Archive for July, 2012
Ok so I know I’ve been a bit of a downer what with my bad service this and really expensive that BUT I now bring you the best dining experience of my life. Behold, Pierre Gagnaire.
Pierre Gagnaire is situated in the Hotel Balzac in a tiny street behind the Champs Elysee. The hotel looks a bit fancy but I probably wouldn’t stay there over somewhere like Le Meurice or Plaza Athenee. The restaurant has its own entrance and you will probably be surprised to see that it is quite a small place with what seems to be a disproportionate amount of staff. What you will see later is that each and every one of these staff members is necessary and you won’t even realise that they are there.
If you’re a lady be prepared to get a menu without prices on it. This means your date is paying. Or something. I ordered a ‘salad’ which turned out to be priced at 125 Euros. Whoopsie! It was so worth it, though – each course has about five different plates (hence the numerous staff members) and you absolutely cannot fault the food.
Dad ordered the lunch menu which was four courses (about 20 plates worth of food – I’m being serious) but the tables were really big and the restaurant quite peaceful so I didn’t want to disturb people around me by passing plates around or getting up to take photos of his food so I can’t share his meal with you.
I can, however show you what mum and I had.
First was the amuse bouche – the greatest amuse bouche of all time. They brought out all these plates and explained the dishes to us before mum and I had time to tell them that we can’t eat seafood. Was this a problem? Absolutely not. They whisked the seafood dishes away and replaced them with equally stunning, beautifully tasting canapés like I’ve never tasted before.
I forgot to mention earlier that the other seamless trick the staff performed was when mum announced she doesn’t drink alcohol. They immediately suggested a ‘juice degustation’ to complement both the amuse bouche and her salad entrée. Three little juices came out: tamarillo and raspberry, passionfruit and orange and red grapefruit. How sweet is that? It was quite simple and failsafe but also really unusual.
Speaking of unusual, the bread at Pierre Gagnaire is definitely worth noting. A gorgeous soft brioche best smothered in citrus butter was a favourite but the chestnut flour bread came in at a close second.
Somehow with some room left in my stomach after that endless amuse bouche I ate this salad. I think I mentioned five plates per course earlier but I must apologise as this one had EIGHT.
Feeling sorry for whoever does the dishes in this plate I moved onto the main course. Even after her veal mishap at Joel Robuchon mum ordered the veal and I ordered beef. Again, I kind of regret my decision as we have such good beef here. It was very moist and the sauce was rich and nurturing but it must have been a high-grade of wagyu or something as the marbling was a bit too full on for me. The accompaniments were out of this world, though.
Oh my god. Time for dessert. Yes, I still wasn’t full. There were only a couple of options for dessert. A choice of one of three soufflés or Le grand dessert de Pierre Gagnaire which is eight more plates worth of food. Mum and I decided to share this one and I’m glad we did. It was huge. Incredible, but huge.
But first, another amuse bouche!
From the start:
Red fruit, white chocolate
Apricot – quite earthy but a really cute texture. Like a little bubble ^_^
Apple tarte tatin – this was some Willy Wonka ish. First you’re like ok cool, apple tart and then you swallow and the taste of whipped cream washes over your mouth and picks up accents of the apple and it’s like a dream.
Now the eight plates full:
My only negative comment would be that I tried to order an iced coffee (long shot, I know) and instead they brought me a cup of black coffee with some ice. LOL! it just turns to water when you put it in the hot coffee, guys!
If that’s the only thing I could find remotely wrong with the place then they’re doing ok.
Pierre Gagnaire was around so I asked the staff if I could have a little photo-op. They rang him and told me he would have a decision for me in ten minutes. I fully expected to have a cloche presented to me where, upon opening, steam would come off a plate of shaved unicorn tusk and form the word “non” but he actually just appeared himself and posed for a photo:
Luckily I was wearing a puffy dress or you’d be able to see those four million dishes poking through my stomach.
So, prices. Yes. For 2 entrees, 2 mains, 1 grand dessert, 1 lunch menu, 3 glasses of champagne, a juice degustation and a couple of glasses of wine the bill came to over 1000 Euro so obviously this is not for everyone. Was it worth that price? Hell-effing-yes. I still think about this meal with extremely fond memories and would go back in a heartbeat. The staff was perfect, the food was flawless and the whole experience is well deserving of its three Michelin star status. If you can – please go.
