Bonjour Mon Amour
Two weeks after Mr. B and I met, I left for France for a month. Since then, we always had conversations that the next time I go back, we are going together. He promised to kiss me under the Eiffel Tower. Fast forward three and a half years, we jet set to Paris!
Paris may sound a little cliché to many, but I think it's absolutely worth the visit.....over and over and over. There is more to Paris than the famous Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, and Arc de Triomphe. There are the beautiful gardens, world renowned Champagne houses, the fresh markets, the food, the shopping, the architecture, and the people. When I say Paris I would like to extend this to Île-de-France, also known as the "Parisian region". This includes the beautiful Versailles and the Champagne country. A visit just in the main city, doesn't give justice to all the other amazing things they have. It saddens me when people plan only 2-3 day visits to Paris. It's like going to a wonderful estate and only looking at the façade and at best taking a peak at the foyer. You would miss the intricate details, unique rooms, pristine gardens, and everything else inside.
At our last trip to Paris, it was in April and the beginning of spring. Flowers were starting to bloom. Grasses were dewy from the morning fog. The air was fresh and crisp. Oh, do we love Paris in the spring time! Très belle! Très magnifique! It's like living inside a grandiose painting.
We stayed at the Rue Cler area to experience more of a Parisian feel. This is only a couple blocks from the foot of the Eiffel tower. After sun down the tower sparkles every hour. You would think it's romantic enough to be there, experience it at night and you will feel goose bumps from the love and romance in the air! After a full day of exploring, we would make sure to stop by and watch the Eiffel tower sparkle. Kiss the Parisian night a bonne nuit! Take note that in the spring, sundown doesn't happen until after 9 o'clock. You have to wait a little longer to see it sparkle, so it's best to watch it after a nice dinner or if you're feeling extra romantic, pack a delicious picnic and a good bottle of Champagne.
Other than the known museums and touristy areas in Paris, we made sure to spend some time at the Château de Versailles. It is only an hour train ride away from the city. I have been to this magical place in the fall but visiting it again in the spring is completely a different experience. Let me tell you, it never gets old! We have visited so many palaces, les châteaux, and palazzos but nothing can compare to the beauty of this place. It's massive and perfect! This is the epitome of the word grandiose. I could go on and on about this place, but there is so much history on this that a short blog would not even justify the beauty this place holds.
The Champagne region is an easy day trip from Paris. Mr. B and I adore wine. We were like a couple of kids in the candy store when we visited the Champagne region. Though it is not my first time, I still get excited over which vintage bottles I get to bring home this time. Wine always tastes better when you are sipping it in the vineyard where it has grown. Bottles produced here can legally carry the region's name. During our visit, we saw the chalk cellars and caves - massive rooms deep in the ground that are cool, damp, dark, and dusty. We visited the houses of Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger this time. Both of which produce the world's most renowned bubbles. They have the most colorful histories and have the best vintages to sample.
Taittinger is one of the oldest Champagne houses in the world. The estate sits on top of cavernous roman stone quarries, which were once used as the crypt of a 13th century abbey. Today, it is filled with thousands of aging Champagne bottles.
We brought home with us the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs.
Taittinger produces only in exceptional vintage years and this wine is composed entirely of Chardonnay grapes grown in the top vineyards of the prestigious Côte des Blancs. Only the first press juice is used. Prior to disgorgement, the Blanc de Blancs is aged for 10 years on the lees in the 13th century chalk cellars. This is a powerful, refined, expressive and complex Champagne, with notes of citrus fruits, lime blossom and caramelized grapefruit. The long, rich ending reveals sweet licorice aromas.
The chalk caves of Veuve Clicquot were first excavated during Roman times. Madam Clicquot took over the family Champagne business at a very young age after her husband passed away. She developed the bottles signature gold label and exported her wines to royal courts all over the world. The house of Madam Clicquot invented "riddling", a process still done today that remove sediment and improve wine clarity. During our visit, the house just confirmed that they received a few bottles of the 170 year old Veuve Clicquot Champagne that were recovered by divers in 2010 from a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic sea. Each bottle found is worth tens of thousands due to rarity, age, and it's story. The divers were kind enough to give the house a few bottles. 1 bottle was tested in the lab, 1 bottle is in a fully secured cage for everyone to see, and another bottle is buried somewhere in the caves that no one knows but a handful of people.
We brought back with us the La Grande Dame and Vintage Rosé 2004.
Veuve Clicquot's Prestige Cuvée, La Grande Dame, is a very great wine which pays homage to a very "grande dame de la Champagne," Madame Clicquot. The incomparable finesse of this cuvée results from a blend of eight of the House's traditional Grands Crus. This wine has a fine, complex fragrance, blending sweetness and nobility. It is smooth and silky in the mouth, with considerable substance and structure. A remarkable balance, with a fresh, harmonious finish, and a unique aromatic aftertaste.
The Vintage Rosé 2004 offers a deep pink color with the highlights of copper and delicate, light effervescence. The nose, extremely elegant, at first reveals flavors of ripe red fruits that burst on the tongue, before gradually giving way to violets, lilacs and light "pastry" notes. A discreet touch of ground coffee can also be distinguished. The attack is forthright and energetic. This generous wine offers an astonishingly long and subtle finish. It is extremely complex and is distinguished by great freshness. On the palate, strong notes of fruit recall the refined nose. The finish is surprising in is persistence.
Even if you are not wine lovers, we still suggest that you at least check it out. They share with you the history of the houses and educate you about Champagne. And the scenery isn't too bad either. It's an exhilarating experience you don't want to miss!
My month long trip in 2011 gave me a chance to explore more regions in addition to where Mr. B and I went together. We think that driving around France is the best way to explore. Taking the train may be more convenient, but you see more areas when you are at your own pace and your own time. France is definitely an easy place to repeatedly visit. There will always be something new to check out and even go back to.
People always ask us how we travel, if we go on group tours or pre-set itineraries type of traveling. We plan our trips on our own. We do a lot of reading and researching prior to visiting a place. And I am emphasizing, A LOT. It's a lot of work, but definitely worth it. Every time we travel, we always keep in mind that we will come back to the place we are currently visiting. And for the most part, we have. Thus, we don't feel the pressure to see, sniff, eat, and digest everything at that one visit. We know that we have the rest of our lives together to see the world hopefully not just once but at least twice. We keep tabs of our favorite cities and plan to re-visit in a different season. And the cities that we might not be fond of, we will check out at a much later time.
More pictures are available in the Galería.