Paris: Our Trip

Our Trip:

For this trip, I was traveling with my sister, so when I say “us” or “we”, I’m referring to my twin sister, Sarah Romanuck, and myself. My sister has a dynamic history of travel as well, visiting over 40 countries in her 27 years. We love to travel together because we share the same interests – food, drink, and local cultural. We like to live like the locals and scope out all the coolest off-the-beaten path hotspots, eating and drinking our way through the most unique areas of town.

My sister and me:

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We were very lucky on our trip to stay with our friend, Audrey. Sarah met Audrey during an exchange in university and they have remained friends ever since. I was lucky enough to meet Audrey on this trip, and now we’re good friends, too! Sadly, Audrey had to work for most of our visit, but we had the opportunity to meet up with her and her friends for food, drinks, and a really cool food event while we were in town.

Our first full day in Paris was on a Wednesday, and we decided to start off by heading to the Latin Quarter for a free walking tour by Sandman Tours, a wonderful international tour company. Prior to our tour at 11 AM, we knew we needed some breakfast to start our day off right and we found the best crepe shop in the area, Les Galadines. They specialized in traditional buckwheat crepes with a variety of fillings. I opted for ham and Swiss, and Sarah opted for goat cheese and tomato, probably the more impressive of the two.

The Latin Quarter was very sleepy around 10 in the morning with nothing much open, so we just roamed around with our crepes for another 30 minutes and snapped a couple of pictures of the Notre-Dame di Paris before heading to our tour’s meeting spot. Don’t forget to read more about Our Favorite Local Spots.

Notre Dame di Paris:

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Our meeting spot at the fountain in Place St Michel:

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We started our tour, along with 20 other international tourists, at 11:00 AM. The tour was led by a feisty and well-educated German actress and artist, Inga. She had moved to Paris 9 years prior and led these engaging tours during her days off.

On our tour, we were given the history of many of Paris’s most beloved, historical, and famous monuments, bridges, and buildings. We were also educated about the “must-sees” and “can-skips” for a short stay in Paris. Inga showed and told us about the Notre-Dame di Paris, the Love Lock Bridge, the Louvre Palace and Art Museum, the oldest bridge in all of Paris (ironically named the “new bridge”), the Eiffel Tower, and the Champs-Elysees (shamp-see-leh-zay).

We finished the tour entertained and informed and ready to EAT (shocking, I know).

Sarah knows Paris quite well as she’s visited quite a few times. She had a particular type of food on her brain: macaroons. It was decided. We would walk down the massive, flashy, all-encompassing shopping avenue of Champs-Elysees towards the Arc di Triomphe to find the headquarters for the best macaroons in town, Laduree. Laduree is famous for dessert lovers everywhere. Their shop on Champs-Elysees is particularly impressive with a restaurant and food line built into a beautiful building in the middle of the most famous shopping strip in the world. We opted for takeaway and purchased a handful of perfect macaroons in various flavors. Rosewater, pistachio, and salted caramel were my favorites. Read more about Paris’s Local Cuisine.

Champs-Elysees:

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Laduree:

After walking down the touristy Champs-Elysees and seeing the sites, Sarah and I decided we had “checked the boxes” and it was time to explore like locals. Remember I said we started off our day in the Latin Quarter, but it was super sleepy and not busy? Well, it was 3 PM, and things changed.

We headed back to the Latin Quarter to find it buzzing with people, shops, and music. Although the macaroons were delicious, they weren’t filling, and it was time to find some good French fare. This area was full of affordable and unique restaurants.

Here’s a funny picture for you:

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We weaved through quaint avenues, enjoying the smells of French food wafting through the streets. With ample restaurants to choose from, we finally decided upon a restaurant called Le Vingt. Like many surrounding restaurants, it offered unique 70s décor, fondue, and traditional French set menus. We opted for the fixed menu and between the two of us we tried Onion Soup (no, you don’t have to say French Onion soup while you’re in France), mussels, beef bourguignon, pepper steak, fresh fruit, and caramel Flan. Overall, it was a good, not great, meal, but we were able to try the traditional fare at a reasonable price. Our waiter also had a huge crush on Sarah. So, we were satisfied with our meals, not hangry, and ready to find out next establishment.

Next up was an adorable little book store and café called Shakespeare and Company. This little joint was filled with locals conversing over piping hot cups of gourmet coffee and tea. Looking for a place to get some writing or reading done? Join the other artists and authors and head to Shakespeare and Company for a cup of Joe.

We continued to wander, originally in search of the Rue Mouffetard Market,  a fresh food market full of tasty treats, in the heart of the Latin Quarter. On our way there, we ran into some interesting shops, one of which was a cheese shop offering a variety of raw milk French cheeses. The man working at the store was very helpful and we walked away with two (very smelly) special cheeses, one tasting awfully similar to asparagus. Hmmm. Weird, but wonderful.