Bookings need to be made ahead and can only be done so within the month of arrival. It’s a bit of a rigmarole with booking, too. You’ll need to email a form back once you’ve made your initial enquiry and there’s a bit of emailing back and forth but, as I said, very much worth it. Pierre Gagnaire is also closed for a lot of Summer so try to do your research well before you plan your visit.
Has anyone else tried Pierre Gagnaire? What did you think?6 Rue Balzac 75008 Paris, France
Why not travel to another country for the day if you can? We had the time so we decided to take a day trip to Bruges in Belgium. Again, I booked this through Viator and I would NOT recommend booking with them. The tour guides were lousy. Less than lousy. They were rude, only showed good manners at the very end of the trip where they were completely sucking up to everyone (clearly to try to get tips) and really crassly asked me not to bring my (closed) bottle of drink on board so as not to dirty up the bus. Interestingly, as one of the guides requested this, I spotted about three used cigarette butts on the floor of the bus. Hhmmm.
My recommendation is to find a tour group that is limited to 12 people or less as I just booked the first thing that came up when I googled “Paris Day Trips” and there were at least 40 people on the bus which was a bloody nightmare. Luckily Bruges is an absolutely magnificent quintessential European city with cobbled streets, 600-year old buildings and quaint little chocolate shops and you have the whole day to yourself to enjoy these delights
My advice to anyone taking this tour or travelling to Bruges by their own means would be to find the horse tour spot first (if that’s something you’re interested in). I am a horse and carriage freak – to the point where I’ve even take a couple of rides around the Rocks – and I desperately wanted to trot around the city in a big ol’ carriage waving at passers-by, but after forty minutes of searching we still couldn’t find the starting point.
Included in the cost of the tour was a canal ride which lasts 30 minutes and leaves the dock every 10 minutes. The boats carry around 24 people each time so you won’t be waiting long. This was fantastic as the whole city is sort of built around the canal and you will get to see a variety of architectural types as well as some nice hotels and restaurants including one which has three Michelin stars.
Belgium is famous for its lace, its waffles and its chocolate so we tried a couple of waffle places, bought some chocolate both as gifts and for ourselves and watched this lady making lace like a real pro. Such intricate work, I had no idea it was done like this!
Mum is a big collector of Steiff products. Traditionally from Germany, these collectible bears (and other animals) are so beautifully made and have so much character which makes them a real treat to own. We figured a little city like this would stock them somewhere and I wanted to buy a little Steiff something for my friend who was about to become a new dad. The gorgeous baby has since been born – shout outs to baby Thomas!!
We found the shop, The Bear Necessities, and it was small but filled with wonderful Steiff bears as well as a few other collectible brands. Mum got a really cute bright orange elephant to add to her ever-growing collection. Nothing will beat the Steiff poodle I tracked down for her years ago from an antique store in London, though – god bless the internet!
Other things to do in Bruges include taking a bike tour, perusing the galleries and museums or doing some shopping. The shops aren’t all touristy and I saw a number of high street brands in the town square. Very Euro brands like Morgan de Toi and Mango, if that’s your thing.
The trip back to Paris is about 4 hours, including a stop off for food – but don’t you dare take it back on the bus!!
Seriously, though, I would 100% recommend going to Belgium if you’ve got a whole day to spare. It’s really very gorgeous and whether you walk around the whole city or just sit in a cafe the whole day and eat waffles you’re bound to have an amazing time; perhaps just try not to take the Viator tour!
Mon Dieu! I forgot to put in a post that was supposed to be before Chambord. Although, it might be good to break it up with an easy viewing post before I bombard you with another one full of beautiful yet ridiculously old buildings again.
We had a little mishap with a certain store on Avenue Montaigne charging us twice which resulted in the bank cancelling one of dad’s cards so we had to head back as soon as we could to get them to reverse that charge. While we were there (again) I wanted to check out the Plaza Athenee hotel which is where the greatest musician of all time, Mariah Carey, had just stayed with her three children for the two youngest ones’ first birthday a month or so earlier.
