Top 10 Culinary Finds in Paris

Traveling with a rather picky 12 year old doesn’t really lead itself to a culinary adventure, but we did have a few of my Parisian favorites and a few standbys to get me through!

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10. At the airport upon our arrival, the child was starving! With a classic mixte brioche sandwich with ham and cheese and an eclair, we were ready to tackle the train to Paris!

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9. Beef hot dogs. OK – well…what can I say?! We were at Disneyland Paris and needed a pick me up!!!

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8. Speaking of Disneyland Paris…did you know they serve MEAT IN A CONE as a snack?

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7. Gelato. Need I say more?

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6. Coffee? Tea? Nope. Vin Chaud, or hot mulled wine. Only in Paris, people!!!

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5. Dinner our first night. While Charlotte enjoyed a hamburger (ugh!) I marveled at burgundy braised beef with shallots, button mushrooms, whipped potatoes and FOIS GRAS that absolutely MELTED in my mouth!!! I’m hungry now!!!

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4. Lunch for day 2 – a Hawaiian Poke Bowl! Confession – I do not even LIKE some of the things in this bowl – the avocado and mangoes in particular BUT…sitting outside in a Parisian cafe inspired me to try new things! It was delightful! I did NOT, however, eat the cilantro. I think it tastes like soap and you cannot tell me otherwise!! hahahaha

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3. Well, I am not generally a wine drinker but I was in PARIS!!! A glass of wine was a requirement. And they don’t have wine types that Americans are generally familiar with – no Chablis, Chardonnay and pino grigios on every menu. I cannot tell you what this one was named…but it was lovely!

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2. The Macaron. NOT a macaroon!!! The macaroon is made from coconut and generally does not have a filling. The French MACARON is wonderfulness in your mouth. A delicate dance of almond flour cookie shell and buttercream or ganache filling. Traditional French flavors include lavender, rose, pistachio, lemon and chocolate. If you haven’t ever tried this bit of magic in your mouth, check out La Maison Navarre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You will be delighted with authentic French cooking, macarons, crepes and the most amazing French Onion Soup on the entire planet!!!

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1. Last but certainly NOT least – my absolute favorite, most amazing French culinary staple….the crepe! And my crepe of choice is nutella and banana!! Every day/night of our visit involved at least one crepe! Our go-to crepe stand was just around the corner and was a part of an Gyro shop! The guys there were fantastic and I endeared them immediately with my elementary Arabic skills – we were fast friends and they were happy to see us daily!

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Our last crepe of the trip!!!! It was kind or our lunch that day!

 

I hope you enjoyed this picture journey of our culinary experience in Paris.  We weren’t fancy, but really enjoyed each meal we took together and really, isn’t that the point?

Tips for Traveling to Paris, Part 2

Did you read Part 1?  These are some basic tips for traveling to Paris – but really, when you plan to travel anywhere!!!

  1. Decide on a basic plan of touring and prepare. We bought our tickets ahead of time to save waiting in long queues.  During the winter months, this isn’t as important, but there still were lines for the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.  We didn’t have to wait in those – we just walked right in!!!!  Also, figure out how you are getting from the airport to your destination.  Explore mass transit options – they are usually VERY user friendly, as the whole continent of Europe is accessible by train and many people use them.  Trains tend to be less expensive and an adventure all on their own.  Also, we have downloaded on to our phones city maps from Google Maps that can be accessed even if we are off line.  These have been fabulous for Paris and Italy for both driving directions and walking city streets!  I highly recommend doing this as you prepare for a trip!

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  1. Don’t be afraid of the unknown – life is full of them – they make the ride more interesting! You hear about pickpockets in airports and train stations and tourist sites.  There are pickpockets in the US, too.  Just be aware or your surroundings.  Hold your important things close and pay attention.  For Paris, I had a little pouch I carried around my neck under my jacket that had my Euros, copies of our passports, keys to the apartment and my ID/credit cards.  For Italy, we had cross body purses that had IFR protection for credit cards and anti-theft straps so they couldn’t be cut.  Also – be sensible.  Don’t venture off the beaten path and if you are worried walking at night, get a cab.  Don’t be sacred!  Live life!!!
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This is the wonderful street action just around the corner from our AirBnB!

