TU S1.2; TS 4: Sip & Cycle (Part 1) – Paris

Join me as we learn about & drink different wines. We will cycle thru Paris on a picnic-style bike with Cyclo Cafe and Tanisha Townsend of Girl Meets Glass! Part 2 will be up next week! Get your wine glass and come on ūüôā

Girl Meets Glass:
Twitter — @girlmeetsglass


En Vrac (includes location & hours of operation):

Trouble Finding Your Passion? Start a Bucket List!

What are you passionate about? ¬†Not sure? ¬†Create a “Bucket List” that includes things you’ve always wanted to try or do. ¬†You never know‚Ķone of those items may be what you are destined to do with your life!

Too many people wait until a certain time in their lives before they start pursuing their dreams. ¬†Why do they wait? ¬†There are various reasons: ¬†“I want to wait until I get married”; “I want to wait until my kids are grown”; “I will do it when I retire”, etc. ¬†Sometimes these “reasons” are really excuses. ¬†START LIVING NOW! ¬†Don’t wait until a certain event or milestone happens. ¬†We never know when our last day on Earth will be. ¬†Why not make the most of the time you have?

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. ¬†Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Single? ¬†Do not wait until you find that special someone. ¬†Fill your life up with things YOU want to do in the meantime. ¬†That means you’ll bring some fabulous stories to your next relationship.

Have children? ¬†Don’t wait until your kids are grown. ¬†Inspire them to want to live a fulfilling life as they observe you pursuing your dreams and taking chances.

Don’t wait until you retire! ¬†In this economy, who knows when that will be! ¬†Start your bucket list now so you can have an awesome retirement filled with things you love to do and places you want to visit.

The great thing about a bucket list is that it helps you to visualize what you want to do and take action when opportunities arise.  Groupon and Living Social have deals everyday!  This is how I fulfilled my dreams of skydiving, race car driving…and in January, a trip to Iceland!  Best part?  I am able to achieve my goals on a shoestring budget!

I am a long ways off from retirement and still waiting to meet Mr. Right. ¬†But, you know what? ¬†I’m happy! ¬†Everything isn’t perfect. ¬†There are times when I feel like I’ve failed at life‚Ķespecially when others make insensitive comments. ¬†However, instead of punching them in the throat taking it personal, I force myself to remember all of the things I’ve accomplished from my bucket list. ¬†I didn’t get here overnight. ¬†In fact, it wasn’t until my recent trip to Bali (another bucket list item) where I learned how to meditate properly and use yoga to control my mood. ¬†And you know what? ¬†My imperfect life is pretty fulfilling as I’m living, learning, dreaming and exploring!

So‚Ķjoin me in making an awesome bucket list! ¬†I promise that you will love the feeling of trying new things. ¬†Some you may enjoy‚Ķothers you may not. ¬†That’s the beauty of bucket lists. ¬†It’s like shopping for dreams ūüôā

Need inspiration? ¬†I’m addicted to the free iPad app “iWish” which provides inspiration in the form of photos, quotes & maps as well as allowing you to create your bucket list electronically. ¬†I also recommend Bucket List Living Magazine. ¬†Follow the directions below and use the coupon code “3free” for a free 3 month subscription. ¬†Let’s start living the dream!

What’s been on my bucket list?

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How to Use the Bucket List Living Magazine Coupon

  1. Go to ‚ÄúApp Store Downloads on iTunes‚ÄĚ.¬† Search for Bucket List Living Magazine.
  2. Download the free app by tapping the FREE button.
  3. Tap the INSTALL APP button.  You will then enter your Apple ID Password and click OK.
  4. When the magazine app is finished installing tap the OPEN button.
  5. Permission to send new issues and push notifications from Bucket List Living Magazine is requested.  Choose OK.
  6. Tap the SUBSCRIBE button and then the CURRENT SUBSCRIBERS button.
  7. Enter the coupon code into the account number box and tap the CONTINUE button.  After you enter the code you will receive a notification that you have subscribed successfully.  Tap CLOSE. (The current issue should begin downloading in the background.)
  8. A VIEW button will appear below the current issue, tap it to begin enjoying the magazine.
  9. You will have access to any issue published during the trial subscription period.  At the end of the trial period you will retain access to any issue downloaded during the trial period but will be required to pay for any subsequent issues.

Decadent Paris: Cooking Class

20130203-143315.jpgIt has become a sort of tradition to take a cooking class when¬†I travel abroad.¬† Part of it is because I like to eat…the other part is a way for me to bring a little of that culture back home with me.¬†¬†During a¬†previous¬†trip to Paris, I took¬† a baking class (which focused on croissants, pain au chocolat, pain au raisin, foccaccia, etc.).¬† This time, I decided to take a desserts class.¬† My absolute favorite choice for cooking classes in Paris is Cook’n with Class.¬† The¬†chefs are nice & knowledgable and the hands on instruction is so fun!¬† You can book either directly thru their website or via Viator.¬† They also have a Facebook page which features delicious season recipes from time to time!

During the Paris Desserts & Pastry class, we learned how to make creme br√Ľl√©e, chocolate molten lava cake, golden bars, lemon tartes¬†and Grand Marnier¬†souffle. Delish!!!

The chefs!

The chefs!

The ingredients

The ingredients

Crust for the lemon tartes.

Crust for the lemon tartes.

Lemon tarte filling...and yes, I did order the mold :)

Lemon tarte filling…and yes, I did order the mold ūüôā

Making molten chocolate lava cake!