I really wanted to dine at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant here but I had already booked lunch at his three-starred restaurant in London so I didn’t really want to double up. No harm in having morning tea at the hotel, though, right?
The hotel is absolutely gorgeous. The coral-y red tones carried throughout the whole building and into the garden as well, with pots of flowers surrounding the centre courtyard that a lot of the rooms look on to.
The morning tea menu was quite short but I wanted literally everything on it. While my parents both ordered the millefeuille, I had ‘caramel sundae’ and a big rich pot of hot chocolate.
My dessert was fun and sweet and pretty different to anything I’d been having in Paris. I was, however, supremely jealous of the millefeuille. Not only did it look incredible but the tiny mouthful mum afforded me was just one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Weeks later we’ve still been talking about it – and this was no famous patisserie or anything like that – just the lounge of the Plaza Athenee.
Of course, this little venture was not cheap. The hot chocolate was 12 Euros and the desserts no less than 20 each but if you’re headed to Paris on a budget and something like this is the only bit of luxury you can afford on your trip, I say do it. It was even more memorable than Laduree and about the same price. The surrounds are beautiful and relaxing and you might even bump into Mariah Carey!Plaza Athenee 25 Avenue Montaigne 75008 Paris France Tel: +33 1 5367 6665 http://www.plaza-athenee-paris.com/
There are a number of little day trips you can do from Paris to surrounding areas and aside from Monet’s Garden and Versailles, I really wanted to see Chambord and some other castles in the Loire Valley.
I booked this trip through Viator and would highly, highly recommend it. You start off by travelling to Chambord which will be described as the ‘masculine castle’ which is remarkably under-furnished due to having not been lived in for very long at all. The surrounding area of the castle is so pretty and so French while the architecture of the castle is quite extraordinary and features an interesting stair case said to have been designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.
The castle at Chambord is now used mostly for art exhibitions and, of course, as a tourist attraction. Due to the rooms being quite bare you probably won’t spend too much time here because it’s lacking the details that usually take up your viewing time.
After Chambord we headed towards Nitray for lunch at a privately owned château which was prepared by the family who own it. We also had a small wine tasting of their own wines. The lunch was hearty and the wine was ok. You could buy it for around 6 Euros per bottle after the tour and dad bought a sparkling which he quite enjoyed.
The Chateau de Nitray is notably smaller than Chambord but there are some interesting buildings still standing from hundreds of years ago. A tiny chapel connected to the main building as well as a house for pigeons which had been restored to its original condition. It was hard to imagine it full of birds and I’m sure people with bird phobias would be glad there are none in there now!
We saw the machines used to make all the wine as well as an antique press that’s now purely for display purposes. The land that the château is on was quite vast but being on a tight schedule meant we didn’t have time to venture any further and since it was a private residency there wasn’t really any personal time allowed.
The last and most stunning castle was Chenonceau. This was the ‘feminine’ castle and I could have spent the rest of my life here. It’s like a fairytale castle – right out of a Disney movie. Heavily wooded, surrounded by a moat and with beautifully furnished rooms, I fully expected to see Cinderella wandering around.
This castle also wasn’t huge which meant you could get around in the allocated free time (if you take the same tour as me). I particularly loved seeing the kitchens in the basement which had all been restored.
I took so many pictures I’ve had to put them in a gallery because it would take forever for the page to load otherwise. If you’d like to see more details of the castles, please have a look below.
The trip back to Paris is around three hours, which makes for the perfect day out. If you have a spare day in Paris you should definitely add this to your ‘must-do’ list.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile is located right on the Champs Elysee within the Publicis Complex, quite a nice department store in its own right, and is one of Joel Robuchon’s many restaurants around the world. He is the most awarded chef on Earth by Michelin Star standards and from the majority of comments on twitter and Facebook and other reviews in both traditional media or on blogs it’s no surprise why. However I must say that my experience was not overwhelmingly positive. I’d like to say that the hype is what caused me to be disappointed but overall I think ultimately there were a few contributing factors.
