Thursday, December 13, 2012

Paris for a Weekend

Keenan had a work assignment in Paris and as usual, he conveniently scheduled his meetings for Friday so I can join him for a Parisian weekend getaway. The timing couldn't be better as the last few weeks have been insanely busy at work, hence the lack of activity on the blog. To start off the weekend, just hours before my 3:00 pm Eurostar train, I learned that I had won a major bid in Poland, which I am super excited about and can expect a few trips to Warsaw next year.

This my 7th trip to Paris and 3rd trip in 2012 alone. As cliche as it sounds, I love Paris -- the lights, the sounds, the architecture, the food and wine, the pastries, the shopping -- I could never get bored of Paris. Being such a last minute trip, we didn't have a very ambitious agenda other than enjoy this amazing city. Here's our short but sweet Parisian getaway in a nutshell:

The lights: The beautiful Christmas lights along the Champ Elysees, Rue du Honare, and Place Concorde. We spent Saturday afternoon checking out Christmas markets along the Champ and in Saint Germain. As you can imagine, the Christmas markets were busy, stretching along at least 1/2 mile along Paris' most famous street overlooking the Eiffel Tower and the landmark obelisk. A lovely festive atmosphere.

The sounds: The laughters and merriment as friends and family gather together to enjoy the festive season.  Christmas shopping along Rue du Rivoli. The beautiful French language. The bustling cafes and buzzy wine bars in Le Marais and the Left Bank. 

The architecture: What's not to love -- Norte Dame, Lourve, Arc de Triomphe, Musee d'Orsay and even the modern-inspired Pompidou. Love it all thanks to Baron Haussmen, the city planner commissioned by Napoleon who was responsible for rebuilding of Paris in 1860s. 

The food: Food glorious food. Every time I go to Paris, I come back to London at least 2 kilos heavier. Who could resist buttery croissants and cuppa of espresso, or the delicious macaroons from Pierre Herme, or the delectable pastries or fresh out of the oven crusty baguette, stinky French cheeses, or silky foie gras? Ummmm....

We have been meaning to go to Frenchie for the longest time but it is impossible to get a table unless you want to queue in the freezing cold for a table at the cafe/bar next door. No thanks. For this trip we went to Fish La Bonissonnaire, a little bistrot tucked away on a quiet street  in the 6th eme. The three course meal for 32 EUR was a bargain, the atmosphere is quirky but fun and overall a great neighborhood pick. Since it's game season so for dinner on Saturday night we opted for hearty country French at Le Repaire de Cartouche, another great neighborhood restaurant between the 4th and 11th eme with an impressive wine list. 

We had our usual Sunday routine - a big tasty falafel at L'as du Falafel, afternoon lingering around a wine bar in the Le Marais and an early dinner at my favorite crepe place, Breizh for buckwheat crepes before our late train ride home to London. Yes indeed, a weekend of good eats. 

The shopping: The big sales in Paris usually happens twice a year: February and June where all stores has a big "SOLDES" sign outside. It's the best time to fatten your wardrobe with classic Parisian pieces like Repetto flats, skinny jeans, and a clean blazer. I did a bit of window shopping but decided to save all my hard-earned cash to shop in Hong Kong. That didn't stop Keenan from buying a new pair of shoes for himself and I offered to pick up a few items for my older sister at Longchamp. 

 The wine: We always carry a case of wine home from either Nicolas wine shop or from Monoprix whenever we go to France. I only had room in my suitcase for three bottles of wine: a Sancerre from the Loire Valley, a Bordeaux, and a Cote du Rhone. Our Christmas wines, I suppose.

Well, that's our trip to Paris in a nutshell. Short and sweet. I'm sure I'll be back to the City of Lights soon enough, after all my company is based out of Paris. I hope to get a year-in-review post up before we leave to Asia, but if not, have a very joyous holiday season and see you in the New Year! Thanks for reading and your support. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Hyde Park - Winter Wonderland

Tis the season to be merry! Given that Keenan and I will be having a very unconventional Christmas this year trekking through the steamy jungles of Borneo, we thought we'd get into the Christmas spirit early this year. And what better way to join in the festivities than a trip to Winter Wonderland. Held annually in Hyde Park, this is one of the main attractions during the holiday season along with ice skating at Somerset House and endless Christmas parties, Christmas drinks, Christmas pub lunches, Christmas dinners; eating minced pies and drinking mulled wine.

For an entire month, Hyde Park corner is all decked out in white lights, Christmas trees, and holiday wreaths, making this an amazing festive spectacle. With friends in tow, we made a visit on a frigid Sunday late afternoon. If you live in the U.K, then you know that the sun sets around ummm...3:30ish in the winter. Depressing, I know. Why do you think we take a 2 week 'sun' holiday each winter? 

Highlights of Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland includes: an ice staking ring, a giant ferris wheel, a circus for all the wee ones, rows of Christmas markets, and my personal favorite: the Bavarian Village. This year, they also had a major ice sculpture exhibition if you are interested. We did a bit of shopping at the elegant Christmas markets for ornaments and gifts. My friends were on the search for the perfect London painting to hang on their new home when they repatriate back to the US in January. Then it was on to my favorite activity: eating Bavarian sausages and drinking mulled wine, or in the case of the boys, German-style beer steins. 

If you can make it before Christmas, I'd highly recommend it. Grab some friends, bundle up, bring cash and enjoy a day at Winter Wonderland.