Parisian Food

I have to make an admission that those of you know me need not read. I am a picky eater. Really picky. Strain my plain  spaghetti sauce because even the little pieces of onion are considered “too chunky” picky. I don’t eat any kind of seafood because fish grosses me out. (same for Garbanzo beans) I don’t eat any kind of peanuts but I will eat smooth peanut butter. I cut every visible bit of fat off my skinless, boneless chicken breasts, and cut out anything else that looks suspicious.

So it will be no surprise that I wasn’t bowled over by the food in France. When I first arrived, I ate Croque Monsieur and omelets for days, despite the fact that I am not a huge fan of ham. I will say that from what I tasted, ham in France is much better than ham in the United States. But after a few days I got tired of it. Bacon is different there too, so I didn’t eat any bacon at all for the 45 days I was there. Now I know how Jesus felt in the desert. (Kidding!)

I never tried escargot, frog legs, nicoise salad, duck, a l’orange or otherwise, fois gras, quenelle, or ratatouille. I did eat plenty of pain au chocolat. In fact, I am a connoisseur of pain au chocolat. I also ate plenty of baguettes, and I totally understand how one can walk 4 or more blocks out of their way to buy a stick of bread at a certain bakery, despite walking by hundreds of other sticks of bread on the way. Towards the end of my trip, I was eating cheese, baguettes, chocolate, and grapes almost exclusively. Washed down with cheap wine. I tried buying relatively expensive (to me) wines but the difference in taste wasn’t worth the expense. I’m pretty easy to please regarding wine. If it’s white, there a 99.5% chance I’ll like it. I tried to eat a variety of cheeses, but kept going back to the same ones, Cantal, Emmental, Parmesan, and Mozzarella.

Here are some pictures of things I ate, as well as many of the foods on display, some of which I ate too, especially the pastries.

First up, street food, which runs right into pastries because WordPress is not cooperating with me:

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Waffle with Nutella. Ok, but too bland after a while.

Waffle with Nutella. Ok, but too bland after a while.

I did not eat this but it seems to be a staple at every crepe stand

I did not eat this but it seems to be a staple at every crepe stand

Some Vanilla thing I ordered to cut the richness of the hot chocolate at Angelina. Not worth the money.

Some Vanilla thing I ordered to cut the richness of the hot chocolate at Angelina. Not worth the money.
Tiny shop on rue Dauphine

Tiny shop on rue Dauphine

Cheesecake from Bread and Roses, rue Madame. Best I had

Cheesecake from Bread and Roses, rue Madame. Best I had

Pierre Herme

Pierre Herme

Trois chocolat at 2 rue de la Verrerie

Trois chocolat at 2 rue de la Verrerie

Restaurant meals:

Cheeseburger from Le Pause Beaubourg, Marais

Cheeseburger from Le Pause Beaubourg, Marais

One of my favorites, but it's Italian so I guess it doesn't count

One of my favorites, but it’s Italian so I guess it doesn’t count

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur

Ham egg and cheese omelette

Ham egg and cheese omelette

The classic croissant

The classic croissant

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Pear Nutella Crumble from Cafe Pre aux Clercs

Pear Nutella Crumble from Cafe Pre aux Clercs

Creme brulee from Cafe Pre aux Clercs

Creme brulee from Cafe Pre aux Clercs

My usual picnic fare:

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I have to mention the wine. It accompanied almost every lunch and dinner, and many times was the only thing I ordered.

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No wonder I came home 14 pounds heavier than when I left. I’m surprised the airline didn’t charge me extra baggage fees!

Pere-Lachaise and Parc des Buttes Chaumont

With the recent heat wave in Paris, I looked for ways to escape, and places with shady trees seemed like a great idea. My first stop was the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th arrondissement. I followed the Rick Steves walk for this and I recommend that anyone planning this visit do the same as Rick Steves very kindly arranges his walking tour so that most of it is downhill. Upon entering, I witnessed a current funeral in progress. I was a little surprised. It had not occurred to me that this cemetery was still in use, I had assumed it was historical. I quickly put my camera away and walked out of sight of the red-nosed, tissue holding, black-clad mourners and headed for the next stop. There were memorials to countries who had lost men while fighting with France in various wars. Of these, I was struck by the memorial to the Russians of World War II. Notice the many fresh flowers at his feet.

