Paris jacques-genin-paris-brest-1 Image Source

Hello looover…. oh, excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.  So, did I get your attention? That my friend is my favorite new discovery in Paris…the Paris-Brest.  Created to commemorate the Paris-Brest-Paris bike race (the circular shape is representative of a wheel), the Paris-Brest is made of choux pastry, filled with praline cream, and topped with toasted hazelnuts.  This popular dessert is found in many patisseries all over Paris but the best one I’ve had is by Jacques Genin.  I have never been to his patisserie, located in the Maris district, but I have had the pleasure of trying his creations at La Cuisine de Bar.

So this post may very well be my favorite to write and which I hold near and dear to my heart.  Needless to say, the hubs and I love food.  Knowing that we were visiting one of the best food cities in the world, I wanted to make sure we took advantage of our time there and tried as much delicious food as possible.  I have done a lot of research on the restaurants in this post and we loved every single place.  The following are notes of all the restaurants we visited, a list of our favorites, and a list of places we wanted to try but did not have enough time/room in our stomach.  I’ll begin with the restaurants and then go into snacks.  I hope this helps anyone out there trying to plan their Parisian trip and also inspire others to take a food journey to Paris.

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A la Biche du Bois – 45 Ledru-Rollin 12th arr., close to the Opera Bastille and not far from Le Marais district, closed Saturdays and Sundays but open until 11pm Monday through Friday.  A traditional Paris bistro, it serves many Parisian classics in a lively atmosphere.  They are known for their game meats (duck, deer, etc.), but are especially known for their Coq au Vin (some say the best in Paris) and Foie Gras with Fleur de Sel.  We had both famed dishes, as well as a simple steak for the hubs and felt the food was delicious, hearty (good portions) and a great value.

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Le Comptoir du Relais – 9 Carrefour de l’Odeon 6th arr., open daily from noon.  This famous bistro is difficult to score a dinner reservation unless you stay in the hotel it’s located, Hotel le Relais St. Germain, or book way in advance.  My suggestion is to go for lunch, arriving 15-20 minutes before noon and you will likely score a table in the first seating, or else be prepared to wait.  I had been looking forward to this restaurant for a long time and it did not disappoint.  The menu is extensive and in French so come prepared with a translation guide and the food is reasonably price for being prepared by such a renowned chef (Yves Camdeborde).  We had the escargots, tripe (hubs’ is a fan of offal), seafood croquettes, some other dishes that I don’t quite remember but all were delicious.  We probably would’ve gone back for a 2nd visit if we had more time.

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Huiterie Regis – 3 rue Monfaucon 6th arr., open Tuesday through Sunday from noon-3pm and 6:30-11pm.  This small eatery serves a simple menu of raw oysters, shrimp, and sausage, with a side of bread.  Known as one of the best places in Paris for fresh oysters, this place did not disappoint.  Living in San Francisco, we’ve had our share of great oysters, and this place was on par with the quality found in SF.  Some may argue that SF oysters are even better but the lively atmosphere, coupled with great wine, makes this place a must try for any oyster enthusiast.  They don’t take reservations and the restaurant is small (~20 seats) so again, go early.  We went towards the end of their lunch time, right before 3pm and got seated right away.

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Chez l’Ami Jean – 27 rue Malar 7th arr. close to the Eiffel Tower, open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.  Serving modern bistro food, this celebrated restaurant offers 3 menu options as well as a la carte, 42 Euro for 3 courses (your selection), 55 Euro for 5 courses (chef selection), and 80 Euro for 8 courses (chef selection).  We went with the 55 Euro menu, le petit voyageur, and were completely stuffed, I’d highly recommend the set menus since it was good value for the money.  We had fish soup, turbot, lamb, and 2 desserts, one of which was their famous rice pudding (above picture).  The turbot was one of the best fishes I’ve ever had, so delicate and flavorful.  The rice pudding reputation was justifiable, it was delicious and not too sweet.  The rice pudding came in a large bowl for sharing (easily could’ve fed 4 people) and even though we were stuffed, both hubs and I could not resist licking every last morsel of it.