Making molten chocolate lava cake!

Mold & ingredients for Golden Bars

Mold & ingredients for Golden Bars

Carmelizing the sugar on the creme brulee.

Carmelizing the sugar on the creme brulee.

Prepping oranges for the Grand Marnier souflee.

Prepping oranges for the Grand Marnier souflee.

Fresh out of the oven...lemon tartes with red currants on top!

Fresh out of the oven…lemon tartes with red currants on top!

Photos of the Day: Parisian Desserts

Macaroon Trees

One of my favorite things about Paris are the fabulous desserts!¬† So, during my most recent visit to this beautiful city, I decided to do a “Chocolate & Pastry Walking Tour” where we visited different sweet shops that specialize in chocolate, pastries & ice cream.¬† I justified all the eating with the fact that at least we spent a few hours walking (even if it was just to get to the next site/shop.¬† Ha!).¬† What’s your favorite chocolate or pastry shop in Paris?


Bon Appétit

Bon Appétit

Planning a trip to Paris and trying to figure out how to spend your time?  Check out my list of Top 10 Things to do in Paris!

One Day in Paris

December 29, 2011

What would you do if you had only 1 day to experience the enchanting city of Paris?

Bonjour!¬† Aaron,¬†Joyce, Stefanie, Luciana (“The Crew”) and I¬†decide to take a day trip to Paris from London.¬† While this is my third trip to this intoxicating city, it’s the first visit for my co-travellers.¬† The great thing about this city is that you can always find something new to discover!¬† We ended up fitting about¬†3 days worth of sightseeing into 11 hours.¬† It was glorious!¬† If you plan to do a day trip, be sure to get lots of sleep and wear comfortable shoes because it will wear you out!¬† I’ve covered Paris in 3 other blog posts so most of the info in this post will be high-level (with links throughout to posts with more¬†detail).¬†

*¬†Just a quick note that this post is going to get risqu√© by the end since I will be recapping my visit to the Museum of Erotica…you’ve been warned ūüôā

Our schedule for the day:

7:01 Depart London St.-Pancras, set our watch 1 hour ahead
10:17 Arrive in Paris, take Metro to Notre-Dame
10:30 Explore Notre-Dame
11:00 Lunch at a French cafe in Ile de la Cite
12:00 Walking tour of the Latin Quarter, Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, Ile de la Cite/Ile St. Louis, Saint-Chappelle, Deportation Memorial, Pont Neuf, La Comedie Francaise, Opera Garnier, Palais Royale, Place de La Concorde, Palais de Justice, Pantheon, Champs-Elysees. 
3:00¬†Visit Montmartre area (Sacre-Coeur, Moulin Rouge¬†and Musee¬†de l’erotisme)
6:00 Visit the Eiffel Tower
7:00 Dinner at a French cafe.  Be back at Gare du Nord (train station) by 8:25pm.
9:13 Depart Paris for London (arrive in London at 10:36)

The Crew & I are up at 4:30am to get dressed and take the Tube¬†to St. Pancras¬†station to¬†catch the 7:01am train to Paris.¬† OMG, it’s early y’all.¬† Eurostar¬†requires you to check-in at least 30 minutes prior to the train leaving (you also need to account for time to go through security…so budget¬†about 45 minutes or so).¬† After we check-in, we¬†get breakfast and hang out until it’s time to leave.


Once we board the train, it’s about 2 1/2 hour ride¬†to Paris.¬† We decide to use this time to take a nap.


We arrive in Paris around 10:30am (Paris is 1 hour ahead of London) and¬†get on the Paris Metro.¬† Quick tip:¬† I purchased our Metro tickets in advance thru Rail Europe (at the same time as our train tickets) and this saved us so much time.¬† The lines for tickets¬†had about a 20 minute wait.¬† I just bought day passes so we wouldn’t have to worry about purchasing travel tickets each time we rode the Metro.¬† It definitely helped us spend more time sightseeing than worrying about logistics.

We hop on the Metro and head towards the Notre Dame stop.  As we exit the train station, we come upon Palais de Justice.


Our first stop was the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral (also known as Our Lady of Paris).¬† This magnificent cathedral took 185 years to complete (1160 – 1345).¬† The builders used the popular Gothic style and it’s noted for its flying buttresses.¬† It has been thru many alterations since completion in order to keep it current with modern conveniences.¬†

In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be kings of France) were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during a 1977 excavation nearby and are on display at the Mus√©e de Cluny. For a time, Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. The cathedral’s great bells managed to avoid being melted down. The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food (source Wikipedia).¬† I find the French Revolution fascinating (I mean, seriously, how out of touch did the royals have to be?).¬† You can read my comical take on the origins of the French Revolution in my Versailles recap titled E True Versailles Story:¬† Royals Gone Wild.

The exterior of the church is absolutely breathtaking.  You can see the kings of Judah as well as the Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus.


The inside of the cathedral was beautiful and serene.¬† All cathedrals have the same layout (in the form of a cross).¬† It’s a very overwhelming and calming experience.


After we leave Notre Dame, we walk to Ile St. Louis (“St. Louis island) and stop for lunch at a little cafe called Le Flore en L’Ile¬†(where they serve the famous Berthillon¬†ice cream).¬† Ile St. Louis is the high-rent residential area of Paris (Johnny Depp has an apartment here!).