I think my disappointment began when mum, a non-alcohol drinker, asked what non-alcoholic drinks were available. Just a couple of days before at L’Avenue she had been offered a virgin mojito, so you’d think a two-Michelin-starred restaurant would be able to make up something similar, right? Wrong. The choice was pineapple, orange or apple juice. Bottled at that.
My disappointment continued with the menu. When I skimmed the website I thought that what turned out to be the lunch menu, was actually the menu for dinner. There were three selections and with each price increase was another course or two. I thought this seemed like a splendid deal as there was something to please each of our tastes and the price was fantastic. When we were seated by the very lovely staff (a definite bonus here – and there are more plusses to come, it’s not all negative!) we were handed the a la carte menu which was very different. “It’s like tapas” we were told, with the first page being a range of ‘share’ plates or “petites portions”, the second page a variety of skewers and the third page some mains. This “tapas” would begin at 17 euros with the most expensive priced at 51 euros. You could also order a mini burger with chips for 33 euros. After being read the whole menu in English (just to be sure we knew 100% what we would be choosing from) I tentatively ordered the foie gras at 25 euros. This was the cold foie gras (as opposed to the hot foie gras also in this section of the menu) served with toast. While the foie gras itself was lovely and fine the overwhelming charred taste of the toast (I’m assuming on purpose) was too heavy for the liver and when I ran out of toast and put the rest on the bread we had been served at the table it was infinitely better.
I’m sure I know the chefs know a lot more about matching flavours than I do but my taste buds know what they like!
For her first course mum ordered the chicken skewers and I knew immediately that she didn’t like them when she cut a large portion off one and offered it to me. I thought they were ok but in a restaurant of this calibre you expect more than just ok. To even serve chicken skewers in this kind of restaurant was baffling in the first place. There was, however, an accompanying soup which seemed to go down easily as there were no complaints from mum. I managed to take a photo of one of the adorable mushrooms in it, too. The cuteness made up for the chicken.
As you probably know from reading other food posts on my blog I don’t eat seafood. Mainly because my mother and I are allergic so I didn’t grow up eating it. My allergy is not so bad that I’ll die if I have any, so I have tried it a bit in the past few years, but I’m just not attune to the taste. My dad on the other hand loves seafood and for the sake of enjoying the whole experience he decided to order the ‘Menu “Decouverte de Saison” at 165 euros p/p (not including wine). This was actually quite good value as he was served 8 dishes including amuse bouche and the occasional extra course was handed to mum and I as dad was receiving his – another generous thing they didn’t have to do.
Dad struggled a bit with his first course. While he likes the taste of seafood, it’s the textures that put him off. When he saw lobster jelly he almost lost it. I was trying to reason with him and explain the cooking process but then I realised that if someone offered me chicken jelly I’d be freaked out too. Just because I like something in its whole form doesn’t make it cool when it’s in the form of jelly! The dish was very pretty, though, and once he got over the initial qualms, dad was happy with the dish overall.
The next course in the seasonal menu was described as a cheesy smoked salmon and caviar dish with wasabi. I must admit, even as a non-seafood eater, this looked pretty nice. The pastry-type shards you can see are actually fried cheese and the orange cubes around the bottom, the smoked salmon. Dad absolutely loved this one and you can see why.
The third dish was a pea soup. I didn’t manage to get a photo of it before the actual soup had been poured over the top of the ingredients in the bowl so, unfortunately, the photo is not very pretty.
For my main I ordered lamb. In retrospect it was a silly choice as Australian lamb is so delicious but I think I was a bit thrown having been presented with these dishes I didn’t think I’d be choosing from that I just went for something safe. My mum, after hearing the selections from our waitress, ordered veal.
When the dishes arrived I was a bit confused to see a plate of lamb chops and nothing else. Wonderfully cooked, beautifully presented lamb chops, but lamb chops all the same. I think the disappointment in this case is partially my fault for ordering the wrong thing. As I said, there was nothing wrong with it but you just want more when you’re dining somewhere special.