 

  1. Be flexible – I am a planner, but even the best laid plans can take a sharp right turn! Learn to roll with it! I have found that the greatest character building, memory making experiences have come out of adversity.  On this trip, we faced with some unexpected closings, some inclement weather (although I loved the snow) and pockets of protesters.  We had Plan Bs available when necessary and turned any lemons into lemonade – and hopefully Charlotte learned that there can always be a positive outcome if you look at a situation the right way.
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What do you do with fresh snow in Paris? Build a French snowman at Notre Dame!

 

  1. Off seasons – I had some amazing deals come up this past summer for European travel this winter. People were afraid to jump on board because it was going to be cold weather.  They really missed out!  Winter in Europe is generally milder (is was 35 degrees here to the 3 degrees at home while I was gone) and the crowds are way thinner.  What does that mean?  Fewer queues, better prices and more opportunities to experience something different.  Don’t be afraid of the off season – it makes travel affordable for many!
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I love this one with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

 

  1. Learn some French – or whatever language is spoken where you are visiting.  I learned some French in high school and have since been using it here and there when I have the chance.  To prepare for this trip, I have been listening to French lessons on my phone via Audible (an app) from a company called Pimsleur.  I used them to learn some Italian before my trip to Italy.  Want to know why some Americans think the French don’t like them?  Because we travel to places like Paris and don’t even attempt to speak the language.  We try to engage everyone in our loud American voices and think if we speak English louder the French will understand.  Guess what?  Most of them speak a little English – if you at least attempt some niceties and smile, it will go a long way!  Learn how to greet people and say, “thank you”, “please”, “where is the……”, “I would like……” and “goodbye”.  Your experience will be must better!!!

These tips can be used in most new situations.  I hope you find them helpful and maybe a bit entertaining!!!

Top 10 Favorite Pictures from Paris

Many of you followed my fantastic mother/daughter adventure to Paris this January.  You can catch up on the highlights in my Travel Diaries, but I wanted to take a minute and post my favorite pictures from the trip.

I love so many things about travel, and one of them is making memories that turn into the stories of our lives.  Being able to share this special time with my daughter was precious in so many ways and I hope she will look back on it with as much fondness as I know I will!

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Our first selfie in Paris!

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I love Char’s look – so adorable!

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I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!!

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I love this one with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

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What do you do with fresh snow in Paris? Build a French snowman at Notre Dame!

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The Eiffel Tower was closed due to the weather, but we scooted all the way there to take in the rare sight!

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Our last crepe! Nutella and banana, of course!

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What a beauty!

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Finding Eva and Wally – pure joy!!!!

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The first gelato of the trip! Kinda like the first gift of Christmas!

 

Quebec – Day 3

This was our final day in Quebec and on our big adventure north.  We decided to stay in the city this day (Friday) and really enjoyed the festive feel of freshly fallen snow and had a wonderful time out and about all day!

We all slept in and got our start after a nice breakfast at our hotel.  We stayed at the Hotel Royal William – this is outside the old city and maybe a 15 minute walk (uphill) to the walled city, but for the fabulous cost for  two rooms for three nights, we couldn’t pass it up!  The rooms were spacious, well kept and the included breakfast was adequate (cereal, pastries, yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit and cheese, coffee, tea and juice).  I would absolutely stay there again with pleasure and we enjoyed the walking each day.  Anyway – at the end of the day, it’s all downhill!

So, the snow – I mean, could it have been more gorgeous?  Maybe if it would have been a tad warmer, but if you’re embracing winter, you WANT a winter wonderland and we got one!!

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On our way to the old city – our hotel, the Hotel Royal William, was two blocks behind us and to the left!

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One of the old city gates. Did you know that Quebec City is the only walled city north of Mexico City? Pretty cool place for this history buff to visit! It was seriously like visiting France in my back yard!!!

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That’s the Chateau Frontenac far in the background!