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L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon – 5 rue de Montalembert 7th arr., located in the heart of St. Germain des Pres and open daily.  Hailed as one of the world’s top 50 restaurants and boasting 2 michelin stars, hubs and I decided to make this our one special dinner in Paris.  The restaurant only accepts reservations for the first seatings, noon or 6:30pm, the rest is first come first serve.  We had the prix fix menu, 199 euro for ~10 courses.  The food was as expected, delicious and inventive.  The service was prompt and friendly enough.  While we did enjoy the food, we weren’t blown away by it, which is what we were expecting considering the high cost.  Both hubs and I felt that it was a good once in a lifetime experience, but compared to all the other amazing food we had at reasonable prices, L’Atelier just did not live up to expectation.  That said, we would definitely go back to the restaurant for their a la carte menu.

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Les Cocottes de Christian Constant – 135 rue Saint-Dominique 7th arr., close to Eiffel Tower, open daily for lunch and dinner.  Cocotte is the cookware in which many of the main dishes are cooked in, in this case staub cookware.  This restaurant doesn’t take reservations but it’s counter-seating and I’ve read that the wait is quick.  Hubs and I went for lunch on a weekday and there was no wait at all.  The menu is made up of a bunch of smaller plates, tapas style, and larger mains that are casserole style.  It’s heartier fare and decent prices.  Unfortunately we were still full from our meal the night before and didn’t try too many dishes, but what we had was good.  The restaurant is decorated tastefully and has a homey feeling.  I would equate it to comfort food and I would not hesitate to visit this restaurant again, although with an empty stomach so I can try more of the menu.

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Chez Dumonet-Josephine – 117 rue du Cherche-Midi 6th arr., closed Saturday and Sunday.  Another quintessential traditional French bistro, Chez Dumonet is known for really old school French food.  I was looking for a place that serves really good boeuf bourguignon for the hubs and this restaurant came up repeatedly.  They are also known for the duck confit, seared foie gras, and grand marnier souffle, all of which we ordered and thoroughly enjoyed.  Also good is their monkfish and mille feuille.

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La Cuisine de Bar – 8 rue Debelleyme 3rd arr. in Le Marais neighborhood, open Tuesday through Saturday.  This little gem of a place is a great lunch spot.  They serve open-faced sandwiches on bread from next door Poilane Bakery, which many consider to make the best bread in the world.  They serve a prix fix lunch for 14.50 Euro which includes a starter (really fresh and tasty carrot soup when we went), a tartine, and a drink or coffee.  The other draw to this place? They also offer an array of pastries by Jacques Genin (see above Paris-Brest picture)!

Paris falafel

L’As du Fallafel – 34 rue des Rossiers 4th arr., open Sunday through Thursday until midnight and Friday until 5pm.  The name says it all, this hole in the wall joint is known for it’s falafel, served with hummus and roasted eggplant.  It is by far one of the best falafel’s I’ve ever had.  It’s cheap and tasty, what more can you ask for! Rue des Rossiers is an alleyway in the Jewish quarter of Le Marais.  There’s multiple falafel joints there but this one is the most famous.  It’s so good, we went twice in one day!  Another famous joint on the same street is Chez Hanna at 54 rue des Rossiers.  It’s open Tuesday through Sunday and is also a local favorite, rivaling L’As du Fallafel.

Paris robert

 Robert et Louise – 64 rue Vieille du Temple 3rd arr., open daily Tuesday through Sunday.  This locals restaurant serves quality meat and offal in a no frills environment.  I knew hubs would be keen to try this place as soon as I mentioned that they served black blood sausage and tripe sausage.  We ordered foie gras, blood sausage, steak and pork ribs.  All the food was prepared simply, letting the taste and texture of the meat shine through and it was very reasonably priced.  If you are a fan of no frills meat, as my Argentinian husband is, then you would love this place.

Onto the snacks!