Mum had two large pieces of veal on her plate and as she cut into the first she commented on how tender it was. Not even tender but smooth and buttery, unlike any veal she’d had before. The taste, she said, was a bit unusual but she went in for a second mouthful. This time she noticed it was gamey and not what she was expecting so she cut the other piece on the plate. It was here, with this same soft texture that she realised it was veal but more specifically, veal liver. I asked the waitress – this time in French – what part of the veal this was and she confirmed it was indeed liver. Mum strictly does not eat offal (aside from the occasional chicken liver pate or foie gras) so she said she just wouldn’t eat it – not thinking any more of it. Respectfully and unexpectedly, the veal was removed from the bill (I’m not suggesting that you go in, have a mouthful of everything and send it back but I just wanted to point out the high level of service we received).
Dad’s also a little funny about offal so the hot foie gras course was another obstacle. I found it amusing that even the design on the plate looked like it was taunting him. Ner ner ner ner ner!
He got through that (I love how I say that like it was some form of torture and not a two-Michelin-Star meal!) and it was all happiness from there on. His next favourite dish was Saint-Pierre fish (which I think is John Dory in English) with gnocchi and then the same lamb dish I had for my main albeit in a smaller portion.
Dessert time saw my only challenge of the night for where my parents don’t eat seafood and offal, I struggle with banana. Yep, seriously. One of the additional dishes for mum and I which was part of dad’s order was Pina Colada type dessert with rum and coconut. The banana layer really got to me as it’s the only fruit I have never been able to stomach. I’m cool with banana bread and ice cream but any other form and I near vomit. For the record this dish did not make me want to vomit – it was actually beautiful – it was just my own weirdness making me feel this way.
Luckily I had my own dessert to get the banana taste out of my mouth: a super-rich chocolate concoction with Oreo biscuit. It was so decadent I didn’t want to break the gold disk but once I finally did it was a chocolate lover’s heaven – perhaps even a little bit too rich for me by the end of it. Or maybe I would have preferred the bottom, richer layer to be on top and the lighter, moussier part to end the dessert with?
Mum had the soufflé which she said she didn’t like but I think after her meal consisted essentially of bottled pineapple juice and some mashed potato she was a bit over the whole thing, so it’s hard to judge how pertinent her opinion was.
Dad’s second dessert was cheese and pineapple and looks spectacular!
I can’t even remember how he said this tasted. Maybe he didn’t even eat it because it looked too pretty. I know I would have had a hard time messing it up.
Well that was a very long post so let me recap in brief…
- Nice, attentive staff who perhaps need to fine tune their English (or maybe patrons also need to learn their “hard limits” in French) to avoid confusion – trust me, I ordered everything in French for everyone for the rest of the trip to avoid anymore liver situations!!
- Very well presented dishes
- The seasonal menu was very good value and if you have no allergies/turn offs then I would say go for it and don’t even bother with the rest of the menu!
- Dad told the sommelier he trusted him to choose wine for each of his courses and the sommelier didn’t abuse this “trust” and provided him with wines that were around the 15 euro/glass mark where he could have gone crazy.
- Not a sufficient amount of non-alcoholic drink options
- Sitting at a bar, although comfortable, is a bit awkward with three or more
So while dad still talks about his meal and I had no problem with mine I just can’t rave about L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile the way I thought I would when I booked. I’m certainly glad that I’ve been but especially now after the dining experiences that followed this one I would not be rushing back.
I think I’m quite alone with these feelings because, as I said earlier, the general consensus online is that Joel Robuchon’s a genius. I was looking at photos on his Facebook page just the other day and the creations look magnificent so maybe it was an off night – he’s also not exactly in the kitchen himself – but you’d think the chefs would be some of the best in the world to reflect his own passion so this should translate into all the meals. Anyway, I’d love to know what you thought of it so please let me know in the comments section below.
Seven glasses of wine, 1 pineapple juice, 1 seasonal menu, 1 serve of skewers, 1 “tapas” entree, 1 main and 2 desserts cost just over 500 euros.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile
Did you have the time of your life or did your meal at Etoile fall flat like it did for me?
My dad was told about the food markets which take place at Bastille on Sunday mornings before 1:00 pm. You’re close to a Metro station everywhere in Paris so it’s very easy to get to via train but if I did it again I would probably go the the stop after Bastille which will bring you smack bang in the middle of the market instead of somewhere across a couple of roads like we did. I’m pretty sure this station was Bréguet – Sabin but if someone has a more accurate way of getting there please leave a comment!