We kept on our mission to get to the Market and stumbled across the first establishment that really called to us, Au Doux Raison, an unpretentious wine-dive that marked the beginning of a street chalk full of amazing low-key pubs with great beer and wine. And how perfect considering it was my favorite hour of the day: happy hour. We ordered a small bottle of Gamay wine, an easy-drinking local red. Our bottle was served with Belgian-beer tulip glasses which I thought was super cool. Not only did we adore the low-key atmosphere and our wine, but we loved the service here. Although the owners didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak French, they were incredibly friendly and even brought us a plate of (amazing) escargot and French baguette, for free – just BECAUSE. We were very impressed, and I highly recommend this place.

Next stop? Pub River. This local dive is literally labeled “PUB” on the outside and has no website or TripAdvisor link to speak of. We chatted with the bar tender over three euro pints of Guinness before heading to Le MayFlower, another pub not a half a block away. Le MayFlower offers a handful of tasty Belgian beers on tap and had again, a low-key, laid back atmosphere inside a pretty, blue exterior.

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Moving on to another stop on our mini beer crawl. This next one was my absolute, hands-down favorite of the day: BrewBerry. This neat little pub and bottle shop is any craft beer lover’s dream. They offer big, barrel-aged beers, hoppy saisons, imperial IPAs, and anything else crafty you can think of, all of which are available in taster sizes or by the pint. Immediately across the street, BrewBerry also has a bottle shop where you can enjoy rare Belgian beers either at the store or for take-away.

By this time, it was nearly 7 and we were to meet Audrey and her friends at Pere Fouettard,  a popular restaurant for locals near the Chatelet metro stop. We came here for some charcuterie and drinks with excellent company. Audrey and her friends were all so wonderful and outgoing. We spent the night chatting and having a great time before stopping for Lebanese kebabs on the way home.

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The next morning, we headed to the artsy, food-loving, adorable, charming area called Montmartre. This area is undoubtedly a local favorite, especially for the younger crowd, foodies, and artists. This is historically and currently the area of town where many famous artists reside(d) and create(d) their works. Pissarro, Degas, and Picasso were just some of the famous artists who spent their years here.

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We spent our afternoon food hopping from one pastry shop to the next, to a coffee shop, to various Asian food markets, to fisheries, to cheese shops, to wine shops, to epicures and charcuteries, and so on.

Mr et MMe LEVIN, an artisan boulanger was clearly a local favorite, consistently pumping out pastries, breads, and various desserts for a line of locals. Sadly, I cannot find a website anywhere.

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We wandered through the streets for a few hours before coming across the famous Moulin Rouge in the heart of Montmartre. We tried to see if there was a matinee, but that wasn’t an option. Next time! Mind you shows start at 100 euros (no drinks or food included) and sell out well in advance, so make sure you do your research before you arrive, if you have your heart set on catching a show!

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We continued to roam around the area and stumbled across the Montmartre cemetery. There were many impressive tombstones and tombs.

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We continued on our way until the next food stop. A shop called Pepone Cafe, selling glasses of piping hot take-away hot wine and oddly flavored macaroons (e.g., salmon, foie gras and chocolate, tomato and basil, black olive tapenade). Sarah grabbed a glass of wine and a tomato/basil macaroon, definitely unique if nothing else. This was a very neat place!

Our next stop was the Sacre Couer. We walked up the 270 steps to the enormously elaborate, decorated basilica. From the top, there were beautiful views of the entire city of Paris.

We walked up the front of the Basilica and continued our journey down on the opposite side. We saw Montmartre’s unique vineyard in the middle of the city. We also discovered small, historical homes that hosted nightly cabarets starting from 28 euro per person. Next time!

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We enjoyed our time in Montmartre immensely, but we knew there was still a lot we needed to see and do. We hopped the metro to the Republique stop, a trendy area popular with younger crowds, chock full of restaurants and night-life opportunities. This was also the metro stop near the venue where the recent Paris terrorist attacks occurred. The venue was only a five minute walk away, and outside of the metro stop is a beautiful and devastating memorial to the victims, decorated with candles, flowers, pictures, and other memorabilia. While the neighborhood is lively, the square and memorial is a difficult place to be, as it is a reminder of the horrible events that took place, but it is a necessary token to remember those that were lost.

We continued to our next stop, which we purposefully sought out upon Anthony Bourdain’s recommendation: Aux Deux Amis. This unassuming, small, local little hot spot is known for its unpretentious, delicious tapas, great wine and beer, friendly atmosphere, and a wide arrange of clientele. This is the type of place where everyone, young and old, are all cozied up to the bar, striking up conversations with one another. It’s also a late-night host to France’s best chefs after their evening shifts, and it is usually packed with customers.

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When we arrived at Aux Deux Amis, it was around 4 PM and we were clearly the only customers who weren’t regulars, as the majority of people who walked in the door received their preferred drink without even telling the bartender what they wanted.