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Le Berthillon – 31 rue Saint-Louise en Ille, open Wednesday through Sunday.  This is the most famous ice cream in Paris so be prepared to wait.  The ice cream flavors range from creamy classics to seasonal fruit flavors.  The texture is more reminiscent of gelato and the flavors are really quite intense.  There are many ice cream shops in the area that supply Berthillon ice cream so if you don’t feel like waiting or are not in the neighborhood, just pop into a local shop that advertises Berthillon.  You may not get the wide variety of flavors but it’ll still be yummy!

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Macarons –  Ahhh macarons, so delicate, so flavorful, and so hard to get just right.  Below are the most famous places for macarons:

Laduree – multiple locations.  This world famous brand really has gotten it just right, from the packaging to the beautiful store displays.  Laduree is a must visit for any macaron lover.  They have a wide variety of flavors and really, who doesn’t love the luxurious, pretty packaging??!

Pierre Herme – multiple locations.  I hadn’t heard of Pierre Herme until I researched “best macarons in Paris” and this came up repeatedly.  The storefront and packaging is the opposite of Laduree, sleek and minimalist.  They have less flavors to choose from, but their macarons, in my opinion, really are the best.  They are perfectly light and fluffy, slightly chewy, and pack intense flavor.

Lenotre and Gerard Mulot – multiple locations.  Both of these names came up when I was researching macarons.  While certainly good and still better than most macarons you can find in the States, I would not go out of my way to visit these two after having visited the holy grail of macarons (above 2).  That said, if you find yourself passing by, it’s worth a visit since their pastries are wonderful.

Patisserie Aoki Sadaharu – multiple locations.  Although not widely known, this patisserie makes macarons in asian inspired flavors like black sesame, wasabi, and matcha green tea.  The quality is quite good and this patisserie is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking to try something different.

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Patisserie Stohrer – 51 rue Montorgueil 2nd arr., open daily.  Paris’ oldest pastry shop, Stohrer serves a wide variety of mouth watering desserts.  Definitely worth a visit, but be warned, you won’t be able to leave the shop without purchasing at least 5 items! Also, rue Montorgueil is a great street to walk down if you’re looking for something to eat.  It’s filled with many decent locals type restaurants.

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Eric Kayser/Maison Kayser – multiple locations.  Known for the best breads and great pastries, this place is great for picking up provisions for a picnic.

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Le Grande Epicerie Paris – Located in Le Bon March, this is a gourmet grocery store with everything you can imagine.  There’s fresh baked breads, beautiful pastries, ready-made food, and fresh produce.  It’s really a great place to pick up snacks for a picnic.

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“The Chicken Lady” – Located at the Bastille Sunday Open Market, this specific “chicken lady” stall is famous for juicy rotisserie chicken.  The directions I got were to take the Metro line 5 to Breguet-Sebin, take the Saint Sebin exit to be at the north end of the market.  Take a right down the first row of food stalls and the “chicken lady” is the 3rd stall on the left past Vollailles du Gotinais and La Boule d’Anges des Marches bread stand.  You must get there before 1pm or else she sells out.  Hubs and I never found her, but the Bastille market is large and full of food stands so we were able to get rotisserie chicken from another stand.  It was juicy and good, although maybe not as wow as the chicken lady’s chicken might be.  We walked to nearby Place des Vosges and ate the chicken there, and then went to nearby Gerard Mulot for some pastries (Paris-Brest of course!) for dessert.

Okay, so I think I covered all the food we tried (not including a few crepe street stalls we stopped at), which we managed to pack in 5.5 days!  Now on to our absolute favorites:

My favorites: Chez l’Ami Jean, Le Comptoir du Relais, and La Cuisine de Bar.

Hubs’ favorites: All of mine, plus Chez Dumonet for the boeuf bourguignon, and Robert et Louise.

Other restaurants that looked especially good but we didn’t have a chance to try:

Le Gaigne – 12 rue Pecquay 4th arr., open Tuesday through Saturday.  Small bistro known for inventive cuisine that does not disappoint.

