Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Paris: Day 6

The 6th day of our trip was a leisurely one spent in Paris again. We started out at Sacre Coeur Basilica right after breakfast. It's a beautiful church, and despite several warnings about gypsies and scammers that are notorious for hanging out on the steps leading up to the church, we did not encounter any that morning.

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One of the reasons that so many people venture up there is for the view. A little hazy on this morning, but still beautiful.

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No photos are allowed inside the basilica itself, but it was gorgeous inside too. You can tell that it is one of Paris's "younger" churches, but no less stunning. Here's a view from the top down onto the steps that lead up to the top of Montmartre, where the church sits.

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And after seeing these all over the city, I finally decided to take a photo of one. It's a drinking water fountain. These have been a source of free drinking water to Parisians since the 19th century. Beautiful and functional.

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As we were leaving Sacre Coeur, we caught a taxi to save us some time and Casey's knee. We went straight to the Paris Opera House, otherwise known as Palais Garnier. This is a place I've seen from the outside the other two times I've visited Paris. But I've never been inside. Determined to do that this time, I had already bought our tickets.

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And it did not disappoint. In fact, it may have been one of my favorite things to see on the trip. Lavish doesn't begin to describe it.

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This is the famous staircase from the Phantom of the Opera, since the book was written about this opera house. The set from the musical does look very much like the real thing.

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I loved all the candelabra light fixtures.

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Then we got a look at the inside of the theatre itself. Whoa. I am pretty sure that if I had tickets to see a show here it would have to be pretty entertaining to take my eyes off the gold and velvet decor. And that's saying nothing of the amazing ceiling and chandelier.

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Back out in the hallways and common areas, I was stunned by each new area we entered. I can't stop taking photos of the ceilings either. They are just remarkable.

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This promenade at the front of the opera house on the upper floor reminded me a lot of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Except I kind of liked this one better.

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From the front balconies, there is a great view of the opera district. Lots of (expensive) shopping in these buildings.

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When we were done "oohing" an "ahhing" over the Palais Garnier (maybe it was more me than Casey, although he liked it), we walked straight down the Avenue de l'Opera to the Louvre.

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Thanks to previous research, we skipped the lines out front at the main entrance and walked right in at the side entrance on the Rue Rivoli.

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Knowing we could spend days exploring the vastness of the Louvre, we sat down and studied the map of the museum before we got started to find the things we wanted to see for sure and the other areas we wanted to browse.

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I love the Louvre. Every room is a treasure trove. Art and history permeate the whole place. As do tourists.

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Of course we stopped by the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the Winged Nike...my favorite of the three.

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But, without a doubt, my favorite part of the Louvre was Napoleon's Apartments. They were Casey's favorite too.

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I'm not sure how many people can sit at this table, but it seems to go on forever.

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The grand salon was breathtaking. That's a rather large chandelier, if you can't tell. Obviously I have a thing for chandeliers. Wouldn't this room be lovely for high tea? I think so.

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This was a view from one of the windows out onto the courtyard of the Louvre.

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And on our way out, we made sure to go through the pyramid since we went in the back way.

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It was mid-afternoon by the time we exited the Louvre. We had already had lunch at a cafe inside the Louvre, but we decided to head out from the museum into the Tuileries gardens again for some refreshment and relaxation since we didn't have any agenda for the few hours before our dinner reservations.

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We picked a spot right in the middle of the gardens where we could be sure to get some ice cream. We pretty much parked it here for the next hour and a half.

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A scoop of chocolate and a scoop of caramel...with one of the best wafer cookies I've ever had.

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We finally pried ourselves away from our table and the gardens. It was so nice to just sit there for a while and enjoy being in Paris. We walked our way slowly back to our hotel room along the river again.

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After we changed for dinner, we took a taxi to the restaurant. The taxi driver couldn't drop us off in front of the restaurant because it was on a pedestrian street and tucked into a little corner. However, that corner was hopping with people. Several restaurants were bunched in there and it was a nice, quiet little corner to have dinner. I mentioned on Instagram that evening that this restaurant (Pirouette) is definitely a place to search out if you are in Paris. It was our favorite dining experience.

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They let us pick our table so we sat outside. You can sort of see the little pedestrian square behind Casey. It was so nice to not have cars driving by right behind our table. And as it got darker, the lights from the restaurants lit up the square and it was just added to the ambiance.

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Pirouette is a fairly small restaurant, but they are meticulous about their food and service. The waitstaff were wonderful. Our waiter took the time to explain the entire menu to us in English. The food is all prepared from fresh ingredients and therefore, the menu changes daily, although I'm sure there are some dishes that probably get featured a lot.

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After ordering our food (all three courses), I asked the waiter for a wine recommendation. I am not so good at differentiating between all those wines in French. He was extremely thoughtful about his suggestion and it ended up being my absolute favorite wine I had on the trip. (If only I had written down what it was.)

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The photo above and the following food photos were all taken with my iphone. Sometimes, I just like to keep a low profile instead of slinging around my huge camera. The phone actually did a decent job since the lighting was nice. This first course was an amuse bouche...a cold beet soup with a bite of crostini topped with tomato, cucumber, bacon and cheese. Since I don't really like beets (at all), I was wary of the cold soup. But it was flavor packed and delightful. And the bite of crostini was what I would describe as a "perfect bite"...all the right flavor combinations in one, which is, of course, the point.

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For entrees (appetizers), I ordered their specialty, the asparagus. It had melted cheese and crispy bacon on top with a rich red reduction sauce.

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Casey's appetizer was an egg dish on top of a green pea puree with crispy bacon pieces.

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For my main dish, I ordered the Red Snapper topped with crispy chorizo crumble and zucchini flowers. On the side...two sauces and a tapenade. The presentation alone wowed me, but the taste was out of this world. Yum.

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Casey ordered pork, with two sauces, piquillo peppers and black raisins. I had a bite and it was delicious too.

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We both ordered the white chocolate tart with raspberry sorbet for dessert. Holy sweet and sour. That raspberry sorbet by itself was very tangy, but paired with a bite of the white chocolate tart (as it was intended), it was absolute perfection.

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As usual, we walked back to the hotel after dinner and were just in time for the sunset. We lingered on Pont Neuf so we could watch it over the river. As you can see from the people along the banks, we weren't the only ones with that idea.

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A group of women caught us trying to take our own photo with my iphone and offered to do it for us. I should have taken out my big camera for this one, but I'm glad to have the phone photo anyway.

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We stayed until the sun set (and we could no longer wait to go to the bathroom). Our hotel was only a stone's throw from the bridge, thank goodness. On the way, I quickly paused to take a photo of a line of public bikes that you can rent. It's really an interesting system. We saw lots of people riding these bicycles throughout the city. Apparently keeping them maintained is quite a job for the city, but the concept is very cool.

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