With everything packed and ready to go we decided to get dressed and head over to Borough Market one last time. I'm not very fond of cooking and cleaning while on vacation but I was inspired and wishing to cook with so many amazing products found at the market.
For breakfast we decided to over eat and order 2 "porchetta" sandwiches from Roast Hog (even though it was only 10 am). What I like about Roast Hog is that they are always consistently good. I also purchased some packaged goodies from Free From Bakehouse to bring with me on the plane.
Back at the hotel we relaxed a bit and made sure we emptied all of the drawers. The phone rang and it was the front desk letting us know that our driver from Eddie Manning's was downstairs for us. The driver was a little early but we were ready anyways so we headed downstairs to check out of the hotel. It ended up being a good thing that the driver was a bit early because we hit traffic all throughout London. Even our driver's shortcuts weren't available due to road closures.
We arrived at Heathrow with plenty of time to enjoy some lunch. Thanked our driver and headed into check in. Our luggage was easily checked in, security wasn't that busy, and then the halls were packed with people. We decided to eat at Gordon Ramsay Plane Food (wasn't thrilled about it after our experience at Maze) because the menu looked good and it was the quietest part of the airport.
For cocktails I ordered the Le Grand Fizz (I can never turn down St Germain) and Greg ordered the Make Bourbon Great Again (which even came with a campaign button). I can't remember what Greg ordered but my Quinoa salad with ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend) was delicious!
At Heathrow Airport you don't get your gate assignment until just before boarding. After our lunch we still had time before we would get our gate assignment. We walked through a couple of the shops, called home, and sat down with our books. When it was time we made our way over to our gate (which happened to be the one we left out of on our last visit). Boarding with British Airways was a little more chaotic than out of Boston but we found our seats and squished into them. This flight we found we had a little less leg room, the passengers in front of us also reclined almost the whole flight, and the sun was shining into our eyes from the row ahead of us.
The food definitely wasn't as good during this flight and I never received my actual dairy free snack. We noticed that one of the flight attendants handed out the special meal snacks and then tried to get them back from people so when they finally got to us they didn't have mine.
We landed in Boston and thanks to our Global Entry we were through customs, found our bags, and were in our car all within a half hour of landing. Finally, we got to my parents house where Fred was waiting for us! Little did he know that he'd only be happy with me for a short time as tomorrow he'd be groomed and in 2 weeks we'd be heading out on vacation again.
Here's the crazy route I walked throughout London today!
On our last stay in London we stayed at The Hoxton Hotel. We loved the Shoreditch area and so I knew I wanted to head back there at least for a little while. I made my way on foot up to Old Spitalfields Market. Wow did the market change! There are so many more restaurants and vendors here inside and outside. Very cool! I walked through a couple stores and perused the smaller vendors before making the hard choice of what to have for lunch.
Here I go...Dumpling Shack (do you see a theme with my dining habits). I ordered the dan dan noodles and pork and leek shengjianbao. The dumplings were tender, juicy, and flavorful. The dan dan noodles were perfect. The noodles were the perfect combination of savory, salty and heat.
After lunch I hang around the area for a bit and had a nice chat with a friend back home. It was really nice after a hectic week to have a reminder of normal life. Once I was off the phone I made my way to Brick Lane. Brick Lane is famous for Indian cuisine and street art. With my dairy allergy I'm always cautious with Indian food since a lot of it contained ghee (clarified butter). I wandered around on my own for a bit but I would recommend a tour to see all of the incredible street art.
I was heading back to the market when Greg called me and said he would be leaving work a little early and so I said I'd meet him at his office. We walked back together to the hotel and dropped off some of our belongings before we continued our walk to Westminster Abbey.
Our route took us along the river, over Westminster Bridge, and since there wasn't a line we went right on inside Westminster Abbey. Once inside we showed our prepaid tickets and a helpful guide provided us with a map. We opted to not use the audio tour (I know how interesting those can be but they just aren't to our liking when traveling).
Over the past couple of years I've been working on both of our ancestries. One day we were watching The White Princess on Showtime and a few names started to sound familiar. Not familiar from history books but familiar from Greg's ancestry. Come to find out Greg descends from royalty in England, Spain, France, Italy, Scotland, and more. As we were walking through the Abbey we would find ourselves at the tombs of many of his relatives.