Breizh Cafe – 109 rue Vieille du Temple 3rd arr., open Wednesday through Sunday.  Known for Bretagne style crepes and buckwheat galettes.

Le Cinq Mars – 51 rue de Verneuil 7th arr., open Monday through Sunday.  Cozy, affordable locals restaurant that serves ratatouille, mussels and seabass.

Bistrot Paul Bert – 18 rue Paul Bert, 11th arr., open Tuesday through Saturday.  Offers a reasonable prix fixe (34 Euro) and is a quintessential bistro serving good steak frites.

Le Baratin – 3 rue Jouye-Rouve 4th arr., open Tuesday through Saturday.  Opened by Argentinians (who knows meat better than them?) and Pierre Herme dines here, need I say more?

Les Papilles – 30 rue Gay Lussac 5th arr., open Tuesday through Saturday.  Great value prix fixe menu restaurant.


If the restaurant allows it, MAKE RESERVATIONS!  Most of these restaurants are small and the French tend to make reservations so if you don’t, there may not even be seating for walk-ins.  Unlike the States, even at popular restaurants, you won’t have to call more than a week or two in advance so it’s not too much trouble.  It’s as simple as calling them, asking in french first if they spoke english (Bonjour, parlez-vous francais?), most of them do, and telling them what day you’d like to come.

Make note of restaurant opening hours.  Many restaurants are closed Sundays and some are closed certain days during lunch so make sure you plan accordingly to avoid disappointment.  I first made a list of all my must-eats and then I looked up each of their opening hours to make sure I juggled my schedule right.

When in Rome… if you can, eat at a later hour.  Dinner hours are typically from 7pm through 11pm with the earlier time slots taken by tourists and the later taken by locals.  You’ll have a more enjoyable experience if you eat when the locals do, but take into consideration that if you’re eating at 9pm, you typically won’t be done until midnight (the French really take their time) and oftentimes the meal is heavy so you may have trouble sleeping right afterwards, which can delay your schedule for the next day.  But you’re on vacation so just take it easy!

Go with the flow.  The French really do take their time and enjoy their meal, as such the waiters typically will take longer to come around.  Don’t get impatient.  Take into account that meals can last 3 hours and plan your itinerary accordingly.

Pick restaurants close to the sites you will be visiting.  I included the arrondissements the restaurants are located in to help with planning.  If you plan on seeing the Eiffel Tower, plan lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants in the 7th arr.  This will make your trip go more smoothly if you’re not constantly criss crossing town to go to restaurants.

Whew, so this was a long post but I hope helpful!  If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll try my best to help you out!


Hello? Is anyone still there? So I know it’s been a while since my last post and I don’t really have an excuse but I hope to post on a more regular basis from now on, so please stick with me!

So last we left off I had just finished posting about Loire Valley.  After 4 days in France, the hubs and I were more than happy to get on with the Paris part of our trip.  Don’t get me wrong, Loire Valley was beautiful and a lovely place to visit but we were just so darn excited for all the great restaurants I booked in Paris, which I’ll go over in my next post.

While the focus of our Paris trip was food, we still had to plan some activities to space out our meals so this post will focus on all the sights we visited.  The hubs and I had already visited Paris before (twice for me, once for him) and had done the major attractions like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, and Musee D’orsey so this time we focused on the lesser known attractions.

Paris Rodin Image Source 

Musee Rodin – Dedicated to the works of Auguste Rodin, this museum and surrounding gardens was used primarily as Rodin’s workshop during his life.  The house itself is manageable and includes lesser known works of his as well as from Camille Claudel, another french sculptor who was Rodin’s model and lover.  What is special about this museum is the serene gardens with Rodin’s sculptures scattered throughout, including the famous The Thinker, The Kiss, The Gates of Hell (inspired by Dante’s Inferno)and The Burghers of Calais.

