French word for bakery.) Bakers typically go to school for three years before opening up a boulangerie. THREE YEARS!
When we were in Paris, we adhered to our do-as-the-locals-do mantra, and went to a boulangerie each morning. We tried croissants, croissants with butter, chocolate croissants, baguettes, “traditional” (more rustic) baguettes, bread with dried fruit and nuts in it, and the Barbés introduced us to the best type of bread known to human beings: viennoise. It’s a hybrid between brioche and a typical baguette, and it is the best thing since, well, sliced bread. The kicker? There is also a viennoise variety with chocolate chips baked into it!
Each morning, we enjoyed a traditional French breakfast of fresh baguettes with butter and jam. The best part is that you dip your buttered and jammed bread in milk before each bite! Try that at home, readers, it’s a little piece of paradise.
If jam isn’t sweet enough for you, there are also macaroons:
If you’re not into macaroons (you might not enjoy them if you don’t like butter, in which case we should not be friends), there’s definitely a dessert for you. Look at this madness:
We did our best in Paris to drink all the wine we could get our hands on, focusing on bordeaux, which typically costs north of $25/bottle in the US. In France, it’s easy to find a great bottle for just five bucks. We were only in Paris for 6 nights, but we took down 5 bottles of wine. We are champs.
Don’t worry, we weren’t just drunk the whole time we were in Paris. We drank other things too, like incredibly adorable tiny cups of espresso:
In Thailand, sidewalks are not sacred pedestrian areas. I’m not sure I’d even call them “pedestrian areas” at all, actually. Most “sidewalks” in Chiang Mai are riddled with uneven pavers that turn into what we call “gushers” after a rain storm. If you step on a gusher after it rains, then warm, muddy, gritty water might shoot up your leg. Fun, right? If you’re not worrying about gushers, you’re trying not to trip on random uneven sidewalk edges, or you’re avoiding advertising signs that have been erected in such a way that it blocks 98% of the sidewalk. I’ve seen loose electrical wires dangling in pedestrian paths, as well as random wires sticking out at eye-level from telephone poles. And the very best part is that it’s actually not at all uncommon for motorbikes to park and drive on the sidewalks. For months, I’ve been saying that I’m going to walk so hard on sidewalks once we move back to a more pedestrian-friendly culture. Here’s Kevin basking in the glory of a wide, wonderful sidewalk:
We did a lot of walking in Paris, which is our favorite way to experience a city, even if it’s the middle of winter. Here’s a run-down of some of the sights we saw while we were exploring:
We Visited Notre Dame
Montmartre and Sacre Cœur
The La Marais Neighborhood
This quickly became our favorite neighborhood in Paris! These photos show why:
I Became Obsessed with Doors
Paris just has the most beautiful doors ever. Period. I quickly became obsessed with them, which I know is a bit weird…
Confession time. We looked at the outside of the Louvre, but didn’t go in. I mean, check out these lines:
L’Arc de Triomphe
The Local Market
There was a morning market on Saturday near the apartment. We are suckers for local farmers markets, so we made sure to go!
Other Paris Sights
A New Years Celebration
We went with Zoé and her friends to the Eiffel Tower to count down the seconds until 2015!
We were so glad the Barbés loaned us coats for our week in Paris! Otherwise we would’ve rung in the new year with frostbite. At midnight, the Eiffel Tower sparkled with strobe lights, and unofficial fireworks were set off all over the city. It was a fun way to ring in the new year, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to everyone. The crowds at the Metro (Paris’ Subway System) afterwards were the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to a riot:
Our advice? Get a hotel in the city so you don’t need to use public transit after the clock strikes midnight!
We Want to Hear From You!
We’re going to be here in Europe for the next 4 months. Do you have any cold-weather destination suggestions? We’re all ears.