I'm not sure if it's because we both are interested in British history, art, writing, or churches in general but we absolutely loved our visit. On our walk back we walked past the Battle of Britain Memorial, Whitehall Gardens and over Golden Jubilee Bridges.
We were enjoying the weather and were a little hungry so we stopped at Giraffe World Kitchen. We chose a table outside in the sun and order a couple of cocktails.
For snacks we chose Smoky Chorizo, Crispy Patatas Bravas, Salt & Pepper Squid, and the Karaage Chicken (fried chicken). All of the small plates were good with the exception of the Karaage Chicken. Greg didn't seem to mind but the chicken was incredibly over salted.
Back at the CitizenM Bankside we started the process of packing. I knew we should have brought the bigger suitcase! Luckily we figured out the puzzle and got everything under weight for British Airways!
Our last night in London was kind of boring but we were happy with burgers from Honest Burger (if you're reading this please open a restaurant in Boston) to go, a free movie in our hotel room, and a nice glass of wine from M&S across the street.
Let me tell you a little more about myself. I absolutely love traveling! If I'm not traveling, I'm researching travel. I'm even starting a course to become a travel agent. With all that being said I hate flying, I suffer from anxiety, and I am a horrible worrier. Thanks to pills prescribed by my doctor I am able to fly without completely freaking out. I made it to London with very little problems however once I was there my anxiety hit! All week long I had anxiety attacks, and then exhaustion from the attacks. I do not take medication for it and usually can calm myself down via breathing, meditation, working out, or talking with family and friends.
This morning I was pretty tired from everything and just enjoyed a slow start to my day. There are so many sights that I would have loved to rush to in London but sometimes you just need to listen to your body and mind and take a step back.
To start my day I ventured to the nearby Tate Modern Museum (one of my favorite museums). The lines to see the special exhibits were pretty long and I had plans in the afternoon so I opted for the "free" exhibits (I did make a 10 euro donation before entering). I love contemporary art, sculptures, and pieces that make us think about more than our eyes see. I haven't had the opportunity lately but when I'm home I create abstract paintings with a variety of mediums. I am constantly inspired by the amazing pieces of artists as well as unique perspectives from the places we visit.
London can be an expensive city but I love that everyone can experience a piece the art community for free. Here's an article from Visit London about the 23 free museums in London (keep in mind that donations are appreciated).
I took in a little more of London while slowly making my way to the Sanderson Hotel for my afternoon tea. I was thrilled that the sun was out and the temperatures were warming enough for me to wear one of my favorite dresses.
Prior to arriving in London I made an online reservations for one at the Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea. I checked in to the restaurant and quickly used to the restroom to wash up. I opted for a table inside since it was still a little chilly outside. My server welcomed me and presented me with cards and bottles of the various types of teas I could order. Tip: you are able to order a pot of tea in one flavor and when finished try another flavor. I ordered my tea along with a glass of champagne. I was happy to see that the restaurant offered a vegan menu (no need for Lactaid today) but unfortunately I was slightly disappointed.
The atmosphere is lovely, the place settings adorable, the service professional and the food appearance is whimsical. My disappointment was in the flavors of the food. For the savory dishes the scotch egg was very good but the rest of the sandwiches were overwhelmed by avocado. The sweet items were mixed. The meringues were too soft and ended up being chewy (Meringue cookies should have a crunchy exterior while the inside is tender), the marshmallows were too sticky but the cakes were very good. My time at the restaurant was relaxing afternoon and even though it wasn't perfect, I would go back and try their regular menu.
I made my way back to the hotel via cab and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with a movie and glass of wine.
When Greg got out of work we crossed the street and decided to try some tapas at Camino Bankside. We were seated right away even without a reservation. We ordered a couple of cocktails and perused the menu. Our server came back with some olives for us and we opted for the tomato bread, padron peppers, Iberico de belotta ham, baby squid, octopus, and patatas bravas.