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Next up was Oscar Wilde. Apparently power washed and surrounded by plexiglass, which had only a few lipstick prints on it.

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Just after Oscar Wilde’s gravesite I was accosted by a strange long-haired gentleman, who insisted in some language that wasn’t English or French that I follow him with my camera. He had two other tourists hostage and gestured wildly towards this grave, telling us in broken various languages that this man was the REAL inventor of the Zeppelin. Sadly, I had followed this strange man because I thought he was talking about Led Zeppelin. I was thinking, “I didn’t know John Bonham was buried here”. He isn’t, but this man is.

Joseph Spiess, real inventor of the airship?

Joseph Spiess, real inventor of the airship?

I googled him (Joseph Spiess) and apparently strange cemetery man was correct. Moving on…

I saw Gertrude Stein’s spartan grave, as well as Alice B Toklas, whose name is engraved on the back of Stein’s, although I later learned that she is actually buried next to her, not with her.

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Then came the memorials to the Jews who died in concentration camps. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Just around the bend from this area is Paris’s Alamo. Apparently, members of the Paris Commune barricaded themselves inside this wall, but were eventually overtaken and shot in this spot in March 1871.

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I stopped briefly after this to have a small picnic on a bench. Then ventured further on, taking pictures of a few non-famous graves that I found interesting for one reason or another.

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Does anyone else find this disturbing?

Does anyone else find this disturbing?

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Now, I don’t want to alienate anyone here, but I have never really been a fan of The Doors, except for one song, and I just don’t get the fascination with Jim Morrison, so I walked past his grave without pausing. I walked on to Frederic Chopin and met a woman holding the same Rick Steves Paris book I was holding. We laughed and then talked a bit. She was newly arrived and asked if I had done any other tours, and if he was accurate in his recommendations. I told her that I didn’t like Montmartre, but she had been there the day before and liked it even less than I did, as she met a group of women, one of whom had been pick-pocketed and lost quite a bit of money. The only other thing I told her was that the famous #69 bus was just way too hot to ride this time of year. We said our goodbyes and I moved on.

My next stop was Abelard and Heloise, but I have recently learned in school that their relationship was possibly toxic; that Peter Abelard may have been abusive, so I didn’t feel any emotion at the tragic love story. In fact I ignored Abelard, and just looked at Heloise. I wasn’t terribly interested in the remaining graves on the walking tour, so I chose to exit here. It was hot hot hot, and even though I was walking downhill in mostly shade, it had started to feel like work. I got on the Metro and went to Parc des Buttes Chaumont since it was in the next arrondissement. This park was recommended to me by a former co-worker and now Facebook friend (Hi Roger!).

It’s a lovely park, from what I saw of it. Looking at the map, I think I only scratched the surface, although the heat, combined with the hills made it seem as though I had hiked the Himalayas. I took the Metro to the Buttes Chaumont stop and not surprisingly, found the entrance to the park very close to the Metro. I immediately climbed a mountain (okay so it was a small hill) and found nothing at the top but a few benches, that famous Parisian gravel, and lovers hidden in the grasses.

Seriously, there are 6 or 8 people in this picture

Seriously, there are 6 or 8 people in this picture

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I felt a bit like a voyeur, so I trekked back down the mountain and turned left onto a path, which led me past bridges, tons of people laying on the grass, kids playing in a stream…..

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Then another bigger bridge (designed by Gustave Eiffel) leading to the Temple Sibylle.

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I think if I had known the history of this park, I might not have been so eager to see it. According to Wikipedia,  it’s near a place where for around 400 years they used to display the dead bodies of hanged criminals, and then it was used as a garbage dump, a place to cut up dead horses, and to dump sewage. Nice, huh? I’m especially happy that I didn’t know this when I got mis-directed by some badly placed orange barrier fence and ended up basically climbing a dirt hill (along with another poor stranger who made the same mistake I did) to make it back onto a path and had to take off my shoes and shake all the dirt out.