We walk past the back of the Notre-Dame and go to the Deportation Memorial.¬† I’ve been to this area twice before and never noticed this garden nestled among the trees.¬† The Memorial de la Deportation¬†is a memorial to the 200,000 French victims of Nazi concentration camps.¬†

Then we cross the Seine…


…and see the “love locks”.¬† Couples who marry place locks along the bridge and throw the key¬†into the river¬†to signify that their love cannot be broken. ¬†No idea what the folks do who have combination locks (maybe those signify¬†pre-nups).¬†


We walk along the Seine towards the Louvre and pass thru the Latin Quarter.  I cover my tour of the Louvre pretty thoroughly in my Paris Ooh La La post (it also includes a recap of the Paris Ghost Tour which was so entertaining).


While Joyce & Stefanie toured the Louvre; Aaron, Ciana¬†and I took the Metro to Montmartre to visit Sacre-Coeur.¬†¬†“The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacr√©-CŇďur Basilica, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica.¬† ¬†A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacr√©-CŇďur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the supposed excesses of the Second Empire and socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.¬† The Sacr√©-CŇďur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.” (source, Wikipedia)

Climbing up the steps to reach Sacre-Coeur is a workout in and of itself.  My glutes were on fire!  But the view is phenomenal and well worth it.


While the view is fantastic, let me warn you that the pickpockets are out in full effect.¬† Due to this area being extremely crowded, thieves are always on the lookout for something free.¬† Sigh.¬† I covered my own “attempted” pickpocket experience in¬† The Wonderful World of Paris¬†post.¬† You already know I had a “I wish a mutha-*&!@ would pickpocket me today!” attitude.¬† Ha!

After we leave Sacre-Coeur, we decided to stroll through the artsy Montmartre neighborhood.  An interesting fun fact to know is that many artists had studios or worked around the community of Montmartre (such as Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh).

We pass by a sweet shop and couldn’t resist going in.¬† I love how happy sugar-filled shops are ūüôā


As we were chatting and walking down¬†Boulevard de Clichy,¬†I started to notice something.¬† Every store seemed to have a theme.¬† Now, if you have tender sensibilities, are under the age of 18 or are my Mom, stop reading, k?¬† If you want to read but don’t want to admit to your inner freak, then go on and close the door.¬† I’ll wait.


Wait…what?¬† Does the sign on that¬†store say “Pussy’s”?¬† I don’t see any cats.¬† Is that a pimp leaning up against the wall?¬† OMG, this is the French “Hustle & Flow”.¬† Now I’ve got that “It’s Hard Out Here for¬†a Pimp” song in my head and I’m gonna be saying ‘mane’ like Terrence Howard. FRACK.¬† I HATE THAT SONG!¬†

How did we stumble into the freak nasty section of Paris?¬† Why didn’t I see this in Rick Steves?¬† What startled me was that you just kinda came up on it and it was like, “BAM…take off your drawers/panties.”¬† If you have a heavy sexual appetite, this smorgasbord of sex is for you.¬† When I was in Amsterdam, I expected freak fest (and let’s be honest…you know you would’ve been all over this too, k?).¬†

We had about 30 minutes to kill until we met back up with Joyce & Stefanie so we end up going to the Musee¬†de l’erotisme¬†(Museum of Erotica) which was about¬†10 Euro.¬†¬†Let me just say that you are not ready for this place.¬† Seriously.¬† I thought it would be some sort of campy “museum” but this turned out to be a full-on 7 level museum dedicated to all forms of erotica.¬† And, it took us¬†much longer than 30 minutes to go through the entire¬†place.¬† I am not ashamed to admit I learned something!¬† For those of you “innocents” out there, this is the time for you to put on some pearls so you can get to clutching.

I was not ready.¬† And, y’all aren’t either.¬† Which is why I’m taking you on the tour with me (yes, I was *that girl* who whipped out the camera and giggled or said “shut the front door!” while taking pictures for y’all.¬† You’re welcome).

So let’s get started.¬† First, let me say that this turned into my birthday present for my cousin, Aaron (since we were in Paris on his special day).¬† Second, even he was shocked which is saying something.¬† Third — Mom, are you still reading this?¬† Aaron made me go in.¬† I was fine with visiting the cathedrals ūüôā

This is the first thing I see when we enter the museum…

Um, what kind of chair is this?  And, is it for sale?

Then it was on to these gems:


Each floor as a “theme”.¬† They start you off tame…then it gets freakier¬†each level you ascend.¬† The first floor was dedicated to the “religious” and cultural aspects of sex across the world.¬† The big dildo you see above?¬† That’s “prayer wood”.¬† HAHAHAHAHAHA.¬† Wooo, stop it.¬† I cannot see taking that to Zion Hill Baptist Church and shouting out “CALLING ALL PRAYER WARRIORS!”¬†

Have you been looking for some new sandals for the summer?  Well here you go.

Oh yes, you are seeing right.  Dildo sandals.  I believe they may be multi-purpose.

Then we get to the Japanese proverbs.¬† This stuff is golden.¬† I heard a guy saying “this is deep, man.” (you can click on the photos to enlarge).

Then there was the “pillow book”which is basically a how-to manual to subjugate women *eye roll*…


Next is the Chinese version of the “Kama Sutra”.

We then head to the next level which is all about brothels. 


You can see photos of some of the “working girls” and the ledger of how much pimps/madams made.

Below is an excerpt of a book which basically said that prostitutes became lesbians out of boredom or because they hated how they were treated by men.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of photos but I only took a handful on each floor…didn’t want to seem like a sex-crazed pervert.¬† We then head upstairs.¬† Each landing has some sort of erotic art like…

As we come to the top of the stairs, I notice a large flat screen tv and couches with some lighted scented candles.¬† The tv wasn’t showing anything at that time but I assumed it was a video about the history of erotica.¬†¬†


So wrong.