The Iberico ham is always delicious and I do enjoy eating it on its own but it's also very nice with the tomato bread. The squid was hot and crispy, the peppers were tender and not overly hot, and the octopus was tender. The patatas bravas were tasty but a little on the sweet side. At first it was a little off putting to me (I prefer mine to be completely savory) but once you combined both sauces it was satisfying.
We made our way back to the hotel but did stop at the small M&S store for more water and snacks. We did frequent this small grocery store throughout our time in London and can recommend it.
Monday morning means Greg heads into the London office and I'm on my own for sightseeing. Our room at the Citizen M Bankside is on the small side (meant to be) so I let Greg get ready first and out the door before I get ready. I head towards the Tate modern museum (stopping for some Starbucks along the way) and cross the Millenium Bridge. My first stop of the day is for some shopping in Covent Garden. I popped into a variety of stores but made purchases at Hotel Chocolat and the London Transport Museum shop. I ended up leaving the area with chocolates for friends, perfume for myself, toys for kids, and quirky tokens for everyone.
My next stop was requested by Greg, Forbidden Planet. Forbidden Planet is full of collectibles, comics, and entertainment paraphernalia. Inside Forbidden Planet I was looking for some blank figurines for Greg to customize but I came out with a Kidrobot collectible and some Harry Potter gear for Porscha.
I haven't visited Chinatown in London before so now was a great time to visit since I was in the area. I decided to enjoy lunch solo at Beijing Dumpling House. I definitely ordered too much food for one person but I wanted to try different items and get a feel of the restaurant overall. I really liked the ambiance of the restaurant although it was a little awkward when I'm facing the front of the restaurant and then a gentleman was seated at the table in front of me facing the back of the restaurant. The staff were welcoming but not overly friendly.
I ordered the honey garlic ribs, pickled cucumbers, and the pork xiao long bao (also known as soup dumplings). I've ordered these exact items from a couple of different menus over the last year (I may be predictable lol) but the ribs and pickled cucumbers were the best I've tried. The ribs had a good amount of meat on them and we well balanced between sweet and savory. The cucumbers were refreshing and were not overpowered by garlic as I've had in the past. The xiao long bao's were good but I still prefer the ones from Gourmet Dumpling House in Boston.
Time to walk off lunch! I made my way over to Carnaby Street. I had finished my shopping for the day but my sister and I love the unique shoes from Irregular Choice. Irregular Choice shoes are feminine, quirky, and bold. The perfect accessory for us! I had instructions to head to the store and see if that had a couple of different styles available in my sisters size. It's not exactly easy to work with staff at a store while waiting for responses from your sister with a time change while she's at work. Luckily I found shoes that she was looking for (think Star Wars) and got to see the fun and quirky store for myself.
As the sun was finally coming out and us pedestrians were thawing I hopped in a cab and headed back to the hotel. I had such a good time chatting with Steve my cab driver! We chatted about traffic, construction, geography, traveling, blogging, It was really wonderful having a fun chat with someone after spending the day solo.
Back at the hotel I poured a glass of wine, put on a free movie, and relaxed until Greg was done working for the day.
I made way back across the river and met up with Greg and a few of his co-workers. Our first stop of the evening was to their favorite local pub, Three Cranes. We ordered beers and wine (for me) and were able to snag the table in the back room so that we could all sit down and chat. I'm not sure how many rounds we enjoyed but the room was filled with conversations about work, life, travel, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and lots of laughter. The proprietor finally had to ask if we were done because he was wanting to go home.
I definitely needed some food and luckily I wasn't alone in this. Around the corner from Three Cranes is Thai Square Mansion. Luckily the restaurant allowed us to order before closing. We ordered a couple of duck spring rolls, a couple chicken masaman curries, and a couple green curries. The food was very good and I really liked the contemporary feel of the restaurant.
After dinner the three of us said our good nights to the rest of the group and walked back to our hotel.
After our late night, we slept in and started our day later than originally planned. Once we were ready we made our way on foot to Buckingham Palace. Halfways there we realized that we were hungry. Up and to the left of us was Giraffe World Kitchen. On our previous visit to London we dined here for lunch and knew we could get a good meal. Greg ordered his usual sweet breakfast of pancakes with a side of bacon. I decided to give the Shakshuka a try. Shakshuka is a North African dish of eggs cooked in a tomato sauce with herbs and served with crusty bread. I was hoping to include chorizo but that item contained dairy. The service was friendly, fast and the food was good and filling.