We turned up just after 9:00am which made us hungry enough to be interested in everything but still satisfied from an earlier breakfast to be discerning. As you walk along you’ll notice a few stalls are doubled up so unless you’re short of time it’s worth wandering up and down the whole strip and making note of what you want before buying it. I also noticed that a couple of the stands weren’t as well equipped with covers and the like and had flies hanging about whereas a stand selling the same produce 20m away didn’t, so you’ll be pleased if you don’t rush into things.
As well as food there are just a couple of stands with clothing, accessories and cooking utensils. I picked up something cool for a friend who is really into food and cooking but I think she might read my blog and I haven’t given it to her yet so I’ll have to keep it a secret
Even if you’re not in the market (ha!) for any fresh produce, there’s so much to see. The vendors will probably guess that you’re a tourist and won’t hassle you unless you show genuine interest and some might even offer you a cherry or two. As far as I could tell nobody had a problem with me taking photos which was nice as the displays are really extraordinary.
As you wander you’ll notice some big batches of beef bourguignon, coq au vin and other such stews and these smelled absolutely amazing. There were also a couple of Middle Eastern stalls and I could have died and gone to heaven walking past them.
Because we bought such small quantities we didn’t bother trying to bargain; in fact it didn’t look like even the locals were. I think the prices seemed very low particularly for how fresh and beautiful it all was and we decided that if we ever went back and got the same apartment that we’d plan the day better and cook up a big meal with things we’d bought at these markets. You could come here and buy literally everything you need, there was fruit, veggies, fish, meat, eggs, fresh pasta, herbs and spices, wheat products, dairy products, cakes, wines, flowers – you’d go nuts if you are someone who loves cooking and entertaining.
We ended up just picking up some bread, dips and olives and vine leaves (the best I’ve ever had, actually). I think we got a bit flustered by the end of it because we totally forgot cheese and butter. I know, right? WTF?!?!? Even so, what we had was more than enough for lunch because we had dinner at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon that night so we didn’t want to be too full.
As much as I loved the markets and would 100% go back, if you only have three days or something in Paris and it’s your first time I’d probably give it a miss. I would probably also skip it if I wasn’t staying in an apartment as we had plenty of bowls and cutlery to really dish out what we’d bought and you may not have the same set up in a hotel. It is, however, a cheap and entertaining few hours in a place that is not overflowing with tourists. Keep in mind that Bastille is akin to Sydney’s Kings Cross so there were a few ‘characters’ about but nothing too drastic!
Would you be interested in attending a food market in Paris or would you prefer to not have to cook for yourself while you’re on holidays?
Following on from lunch after Monet’s garden we drove back closer to Paris to Versailles. I was amazed at how close Versailles was to Paris, actually. I don’t need to tell you that geography was my worst subject at school.
The weather actually got colder and rainier as the day progressed so I was pretty miserable by the time I got there. The masses and masses of people (I made the stupid mistake of booking for a Saturday) along with the wind and rain kind of made me want to go straight back to the apartment for a hot shower and a nap but obviously I persisted.
The grounds are absolutely enormous and the few rooms of the palace that are open to the public are actually so big that you could be in there for hours. Our guide gave us a tour of the apartments and she was a bit annoying. There was some art exhibition in the apartments (as you’ll see in the pictures) and she kept talking about how ugly it was. I actually didn’t mind it – it wasn’t the kind of art I’d buy necessarily but the juxtaposition between the very classical French interiors and architecture against the printed animals and bright colours provided a point of interest and it just made her look like an elitist snob. Either way, it’s not up to her to tell us about a contemporary and, more importantly, temporary art exhibition when she was there to comment on the palace and its history.
Anyway, as you can imagine the apartments are amazing. I love how everything is OTT with ruffles, frills, bows and pastel colours – and that was just the bedrooms of the males! From the stories we heard it sounded like a pretty awful life for Marie Antoinette to be honest, despite how stunning the gardens and palace were.
Once the tour was over we had free time outside and the fountain show was on. Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s some sort of show when you book, though, it’s just that the fountains have been turned on. At the time it was an extraordinarily huge feat to have fountains of that size and strength but these days it’s pretty to look at but not all that remarkable.