Ciana, Aaron and I had been walking¬†around and looking at all the statues, pictures, etc.¬† I got caught up looking at something (I can’t even remember…I was constantly lagging behind due to taking pictures).¬† As I walk back towards the stairs, I see the video has started and Ciana & Aaron are slack-jawed.¬† Apparently, I had just missed¬†what I assumed was the informational video¬†but a new one is starting.¬† There is a crowd with¬†people sitting on the couch and standing around.¬†

I turn to look at the tv screen and see it’s a silent movie…and it’s porn.¬† That’s right, silent porn.¬† With subtitles…black and white…and looks to have been filmed in the 1920s.¬† The film was set in a monastery with a “monk” making dinner for 2 “nuns”.¬† And, I swear that the subtitle said “the sisters decided to have each other for “hors d’oeuvres”.¬† Wait…what?¬† Next thing I know, the “sisters” have ripped off each others “habits” and are going to town on each other!¬† WHAT?¬† The subtitles keep popping up because apparently you need to be told the continuing storyline in case you got lost.¬† The “monk” was peeping thru a window and then another “monk” comes up behind him, snatches his pants down and starts having sex with him.¬† I was done.¬† I couldn’t watch anymore…in a room full of folks…with a storyline set in church.¬† I’m trying to see Jesus some day and I don’t have time to explain my visit to the Museum of Erotica to Peter.¬† I already have way too much to account for.¬† Which now includes this visit because you know I didn’t leave.¬†

We turned quickly and went up to the next level…which was “porn thru the years”.¬† There were 3 smaller tv’s on each table set in a triangle pattern.¬† This apparently is for more intimate viewing.¬† But you are still at a table with other folks.¬† Really?¬† They had porn from every culture thru a span of 50 or 60 years.¬† Even interviews with adult film stars.¬† As we are walking up to the 6th level, we see photos of different “genres” of porn…like vampire porn.¬† *hangs head*

The 6th floor is dedicated to what I’m gonna call “cartoon” porn.¬† I’m sure it has some sort of slick name but it’s¬†freaky stuff in cartoon fashion.¬† Like they needed to draw up Smurfette getting it on with Papa Smurf.¬† There’s something for everybody here.

The last floor focused on “doll” porn.¬† Poor Barbie.¬† She’s a ho.


By the time we reached Bimbo Barbie, I was exhausted.  Who knew that looking at all that erotica would wear you out?  We ended up taking the elevator down to the first floor and saw this magnificent display at the exit.

Afterwards, I felt like I needed to smoke a cigarette.  Woooo!  Thanks, Paris.

We leave the museum and head towards Moulin Rouge

Then take the Metro back to the Louvre to meet up with Joyce & Stef.

We all walk from the Louvre thru the Tuleries Garden and see that there is a huge ferris wheel!


By this point, our feet are killing us but we still have one more stop before dinner…and that is to the Eiffel Tower!

Then finally, it was time to rest and eat.  We ended up eating at a cafe across the street from the train station.  Which was a good thing because we almost missed our train!  Overall, it was a great day trip.  We were able to see a lot.  I would definitely recommend staying for more than a day because Paris at night is fabulous!  Looking for things to do in Paris?  Check out my post The Top 10 Things to do in Paris.  Au revoir!

London & Paris (New Years 2011/2012)

Joyce & Stefanie in front of Westminster Abbey (London)Afternoon Tea at the National Gallery Cafe (London)Afternoon Tea at the National Gallery Cafe (London)The London EyeBig Ben & Parliament (London)Protest signs at the NYD parade (London)
Protest signs at the NYD parade (London)View from the Thames River (London)Shakespeare's Globe (London)Westminster Abbey (London)Nikki posing in front of Westminster Abbey (London)New Year's Day parade (London)
New Year's Day parade (London)Nelson Mandela (London)Stef @ The SavoyTicket to see "Legally Blonde The Musical"London BridgeThe Crown Jewels
Trevor Nelson's NYE partyCiana & Byron @ Trevor Nelson's NYE PartyJoyce & Austin @ Trevor Nelson's NYE PartyNikki & Daniel at Trevor Nelson's NYE PartyCiana & Trevor Nelson @ his NYE partyJoyce & Nikki @ Trevor Nelson's NYE Party

Hanging out in London & Paris over New Years 2011…come join us!

Top 10 Things to do in Paris

Each time I visit a city, I try to come up with a list of the ‚Äútop things to do‚ÄĚ by reading reviews on Trip Advisor and¬†Rick Steves¬†to plan an unforgettable trip.¬† The list will contract or expand based upon the amount of time I have.¬† I always like to mix city/historical tours with off the beaten path activities.¬† Below is a list my top 10 things to do when visiting the lovely city of Paris.

10.          Take in a Moulin Rouge cabaret show.

The Moulin Rouge cabaret¬†was built in 1889 by Joseph Oller and is close to Montmartre (a must see during a walking tour) in the Paris district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement (it is marked by the red windmill on its roof). ¬†¬†‚ÄúThe Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe.‚ÄĚ (Wikipedia). ¬†Today the Moulin Rouge is a tourist destination, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. ¬†Be sure to book your tickets¬†in advance as the shows tend to sell out.¬† I also recommend you watch the 1941 ‚ÄúMoulin Rouge‚ÄĚ film starring Josephine Baker as Princess Tam-Tam before you go.