We continued our walk to Buckingham Palace. We stopped along the way and were able to catch the end of the changing of the guard. After a few pictures we made our way to Harrods.
Our first stop inside Harrods was to the food halls. Yes we're foodies, yes we always think about food, and yes we are thrilled when we try something new. We were at the fruit section and were thrilled to be able to try some Custard Apple. Custard apple is creamy, slightly sweet and delicious (keep in mind that it does contain seeds though). The wonderful staff helped us purchase a couple custard apples and a Mangosteen (a favorite fruit I first tasted in Bali). We then shopped for tea, curds, cookies, jams, and also just had to purchase a couple very pretty Cronuts (I know it's years later but this was our first time trying them).
Greg's co-worker met us inside Harrods and we explored the other departments (mainly women's clothing) before heading to lunch. For lunch we all agreed on The Burger Bar (who doesn't love greasy burgers and french fries after a night of delicious cocktails). Unfortunately, the service at The Burger Bar was awful. We were seated right away which was nice but we couldn't get anyone to look at us even though we were seated at the bar. I eventually asked for menus and then we had another incredibly long wait for someone to take our order. The woman working at the bar area seemed to only be able to work on drinks and milkshakes. The waiters seemed to be helping everyone but us. Again, I had to ask if we could order which was derailed yet again by me stating that I have a dairy allergy. Finally, a supervisor or manager came over and took our order. All of our burgers were good and the french fries were crispy but it definitely wasn't worth the cost. Now we can say we shopped and ate at Harrods though.
We decided to walk back to our hotel via Picadilly Circus so that we could get a few touristy gifts for family/friends. Once we did our shopping I had to take a cab back to the hotel, my tendon was starting to hurt again unfortunately.
This evening we had dinner reservations for the 3 of us at Hutong. If I'm being honest I wasn't that excited about dining at Hutong. I thought dining inside the Shard would be unique and offer us amazing views of the city. In the end the service, food, ambiance, and views wowed us!
When you enter the Shard you have to go through a security scanner and then the staff check your name and reservation and show you to the elevator. The three of us checked in and were helped with our coats. We were a little early for our reservation so we opted to enjoy a cocktail in the lounge. The lounge service was a little on the slow side but the relaxing environment and the delicious drinks made up for it.
Before we could settle our bar bill we were told our table was ready. The staff helped carry our drinks to the table and instructed the staff to add our drinks to our dinner bill. Our table was right up to the windows offering us fantastic views of London. The ambiance was low lighting, dark wood, red lanterns and welcoming staff. We ordered vegetarian spring rolls and Iberico pork dumplings to start. The starters were hot, savory, and delicious. For entrees and side dishes we ordered dan dan noodles, roasted Peking duck (served two ways), and seafood fried rice. The dan dan noodles weren't as spicy as I hoped but they were tasty. The Peking duck was first sliced table-side for us and served with sliced green onions and rice wrappers. The second part of the duck was served stir fried with lettuce wraps. I can't speak to the seafood fried rice as it didn't appeal to me that evening.
After dinner, the sleet let up so we decided to walk back to the CitizenM and enjoy the fresh air.
This is my first post from my new Where To Go series!
Over the years I have visited Rome 4 times. Every time I visit Rome I have an amazing adventure while also feeling at ease. I have been researching new things to do and see in Rome as if we were planning a trip for ourselves.
About our past visits -
When we visit Rome we walk everywhere (if we're exhausted we'll get a cab when heading back to our hotel). Walking everywhere gives you the opportunity to see and experience so much more including ruins, shops, and people. You will have so many photographs from random streets that are just as amazing as some of the main sights.
In Rome you will be surrounded by stunning art in museums, awed by ruins and historical sights. When you need to rest grab a glass of wine and some appetizers then people watch in one of the many Piazza's.
When it comes to dining in Rome we usually go for a mix of pizza stands, casual restaurants, upscale dining, gelateria's, and in winter some of the many roasted chestnut vendors.