We started with a glass of local wine, recommended by the bartender who was a certified sommelier. For a snack, we nibbled on roasted red peppers dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and chestnut-fed ham, freshly sliced, and topped with smoked almonds.

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As if we didn’t immediately love the place already, there was a television show that happened to be filming as we grabbed our seats at the bar. The restaurant’s chef, a talented, charismatic and charming Frenchman named David, was demonstrating how to make two of his most well-known tapas dishes. The first was a fish dish and the second was a dish of raw veal, capers, and three types of radish, all finished with refreshing and bitter lemon juice and rind.

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Because there were so few people in the bar during filming, we had the opportunity to speak with the chef and the producers of the show, one of whom was a fellow Canadian and food lover. We were even lucky enough to taste the food that will be featured on the show.

What’s the show? It’s called 3 Chefs, 1 City. The premise of each episode is to find three of the best chefs is some of the most culinarily profound cities in the world and to have each chef share two of his or her favorite recipes with viewers; and let me tell you, I can personally attest to the quality of the food presented on this show. 3 Chefs, 1 City is a MUST watch! You can find more information about their show by  following them on Facebook or on Twitter: @3Chefs1CityTV.

We were reluctant to leave our new favorite spot, but we had tickets to attend the Taste of Paris, an amazing culinary event. We met our friend Audrey outside of Le Grand Palais where the event would be held. This event was for foodies, and foodies only. This was the Taste of Paris’s second year running and featured Paris’s and France’s greatest and most accomplished chefs (e.g., Guy Savoy, Thierry Marx, Frederic Anton). Three of the chefs owned three-star Michelin restaurants, the highest accolade to chefs worldwide, and the rest were highly successful, all working for world-renowned chefs or owning their own incredibly successful restaurants. The event was full of vendors, sampling their products. There were stages dedicated to holding live cooking demonstrations, often led by famous TV chefs. Each featured chef had their own booth and dishes available for purchase. We had already purchased the Gourmet Tickets which included our entry and 40 euros worth of tokens, so we were ready to dig in.

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We started at Guy Savoy’s booth and tried a soup of truffle and artichoke.

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Next up was Thierry Marx’s booth where we indulged in foie gras with smoked eel and truffle.

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Stephanie Le Quellec, winner of France’s Top Chef TV show in 2011, offered many tasty options. We enjoyed a warm farm egg with fresh shaved truffle and Jerusalem artichokes.

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Next was lobster pho with pork, duck, and prawn by Herve Rodriguez.

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Pierre Sang offered my favorite dish of the night, kimchi with black lentils and baby squid (Korean French fusion chef).

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From Sebastian Grave’s station, we enjoyed a deeply flavorful dish, a pork cheek confit with bacon and green beans with chorizo dressing, pickles, and smoked eel.

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To end our night, we visited Ryuji Teshima’s booth and tasted a dish of smoked amberjack, shellfish, sea lettuce powder, and oil with smoked chowder.

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We were in food heaven, and I could have died happy that day. I’m glad I didn’t, because the next morning brought even more deliciousness.

We awoke the next morning and said our farewells to our gracious host and friend, Audrey. Although it was almost time to go, we ensured we had time for one more fantastic meal. Upon googling Aux Deux Amis (the restaurant from the day prior), the twitter account for 3 Chefs, 1 City (@3Chefs1CityTV) came up, and I of course shared their post and found they had filmed with another local chef in Paris. Upon their reviews and our satisfaction with their last selection at Aux Deux Amis, we headed to Bistro Paradis, another filming site for their show. And…. it was amazing! It was a relatively new restaurant offering Michelin quality food. We opted for the tasting menu. It was 18 euro for two plates, and 23 for three (including dessert).

We started with a puff pastry filled with spicy crab and mango salad and topped with a butter foam.

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Our next plate of awesomeness was a potato crusted cod fish served with seasonal, steamed vegetables.

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Lastly, we shared a dessert of rich hazelnut cake with passion crème and pineapple in two textures. It was so beautiful I almost cried.

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I highly recommend this tiny, little hidden gem of a restaurant. I recommend you opt for the tasting menu. It’s very affordable and you’ll get a great taste for the Chef’s food and style. Make reservations, especially if you intend to visit in the evening.

Well, this marks the end of our stay in Paris. Our journey was wine and food-filled, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. There’s no excuse to have a bad meal in Paris with its vast variety of options. I will miss Audrey, the city’s culture, the food scene, and the thriving atmosphere of Paris’ beautiful streets.

Until next time…

In conclusion…

My favorite things about Paris were:

  • Roaming around the Latin Quarter
  • Eating so much cheese
  • Taste of Paris
  • Plethora of (amazing) food options
  • Montmartre area
  • Simply walking around the city and taking in the sites
  • Aux Deux Amis Restaurant
  • Bistro Paradis

Read about What to Know Before You Go and the History of Paris.

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