9.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Shop til you drop.¬† Paris is the place for fashion.¬† I find myself people-watching just to figure out how I should update my wardrobe.¬† You can either book a shopping tour¬†(including a Discount Couture tour) or strike out on your own and visit boutiques, street markets or local department stores (Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Bon Marche).¬†¬† I picked up¬†an¬†invaluable etiquette tip from my Rick Steve‚Äôs ‚ÄúParis‚ÄĚ guidebook:

  • Before you enter a Parisian store, remember the following points:
  • In small stores, always greet the clerk by saying “Bonjour” plus their title (Madame, Mademoiselle, or Monsieur) and say “Au revoir, Madame/Mademoiselle/Monsieur” when leaving.
  • The customer is not always right. In fact, figure the clerk is doing you a favor by waiting on you.
  • Except for in department stores, it’s not normal for the customer to handle clothing. Ask first.
  • Forget returns (and don’t count on exchanges).
  • Saturday afternoons are busiest.
  • Observe French shoppers. Then imitate.
  • Don’t feel obliged to buy. The expression for “window-shopping” in French is faire du l√®che-vitrines (literally, “window-licking”).

8.            Get a scoop (or more) from a Berthillion ice cream shop. 

Berthillion Ice Cream shop (photo courtesy of David Monniaux)

Berthillon is a French manufacturer and retailer of luxury ice cream and sorbet.¬†¬†I first became addicted to their ice cream during the summer of 2010.¬† Berthillon’s fame results, in part, from its use of natural ingredients, with no chemical preservatives or artificial sweeteners. ¬†Its ice creams are made from only milk, sugar, cream and eggs‚Ķjust like homemade ice cream. ¬†¬†Their flavors are derived from only natural sources (cocoa, vanilla bean, fruit, etc.). Fifteen flavors are produced everyday by the chefs depending of the season, the availability at the market and customer demand. In total, about sixty different flavors are produced throughout the year.¬† Try to get there early to have a greater selection of flavors.¬† Personally, I love the raspberry and chocolate flavors!¬† Berthillion‚Äôs has 3 locations on Ile St. Louis (31 rue St. Louis-en-l‚ÄôIle, another across the street, and one more around the corner on rue Bellay).¬† It‚Äôs a perfect stop after visiting the Notre-Dame!

7.            Relax at a café.

There are tons of cafes in Paris and you would be remiss if you didn’t stop in one for a café au lait, croissant or crepe.  I usually like to pop in during the afternoon for a light treat since most restaurants in Paris do not open for dinner until at least 7pm.  Cafes are a perfect place to take a break after a busy day of sightseeing.

6.            Explore the Catacombs. 

The catacombs are an underground ossuary¬†in Paris. Located south of the former city gate (the “Barri√®re¬†d’Enfer” at today’s Place Denfert-Rochereau), the ossuary holds the remains of about 6 million people and fills a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of Paris’ stone mines. Opened in the late 18th century, the underground cemetery became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century, and has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1867.¬† The Catacombs entry is in the western pavilion of Paris’s former Barri√®re¬†d’Enfer¬†city gate. After descending a narrow spiral stone stairwell of 19 meters to the darkness and silence broken only by the gurgling of a hidden aqueduct channelling local sources away from the area, and after passing through a long (about 1.5 km) and twisting hallway of mortared¬†stone, visitors find themselves before a sculpture that existed from a time before this part of the mines became an ossuary, a model of France’s Port-Mahon fortress created by a former Quarry Inspector. Soon after, they would find themselves before a stone portal, the ossuary entry, with the inscription Arr√™te, c’est¬†ici¬†l’empire de la Mort (‘Stop, this is the empire of Death’).

Beyond begin the halls and caverns of walls of carefully arranged bones. Some of the arrangements are almost artistic in nature, such as a heart-shaped outline in one wall formed with skulls embedded in surrounding tibias; another is a round room whose central pillar is also a carefully created ‘keg’ bone arrangement. Along the way one would find other ‘monuments’ created in the years before catacomb renovations, such as a source-gathering fountain baptised “La Samaritaine” because of later-added engravings. There are also rusty gates blocking passages leading to other ‘unvisitable’ parts of the catacombs ‚Äď many of these are either un-renovated or were too un-navigable for regular tours. (Wikipedia).¬† I first heard about the catacombs when I did the Paris Ghost Tour in September 2011.¬† I found out there is an entire culture down there!¬† The ‚Äúcataphiles‚ÄĚ (people who are basically obsessed with the catacombs and very familiar with the layout) have parties, film festivals, concerts, etc.¬† However, note that you should never try to visit the catacombs without a proper escort/guide‚Ķbecause you will get lost & never¬†find your way¬†out.

5.            Cruise the Seine River.

The Seine is a 482 mile-long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Saint-Seine near Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre (and Honfleur on the left bank).  I suggest taking one of the excursion boats (i.e. Bateaux Mouches) that offer sightseeing tours of the Rive Droite and Rive Gauche within the city of Paris.  I suggest the Champagne Tasting Seine Tour or Night Bike Tour.  It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the city.


