J’aime Paris

Hello! We took a few weeks off from traveling (for fun anyway), but this past weekend, we were back at it with… Paris! My parents were visiting and we thought it would be a nice surprise to book a long weekend in Paris for the four of us. Obviously, they were thrilled. It was Jaro’s first visit too! We decided to be budget-friendly and rented a car & apartment. This is the way to go, hands down (or up, waving wildly about, perhaps?). Far more reasonable than a train or plane or hotel. And much more flexible too.  We used the housing rental site HouseTrip and had a great experience. Highly recommend!

So moving along to the actual trip… On Thursday afternoon we headed out of Amsterdam and were in Paris in about 4 hours. So fast! So close! Why haven’t we gone before?! It’s my favorite city!! But I digress. We got to our cozy Parisian apartment (isn’t that fun to say? Parisian apartment?) and scurried out to the first (and arguably most recognized) site in the city (and arguably the world) – The Eiffel Tower.

Jaro meets Eiffel (it was love at first sight)

Traveler Tip: I don’t care what they say, THIS is the first thing to go see when you are in Paris. So you feel like you are really there. After walking around the area for a bit, we headed back to the apartment for a very proper dinner of French cheese and wine and passed out because we had a busy day ahead.

While Jaro worked on Friday (hey, his life isn’t all a vacation), my parents and I hustled over to Versailles, the chateau to trump all chateau’s. After all, it was built in the 17th century to show off the power of the French monarchy back in its hay-day. I hadn’t gone out there when I visited France in college, so it was great to share this experience with my parents. In a word, it was… oh wait, I’m speechless. I can’t think of just one word. The sheer size and insanely glam decor of the place blew me away. Not to mention the massive gardens (not in bloom – must go back in summer) and Marie Antoinette’s separate Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon & Hamlet off in the distance (also worth checking out if you have the time and the energy).

Dad & I in the Hall of Mirrors

Mom & I at the Grand Trianon

We were there for about 6 hours. Absolutely worth the long, expensive quick, super cheap train ride out there. Seriously. Traveler Tip: Go.

We returned to the apartment to meet with the Jaro and then headed to another favorite area of mine – Montmartre. It’s filled with picturesque cafes, bistros and is home to this bad boy:

The majestic Sacre Coeur

Traveler Tip: You can wander inside Sacre Coeur fo free. We then strolled around the neighborhood, stopping for wine and to watch portraits being done in Painter’s Square. It was lovely. We wrapped up the day with a casual meal at a Lebanese place that was surprisingly delicious.

The next day was “Tour Paris’ main attractions” day. Since we had such a short time there, we thought it was best to do our own walking tour of all the major highlights in the City of Light. We started off at the Arc de Triomphe, meandered down the Champs-Élysées, along the flea markets on the Seine’s banks, to the Place de la Concorde and then something coincidental magical happened. We stumbled upon Paris Fashion Week mayhem inside the Tuileries Garden. The hoards of paparazzi was really something. But the fashion. The fashion. For a faithful Vogue reader like me, it was pure heaven. I couldn’t pull myself away. I think I instantly stood up straighter and considered my casual wardrobe choices since moving to Amsterdam, where fashion is extremely laid-back and muted. And then we saw a smurf Katy Perry, laughed, and went to lunch. Le sigh.

After a quick bistro bite, we walked over to the Louvre, considered the magnitude of going inside and passed. Next time. We kept moseying down the Seine and eventually reached this:

Love (locks) and Notre Dame

Traveler Tip: It’s free to go inside! Worth checking out; the architecture is stunning. Later that night, we dined in a cozy neighborhood bistro serving traditional Lyonnaise dishes. Perfection.

On Sunday morning, prolonging the inevitable, we had a leisurely breakfast of bakery items from a little shop down the street:

Back on the road by eleven, we stopped in Gent, Belgium for lunch and then natually were greeted with rain once in the Netherlands. All in all, it was the perfect little weekend escape. Can’t wait to go back (now that I’ve realized how dangerously close/easy it is…).



Creepy food hall of fame

Have you ever seen this before? I didn’t think so. I had never seen it in the U.S., but it’s all over the place here. It’s called Romanesco, a strange monster-like head in an even creepier pea-green color. If broccoli and cauliflower were to… you know… breed, I think this would be the love child. It makes me nervous just looking at it. Nevertheless, we bought one at the market and cooked it. I’m always up for trying a new food, despite (sometimes ugly) appearances. While I don’t have any pictures of the final product, we just roasted it with its parents and some carrot for about an hour. And actually, it was quite tasty. I’m even starting to think it’s pretty (must be the accountant in me, it has the Fibonacci sequence in it, nerd alert!). Call me smitten.

Spaghetti & (mozzarella-stuffed) meatballs


One of our favorite meals

You want a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs? Look no further. We use the (in)famous Scott Conant’s recipe for his mouth-watering Scarpetta spaghetti. You can check out a pretty good adaptation of the recipe here. It all comes down to the ingredients. As in, they better be the freshest of fresh. We took it a step further and even used fresh, handmade spaghetti noodles found at our Noordermarkt, but that’s your call. Just don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

As far as those huge balls of meat, we like (who is surprised) Giada’s recipe found within here. They are each stuffed with a perfect oozing cube of mozzarella. Do yourself a favor and make sure that is fresh too. You won’t regret it!

Vietnamese chicken soup


Perfect rainy weather meal

Amsterdam is known for its constant rain, so a good way to combat the winter blues? A hearty soup! I sort of made this up as I went along, but basically boiled vegetables (hearty ones like carrots, celery & onions) in chicken broth and in a separate pot, boiled pieces of chicken in water. Once both were done, I threw the chicken in the soup and used its water to boil vermillion (you can sub this for rice noodles) and added that to the rest once it was cooked. Go ahead and salt & pepper to your own taste (for me, a lot). For garnish on top, I added cilantro, mint, bamboo sprouts and a squirt of lime juice. The lime juice is essential! It really gives the dish its Asian flair.