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Palais Garnier – Known as the Opera Garnier or the Opera de Paris, this was the premier Opera house during 19th century Paris and was famous for its opulence and grandeur.  Being a huge fan of Phantom of the Opera, I had to visit the famous opera house that was the inspiration for the novel and later the musical.  I’d highly recommend taking the guided tour of this opera house to gain a better appreciation of the architecture.  The guides are wonderful in their descriptions and do a great job letting the visitors imagine what it was like to be a member of the elite going to watch an opera and walking up the grand staircase.  The Opera house is absolutely beautiful and a must see for anyone who appreciates great architecture and storytelling.

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Musee de l’Orangerie – This intimate museum permanently houses Monet’s famous Water Lilies murals.  Located in 2 rooms are 4 giant panels of the Water Lillies canvas, each panel depicting a different time of day and season.  The rest of the museum has a good collection of other impressionist works.  I particularly liked this museum because of the well curated impressionist paintings and the size of it was very manageable.  The museum is also located at one corner of the Tuileries Gardens, which is a lovely place to stroll afterwards on a nice day.

Paris2 Arc de Triomphe – While the Arc is one of the most well known landmarks in Paris and we certainly saw it each of the previous times we were in Paris, we never actually climbed to the top.  The climb to the top is slightly strenuous but well worth it for the views.  You get a wonderful view of the layout of the city with the avenues radiating out from the arch.  You can even see the new arch from up there, the Grande Arche de la Defense, which is the 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe.

Paris deportation Image Source

Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation – This site won’t take much of your time but is worth a visit.  It’s located right across the street from the backside of the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris and is free so please stop by if you are already in the area.  It’s a memorial dedicated to the 200,000 French citizens that were sent to Nazi camps and murdered during World War II.  Each of the 200,000 lights in the above picture represents a victim.

Paris4 Pont des Arts “Paris Locks Bridge” – While not an attraction per se, this pedestrian bridge is still worth a visit for the beautiful sunsets.  Come half an hour before sunset with a blanket and some wine and snacks and enjoy the sunset amidst Parisians and tourists.  And if you happen to be there with your loved one, consider purchasing a padlock, affixing it to the bridge, and throwing the key into the river as a symbol of your everlasting love!


It seems like we didn’t see a whole lot for being in Paris for 4 days but we did do a lot of walking around neighborhoods and of course we also spent lots of time dining as well.  We particularly enjoyed walking in the St. Germain de Pres (6th arrondissement) and Le Marais (3rd and 4th arrondissement) neighborhoods for the lively cafes and shops.  We also spent some downtime resting at various neighborhood parks, which was a wonderful way to people watch and catch a glimpse of daily Parisian life.  Also, I’d highly recommend visiting the famous sights in the evening as well to see them all lit up.  It’s a great way to 1) digest after a heavy dinner 2) take beautiful night pictures, and 3) enjoy the sights without all the crowds.

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Lastly, for a great unobstructed full view of the Eiffel Tower, day or night, head to Place du Trocadero.

I first heard of Loire Valley a year and a half ago from a classmate who had studied abroad and visited.  As soon as he said it was a beautiful region full of chateaus, I was sold.  Aside from just seeing the chateaus, another thing I had really wanted to try at least once in my life was a multi-day bike tour.  So a few internet searches later, I found myself booking a 2 day self guided bike tour through Loire Valley with Detours de Loire.  While I really wanted to book the 4 day tour since it would allow us to bike to the major chateaus, I’m really glad that the hubs insisted on the shorter tour.  My butt totally did not want to get back on that bike the second day so I can imagine how painful it would have been on the 3rd and 4th day!

As a compromise, I ended up booking a full day Loire Valley Castle minibus tour to make sure we got to visit all the major chateaus that I’ve read so much about.  It was the best decision ever since it was a small group of just 8 people, we got to spend approximately 1-1.5 hours on our own at each chateau, and our driver was extremely nice and informative.  We then went on our 2 day bike tour and got to visit the smaller and in my opinion, more charming chateaus completely on our own time and with the added benefit of very little crowds (partly due to the scattered showers).

For those of you contemplating visiting Loire Valley, here’s our itinerary to help you plan out your visit.