4.            Take a French cooking class.

There are only so many cathedrals & museums I can visit before I’m ready to do something different.  I love to cook and try out new techniques and recipes.  To that end, I registered for a baking class with Cook’n with Class.  We learned (through hands-on instruction) the proper techniques for making croissants, pain au chocolat, focaccia, pain au raisen, etc.  It was awesome and the chefs are absolutely delightful!  They offer several different classes:  Baking, Classic French Desserts (crème brulee, molten chocolate cake, souflee a Grand Marnier), Macaron (3 different flavors), Morning Market (where you will go to a local market and learn how to select fresh produce & ingredients) and many others.

3.            Visit the Louvre.

I highly suggest you take a couple of hours and tour the Louvre.  It’s massive so you will need to strategize and prioritize what you want to see (i.e. Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, Egyptian collection, etc.).  If museums aren’t your thing, you still should walk or bike past it to see the magnificent exterior.  It’s absolutely breathtaking at night!

2.            Visit the Eiffel Tower.

Love, love, LOVE the Eiffel Tower.¬† Built in 1889, it has become both a global icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; millions of people ascend it every year. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair.¬† Three hundred workers joined together 18,038 pieces of puddled iron (a very pure form of structural iron), using two and a half million rivets, in a structural design by Maurice Koechlin. ¬†The tower was much criticized by the public when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. Newspapers of the day were filled with angry letters from the arts community of Paris (Wikipedia).¬† Which I find interesting as it is now considered one of the most beautiful structures built.¬† I love to sit and stare at it.¬† Especially when it lights up at night.¬† That 5 minute ‚Äúsparkle‚ÄĚ is spectacular!¬† I highly suggest you buy your tickets online to decrease your wait in line.¬† The Eiffel Tower’s online reservation system, which lets you skip the ticket line, is up and running (www.toureiffel.fr). At the tower, attendants scan your ticket (which you’ve printed at home or at the hotel) and put you on the first available elevator. Even with a reservation, however, you still have to wait in line with the masses to get from the second level to the summit.

1.                   Walking Tours. Take a bike ride thru the city.

The top thing to do in Paris?  Take a walking or bike tour (or both)!  It’s a great way to see the city and learn the history.

  • For walking tours, I suggest Sight Seekers Delight¬†(tours of the city, Montmartre, & Jewish Tour of Marais for a cost of 35-40 euros),¬†Discover Walks¬†(which offer free 90 minute tours of Notre Dame, the Left Bank, Marais, and Montmartre by native Parisian guides) and the Paris Ghost¬†Tour¬†(a neat tour thru the Jewish Quarter focusing on the myths & legends of Parisian ghosts & hauntings…suspend belief and roll¬†with it), and¬†Paris Chocolate & Pastry Food Tour (which is a walking tour of Paris’ finest chocolate & pastry shops…tastings are included).
  • For bike tours, I suggest Fat Tire Bike Tours.¬† I‚Äôve taken 3 of their tours in Paris.¬† They have offices in London, Barcelona and Berlin as well.¬† All of their tours are phenomenal.¬† It‚Äôs an American company and employs expats to conduct the bike tours in English.¬† They are a fun way to see a lot of the city in a 4 hour span of time.¬† They also do a bike tour of Versailles (which is awesome and lasts 8.5 hours).

E True Versailles Story: Royals Gone Wild

I decided to tour Versailles.  Since I had such a great time on the Night Bike Tour in Paris, I booked the Versailles tour through Fat Tire Bike Tours as well.  The tour lasts approximately 8.5 hours so it’s a full day of riding & sightseeing.

While in Paris, we ride our bikes from the bike shop to the train station (which is about 10 minutes away), then put the bikes on the train for a 20 minute ride to Versailles.  Once we arrive, we pedal over to the farmer’s market to buy food for our picnic that afternoon.

The market is fantastic!¬† You can really go broke (because a tray of raspberries and other fruit cost me 17 euros) but the freshness of the food is unbelievable.¬† I ended up buying some fruit, tomatoes, green beans, rotisserie chicken and water.¬† I passed on buying a bottle of wine as I remembered the drunk pedaling from before.¬† So, after we load up the bikes with our purchases, we bike over to the grounds of the Palace of Versailles (or as it is called in French, Ch√Ęteau de Versailles).

Apparently, they try to keep the ch√Ęteau & grounds true to history so the horses and sheep are there for decoration which has to be a pretty plush job for them.¬† Our fabulous tour guides are Sadie and Matt.

Okay‚ĶI hope I remember all the history correctly.¬† If there are inaccuracies, then let me know.¬† Versailles used to be the hunting grounds of King Louis XIII and was made the capital of France by King Louis XIV (‚ÄúKL14‚ÄĚ) from 1682 until the French Revolution¬†which started in 1789.¬† Three kings lived in Versailles (KL14¬†who built the Palace of Versailles, KL15¬†who enjoyed it, and KL16 who paid for it…with his head).

The Palace is lavish…in fact, it’s downright gaudy.  You know how some folks just don’t know that less is more?  Well, that was the Louis’.  In the end, all that flash came back to bite them in the butt.

This place has a lot of gold‚Ķlike Mr. T had been their architect and interior designer.¬† They just covered everything with flowers and paintings.¬† It was like they had to have it all.¬† Even if it didn‚Äôt quite blend in with the d√©cor.¬† They‚Äôd just see something, buy it, put it in a room and name it a certain ‚Äúsalon‚ÄĚ.

Apparently, the Dauphin & Dauphine (king and queen) had their own set of suites on opposite sides of the palace.  And, considering all the mistresses that KL14 & 15 had, it’s no surprise.

