Sorry if you were waiting for Part II of our trip to France – my computer got a virus! While it was out of commission I forced myself to have fun at the beach and eat at every yummy Portsmouth restaurant with friends who were in town. But it is so fun to think about food, and France, and travel again. This post is SUPER long, but I have a great-line up of recipes to share so I wanted to finish the story of our trip. If you are in a hurry just skip to the story of our Best Meal Ever at the end. Happy reading!
There are a few stories from our trip that warm my heart just thinking about them.
The first is Claude’s tea shop – Le Maison du Bleu Lin. The people who owned our house recommended going there for tea, so I brought sweet Sophie, who loves tea, there one afternoon.
As I was taking these pictures, Claude, who is a lovely, tall, strong French woman with curly hair and beautiful eyes, totally yelled at me for taking a photo of her shop without asking. After a few excuse moi! si vous plait! she warmed up to us and I realized she was actually very friendly. We quickly started chatting about rude tourists (Claude kept exlaiming “they don’t even say bonjour madame!” after every person ducked their head in) and of course, food. In her shop she carried 12 different varieties of chutneys from England. I wanted to buy them all, even though it would make my bag heavier then it already was. So she let me try them. She had sample jars ready in the fridge! I sat there like a kid in a candy store, or a food blogger in a tea/chutney shop, and savored the amazing spices and interesting combinations. I settled on a pickled lime chile, a cheeseboard chutney, and a red pepper chutney that we ate that night with chicken with herbs de Provence, fresh tomatoes and lemon. RJ said it made his mouth explode with flavor.
The next day we headed to Paris. (Barely. Carrying bags up this hill almost did us all in.)
Our three-train connection went so smoothly and we all read the whole way. When we got into Paris, it was a 100 degree heat-wave. Luckily our hotel was air conditioned. We stayed at The Millennial Marriott, which was so enormous, it must have been a hospital before. It was painted in lovely French colors, gorgeous grays and blues and mirrored French doors everywhere. I may have come home and painted my dining room the color of this door and picked up a gray and white rug that looks like this one. And these Bensimon shoes and shorts from Boden were the comfiest clothes to travel in. (Shorts are sold out but see similar here). Did I mention it was the 4th of July?:
We braved the heat for our first night and ventured out. We ate at Le Trumilou which was a recommendation from David Leibovitz’s website, who JUST did a whole post about this restaurant on his blog! The guy he pictured with the beard and blue shirt was our waiter, and the olives and sausages were amazing. Sadly, his post talks about the smoking outside when people are eating and my father in law couldn’t even down his gorgeous food because he was eating smoke. On our end of the table though, it was fine, and the people watching was superb.
The lardons on the frisee salad were soaked in some kind of vinegar that was so delicious. I didn’t think you could make bacon taste better then it already does, but I was wrong.
Sorry for the half-eaten plate BUT I had to show you the Cote de Boeuf that was SO good and SO huge. Good thing we walked a few miles back to the hotel.
^^RJ is apparently in a no-smiling phase. My father-in-law during happier times before he got smoked out.
The next day, we saw some of the gorgeous sites, starting with Mass at Notre Dame.
We saw all the Locks of Love at Pont Neuf:
We ate lunch at a lovely bistro just in time to sit under a canopy while it rained. I had a country salad that was delicious:
And we saw this old thing which I can’t even look at the same after reading the Da Vinci code (thanks Dan Brown).
Outside the Louvre was hot and crowded. Inside the Louvre was hot, crowded and beautiful.
^^ I grew up with a charcoal copy of this Da Vinci so I love it.
Even though my husband thought it was sort of a waste of 30 euros to go to Louvre (we had already been there before), the morning after we got home, I heard RJ telling Lucy as he pointed at pictures on my phone, “See this Lucy? This is the most famous museum in the world. And this is the most famous painting in the world.”
I am going to call that a parenting win.
From the Louvre my kids could see this ferris wheel towering up on the sky line and were like, “we are going there.” They were such good travelers I couldn’t argue.
We made our way to the Tulleries, which thankfully had lots of entertainment. I didn’t remember an entire fair in the middle of the Tulleries last time I was there, but the proximity to the Louvre makes me think they were just meeting the demand of bored kids.