Anyway, here are some views from the temple, including a view of Sacre Coeur.

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And  views of the temple from the lakeside

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A dog chasing fish. I could have jumped right in there with him, it was that hot.

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This is a beautiful park, with drink and snack stands as well as more than one cafe. In fact, on my way out, there was quite a party going on at one of the cafes called Rosa Bonheur. I didn’t get a picture because I was busy dying from the heat and my mountain climbing adventure.

But this park is definitely worth the Metro ride, especially if you pack a picnic, and just buy cold drinks and glaces when you get there.

A Walk Through the 5th After Dark

Another post full of pictures. Maybe it’s the heat, but I don’t have much energy to write. I took a walk tonight to enjoy the breeze, started walking parts of the city I had never been in but ended up in familiar territory. The heat of the day combined with the wonderful breeze brought a lot of people out to party on the banks of the Seine tonight.

The Senate

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Pantheon (undergoing improvements)

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This bar….

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Has an excellent location. The Pantheon to the right

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Notre Dame to the left

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Side entrance to St Etienne du Mont. *Correction. This church is not Saint Genvieve, as originally posted. It is located on Montagne Saint Genvieve, so I thought it was the name of the church. This is also, I found out quite by subconscious prompting, the same steps that were used in the movie Midnight In Paris. Just after I took this picture, I wondered where those steps were and decided to Google when I got home. Apparently my subconscious mind already knew what my conscious mind needed Google to confirm!*

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Front of Saint Etienne du Mont

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Walking towards the Seine

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and Notre Dame

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Dijon, France Day Trip

I’ve been behind because I had a friend come to stay, and even though she left yesterday, I’m at a loss for words. Maybe we talked too much this past weekend!

In Dijon, for €3.50 you can get a self guided Owl Trail tour. There is a book that describes every point of interest, as well as little brass owls on the street to keep you on the trail. I asked if the book was for kids, but was told no. It looks kind of dumbed down though.

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Most of these pictures are of the architecture of the streets of Dijon.

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Their Notre Dame

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Their lucky Owl that should be rubbed with your left hand for good luck

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My view from Marco Polo where I ate lunch

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And my dessert

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By the way, don’t expect anyone except the Tourist Office employees to speak English here.

Super duper creepy mannequins in the Museum of Burgundian Life. I swear I kept thinking they were moving.

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More street scenes

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I had to cancel my upcoming trip to Amboise as the train station is still damaged, but I will still visit Mont St Michel and possibly Bruges.

My Temporary Micro Apartment in Paris

I started this blog as a way to simplify keeping the friends and family from different parts of my life  up to date on my adventures this summer.(because as annoying as it is, not every single person I know has Facebook) My first post, a test post, was about how I had stumbled upon some minimalism blogs, and while I have always been more of a thrower than a saver, I was inspired to get rid of as much as I could before I left. A wise friend told me that there are no accidents or coincidences, and there was a reason I found minimalism just before my trip. One big reason staring me in the face was that I rented a 247 sq foot furnished apartment for my 2 month trip. Maybe I was downsizing so that I’d be comfortable in such a small space.

I still struggle with the bathroom, mostly the size of the sink, but life got much easier since I jury-rigged the shower head to stay up so that I don’t have to take one handed showers.

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(My apologies to the lady on House Hunters International that I thought was a freak because she kept going on and on about wanting a mounted shower head. I get it now.) I have even learned that I have to step UP into the bathroom, and I don’t think I’ve fallen back out of the bathroom in over a week now. Other than stepping up and down and having to take one-handed showers for a while I have had no trouble adjusting to the small space.

In fact, there is a pretty sizable chunk of my apartment that has been almost completely unused. Two chunks really if you count the kitchen. Without a measuring tape handy, I’d estimate it’s about 36 sq feet, maybe more.