If you would like to read about our past visits here are some links:
When we get back to Rome I would love to spend a full day getting lost in Trastevere. We wandered a little bit here during our last visit but definitely needed more time. I found this article from the Travel Channel very interesting for a new visit. http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/italy/rome/articles/tour-of-trastevere
I love all kinds of art. Greg and I both paint a bit and when we travel we try to visit at least one museum (it kills me we didn't have time in Paris). On our last visit to Rome we visited the Galleria Borghese, the Vatican Museums, Castel Sant'Angelo, and the Vittoriano Monument. Here's my list for new sights to see:
Museums and Palaces (sculptures, paintings, courtyards)
For Churches I would definitely love to see:
To enjoy the outdoors and explore ruins I am dying to visit:
Whether we were at a small sandwich shop or a fine dining establishment I have yet to have a bad meal in Rome! I love grabbing a rectangle piece of pizza in between stops, sitting down to a full meal with wine, or ending the night with some gelato and roasted chestnuts.
If we were to return to Rome now these are the dining establishments I'd be interested in:
When it comes to Gelato I definitely have my favorite shops but these shops have piqued my interest:
A year before the wedding
Over a year ago my sister and her fiance came home from a vacation in Paris. With that they asked if we would be willing to go to Paris for their wedding! We were in! They knew they wanted a fall wedding and our hope was that September would be cooler than August but not as rainy as October. It turned out to be a beautiful and perfect day! Planning a destination wedding definitely takes time and strategic planning especially if there is a time/language difference. I don't know if I was nominated, volunteered, or just became the planner lol. I definitely love to plan trips, parties, and organize plans! My sister always harasses me that I love to create clipboards of family fun! It's so true!
14 months before the wedding
We started looking at ceremony and reception sites. Our first thought was to have a quick ceremony in a public area (hopefully near Notre Dame). You can find many planners in France who specialize in elopements in Paris. Unfortunately the logistics of a larger group wasn't working out. We needed a more traditional venue. We fell in love the idea of having the ceremony and reception on board a yacht along the Seine River. With that we reserved the day with Yachts de Paris. The packages offered by Yachts de Paris were wonderfully detailed and definitely within our budget.
The guest list was decidedly tricky! It's really hard to manage the bride and groom hopes, the wants of your parents, budget, and still maintain an intimate destination wedding. In the end we were a wonderful group of 25 adults and 1 infant.
10 months before the wedding
We had to pick a hotel for us and our guests. Our checklist including affordability, location, reviews, amenities, and responsiveness. We narrowed our list down to 6 hotels in and around Paris, Versailles, and the airport. We decided on the Tourisme Avenue Hotel. The hotel itself is boutique style, with breakfast included in some rates, a variety of room types and offers a great location. At this point the couple also created a Facebook page (closed group). We were able to share information with our guests like the hotel, when to book airfare, and tips for traveling.
8 months before the wedding
We booked our airfare right when it became available to get the best price possible. Most of the party chose American Airlines with a nonstop flight from Boston to Paris. We along with a few other guests chose Air France with a nonstop flight as well. The main reason for choosing Air France was the return flight time. American Airlines offered a flight around 10:30 a.m. Knowing that the wedding would end at midnight, we'd have to finish packing, and get to the airport early; the 3:30 p.m. Air France flight was more attractive. We also purchased travel insurance with our flights. To read about our past experience with travel insurance head over to our Travel Tips page.
If you're like most people, there is never enough time to research travel insurance companies. Reviews.com has created an un-biased article that researched 22 national insurance providers. Reviews.com not only compared prices but also inclusions, add ons and more. What I love in the article is that they also simplified things for us by breaking down the best policies for trip type. To read their reviews and book a quote visit here.
Paris is a good drive away from the airport and when comparing costs we decided to book a private transfer for 4 adults and a lot of luggage. We found BT- Transfer who already had a lot of positive reviews on Tripadvisor. We ended up booking a variety of rides with BT Transfer. During our week in France we all agreed we'd like to see a little more of France than just Paris. To maximize time and minimize stress we booked airport transfers, a trip to Versailles (9 people), a trip to Puligny Montrachet (7 people), and shuttles to take our guests (25 total) to and from the wedding.