Then we had a quick photo op by the Eiffel Tower:
RJ really wanted to go to it, but it was after 5 and we had been walking in the heat since 10. It was worth getting only this close to the Eiffel Tower to be back in an air conditioned hotel where we hit up the Concierge Room hard for cold drinks and snacks (hello best spicy eggplant and zucchini ever).
But the best story of our whole trip was what happened at the very end.
Dinner with my husband.
This was sort of an anniversary trip, and a dinner out alone in Paris was sort of the heart of the trip for us. So we left the kids with grandpa, who after a day of heat and crowds were in heaven doing this:
And at 6:30, we set out on our mission: To find the best meal of our lives.
I had researched the dinner the night before, but tonight we wanted to be spontaneous and discover a hidden gem. My husband had walked by one that looked great, near our hotel. But when we got there it was closed on Sundays. We had seen a bunch of restaurants in the 2nd Arrondissement the night before near Le Trumilou and thought we’d go back. But when we did, we found that all of the restaurants were the standard bistro fare that we had eaten many times or had very touristy food. The atmosphere was fun, but like Fanueil Hall in Boston, you can get really bad food in a fun area. And our mission was most definitely good food. My husband was really craving warm salmon as well (after our beef the size of a labrador the night before).
We headed out and stopped to have a drink at a little place, studied the menu and thought about it as a dinner venue. All the while we were silently asking ourselves:
Was this the place where we would get the Best Meal of Our Lives?
^^Not a winner. But it had a solid charcuterie board that was our pre-game.
Then we did that on repeat for two hours. We didn’t mean to bar crawl our way through Paris, but we did. Because we would sit down and read the menu, and be disappointed, or one of us would go to the bathroom and get a weird vibe and we were like, nope, this isn’t the place. Or they lacked salmon on the menu, which became increasingly important as the night wore on/we drank more. After a while I thought, are we just being picky? Is the Best Meal of Our Lives too much pressure, do you think? Why didn’t we pick from the million and one recommendations online?
Guinness sustained us in our quest. (My husband studied abroad in Ireland. And we are Irish.)
Finally, after leaving a restaurant that my husband was sure was the one but I veto’d after it had karaoke going in the back when I went to the bathroom, I looked at my watch. It was 10:00. We decided to walk back to the hotel. I had seen some places the night before that I hoped were open on Sunday. Or at 10 pm. If not we could eat at the hotel. At the very least, we had a fun night out and we would be back someday, right?
Then, when we were almost to the hotel, we looked down an alley and there it was, like an oasis in our desert of hunger:
It was called Le Poule au Pot, or Chicken in a Pot,which just sounded like a place where you might have the Best Meal of Your Life, non?
And guess what?
It totally was.
The menu looked incredible (see all those VERY recent awards and recommendations?) and when we sat down, the waiter sensed our hunger/panic and was like a monk in the middle ages offering us food and drink.
We started with the best wine from their very short wine list (because they only picked great ones, obv):
And started with the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. If you have been reading for a while you know of my love of artichokes.
But you may not know of my dislike of the runny egg. I know, how can I even be called a food person if I don’t like soft cooked eggs? But I finally discovered what all the fuss is about, because it was delicious here. The artichoke heart was so fresh, and the smoked salmon with dill on top had a vinaigrette that mixed with the egg and made it all delicious.
And then came the main course. My husband got (can you even guess?):
The salmon. But not just ANY salmon. The kind with the cutest puff pastry man on the side (endless possibilities on that front), and his favorite, creamed spinach.
I got a braised lamb shank that was just so good it hurt. And the potatoes were stacked like lincoln logs, something I must try in the future.
My favorite thing about eating really good food, the kind that fills your soul and your belly, is how you have to close your eyes when you take a bite. And this food was so good we practically ate with our eyes closed.
The search made this meal even more sweet. It was a total adventure, exactly what we wanted on our last night in Paris.
Finally, all week I had wanted to order a Tarte Tatin, and we were always too full. But I insisted, and I am so glad I did:
When we THOUGHT we were done, our waiter brought out a complementary shot of pear distilled liquor that was delicious but strong. I think he liked the story of our quest. Or my bad French accent.
Either way, we walked back content and full and touched by the magic of Paris.
(Of course all these photos were taken at night on our phones and are not the best. But I had to share them because this really will go down as one of my favorite food memories ever.)
Thanks for reading this novel! I promise to turn around and bring some of this deliciousness to the food blog. But if you have any fun magical Paris stories feel free to share them!