We strolled to the city and stopped at all the shops – my daughter loved poking around shops and her money always burns a hole in her pocket!  We got some trinkets and moseyed up to Chateau Frontenac to toboggan again, then found our way to Chez Ashton – a chain of fast food restaurants that specializes in poutine.  Thanks Marie-Andree, for the recommendation!  We enjoyed the Quebec must-eat then scooted on our way again!

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Traditional poutine at Chez Ashton.

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Lined up for the toboggan ride!

The afternoon saw more walking around and touring, including Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec.  We hit the lower city again, rode the Funicular UP (we got smarter as our visit went on) and HAD to toboggan one more time – and by this time, it was freezing rain so the operators had to spread salt and sand at the bottom of the run because people were sledding OVER the barrier!

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The Lower City was bustling! We had a great time exploring this unique, European feeling Petit-Champlain section of Quebec

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I took this on the way UP the funicular – it reminds me of a Thomas Kincade painting.

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A good icing on top of the cake!

Before we left the Lower City, we HAD to try this classic Quebec maple masterpiece.  It was SO good!  Check this out!

My friend, Marie-Andree – who happens to be from Quebec, asked her dad about some fondue recommendations and we got a great one!  We had some amazing Fondue at La Tyrolienne and were so full we could hardly drive back to our hotel!  Fondue = FUNdue!!!!

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Our appetizer..bread dipped in cheese!

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Everyone got a platter of thinly sliced beef, then there was shrimp and chicken to fondue as well!

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Dessert – chocolate and maple fondue with fruit!

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My favorite – banana dipped in chocolate.

Our three night escape was the best ever!!!  It went by so fast and we all had a great time!  The drive home was long but we reminisced about the great experiences we had – our favorites were the Siberia Station Spa, tubing, the ice hotel, the toboggan ride and fondue!  Thanks for taking this journey with us and we HIGHLY recommend Quebec City for families, couples and friends!  In a few weeks I’ll share our next “experience” trip – hold on to your hats because we are going to Paris!!!

Check out a short video of our second toboggan run!

 

 

Quebec City – Day 2 – Part II

The second half of our day today was spent at Valcartier Resort.  This place is super cool – COLD, in fact…still about 12 degrees – but hey, we said we were embracing winter with this trip and did we ever!!!

This resort is HUGE!  They have a very cool themed hotel lobby/bustling hub with tickets for activities, restaurants, shops and more!  The resort boasts an indoor water park (we did not do this, much to the two 12 year old’s dismay…since we ARE embracing winter, an indoor water park just didn’t seem right!), two dozen tubing runs, an ice skating path THROUGH their ghost town of summer delights (outdoor water park) that you begin right from the central hub building, and Valcartier is the home of Quebec’s own ICE HOTEL, or Hotel de Glace!

OK – so here is the focus of this short story…the ICE HOTEL.  It was open for tours, and drinks, but not yet for guests – that starts on January 4th.  And as fabulous as it might have been to stay there, the hotel is kept at a balmy 13 degrees, so aside from being pretty pricey, I just don’t think it’s my thing!  But, I have never seen anything quite as amazing!  There is a chapel, the main hotel building boasting a gorgeous lobby, grand hall, ice bar WITH ice seating, a discotech and four rooms were on display – more under construction down the hall!

Check this out…..

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Here is the link to Valcartier if you want to check it out!  https://www.valcartier.com/en/  On tap for tomorrow….well, it will be snowing in Quebec City, so get ready for some amazing pictures of the old town and lower city!

Quebec – Day 2 – Part 1…The Siberia Station Spa

OK.  Raise your hand if you remember that Warrant song, “Heaven Isn’t Too Far Away”?  Well, today I think I found it.  This morning, we visited the Siberia Station Spa for their morning “family hours” (special hours from 9am-noon during holiday break to include families) and I am pretty sure I found winter heaven on earth!

I am not going to waste a lot of words here because in this case, a picture speaks a thousand words and I have a lot of pictures!  Let me just briefly explain the Siberia Spa concept and then include a few of my observations, then let the pictures tell the story!

The Siberia Station Spa is modeled after Scandinavian spas – the magic takes place in three acts; hot, cold, relax.  It’s THAT simple – go somewhere hot, partake in something cold, then find a place to relax….then REPEAT!