The dining room was called the ‚ÄúHall of Mirrors‚ÄĚ and is 250 feet long, with 17 arched windows and 17 matching arched mirrors that look at the garden.¬† The literature states that it ‚Äúreflects an age when beautiful people loved to look at themselves.‚Ä̬† I saw the portraits of a lot of folks back then and um‚Ķlet‚Äôs just say that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.¬† Maybe it‚Äôs just me but I think I‚Äôve only seen 1 portrait of someone who¬†I thought was attractive.¬† Otherwise, they just all looked plain.¬† And, a couple of the women look like men dressed in drag.¬† I mean, it was a painting so they could‚Äôve done some photoshopping and prettied them up with a few strokes of the paintbrush.¬† One woman was painted with a light mustache.¬† If that was me, the painter would‚Äôve have been shown the door.¬† Make me thinner & prettier‚Ķnot fatter and more masculine.

Sorry, I digressed.¬† Guess I got caught up in all the beauty.¬† Back to the dining room.¬† It was huge.¬† But KL14¬†(or as he named himself, the ‚ÄúSun King‚ÄĚ) felt like he needed more space to entertain.¬† So, he made all the people move out of the village of Trianon so he could build a SECOND DINING ROOM!¬† Apparently, pretty people need a lot of space to eat.¬† KL14¬†went all out.¬† Nothing was too good‚Ķhe even had the marble brought in from Italy.¬† KL14 was spending the money from France‚Äôs treasury on furnishing his home like he was at the strip club making it rain.¬† One figure I heard was that he spent HALF of what was in the treasury.¬† So, he kicked the folks out the area and named the dining hall after the village in honor of them.¬† I‚Äôm sure they appreciated that sentiment as they were living under a bridge.

If anything, KL14¬†needed to be building a shower and bathtub because it is rumored that he only bathed two or three times in his life.¬† I was reading The Raucous Royals¬†(because I love gossip & scandal even if it‚Äôs hundreds of years old), and it stated that “In King Louis XIV‚Äôs day, people thought a good, thick, grimy layer of filth would keep you healthy and strong. ¬†They believed water spread diseases by penetrating the pores of the skin and then infecting the bloodstream. ¬†Most people didn‚Äôt bathe more than once a year. The wealthy did change their linen throughout the day because they believed that the linen wicked away sweat and dirt, but they still stunk.”¬†¬†And that made no logical sense.¬† Come on, France.¬† To combat the smells, the men and ladies in KL14’s¬†court would douse themselves with perfumes and powders. ¬†So, imagine being back in that day and having to smell Jean-Claude‚Äôs funk mixed with Cody Wild Musk for Men.¬† Ewwww.

To be fair, the book stated that KL14¬†was so clean that he was almost fussy about it. “He often bathed in a big Turkish bath.¬† When not in his bath, he rubbed spirits or alcohol on his skin (perfume gave him headaches), which acted as a disinfectant. And, as if that were not enough, he changed his undies three times a day!”¬†¬†The book also said that KL14¬†towered over his subjects at an amazing 6‚Äô10‚ÄĚ. Unfortunately, he was only 5‚Äô4‚ÄĚ when naked.¬†¬†“To compensate for his short stature, he wore a twelve-inch-high wig and six-inch red heels. But this was one look that no one could copy.¬†King Louis XIV¬†decreed that only the king could wear red heels.”¬† Only the king wears Prada, y‚Äôall.

Now, this book also said that Queen Elizabeth 1 would bleach her teeth with dog urine so keep that in mind when judging the veracity of their information.  Regardless of bathing or not, whatever he did it must have paid off because KL14 lived to the ripe old age of seventy-seven and was king for seventy-two years, longer than any other French monarch in history.

So, KL14 builds up a lavish palace and dies then KL15 assumes the throne (after a regency period since he was only 5 when his great-granddaddy went to the gilded gates).  KL15 was known as the playboy extraordinaire.  He claims to have had 5000 mistresses.  Okay, Wilt Chamberlain.  One mistress, Marie Anne de Maillynesle, put together a business plan for her future when her looks started to fade.  She figured out that KL15 liked his women more than ruling so when she felt like she was getting too old, instead of having him kick her to the curb…she became a pimp and procured women for him.  However, she wanted more power…and since he didn’t really want to govern anything outside the bedroom, he let A Pimp Named Marie Anne run the country.  She would just start wars (like the Seven Years War) so she could resolve them and have even more power.  The most famous of his mistresses are Madame du Pompadour and Madame du Barry.  Of course, with all the sleeping around he was doing, you know they all had cooties.  How are you going to be scared of water but not STDs?  Come on, France.

We then pedal over to the Hamlet of The Domaine de Marie Antoinette (aka The Hamlet).  In order to understand the significance of The Hamlet, I’ll give you a bit of background about the events leading up to the French Revolution.  As I stated above, KL14 & 15 were living the high life by spending money on buildings, wars, clothes and women.