There is a sitting area that had a table and 2 chairs, plus another 2 small straight-backed chairs. I kept tripping over the table legs, which because they were an X design, came to the edge of the (pretty big) table. I folded up the table and set it against the wall, using the desk area that holds the TV as a table instead. I tried shoving one of the chairs under the TV/desk thingy and into the corner, but with the 2 other chairs that I already put there all 3 of them wouldn’t fit. The chairs are uncomfortable as the sides are too high and it’s hard to type on the computer with your elbows pinned to your ribs, so I have been spending most of my apartment time on the bed. Actually after writing this, the weather got significantly warmer so I removed the comforter from the bed, folded it up and put it on one of the chairs and I use the other as a footrest.

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I’m tellin ya, I am so freaking classy I scare myself. When I sit on the chair it squishes down quite a bit. It’s a nice temporary solution. If this were my apartment I would of course get comfortable chairs and make that area more livable.

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This is where most of my time is spent. The other side of the bed is perfect storage for my books, my tote bag for day trips, and hey, my umbrella does not belong there. Come to think of it, that space between the bed and the wall is wasted too, but I hate beds against walls. Too hard to make.

Some minimalists claim that all you need is food and a roof over your head to be happy. I realize that I want more than that. I need accessible outdoor space. Even sitting in front of my window here, there is nothing to see. There is a public park closeby but there’s a HUGE difference between popping out onto your patio or preparing food, drink, books, reading glasses, a blanket, and all of the many things needed for a comfortable and prolonged time outdoors. I do miss my patio balcony at home and the mountain views. I also am happier with air conditioning. And while we’re at it, heat in the winter is nice too.

Living alone has it’s little quirks. Never having to close a door means I JUST noticed that my bedroom has a door. I was looking for places to hang my laundry and saw a doorknob, and realized it was attached to a door. How have I been here for a month and not noticed? Speaking of laundry….it makes me happy to have a washer and dryer in my home. I feel kind of weird carrying tote bags of laundry past all the people sitting at the cafes. And it really makes me unhappy to spend 7€ to do one load of laundry! That’s 2 cups of coffee, or (during happy hours) 2 glasses of wine, or a coupe of champagne. Or a Pierre Herme dessert. Or 2 less “touristy” brand desserts. In other words, there are much better things to spend my money on.

I looked into those tiny houses, and that is just way too much juggling and moving stuff around for me. It reminds me of my closet situation. Because I have limited hangers here, I have my 2 sweaters and 1 jacket on the same hanger. To be blunt it’s a real pain in the ass every time I have to grab a jacket or sweater. The tiny house people seem to have to slide walls and move pillows and stuff every time they want to do something, and for me, minimalism is also about simplicity, and having a house so tiny that you need to climb up a ladder to go to bed, or have a toilet with you in the shower is just making life more difficult than it has to be.

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photo by brightdesignlab. Really, why do this to yourself?

So to be happy I need about 200 sq ft, outdoor space, heating and cooling, and a washer and dryer. And the basic food groups; wine, chocolate, and cheese. Not too over-the-top.

Next time I’ll talk about clothes, and all those wimps that think it’s a big deal to limit themselves to 33 pieces of clothing. But first I have to go count mine. 🙂

I Still Don’t Like Montmartre

First, let me say this was not that title of the blog I had planned today. It was supposed to be titled When Bloggers Collide and was going to be about meeting Liberated Traveler. However, she had to cut short her adventures due to a family emergency so please send some good thoughts her way.

I did part of another Rick Steves walk today, starting at #16 in his Montmartre walk, the Moulin de la Galette. As for what happened to numbers 1-15? I saw Sacre Coeur and St Pierre-de-Montmartre (#’s 2 & 3) already on my first attempt at this walk, which was abandoned after my experiences with the “artists” and other colorful characters found at Sacre Coeur near sunset. Many of the other list items are things to look at, and for me not worth all the walking involved. I took the Metro to Lamarck-Caulincourt, made popular by the movie Amelie, but I didn’t enter the famous entrance, I exited an apparently random and unknown exit. I had read about the stairs at the Abbesses Metro stop and been warned to take the elevator, but I didn’t realize this stop had enough stairs to qualify for a warning too. Never fear, there were signs.

