Tuesday, April 15, 2014 was my 30th birthday.
First, we had a croissant and coffee breakfast sitting down inside a café near the catacombs. Yes, I was going to stare down death the day I celebrated my birth plus entered a new decade. That's just how it fit into our ambitious itinerary! Since we were still early to visit the attraction, we crossed the street to the McDonalds. Elizabeth ordered something, a coffee served in a real cup and pastry instead of the traditional menu item, so we could sit and use their wifi with a strong signal. Low signals plus with working out the quirks of a new phone combined, this was the only time I checked my email the whole week. Facebook and other websites were easier to use as well. I was flooded with birthday wishes so it was nice to check in.
Next, we hopped in line a half an hour prior to opening time just like the guidebook suggested. At 9:30, we weren't too far back, just around the corner from the entrance. However, this was our slowest moving line the entire trip since it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to get in. By that time, the line grew at least around the entire block. It was a cool morning with a breeze, probably in the upper 40s. Elizabeth was very cold. In fact, her lips turned blue! I had never visited the catacombs in Rome. It was definitely a different thing to see. There was a long dark hallway with a few little things to see and then stacks of tibia bones and skulls lined the walkway.
When Elizabeth asked me where I wanted to go next since it was my birthday, I replied with one of my favorite neighborhoods so far, Saint-Germain. We had coffee at a sidewalk café.
Next, we tracked down the little chocolate shop we liked so we can buy more chocolate. Sampling bon bons on my birthday sounded ideal to me! Liz loves chocolate just as much as I do!
We had to rush back to the hotel to grab my ticket for our scheduled wine tasting. I wanted to change into my LBD but it was a bit too cool and breezy, even paired with tights. I simply changed my top to a lacy silky black camisole and black cardigan in record time. We walked very briskly to O Chateau, which is highly reviewed for its classes. We took the Introduction to French Wine tasting at 3:00 PM. It was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. We had three wines: a white, a rosé and a red. Pretty much all I drink is red, but I didn't really love their selection. I liked the white and rosé. I had drank this pink wine at my roommates' suggestion on my 21st birthday in Italy but never was a huge fan. This one didn't have a finish, so I could see how Parisians loved this crisp, light wine sitting along the Seine during summer. The wine tasting was an hour long so we received twice the amount of information as usual at least. I was even successful as properly tasting it by sucking air in through my lips! Ever since, I have been trying to hold my glass by the stem and not get my fingerprints all over the glass. The teacher was knowledgeable and fun. Our classmates seemed cultured and we all had a good time. It was Elizabeth's first wine tasting.
Coming from the wine tasting, I realized I accidentally lost our map. My reaction to this development was: Yes!! Let's get lost! Conversely, Elizabeth preferred to obtain another one. I still had the subway map torn out of the Rick Steves guidebook, which could serve as a general map. We were leaving the next morning anyway. Our decision was to not wander too far.
Then, I had a French cocktail called a kir at a sidewalk cafe near the Seine. I actually didn't like it.
Since I ate beef bourguignon at a French restaurant in Philadelphia for my 27th birthday, we decided that I would order steak frites (steak with french fries) for my birthday dinner. We chose a restaurant near our hotel, Le Royal, and sat inside next to the window.
I asked for my steak well done, bien cuit (bee-yen kwee) since it's how I usually order meat cooked and I am aware that the French prefer meat cooked rare. It came out medium well, medium at the thick center, which was completely fine, as long as it wasn't rare. I also enjoyed Bordeaux (which was the cheapest wine I found). [I am currently trying to find that small glass carafe pictured below for my home. HomeGoods hasn't had it in stock during my last two visits since my trip. The wine amount is called a quartino at the Italian restaurant Carrabba's.]
Steak Frites with Bordeaux
Since I didn't see profiterole on the dessert menu and wanted to let Liz try them, I asked for the check, please, l'addition s'il vous plaît. Elizabeth and I checked out the posted menus of the next three restaurants or so, but didn't see this cream puff, vanilla ice cream (or other cream) and warm chocolate sauce dessert on them either. So, we returned to the Café de L'Echelle, the restaurant where we ate the first night. I ordered the chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.
[I actually ordered similar Parisian water glasses from Ballard Designs online.]
I cut into the cake and discovered it to be chocolate lava cake. It was delicious!
Liz ordered a waffle a la mode.
The next morning, Wednesday, April 16, 2014, was our last. We just had to patronize our Eric Kayser location one more time! I ordered my favorite, pain au chocolat and a café. This espresso was the best I've had so far. Delicious. I should have ordered it there instead of all those cappuccinos. And I love its modern cup and saucer! We dined upstairs and again enjoyed a street view.
Also pictured is a gift for a reader and friend's daughter. Little ducks! Don't tell!
We strolled around and snapped pictures.
I love iron balconies...
Sidewalk Café in the Morning
Since I was so excited and perhaps having a bit more coffee than usual (even though I still cut myself off during the afternoon), I didn't really sleep for a week, and so I got sick. I had a runny nose and tried to stiffle coughing attacks the whole way home. It's probably a good thing though since I'm unsure if I could have left beautiful Paris without looking forward to resting in my own bed! Unfortunately, the return trip was longer due to the winds. When we arrived at Dulles, I called my mom for the second time (not including being stuck on the side of 495 on the way to the airport when I actually spoke with my dad) and we swapped news over the week. When I noticed my travel buddy only collected one of her carry-on bags she was made to check instead of two at baggage claim, I hung up and helped her file a claim. Her family stopped at Hardee's for quite a delicious meal as we were starving before dropping me off at my apartment. We hadn't eaten for hours. Elizabeth ordered a sandwich on the plane and I ate one quickly during our layover. I think I got back in around 11:00 PM, something like that.
It was an amazing trip.
Flower Shop Full of Orchids
I am so happy to document it here for myself and to help others. I did research for years before this trip! I also want to sincerely thank Elizabeth for taking more pictures than I could. Stay tuned next Friday for more! I have so much more to say and show! I don't know what I want to write about next...