Saturday, May 6, 2017

Highlights from Paris and London


Chateau de Versailles

I had a wonderful time in Europe with Andrew, and am so glad that we went on this trip.  Many thanks to my preceptor for pushing me to schedule a "real vacation" before starting clerkships!  I'm happy to share all the details of what I did every day, should anyone ask, but below are my favorites from Paris and London.  We also visited Bruges, but as we were only there for half a day to eat waffles/fries/mussels, drink beer, and buy chocolate, a "favorites" list doesn't seem as necessary.

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Paris

Boulangerie des Invalides | We stayed in an Airbnb in the 7th, very close to this bakery.  They serve great croissants and other pastries (we also liked the brioche and the chausson aux pommes), good coffee (cafe creme in the morning is lovely), and have a cute seating area.  It was so nice to have breakfast here and see so many locals stopping in, some to sit with coffee, others - including quite a few schoolchildren - picking up a bread roll or pastry to go.

Musee de l’Orangerie | This was our first stop on our first full day, and it was one of the best museum experiences I have ever had.  The Monet Water Lilies collection is stunning, and unlike anything I'd ever seen.  It's overwhelming in a good way.  Tip: we went to this museum right when it opened, so the Water Lilies gallery was relatively empty for the first few minutes we were there, and that was by far the best way we could have experienced it.

A la Mere de Famille | Old, family-run, friendly chocolate shop in St. Germain.

Laduree on rue Bonaparte | Great place for macarons, fancy desserts, tea, and ice creams.  Certainly you pay a premium to sit in the tea salon, but I thought it was worth it.  The Ispahan flavor combination (rose + raspberry + lychee) is fantastic.  We liked the macarons here a little more than the ones from Pierre Herme.

Mariage Freres | Classic tea shop, where I bought some wonderful Darjeeling.

Septime | We went for lunch and enjoyed the tasting menu, which was visually appealing, featured unexpected and new-to-us flavor combinations, and was not too heavy.  Andrew also ordered and enjoyed the cheese plate, and we each had a glass of white wine.  Definitely need a reservation.

Verjus | We went for dinner and liked it even more than we liked Septime.  Dinner only, reservation needed.  We shared one wine pairing with the tasting menu and it was excellent, beginning with a champagne and ending with a gewurztraminer from Alsace.  This was one of our top five restaurant meals (ever).

Cafe Constant | This restaurant gets a lot of internet hype, but I thought it was deserved.  It's a small place that gets very busy, and doesn't take reservations.  There were menu items that were refreshing and had vegetables (not true for a lot of typical French bistro dishes), which was appreciated.

La Grand Epicerie | An epic food store, with every department available in a supermarket, but amped up in aesthetics/quality/price (though not everything was expensive), plus massive sections devoted to chocolate, tea, biscuits, etc.  Good for both shopping to eat that day and shopping to bring back gifts/souvenirs.

Day trip to Versailles | Memorable.  We recommend adding to your ticket the 9:30am guided tour of the “private apartments of the King," since having this tour reservation lets you enter the Chateau separately, without waiting in the same massive line, and also lets you see some rooms not accessible on a standard ticket.  The Chateau is impressive (the Hall of Mirrors and chapel are as eye-popping as one might expect), but so crowded, and we enjoyed the gardens even more than the palace interior.  Having read quite a bit about Marie Antoinette, I was particularly glad to visit the Petit Trianon and Queen's Hamlet.

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London

Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason | Another bucket-list experience.  A lovely setting, large but still peaceful, with well-spaced and elegantly appointed tables.  I had picked Fortnum & Mason for tea over one of the various fancy hotels (e.g. the Lanesborough) because the former is open from before noon until the evening, instead of just a couple hours in the afternoon.  This may not be authentic, but it is nice to be able to have tea for lunch or dinner.  The tea and food were both delicious and plentiful, since they offer to refill the sandwiches and scones.  We liked the classic afternoon tea more than the savory tea.  The plain scones with clotted cream and lemon curd were exceptional.  It was also fun to browse the rest of Fortnum & Mason, with its glorious chocolate and sweets section.

Dishoom | Indian food in a fun atmosphere designed to evoke old Iranian cafes in Bombay.  We went to the location in Covent Garden.  Definitely recommend a reservation (they take reservations up to 5:30pm for small groups, and there was a very long line to get in).  Everything on the menu looked appealing, and we especially enjoyed the chicken curry and black dal.

The Palomar | Modern small-plates Mediterranean.  We had lunch here on our last full day, and had some food fatigue at this point, but still enjoyed our meal very much.  The dishes here tend to have a bunch of different flavors and can be a little salty.  Reservations recommended.

Daunt Books in Marylebone | An incredibly charming bookstore, located in an Edwardian building.  The books are organized by country and I had a great conversation with a very helpful staff member, who gave me several spot-on recommendations.  Also, their shopping bags are pretty canvas totes.

The British Museum | A must-visit.  We didn't spend very much time here, but liked seeing the Easter Island sculpture, the Rosetta Stone, the Chinese ceramics gallery, and the Parthenon gallery.

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