Then, KL16¬†comes along.¬† He was set to marry Marie-Antoinette after the Seven Years War as a way to solidify peace between France & Austria.¬† The story goes that KL16¬†was a nerdy kid who, at 15 (the age he married Marie-Antoinette), preferred to collect bugs & locks than look at women.¬† Then, there was the supposedly beautiful Marie-Antoinette (‚ÄúMA‚ÄĚ).¬† Sigh.¬† I saw the painting.¬† We‚Äôll give her a pass.¬† So, ‚Äúbeautiful‚ÄĚ MA marries KL16¬†at the age of 14.¬† Her primary goal was to get knocked up¬†with some heirs.¬† But, KL16¬†wanted to go out and collect fireflies and pick locks.¬† And, MA, having read the precursor to the book, ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs Just Not That Into You‚ÄĚ was upset.¬† Which many women can sympathize with.¬† It‚Äôs one thing to be rejected by a fine man.¬† Quite another to be rejected by the French Urkel.¬† MA tries to seduce KL16¬†to no avail.¬† People start looking at her all suspiciously because she hasn‚Äôt gotten knocked up yet.¬† So, she did what most women do when they are depressed.¬† No, not eat chocolate and binge drink (or maybe that‚Äôs just me).¬† She went shopping.¬† And spent MASSIVE amounts of money on all the latest fashions.¬† Where did that money come from?¬† The treasury into which folks paid their taxes.

Finally, 7 years later, MA gets pregnant.  Maybe she put on some kinky ladybug lingerie and rubbed her legs together like a spider to entice KL16.  Who knows?  She ended up having 4 kids.  After having her kids, she decided that she wanted to know what it was like to live like a peasant…so she had The Hamlet built.

This ‚Äúpeasant village‚ÄĚ was basically a big dollhouse¬†& playground.¬† She had sheep that she would have dyed a different color each day depending on her mood.¬† She then would pretend to milk a cow into a porcelain bowl.¬† Her peasant dresses were tailored.¬† You can only imagine from the pictures how much this little playground cost the taxpayers.¬† And, apparently, when the villagers saw her making a mockery of their lives‚Ķwell, let‚Äôs just say that karma is a ______.

MA had her own place with a moat around it and required KL16 to send a written request before coming to visit.¬† Legend is that she had a Swedish lover that she would meet at the Temple of Love she had built for their rendezvous (which was not at all discreet…Temple of Love, Marie?¬† Seriously?).¬† With 80 acres of land, they could slip off and not be seen by anybody.

After the French monarchy were on MTV‚Äôs ‚ÄúCribs‚ÄĚ, the bourgeoisie class (which were the middle class and merchants) were like, ‚ÄúWTF?”¬† They were tired of seeing their hard-earned money go to waste.¬† People were starving because taxes had risen dramatically to pay for such a lavish lifestyle in Versailles.¬† So, they ended up signing the ‚ÄúTennis Court Treaty‚ÄĚ where they wrote a constitution and basically decided to revolt. ¬†Which, I don‚Äôt know why KL16¬†didn‚Äôt see this coming.¬† The French had just helped out the US for the American Revolutionary War‚Ķput down the bugs, buddy.¬† You know the Americans were like, ‚ÄúListen, Pierre, you gots¬†to get out now.¬† You think I‚Äôm gonna let George tell me what to do?¬† I‚Äôm not calling him ‚Äúking‚ÄĚ.¬† Plus, I think he‚Äôs got a mental illness and I don‚Äôt have time for the drama.¬† Britain can kick rocks!!! U-S-A-U-S-A-U-S-A.¬† What?¬† Is he your master now?¬† Can he beat you up?¬† You need to take notes and tell Louis that France don‚Äôt have time for bug collectin‚Äô and prancing around in stockings and high heels while folks can‚Äôt buy bread!¬† Revolt, man!‚Ä̬† While KL16 was collecting butterflies, the French were collecting guns.

So, the French Revolution starts in 1789 when KL16 finally gets a clue that something is going on and sends his army into Paris to put the smack down.  The citizens think the soldiers are about to attack and get all Matrix on them and storm the battalion to set free the political prisoners…of which there were only 5; and get the gun powder which was stored there.  Then, the fishmonger women (you know, the women who work at the docks) started marching on Versailles and surrounded the Palace.  Finally, KL16 & MA surrendered under the condition that they would live under house arrest at the Louvre.

They lived at the Louvre for a few years but when they saw the guillotine had been built and folks were getting beheaded‚Ķwell, they came up with an escape plan.¬† I think it‚Äôs now pretty obvious that KL16¬†is no mastermind.¬† MA passed out her tailored haute couture peasant clothes and they snuck out of the Louvre in the dead of night and probably would‚Äôve made it to freedom had KL16¬†not refused to take a nondescript¬†peasant carriage.¬† He said he‚Äôd only ride in the royal carriage.¬† Sigh.¬† That kinda defeats the purpose of discretion.¬† Once they convince him to take a Kia carriage, they end up being stopped by a patrolman outside the city.¬† KL16’s¬†face is on all currency so it didn‚Äôt take long for the patrolman to figure out KL16¬†(aka ‚ÄúThe French MacGyver‚ÄĚ) was trying to escape.¬† Somehow, he just wasn‚Äôt getting the concept of subterfuge.¬† So, of course they get caught.¬† Then, they both end up getting beheaded.¬† KL16 first‚Ķand MA almost a year later after she had been humiliated.¬† Folks hated MA by this point and would just take any opportunity to ridicule her.

In the end, the whole family (except for 1 daughter) ended up dying.  It’s pretty sad.

But, the grounds are beautiful!  After riding around and looking at the gardens, we had a picnic on the grounds behind the palace.

Finally, I walked through this hall where a guy in period costume was playing chess against at least 12 people…and he beat everybody sitting there.  Most people stare at the board for a while before making a move.  This guy didn’t spend more than 30 seconds thinking of each move…would take whatever piece that was yours and move on to the next player.

Overall, Versailles is gorgeous.  The Palace itself is okay (if you are into that type of thing).  I thought the grounds, gardens and the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette were the most interesting.

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