I didn’t really walk down to where all the hedges are, I felt like it was so big that if you started it would take you hours to finish so I just soaked it in from up on the vast pavement (?) outside the palace.
The worst part about palace is all the people selling souvenirs outside. They’re so aggressive and just everywhere and I found it quite amusing watching them scatter when the cops showed up. It’s seriously one of Paris’ greatest downfalls and makes you feel quite unsafe at times, particularly when there are so many people around. I saw a couple of people buy things off them and then the vendors would just not leave them alone and kept following them when they walked away – urgh! So annoying.
I’m definitely glad I’ve been although I don’t think I’d go back to the palace at Versailles. I absolutely hate crowds and it was just way too busy. One woman in my tour group who was travelling alone said she actually got quite frightened at one stage and while I wasn’t frightened it was hard work trying to take photos, listen to the history and make sure your wallet and passport weren’t getting nicked at the same time.
As you’ll see if you check back to my blog, I still had a couple of tours left so I couldn’t be too disillusioned this early on. A couple of easy days were coming up, though and my next post will be on the Sunday food markets at Bastille.
What did you think of the palace at Versailles? Beautiful or far too busy?
In case you haven’t read all my Paris and London food posts (you should) I thought I’d put together a list of the best things I saw/ate and the places you should definitely seek out or avoid. I can’t wait to go back to London and Paris again to try a few of these places and add some more too! I hope you enjoyed my posts as much as I enjoyed researching them
Best overall experience – Pierre Gagnaire
Best overall food – The Ledbury
Best entree – Scallops with Cucumber ketchup at Dinner by Heston
Best main – Lamb loin and shoulder with glazed aubergine at The Ledbury
Best dessert – Olive oil parfait with olive oil mayonnaise and strawberry salad at Hibiscus
Best amusee bouche – Pierre Gagnaire
Best service – Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Best flair – Dinner by Heston
Best decor – Le Meurice
Best ceramics – Should be Joel Robuchon but I later saw them for sale in Harrods (same goes for the gorgeous and oh-so fun Paul Smith tea set at The Berkley) so based on their custom make, Le Meurice
Definitely try to make the effort
On my third day in Paris I went on a day trip to Giverny and Versailles to see Monet’s house and garden and the palace respectively. I will break them into two posts as they will both be quite image heavy.
I booked through Viator and I’d definitely recommend the tour. Our guide was French and her English was ok. She had been working as a tour guide for over 40 years so she had a great knowledge of what she was showing us but also knew when we just wanted to rest. Once we got to Monet’s garden we had free time for the duration of our time spent there which I much prefer as sometimes you just want to sit and soak it in rather than look at things that might not interest you.
Monet’s garden is spectacular. It was raining on the day (although I still got a bit of colour on my face?) which was a bit of a shame but the colours are so vibrant and plentiful that you still got the Summer feel from it. It’s actually not as big as I thought it would be. There are two gardens: one near his house and a Japanese garden, the more famous of the two, nearby. This is where you will see the water lilies and bridges that are so iconic from his works.
Here are some of my favourite shots of the garden:
After the main garden I went to view the house. We were told by the guide that he had a ‘comfortable’ home. To me, comfortable is where every person has their own bedroom and you’ve got a roof without any leaks – this was way beyond comfortable.
Monet’s house is absolutely gorgeous. It’s huge and full of lovely furnishings and art. The rooms are all painted different colours and have views of the stunning garden. Due to his interest in Japanese art, Monet had a collection of now very famous Japanese prints. For this reason you are not allowed to take photos inside the house, which is completely reasonable. I was taking a photo out the window, however, and some idiot tourist reprimanded me for doing so. She clearly didn’t understand that the policy was to protect the art and that the flash wasn’t going to hurt the outside air.
Some pictures of around the house:
I then ventured to the Japanese garden where the bridges are. Unfortunately, being there on my own, I couldn’t get a picture of me standing on the bridge I just took a selfie where I, quite fittingly, look like a Japanese cartoon character:
After you leave the grounds you will be right in the middle of the township of Giverny which is now primarily a tourist town. Wandering down the road there were some nice looking restaurants and galleries (if you have time) or some quaint cafes as well as little crafts and homewards shops. I would have preferred to have stayed a little longer to peruse the galleries and have a proper lunch but time and weather did not allow for it.