Day 1 – Arrive in Tours by train from Paris.  Tours was a great base for exploring Loire Valley.  It’s one of the larger cities in Loire Valley so there’s plenty of restaurants, unique shops, and charming architecture to keep you occupied for a day or two.  **Tip: stay in a hotel close to the train station** We stayed at Hotel De L’Europe which was right across from the train station, 1 block from the tourist office where all the tours depart from, and 2 blocks from the Detours de Loire bike shop.  It’s small and bare bones but economical and most importantly convenient.

Day 2 – Full day castle sightseeing.  Visited Chateau de Chenonceau, Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Cheverny, and had a choice of either Chateau d’Amboise or the Clos Luce gardens, with lunch in Amboise.

Day 3 – Start of bike tour in Tours.  Visited Chateau de Villandry and then biked to Azay-le-Rideau for overnight stay.  The hotel that Detours de Loire booked us in was a 2* hotel, although seemed more like a boutique hotel, and it was absolutely charming!  Azay-le-Rideau is a very small village but oozes countryside charm.  I highly recommend staying at Hotel de Biencourt and having dinner at Cote Cour which was just a few storefronts away from the hotel.  The restaurant had a daily menu based on seasonal ingredients and the staff was extremely friendly and attentive.

Day 4 – Visit Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau.  Bike to Chateau d’Usse and end bike tour in Chinon.  **Tip: Make sure to spend a few hours in Chinon, a beautifully preserved medieval village**

Okay, so now to the good stuff!  Loire Valley is chock full of chateaus and it can be difficult to narrow down so I’ll post pictures of each chateau and my general thoughts on each one.

Chateau de Chenonceau, aka ‘the ladies chateau’ due to the women who’ve influenced the architecture and surrounding gardens.  It has an interesting history of first being bequeathed by King Henri II to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers and then forcibly taken away from her by his widow Catherine de Medici.  As such there are two gardens on the grounds, named for each of the ladies, beautifully maintained and offers great views of the enchanting castle.  This castle is one of the most famous in Loire Valley and is certainly one of the prettiest.  The interior is also well maintained and offers a glimpse of 16th century life.  I particularly enjoyed viewing the kitchen.

Clos Luce is most famous for being the residence where Leonardo da Vinci stayed for the last few years of his life.  Not so much a chateau as it is a mansion, the main draw is really the garden full of da Vinci’s inventions.  The basement showcases miniature models  of da Vinci’s various mechanical machines, which are then reproduced full scale in the gardens.  The hubs and I really enjoyed seeing how each machine worked and some of them were even interactive.  It was also full of families as the kids really loved running around to all of the structures.  It really brought out the inner nerd and inner kid in all of us!

 Chateau de Chambord is probably the most recognized chateau in Loire Valley and certainly the grandest of them all.  The size of the chateau was just absolutely immense.  We had about an hour to tour it and I don’t even think we went to every room.  Not that we really wanted to since the inside was quite bare.  Apparently the chateau was used mainly as a hunting lodge when the King would travel through in the summer.  As such, the interiors were decorated minimally since the King’s party would travel with all the furnishings.  Nonetheless, the exterior really is quite magnificent and impressive so no trip to Loire Valley would be complete without visiting this chateau.

 Chateau de Cheverny is a stately home owned and still inhabited by a Marquis and his family.  Although much smaller than the other chateaus, this elegant home is warmer, meticulously decorated, and just feels like the home of a wealthy family.  Since the family still lives there, the entire staff, from the grounds keeper to the tour guides, have been interviewed by the Marquis.  Another interesting and fun fact, the creator of “The Adventures of Tintin” used this chateau as a model for the chateau in the series.  One of the outhouses even has a gallery of Tintin artwork.  The family also breeds hounds used for hunting so the grounds has a kennel of over 100 hounds!

Sadly here is where I lost all my pictures so the following pictures have been taken from the internet.  Sources below pictures.

