Thursday, 27 October 2011

Saying Au Revoir to Paris

L'Arc De Triomphe - a 10 minute walk from the studio
Last month was full of mixed emotions. Why? Because we were heading out to Paris for a few days but also we knew it would be the last trip to Paris for some time.
Paris holds very special memories for us. You see, it's where I met my hubbie; at the opening of what was called EuroDisney way back in 1992. It was his home for most of his child and teenage life and it was where we both lived post our University days. Call me an old romantic and slightly biased at heart, but the French have romance down to a fine art. There is something about Paris, that just attracts romance and chivalry.
I thought this picture says it all.
Charming husband carries his wife's bag down the Champs
Without a care in the world and with such a natural approach this man carries his wife's bright yellow handbag down the Champs-Élysées. Hailing from Glasgow, I cannot see any local men providing the same kind gesture walking down Buchanan Street, can you?
The architecture is stunning and the little back streets host a hive of activity. I love Paris for all it's traditions, it's rich culture and it's dedication to cuisine.
Small Street in Saint Germain des Prés
Shortly after and having relocated to London, we kept a small studio in Paris and promised to come back every now and then, and with Eurostar providing a two hour train journey,what could be simpler?
Unfortunately, life got in the way and with excessive banking hours, any free time at the weekend was spent catching up on the sleep we had lost during the week. How sad!
One of the hardest things we have had to do is sell the studio. Not only are we saying goodbye to bricks and mortar but the happy memories we had while there. We will come back to visit family but staying with relatives or staying at a hotel is not quite the same as having your own place.
We stayed just a 10 minute walk from the Champs-Élysées. Every morning we sauntered round to Place Victor Hugo to take up our usual spot in the local boulangereie/pâtisserie where I indulged in my usual breakfast of un café crème and croissant aux amandes and we would watch the world pass us by. I spent many mornings gazing in the windows of the local pâtisserie, adoring their craft and thinking, why can't we have the same in Britain? When is Greggs going to turn out something like this? I live in hope!   
Our local boulangerie/pâtisserie
There were of course, a couple of other things I was determined to visit while we were there. One of course, being the Food Hall at Galerie LaFayette.
Pâtisserie Sadaharu AOKI
If you love your food like me, then a trip here will send your head into a spin. All at once you are met with food counters packed with the latest delicacies. Representation from top suppliers, even the fruit and vegetables look as if they have been polished to perfection. I spent most of my time here with a big grin on my face. I also wanted to take a trip to the Sadaharou patisserie about which, I had read such good reports.
Chocorons by Sadaharu AOKI
The Japanese pastry chef has a counter here and I wanted to purchase some goodies to satisfy my curiosity. He has quite a selection, so I bought a box of macarons - how could I resist? A praline and chocolate layered Opéra cake and his renowned Opéra au thé vert (Green Tea).
What did I think? The Opéra au thé vert was made with chocolate layers and matcha green tea so it had a slightly bitter aftertaste. I have to say, although I'm glad I tasted it, it didn't really do it for me and my preference lay with the sweet, rich and indulgent chocolate and praline Opéra cake. Layers of loveliness!
Chocolate and Praline layered Opéra cake
I am ashamed to say it but I misplaced my macarons so did not even get a chance to sample them. Talk about having a blonde moment! Even if you don't buy anything, Lafayette Gourmet is worth the visit, just to be enchanted by the displays on each counter. A real feast for the eyes!
That same evening we joined the family to eat at the Copenhague restaurant, situated on the Champs-Élysées. The restaurant specialises in Danish delicacies such as pickled herring and smoked salmon. We spoiled ourselves rotten with the tasting menu all washed down with Acqauvit. Suffice it to say I felt I need to be wheeled home, rather than strolling back. The food was terrific. Sadly, I don't have photos as it probably would have been frowned upon by the family. I'm not the biggest fan of Acquavit. It really is a strong spirit, so soon after I was sipping away merrily on my glass(es) of Sancerre!
We also promised ourselves we would return to Festival Disney, Eurodisney, which is now called (Disney Village, Disneyland Paris) to relive our younger days.
We both worked in a seafood restaurant called Key West which has since closed but I also spent time serving at the Sports Bar. Working at Disney was like a holiday for me. Great opportunity to meet an array of muticultural students and party at every possible moment. When we finished our shift we would drink Beer with Cassis. Yes, I know it sounds vile now but I was a student back then and I was going for the cheapest and most available option (the cassis was to sweeten the beer).
Beer with Cassis in Festival Disney
We tasted it again to mark our trip down memory lane. Remarkabley sweet! Yuck! I was at Uni at the time so you will have to forgive my taste back then.
Annette's Diner at EuroDisney
If you were incredibly cool, you were selected to work in Annette's Diner. Basically, serving burgers, fries and shakes on roller skates. Fortunately, I managed to avoid this avenue of employment. I have never been so grateful to be "uncool". Let's just say stability and co-ordination are not my best friends!
One weekend we even saved our money to spend one night at the Newport Bay Club hotel, a nautically themed hotel designed in the style of a 19th century New England seaside hotel.
Newport Bay Club, Eurodisney
Isn't it bizarre, that all the money we earned from Disney, went back into Disney in the form of bars and hotels? Looking back now it seems crazy, but back then, it's where the community and where the "cast members" (Disney employees) hung out. A lot of them were staying on site, so it seemed the most natural thing to do.
After a few beers, we donned our silly hats and headed over to Billy Bobs, a Country and Western Bar situated next to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. It was a quiet night, but it didn't take long for us to get in the spirit of things as we sang along very enthusiastically as the band rolled out their tunes. Ah Happy Days! Although I'm sure the band would have liked us to stop.
Band at Billy Bob's Eurodisney
Back in Paris, I was also very mindful of the hotel that had just undergone a refurbishment under the direction of French designer, Phillip Starck. Le Royal Monceau  re-opened by the Raffles group in December 2010, is situated just a few minutes walk from L'Arc de Triomphe. The BBC had reported it's top suites were going for an eye-watering rate of up to £17,000 per night. The suites contain objects d'art, acoustic guitars with private lessons if so desired and rain showers within the bathroom suite. All very pleasant I'm sure but there is something distatesful about spending that amount of money on a hotel room, don't you think? In any case, it seems that the Raffles group have definetley latched on to a niche market as the many Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Ferraris all queing up to be parked could attest to. I felt too intimated by the opulence to step much further, the front entrance was as far as I got!
Le Royal Monceau
We spent the next couple of days packing boxes and cases with our memories and souvenirs to be revisited once more in the distant future. All very sad, through it all, one thing remains:
Paris, je t'aime!
I have now ticked off item 7 and 10 on my Trip Wish List.