If you have a spare day in Paris I insist that you take this tour. It is a whole day and includes lunch and return trip from the centre of Paris (very easy to find the pick-up office). I think you can also do tours just to Monet’s garden (without Versailles) if you don’t have time or are not interested in the Palace.
After the garden we went for lunch at some family run place called Moulin de Fourges. The food was mass-produced and sub par but it hit the spot and I had really lovely people on my tour so it was actually really enjoyable.
The area surrounding was actually very pretty so if you’re lucky and have a nice day you could take a nice walk after lunch to take it all in. In my case it was freezing and I basically ran back to the bus with my last bite of apple tarte tatin still in my mouth to get out of the cold.
After that it was onto the next stop: Versailles…
After shopping all day at avenue Montaigne we jumped in a cab and headed to Saint Germain to eat at Ladurée. At this point I had only had one macaron in two days – terrible average considering I had already consumed about 8 croissants – so I was all set to fill up on Ladurée’s famous little morsels.
When we arrived, though, I didn’t realise there was an actual cafe with a really extensive menu. Mum usually stays in Saint Germain when she’s in Paris so she had taken me there on purpose to get the whole Ladurée experience and it was almost dinner time so I thought I’d may as well stuff myself.
I was craving an iced coffee – a frappe style one – so my only let down at Ladurée was when I ordered a frappe and it turned out to be sort of like coffee-flavoured Coca Cola. Nonetheless, my club sandwich was big and full and exactly the boost of energy I needed after a big day of walking.
However, Ladurée aren’t famous for their club sandwiches so I’m sure you want to see the desserts.
Before we left, mum bought the Ladurée recipe books, both savoury and sweet, from a homewares shop in Woollahra. The little cakes all look so pretty in their pastel pinks and mint greens and the book featured so many of the cakes you can buy in store. One that wasn’t in the book, though, was the Rose Ispahan with lychee and raspberry.
It’s basically a giant raspberry macaron with rose cream and whole lychees in the centre and, of course, a garnish of rose petal and raspberry. So beautiful, so girly and so very French. Mum and I both had the same and dad had the eclair version. Sorry, we’re a bit boring but we all love lychees and raspberries and despite being big and creamy it was still such a light dessert.
You can’t take photos in the store without getting told off and I wasn’t in the mood to be yelled at so I didn’t really take any unfortunately. However, just before I went on the trip it was announced that Ladurée will be opening a store in Sydney so if you can’t make it to France anytime soon you will be able to get your Ladurée fix a lot closer to home.
I really hope they go all out and include a boutique and cafe as well as the patisserie. It’s really nice to sit in there and dine as opposed to just walking out with something that’s so delicate and has the potential to break before you can even enjoy it. I think the success of Adriano Zumbo‘s cafe at The Star has proved that we have a need and love for pretty pastries in Australia but obviously Ladurée Sydney is going to be a huge hit no matter what format they decide to present themselves in.
The little boutique connected to the cafe sold super-cute wares like body products, candles, stationery and handbag charms but it was really quite expensive. They have a whole range with Hello Kitty but I just figured I didn’t really need a packet of stickers with macarons on them for 35 euros – I’d rather go and have another meal at Ladurée for that!
Speaking of prices, it wasn’t as cheap as I thought it would be. The desserts were around 15 euros plus and the main meals upwards from around 20 euros. I can’t remember specifics but I remember thinking that a one-hundred-and-something-euro bill was a fair bit for some egg whites and food colouring (and a couple of salads and a sandwich). Despite this, it’s definitely worth heading into a Ladurée store. It’s simply a ‘must-do’ when in Paris and you’ll find them dotted all over the city. There’s even one at Versailles but be warned as, from what I could tell, they don’t sell individual macarons there, only boxes of them and merchandise.
21 rue Bonaparte – 75006 Paris
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Satuday 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Sunday and public holidays 10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m
So, have you tried Ladurée and are you excited about Ladurée in Sydney?