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Chateau and gardens of Villandry is most known for the gardens.  The gardens really are vast and magnificent.  There’s multiple sections of meticulously groomed flower and vegetable gardens, a water garden, a sun garden, and even a children’s maze.  You can spend a good hour just walking and admiring the beautiful gardens and the view from the chateau overlooking the garden is just breathtaking.

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Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau was also unexpected for me.  I did not have this on my “must-see” list so I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed visiting this fairytale-like castle.  It’s one of the smaller chateaus but it’s one of the more enchanting ones being situated on the water amidst a dreamy wooded area.

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Chateau d’Usse is known as the inspiration and model for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.  Unfortunately out of all the chateaus, I liked this the least.  Maybe because it was the last castle we saw and by then we were just castled-out but while the exterior was pretty enough, it was just not impressive compared to the others.  The interior however was the most disappointing.  It was rather cheesy as they used mannequins to depict scenes of daily life and they even depicted scenes from Sleeping Beauty.

While there are many more chateaus in the region, I felt that the full day tour plus the bike tour really gave us a good taste of Loire Valley.  We managed to cover all the major chateaus as well as visit some lesser known ones.  The bike tour also gave us the opportunity to stop by little villages along the Loire River.  While the bike trail was mostly flat, we rode approximately 40 miles per day so you do have to be in fairly good shape in order to enjoy yourself.  Over the 4 days, we also had the opportunity to visit Tours, Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, and Chinon, all of which are charming in their own way and warrant a brief visit.

Lastly, while I don’t regret booking the bike tour through Detours de Loire (they provided quality bikes, helmets, guide maps and recommendations of sites and restaurants, hotel, and luggage transfers), it is possible to bike on your own for much less since the bike path through Loire Valley is well marked (La Loire a Velo).  The only thing to worry about would be luggage but that can be easily remedied if you backpack lightly.

Up next, Paris!

Paris, Je t’aime

No phrase sums up our trip more than this one.  Seriously, the hubs and I felt as though we left our hearts in Paris.  We had the most amazing vacation, one that was full of delicious food, romantic walks, and beautiful sights.  It’s been about a month and half since we’ve been back and we’re already hatching a plan to go again (Paris in the winter anyone?)!

There’s so much I want to tell you guys so I’ve decided to do 4 separate posts: Loire Valley, Paris sights, Paris FOOD!, and general tips and advice.  Also, the one sad part of our trip, besides the day we left of course, is that I only have 1/3 of the pictures I took.  Unfortunately our memory card became corrupted towards the end of our trip so most of my posts will have a combination of my own photos and images I find on the web.

a bientot!

The hubs and I celebrated our 3-day President’s Day weekend with a getaway trip to Mendocino.  I’ve been wanting to check out this northern coastal town for a while now and I’m so glad we went.  Mendocino is like stepping back in time, the pace is a little slower, the people are friendlier, and the landscape is amazingly raw and beautiful.

First off, Mendocino is 3.5 hours north of San Francisco.  On the way up though, we made a slight detour to Tomales Bay for oysters, which I highly recommend to anyone heading up.  They were oh so delicious and so worth it despite having to eat outside in the freezing cold because of our dog.  I’ll blog about the oysters and surrounding Point Reyes area in another post though 🙂

We stayed in Fort Bragg, a bigger city just 10 miles north of Mendocino.  It’s not as quaint as Mendocino but offers great coastal trails, cheaper lodging options, and a less touristy feel.  Although I would’ve loved to stay at one of the B&B’s, we opted for a more economical option since we were also bringing along our goldie.  At $60 per night and a $10 pet fee, Super 8 Motel was just what needed, simple and clean accommodations at a good price.

Just 5 minutes from the Super 8 is North Harbor, where there are numerous seafood restaurants:

And across from the Super 8 Motel, there’s a trail right by the Cliff House where you can walk you dog and take in the fresh ocean air.