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I ignored the elevator as it was full and the sign above said it was about to Depart, when a brave woman barreled past me and leaped through the closing doors and forced them to re-open. As I was already staring at the doors I could see the aggrieved faces of the occupants so I didn’t want to further distress them by again forcing the doors open. (But I did take note for future reference. I had the impression that Parisian doors, like Parisian shopkeepers, have no patience for tourists, and would continue to slam shut on me. Nice to know this may not happen) I walked up some stairs, then walked down a long hallway, and just in case I had forgotten the previous warning about the stairs, the step count was adjusted and new signs warned me that I had more steps in my future.

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I walked blinking like a newborn onto the street and tried to orient myself. I think it only took 10 minutes and half a mile of walking, so I’m improving! Rue Lepic is very windy (that’s wine-dy, not windy as in blowing wind) so if you happen to be taking this walk and you see this guy

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You’ve gone too far. Back up, make a right, and at the next intersection you will find that you have snuck up on the Moulin de la Galette from behind. So if you’re facing the Moulin de la Galette, and want to see that guy, you have to turn right, go up the hill, and he will be on your right.

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Ok, so I saw it. Not much else to say. Continuing, down the wine-dy road, here’s a view down a side street,

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and I saw Henri de Toulose-Lautrec’s house from a distance. Apologies to fans of his but I did not feel it worth the 100 yard detour to look at his exterior windows. I continued on and spotted Vincent Van Gogh’s apartment.

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Apparently in the 2 years he lived here, on the top floor with a view of the city (I’ll have to take Rick Steves word for it because I couldn’t get up to the apartment or the roof and verify), his painting changed. From the Van Gogh Museum website: “Van Gogh’s Paris work is an effort to assimilate the influences around him. As he begins to formulate his own artistic idiom, he progresses through the styles and subjects of the Impressionists. His palette becomes brighter, his brushwork more broken. Like the Impressionists, Van Gogh takes his subjects from the city’s cafés and boulevards, and the open countryside along the Seine River.”

Down the street some more is another Amelie movie locale, Cafe des Deux Moulins. (I really wish I had re-watched this movie before coming here because I barely remember it)

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And finally, at the Place Blanche, Moulin Rouge.

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I guess it looks better at night. Not that I’ll ever step foot in Montmartre at night without a bodyguard. I peeked in the Museum of Erotic Art, which I was surprised to find is less intimidating than Modern Art. Did you know that Degas drew erotic art? I didn’t.

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There’s nothing really bad about Montmartre during the day. I just don’t see the appeal. I’ll stick to my favorite neighborhood, the 6th. I only explored maybe a block of Pigalle as my plans required me to go back the other way past Moulin Rouge again and take a long walk to rue de Rivoli where an Aldo store is located. I am searching for ballet flats to replace the ones I bought at Aldo years ago, but I can’t seem to find any. I could have taken the Metro but I wanted to walk, and I also found myself in front of Printemps, so I went in and poked around, sprayed perfume on myself, looked at lots of pretty stuff….yeah, I’m done. I’ll save shopping for next week when my friend is here.

I was on my way to Notre Dame to do the tower tour, but it’s a really hot day and I am already feeling a little in need of a shower, so I didn’t want to make it worse or offend any fellow tourists on the hot walk up all those stairs to the tower, so another day!

I also saw today that French women wear crocs!

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Afternoon in Epernay

Other than having trouble finding a place to eat, I kind of wish I had gone straight to Epernay. The town itself, what I saw of it, is beautiful, especially the park around city hall. But first, fountain at the traffic circle.