We read up on destination weddings and while it's not required we thought it would be a nice touch to plan some group activities for our guests. Our first thought was a group tour of Paris. Booking a tour for our guests was probably the most troublesome part of planning the wedding. I provided the bride and groom with a couple of different options. One was a double decker private bus tour, one was a tour with stops for pictures, another was a bus tour with tickets to the Eiffel Tower. I presented these to the bride and groom and they picked their favorite. Easy enough! I originally booked our tour with Viator and I was very specific with our requests. Viator was not user friendly when it comes to group bookings. The only way to book a group is via email and fax. In the end Viator was not able to provide what we asked for us. The customer service representative ignored what I stated we needed and wasn't willing to pick us up from our hotel. It would have been ridiculous for me to try to organize a large group to meet at our hotel, take public transportation to Viator's office, and then go on a tour together. After complaining about the service I received a refund and booked directly with Paris City Vision (the provider Viator was going to use). Paris City Vision was wonderful with booking, requests, and answering any calls/emails. They offered us a private tour, pick up from our hotel, and was willing to let us bring breakfast and beverages with us.
After the bride and groom picked Paris for their wedding I noticed items about Paris everywhere! I read an article about Paris Picnic in a magazine. After reading reviews I knew Paris Picnic would be a perfect outing for our group. We chose their Le Chic menu which included champagne, foie gras, baguette tradition, assortment of cheeses, charcuterie (cured meats), fresh salad du jour, artisanal crisps, seasonal fruit salad, mineral water, macarons, and brownies.
When it came time to picking a photographer we looked at a couple in Paris and a couple who came recommended from Massachusetts. We all agreed on hiring a friend of my sister's, Eric Snyder. Eric takes stunning photographs that are present, emotional, and flattering.
At this point I had a binder for all of my paperwork and spreadsheets. I previously posted about their wedding shower and that information was the first section in my binder. To read about my French garden theme shower visit here. So far I had guest information, venue contracts, hotel confirmations, airfare confirmations, travel insurance confirmations, budget for wedding, budget for activities, and budget for travels.
Next blog post is details from 3 months before the wedding.
Saturday morning and we finally get a little bit of a sleep in! We finally get out of bed and dressed and I hop downstairs to confirm with Valerie our information for our hairdresser. Greg and I went next door for some Starbucks for breakfast. Sadly the coffee machine in the hotel looks as though it contains milk so I was hoping to avoid any cross contamination.
After breakfast we walked up the street looking in around a few shops. I found an adorable children's clothing store for gifts for friends as well as a unique chocolatier for other gifts. It was close to noon so we headed back to the hotel and Greg went off on his own while 4 of us met with the hairdresser. The hairdresser felt she needed more space than the rooms provided so Valerie offered us the breakfast lounge. I really can't express our gratitude to Valerie and the Tourisme Avenue Hotel enough.
During our time in the "Salon" we were lucky that my dad went and purchased lunch for us. Even Valeri would stop in and see how we are doing, asked if we needed anything, etc. At the last minute it was decided we should get a small bouquet for the bride to carry. Greg was up! Even though there was a language barrier Greg and Fleurs d'Auteuil did an amazing job of creating a bridal bouquet.
Around 4:00 p.m. we were ready for makeup, pictures, and getting dressed. My sister and I headed to my room where I could help her with whatever she needed. Eric Snyder the photographer and friend from Massachusetts came up with us and took beautiful photos of the dress, accessories, and my sister getting ready.
Our guests were scheduled to meet at our hotel for 6:00 shuttle ride to the wedding destination of Yachts de Paris. We were told by our drivers that there was a concert, demonstration, and LGBTQ parade all happening at once during our scheduled time. With the suggestion to leave early we rushed around to finish getting ready, and contacted all the guests to rearrange the schedule. As you can imagine this became rather hectic. I literally got dressed in 5 minutes, helped my sister finish getting ready, brought Greg the thank you gifts for the yacht, and tried to gather everything else we needed.
Thankfully Greg and a few others helped usher the guests into the shuttles as they appeared. My aunt and uncle and I were the last shuttle to leave with my parents and sister in a sedan behind us.