We went to Cafe Beaujolais for an early dinner since we didn’t make reservations.  Cafe Beaujolais is an intimate French restaurant that focuses on local, seasonal ingredients.  Everything about our meal was amazing.  For appetizers we had the soup of the day, which was a creamy tomato bisque and the local Dungeness crab cakes.  Entrees were the Niman Ranch steak and the Kurobuta pork chop.  And for dessert we shared the flourless Callebaut chocolate lava cake, which was a mistake since I wanted it all to myself!  The restaurant is a must for anyone visiting Mendocino and I highly recommend you make reservations, unless you are willing to eat dinner at 5:30pm like we did.

We started our second day with brunch at Eggheads and coffee from Headland’s Coffeehouse.  Eggheads is your typical no frills neighborhood breakfast joint.  They’re known for their kitschy Wizard of Oz decor and their large variety of omelets.  The hubs had the house special Dungeness crab omelette and I had the garlic special omelette.  I’m pleased to say Eggheads was quite generous with both the crab and the garlic! The food is not going to blow you out of the water but it is a good hearty breakfast.  There is often a wait for the restaurant but they give you a call on your cell phone so you can wander around town while you wait, which we did.  We grabbed coffee at Headlands, which offers a dozen different coffee flavors (pic below) and walked around downtown Fort Bragg which looked like it had been frozen in time.  There are tons of unique stores to keep you occupied for at least an hour and also a good number of art galleries.  We particularly enjoyed the photo gallery just down the street from Eggheads.

After brunch, we picked up Hansel from the hotel and headed to Glass Beach.  The beach is known for the abundance of sea glass from the dumping of garbage many many years ago (back in the early 1900’s).  Overtime the beach was cleaned up and the ocean water eventually wore down the glass from discarded bottles into smooth colorful glass pieces.  Nowadays tourists go to the beach and pick up the glass pieces as souvenirs even though you’re not supposed to.  We didn’t go down to the beach but stayed on the coastal trail walking north.  The trail follows the curves of the cliffs and eventually turns into MacKerricher State Park.

MacKerricher State Park eventually leads to a dog friendly beach.  Hansel definitely enjoyed his time here!  The beach was so pristine and there was only a handful of other people around, I can imagine that it would be so nice on a warm summer day.

After we sufficiently tired Hansel out, we brought him back to the hotel and headed into Mendocino to walk around town.  We grabbed a snack at Frankie’s, which serves pizza and locally made Cowlick’s ice-cream.  They have interesting ice-cream flavors like mushroom, ginger, and egg nog.  And if you eat in, you can amuse yourself with their “questions people ask”!  With questions like “is the mint chip minty?” and “what kind of bread does the ice cream sandwich come with?” it makes you wonder if people really did ask those questions!

Mendocino is definitely a charming little town full of little boutiques and art galleries.  Stop by one of their many fudge shops for a snack.  And for a real hidden gem, stop by the Garden Bakery for their pastries, in particular the apple turnover, which was so yummy and not too sweet.  It’s tucked away in a little alley with a small garden seating area.

We ended our night and our stay with dinner and beer tasting at the North Coast Brewing Co.  The food is nothing to rave about and if you must order food, stick to the fish and chips.  They’re known for their craft beers and their tasting was worth it, $15 for 12 different 4 oz beers.  It was certainly a good end to a relaxing trip!

We took it easy in Mendocino but one can easily fill an entire weekend with activities there.  The Botanical garden is highly recommended and dog friendly.  There’s numerous hiking trails, whale watching trips, and wineries in nearby Anderson Valley too.  The best part about it for me was that it was so dog friendly there.  Most of the hotels and B&B’s allow pets and with the abundance of trails, we were able to keep our dog happy as well.

Here are the details of all the places we visited, which are all recommended:

Cafe Beaujolais – 961 Ukiah St, Mendocino

Frankies – 44951 Ukiah St, Mendocino

Garden Bakery – 10450 Lansing St, Mendocino

Eggheads – 326 North Main St, Fort Bragg

Headlands Coffeehouse – 120 East Laurel St, Fort Bragg

North Coast Brewing Co – 455 North Main St, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach – 320 East Oak St, Fort Bragg

MacKerricher State Park – 24100 MacKerricher Park Rd, Fort Bragg