Paris is a lovely city and full of surprises too! Two Fridays ago, I took the Eurostar after work to meet Keenan in the City of Lights for a short weekend getaway. He had arrived earlier in the day for a business meeting and kindly checked us into the l'Empire, a boutique hotel off of Rue du Rivoli in the 1st arrondisement. The stylish room at this smart hotel was extremely spacious by European standards with a king-sized bed, fluffy duvet, and a big flat screen TV. It was a very comfortable stay and the location couldn't be better, just a stone's throw away from the Louvre.
Alighting at Gare du Nord at 9:30 pm, I made my way to the 11th arrondisement for dinner of steak and frites at Bistro Paul Bert, a much-loved and lively neighbourhood restaurant serving up classic Parisian dishes. The three-course menu costs €36 which is considered good value for Paris in my opinion. We started off with foie gras and beef carpaccio as appetizers, and then moved on to our mains: a juicy well-flavoured steak for Keenan and a slightly over-cooked veal for me, but still solid French cooking, paired with medium-bodied Bordeaux red. Desserts at Bistro Paul Bert were amazing (and huge!). We ordered the chocolate souffle and the house specialty "Paris Beast," a donut-shaped puff pastry filled with luscious chocolate hazelnut cream. It was enough sugar to put both of us into a diabetic coma, but it was so delicious. Ummmm...
The next morning we indulged in some retail therapy by taking advantage of the late winter sales in Paris. While strolling along Rue du Rivoli looking for a wine shop, I randomly ran into my friend from graduate school whom I haven't seen since I moved to London. Turns out she is currently living New York City working for the World Economic Forum and was in Geneva for work but was also visiting Paris for the weekend. Completely random, but I was so happy to see my friend and grateful for the opportunity to catch up on life over a delicious falafel from L'as du Falafel the next day.
Little did I know, my childhood best friend's niece, who is also my kid sister's good friend, was also in Paris that weekend to celebrate her birthday (look at these jet-setting kids!). I offered to take her and her boyfriend to Angelina's for afternoon tea but she respectfully declined as it was a short 5 day trip and they had an ambitious itinerary for the day. To top it off, another friend from graduate school who lives in Paris had her second daughter that weekend. Paris really is full of love and surprises!
All the excitement for the day was making me hungry for lunch. We walked to Da Rosa, a great little restaurant known for its signature hams from Spain and Italy, in the fashionable Saint Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood. We meant to have a quick-ish lunch of a charcuterie of Iberico ham, manchego cheese, and foie gras, but ended up lingering around for hours over a bottle of 2009 Baume de Venise. We also got gelato from Grom, which is my favorite gelateria in Florence. Be careful...if you step on to Rue de Siene, you may leave 5 lbs heavier.
We continued our foodie extravaganza with dinner at Rino's, which is also located in the 11th arrondisement. Here at Rino, the cooking is modern European with an emphasis on Italian flavours. Rino is a small 20 seat restaurant with basic decor on creme walls and a jovial atmosphere -- all Parisians except for us and another table of New Yorkers. You can pick from the four-course (€38) or the six-course (€55) menu. We opted for the ladder with the six-course tasting menu -- I'll let the photos speak for itself. The flavours were subtle, fresh, and sophisticated; in fact it reminded me alot of Californian cuisine. It turned out that one of the chefs at Rino previously worked at Zuni Cafe and Bar Tartine in San Francisco, hence the strong Californian-Italian influence. We left the restaurant relaxed and happy, if slightly annoyed that the machine didn't read our UK credit cards and we had to pull cash from a nearby ATM. Overall, very good restaurant.
As per usual when we visit Paris -- it was a beautiful Sunday morning. We followed our Sunday-in-Paris ritual, albeit lazy ritual: sleeping-in, lunch at L'as du Falafel, riverside walk along the Siene, window-shop on Champ de Elyse, afternoon drinks, quick dinner, and then the Eurostar home to London. Eating and drinking on Sundays in Paris is always tricky but this time we found an adorable little cafe/bar just behind the Lourve called Le Fumoir. The handsome leather chairs and dark decor gave this bar a cosy library feel. A great spot to rest your feet after a long day of sightseeing or shopping.
Another wonderful weekend in Paris, and a bonus for running into my grad school friend. We'll be back in no time as we're taking my kid sister to Paris in June as an early graduation present. I can't wait to enjoy the long summer days in Paris. Until then, I'll be sure to watch Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. à bientôt Paris!