Apparently all of the traffic was in getting to our hotel and not getting to the dock. We arrived very early and had to wait alongside the dock for a bit. The staff of Yachts de Paris were gracious in letting us on board a little early even though they were still setting up.
At 7:00 pm I helped bring my sister up onto the top deck of the yacht and watched her walk down the aisle to her future husband. Immediately after the ceremony we enjoyed cocktail hour with champagne, an open bar, and hor d' oeurves. We then watched as the couple had stunning photographs taken of them before taking group photos. It was incredible that we had perfect weather, a perfect sunset, and perfect views for the ceremony and photographs.
At 8:30 pm we went down into the dining room for a 4 course meal. Our starter was an Antipasti with Buffalo Mozzarella (Foie Gras for those with a dairy allergy). Our entree was Veal vegetables (Hake for dairy allergy). Next was a Cheese Course. For dessert we enjoyed the Power of Chocolate (Fruit Salad for dairy allergy). The food was elegantly presented, beautifully seasoned, and perfect portions. Guests raved about the food especially the veal.
In between the courses we enjoyed several speeches (even one from me which I'm petrified to do), a couple of special dances, and finally the incredible cake ceremony. The chef brought out the cake, turned down the lights, and had sparklers flaring. The talented singer sang Dream a little Dream in french (requested by the bride) while the couple cut the cake.
After dinner it was time to dance! We enjoyed music from a DJ as well as a female singer. The evening was truly magical! As a thank you for the staff I prepared a gratuity but also a thank you bag. I brought some gifts from Massachusetts that I hoped they would like. The first item was Maple Syrup, the 2nd was caramels, and the 3rd was sea salt.
At Midnight we disembarked the yacht and made our way over to the shuttles. When we arrived back at our hotel I helped the bride out of her gown and showed the groom what to do the next day for more photographs.
A group of us then made our way over to Le Zinc for a final get together! A perfect end to a wonderful week!
It's Thursday morning and luckily we brought most of our stuff to the hotel already! We're helping clean up from breakfast, gathering the trash, and helping my parents pack and catch a taxi. Thank goodness for smart phones for language barriers!
We arrived at the Tourisme Avenue Hotel and ran into our cousins from California! Yay! As people started to trickle in we helped bring in their stuff, store passports and purses in our room, and enjoyed seeing family and friends who just flew in.
My aunt and uncle made it to the hotel after a very long experience at customs (just like us). After checking in we went across the street to Le Primrose for some lunch. We ordered a variety of dishes French Onion Soup, Omelette, Beef Tartar, Spring Rolls, along with several glasses of wine. Our waitress was very patient with our limited French, very friendly, and didn't rush us.
After lunch we took my parents to tour Notre Dame Cathedral. When we arrived there was a pretty good size line but rest assured the line moves very quickly. My mother lit a candle and said a prayer before exploring the cathedral. Afterwards we walked along the river, enjoyed the garden area, and just relaxed.
My parents were getting pretty tired so we made our way back to the hotel which was good timing as other guests rooms were ready. We were just about to nap when our new friend Lindsay popped by and asked if we'd like to go for a drink. We ventured across the street to Le Zinc (which would become our late night hang out for the rest of the week).
For dinner we were meeting up with my parents and aunt and uncle at Les Cocottes. We walked in and found a table right away. To start our meal we ordered the Foie Gras, Lobster Bisque, Poached Egg and Rocket Salad, and the Pasta. For entrees we ordered Beef Check Stew, Caramelized Potatoes with Pig Feet, Risotto, and a couple of Roasted Chicken dishes. Dessert was shared so we ordered the Egg Flan and the Waffles. Of course this was all enjoyed with 2 bottles of wine.
We quickly found a taxi for my parents and aunt and uncle. Greg and I decided to walk back. We enjoyed walking past the Eiffel Tower, seeing a gourmet bus, and walking past stores and restaurants. Once back at the hotel we met up with the rest of the group (who dined out on Italian food) at Le Zinc for drinks and lots of laughs (let's just say the conversation included bidet etiquette and squatty potty's)!