The hot option……there were plentiful options for everyone – hot tubs, infrared saunas, traditional saunas and a eucalyptus infused steam room (OH MY GOODNESS!!!)

Cold….well, since today was about 11 degrees, the COLD portion of this adventure could simply be walking from a hot spot to a relaxation spot, but I am proud to say all my people took full advantage of the ice cold plunge pools more than once and benefited greatly from them.  They were AWESOME!!!  There were a number of ice cold pools in the vicinity of each hot offering and from time to time, you can even dip in the gorgeous babbling brook that abuts the spa (this was closed today).

Relaxation – the options were fabulous.  There were a number of yurts – all with swinging chairs and warmth – one had windows facing towards the river and my favorite was toasty warm with a huge wood burning fireplace in the middle!  Other relaxation offerings were a beautiful windowed-in pergola and a dream zone – a huge barrel dug into the hillside (Hobbit-like) with cushioned bench seats and relaxing music.

Some important details…..the Spa is about 15 minutes from the old town of Quebec City.  We paid $27 Canadian dollars each for this special family time.  Typically, children are not allowed and with good reason – the whole point of this place is to relax!  I have kids – and they are not relaxing!  Bathing suits are MANDATORY as are footwear – think flip flops.  You may bring your own robes and in this weather, I highly recommend it!  You may also rent them for $7 Canadian.

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I cannot rave enough about how amazing this place was!!!  I cannot wait to come back here with just my hubby, a book and more time!   We are scheming ways we can make one of these places at our house!!  hahahahaha

Here is the website if you want to check it out on your own – http://siberiastationspa.com/home/

Quebec City – The arrival!

This year for Christmas, we tried to make a point to tone down the “things” and focus more on experiences and memory making opportunities.  Our first family experience is a road trip to Quebec City, Canada.  We left today, the day after Christmas, and I would love to share a bit of our day to day with you as we go!  Here is a snapshot of our our travel day and first experience walking around when we arrived!

We left our house in southern Maine around 8:15am.  My husband, daughter, son, my son’s girl friend and my daughter’s BFF were in for a 7 hour ride!  It was a great ride – we stopped once outside of Skowhegan for lunch, gas and a potty break, then stopped once more for a coffee break once we got into Canada.  The border crossing was easy (5 passports and 1 birth certificate and government issued ID) and we thought we made great time!

We arrived at our hotel – the Hotel Royal William – and checked into our two rooms (girls and boys)!  Note: when traveling to Quebec Province, make sure you know a little French!  We all know a bit and do our best to ingratiate our hosts by trying to speak French, but everyone here also speaks English, so a happy Bonjour goes a long way!!

We got settled then hit the road to explore!  We are staying about a mile outside of the Old City and it was 13 degrees when we left the hotel this afternoon around 4pm, so we bundled up and started our hike up hill!  And I mean UP HILL!  Walking around Quebec City isn’t for the faint of heart – but we enjoyed the brisk air and exercise after being hold up in the car for 7 hours!  The walk was lovely since we were hitting it at sunset and we reached the Old City in no time!

The city is so beautiful all decked out with lights for the holidays.  This is our first time in Quebec and so far, we love it!  We found an adorable little restaurant for dinner and had bison burgers, meat pie, lobster bisque and a plethora of maple desserts!  After dinner, we headed towards the Chateau Frontenac, where we spied the boardwalk, funicular and toboggan run!  Check out these fun pictures!

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After the toboggan run (with a lot of screaming, praying and our lives flashing before our eyes), we headed down the funicular to the Lower City to wind through some gorgeous old world streets!  We checked out a few shops, tasted some macarons and took some more gorgeous pictures – then we started our walk back UP to the Chateau area, then back to our hotel.  Check out these gorgeous night time pictures of this magnificent riverside city!

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Tomorrow, we are headed first to the Siberian Spa (woot woot), then perhaps tubing?  Skating? Cross country skiing? More city walking??  Who knows!  Until then – good night; bon nuit!

PS – Can I just say that I love the word, “funicular”!  I mean, the word starts with FUN!!!!!