Tuesday, December 20, 2016

And Then There Were Three

Brother, Sister-in-law, and mad genius Nephew sadly returned home the day after our sidecar adventures, leaving a trio of Connecticutians wandering around Paris. Dad and Stepmom took the day to head off to the Christmas Market in Brussels and I was able to catch up on some well needed rest and computer work. For whatever reason, we were cursed with cold weather for the remaining two days of their voyage, but we made the best of it even so.

Monday afternoon I had a student (for the first time in ages) so we made a plan to meet up afterward. We sauntered past Shakespeare & Co, looped around Notre Dame, and hunkered down in a café on Isle-Saint-Louis so that I could finally get a bit of lunch and we could all escape the freezing wind for a few minutes. We then slowly made our way down to the Latin Quarter, Rue Mouffetard and yet another afternoon libation to stave off the cold. Our rollicking adventures ended back up in Montmartre where we dined at the delicious Southwestern French restaurant we have long since known and loved for its decadent salads topped with sliced friend potatoes. This time, however, Father and I at least took the opportunity for a little feasting adventure in the form of Boeuf Bourguigon.

Our final day was the most classically posh and sophisticated us rowdy crew had during our trip. Apparently my stepmother had been pushing to try a Michelin Star restaurant (thank you, ma'am!). After a bit of research, we found a moderately priced one-star establishment called Agapé in the 17th Arrondissement. It was a small venue but very chic and clean with a cozy atmosphere. The wait staff was highly accommodating and enthusiastically utilized their english skills to help my parents along. We chose the basic lunch menu but my dad and I opted for the wine pairings as well. Much of the food had some seafood flare so I had to notify the maitre'd that I am allergic to shellfish. Happily, they were very quick to acquiesce and I was able to salivate and satiate along with everyone else. From appetizer to main to dessert, with interludes of amuse-bouche to enhance our experience, I can't say there is much else like a fine dining experience.

After our luxurious lunch, we moved along to the Musée d'Orsay, a museum that I particularly love and my dad particularly wanted to see. I never tire of gazing around the beautiful old train station housing my favorite impressionist masterpieces. I do, however, get tired of museums in general, so after a couple of hours it was time to depart, much to the chagrin of my dear old dad.

Our final stop would be at the dumpling place I seem to take all of my relatives to, though never often go myself unless some lucky chap gets dragged their on a date. We were early for the opening so we sat at a local café in the 20th arrondissement and threw back a couple of glasses of wine as well as any of the natives do. After dinner, I accompanied the parental units back to Montmartre to pick up some bottles of wine they had been storing for me and to say our bon voyage. It's never easy to bid my family farewell but luckily for me, I will be seeing them in just another day or two back in the States for those oh so necessary home for the holiday hugs.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Side Cars and Train Cars

The highlight of our family time in Paris was absolutely our Mr. Toad's Wild SIDECAR Ride around town. A long time ago, we had been made privy to a small tour company that specializes in retro sidecar motorcycle tours through Paris. I was instantly enamored with the image of myself sitting in a sidecar with gigantic Angela Lansbury in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks"-style goggles and perhaps a "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"-esque hat with an enormous scarf trailing behind me. For whatever reason, sidecars make me want to be a quirky Disney character of some sort.

After much debate (which was not debate so much as getting our schedules together), we finally booked a tour for Sister-in-Law, Nephew, Stepmom and myself. Two would ride behind the hot French motorcycle men and two lounge in the sidecar. While the attraction of clinging to a hot gallic guide à la Hagrid was certainly high, I couldn't shake the fantasy of magically whizzing through the streets of France more à la Harry Potter.

We met our guides at Place de la Concorde, where we chose one out of three possible routes for our 40-minute jaunt and my Stepmom and I struck a bargain to go halvsies on our time clinging behind or cruising beside. I was also momentarily heartbroken because I ended up having a helmet WITHOUT my coveted goggles. Irregardless, we were certainly the talk of the square as we donned our gear and lay rubber up the Champs Elysées. With the wind whistling in my hair (even though it was pretty firmly tucked beneath the helmet), I was in absolute bliss. We rode past the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and were able to keep a speedy pace all along the wide avenues. While young Nephew was certainly adorable, we sassy ladies certainly turned a few heads as well. We were hotrodders, sexy femmes fatales on a mission to awesomeness. Too soon was our daring devilry at an end, and we were thrown back to normalcy and the adult men in our life who had waited semi-patiently behind.

As luck would have it, the rest of our day continued on with a transportation theme. Grandpa, Step-Grandma and I agreed to watch Nephew so his parents could spend a few hours exploring on their own. We decided to take advantage of the petite train that tours around Montmartre so that we could enjoy the neighborhood from a different perspective. We got off at the top of the hill to walk around, do a little shopping, grab a hot wine, and as the fates apparently predicted, we saw one of our burly biker guides ride past with another sidecar-amour! 

Even more luckily, we had months before made reservations at an adorable restaurant that I found sometime last year with a good friend of mine... "Le Wagon Bleu." Translation? The blue wagon, or more specifically, the blue train car. Yes, our day in transit continued on into the night as we filled our bellies with scrumptious fare in an old piece of the Orient Express. It's a charming restaurant situated right next to a large tract of current train tracks, so the illusion of bopping along in a glamorous dining car was made even more realistic with the occasional subtle shutter of the trains moving below. 

Sadly, the NYC contingent of our trip was to be leaving the following morning, so we made sure to enjoy ourselves heartily with cocktails, food, dessert and more. The adult siblings continued with wine back in the final night of their cozy Airbnb flat so that we could enjoy the last moments of Paris together. I decided to crash on the couch one last time in order to take full advantage Nephew hugs and kisses in the morning. Bon voyage, ma famille, mais à bientôt!