Wednesday morning we woke up and enjoyed breakfast cooked by my brother in law and my father. Most of our group was heading to the Catacombs which completely freak me out so I abstained. For our wedding guests I created little welcome bags. Inside was a map of Paris, Aleve, Shout Wipes, Altoids, a Sewing Kit, and this morning I went and purchased individual boxes of French Macarons from Pierre Herme. We walked up toward the Arc de Triomphe and shopped at Publicis Drugstore for the Macarons and more. Afterwards we spent some time taking photos at along the Champs Elysees. After walking back to the apartment we helped my mother to relax. Unfortunately I think jet lag and dehydration were making her feel unwell. I then got a little caught up emailing with L'Open Tour. Daphne saved the day as far as I'm concerned! In addition to being extremely helpful, fast, and friendly, Daphne was able to secure a bus for us at the exact time we needed. Daphne listened to my needs and came up with a wonderful itinerary for our group. Finally I was able to select options, electronically sign, and pay for a private double decker with 2 stops for our group. Phew!
Greg and I decided to finally leave the apartment and walk around Paris. Our first destination was Jardin du Luxembourg. We wandered past the gardens, the water features, and the children playing with the wooden boats. We stopped and said hi to the rest of our group who walked up from the catacombs before heading to our next stop.
We left the park and made our way to the Pantheon. Oh how I wish I was hungry! We walked right past my favorite Gelateria from Rome Italy....Grom!! Nearby was a beautiful church for a quick pictures. Our final destination was Notre Dame Cathedral. We wandered up past Shakespeare and Company (no time for shopping sadly) and lucked out with no line entering the Cathedral. We first lit a candle and said a prayer for a wonderful wedding and marriage for my sister and then explored the beauty of the Cathedral.
As time was running out we hopped into a taxi and made our way back to the apartment where we quickly changed clothes for the Opera. We picked up our luggage and made our way to Tourisme Avenue Hotel for check in (we booked our room a day early so that our guests could store valuables in our room until their rooms were ready. The staff were friendly at check in, found our reservation right away, and had notes about our group. Over the past few months I worked with Valerie to set up hair appointments on the wedding day, passing out welcome bags to our guests, and any other details needed. Valerie is a treasure!
Our room was a Family Suite that gave us a large king bed, medium sized bathroom with separate toilet (Japanese toilet), and separate area made up of twin beds (we wishes it had been a couch as advertised but this was just fine). Over the course of our 4 night stay we enjoyed clean rooms, a perfect location, and staff that truly go above and beyond. The only small complaint I could have is with the breakfast. The hotel offers a continental breakfast (for a cost). The breakfast includes breads, cereals, cold meats, boiled eggs, yogurt, and coffee. It would have been nice to have at least one warm dish.
After quickly dropping off our belongings we grabbed a taxi, fought traffic, and met up with our grop at the Palais Garnier to see Cosi Fan Tutte.
The Palais Garnier is opulent, stunning, historical, and all around impressive. Unfortunately, not one of the 5 of us at the opera were impressed with Cosi Fan Tutte. The music was lovely, the singing beautiful, but the modern take on the opera was not what we were looking for. The scenery was a stark white room with glass panels on the sides of the stage. The costumes were knits, casual dresses, and sneakers. I love modern art, modern dance, and modern dining however when I got to a historic opera house for an Italian opera I don't want a modern interpretation. We all agreed to tour the building more at intermission and then make our exit. The universe gave us a sign that we made the right choice. We walked out the doors and into a Tango Milonga. My sister and her husband love to tango and are actually doing a tango for their first dance.
For dinner we texted a few more friends and decided to all meet at Le Grand Colbert. After a very short wait the staff set a table for the 8 of us. For starters we ordered the Hot Foie Gras with Rhubarb, Cold Foie Gras, Sardines, Oysters, Sea Snails, Escargots, and Lentil Salad. For entrees 1/2 Lobster with Mayonnaise, Beef Tartar, Belle Sole, and more that I can't exactly remember. If you have a sweet tooth I highly recommend the Pavlova with Strawberries for Dessert.
A quick Uber ride and we were back at our apartment where we enjoyed the sparkling Eiffel Tower with a final glass of wine.