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2013-07-05 18.04.57I walked up “Champagne Avenue” and bypassed Moet & Chandon. I have never particularly liked their champagne, and I was turned off by the way they kind of monopolize the tourist trade here. Plus I thought their tour was was overpriced at 17Euro for one measly taste. There isn’t much or huge signage directing tourists into individual champagne houses, which preserves the beauty of the street, but also led me to walk into a bureau and to fiddle with a locked door before (3rd time’s the charm) finding the Collard Picard Boutique.

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At first I was disappointed because a fellow traveler had visited this town the day before and I loved her pictures of the caves. Collard Picard is about as bright and white as it gets, (check out the lamp, even that has a clear base) but I loved their champagnes. 15€ (Yay! Just figured out how to make the Euro symbol!) for the Prestige tasting, which is three full good-sized glasses of the better champagnes of the house. I honestly didn’t know it was 3 full glasses until they started pouring. I am used to Temecula, California wineries where a small portion is poured into a full sized glass. As I tasted, the woman told me all about the grapes, the area, the “terroir”, where each grape was grown, and what percentage of those grapes were in each of my glasses. My first one turned out to be my favorite, which was a surprise because in wine I am a Chardonnay fan and I liked the blend over the all-Chardonnay.

I thought I would have trouble walking after 3 glasses in quick succession, but I didn’t fall down when I got up (although the door did get away from me when I opened it to leave, lol). I thought I’d better put some food between tastings, so I walked back to the beginning of the street and the tourist information center. The girl there very nicely drew 3 places on my map, and also suggested 2 cave tours that are less popular than Moet & Chandon.

I ended up taking a nice walk all around the area surrounding the traffic circle/tourist area, as all the restaurants were closed until 5PM. The one place open that was on my list to visit was C Comme Champagne, but a quick look at their menu showed only cold dishes of accompaniments, so I moved on.

I did find a nice outdoor seating area at the least favorite of the recommended restaurants from the travel center, but they had what I wanted on their menu, a chocolate banana crepe. They were out of bananas and as it was not only the last restaurant on my list, but also the only open restaurant I could find, I ordered just chocolate and whipped cream. It turned out to be delicious, although I will sit inside next time as I found an ant in my shirt and 2 on my feet! :::shudder:: I detached the little critters, got the check, and got out of there, feeling a bit itchier.

I hoofed it up to the other end of “Champagne Avenue”, made a left and went to the Champagne de Castellane. Remember this tower for later.

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I walked in and asked for the English tour and was told it was starting in 1 minute. Finally my lack of scheduling brought me some luck. The tour was 10€. We were not allowed to take photos of the production. (I believe this is the only house to show the production on a tour) But whenever we were in an area where photos were permitted, our guide let us know.

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The caves are kept naturally at a cool 11 degrees Celcius here, they vary from 11-13 degrees in all the cellars in the area. Humidity is at 85%. The walls were literally dripping with water.

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Our tour guide was very good, and patient. One of the families was Finnish, and our guide waited while the mother summarized everything quickly for her daughter who did not speak English yet.

The underground is much bigger than I imagined. It reminded me of the utilidoors at Walt Disney World. While they lacked the color coded walls of Disney :), they did have actual street names dedicated to different people associated with the champagne house and according to our tour guide, it is quite an honor to have one of these “streets” named after you.The light bulbs are covered with broken champagne bottles.

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All of these caves were dug out by hand, amazing. During the war, many of the caves were bricked up. After the war, they were taken down, but one was overlooked until many years later. A very nice surprise! This isn’t it, but this is what the storage caves look like.

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They had a room full of champagnes from past years, and every once in a while, one of these bottles is taken and finishes production for the owners to taste and compare. We were told to find our year, and mine was not there, which the guide said indicated that all the champagne had been drunk that year. 🙂 There was also a creepy representation of Dom Perignon trying to store his bottles. There were lots of these creepy people, depicting different parts of the process,but I didn’t take pictures as they would give me nightmares.

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After the tour, we of course were taken to the tasting room and given a small glass to taste.

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This was a nice tour, very informative, and it included a trip through the pretty large museum upstairs at our leisure as well as a climb to the top of the tower if we so wished. I did wish, and got some lovely pictures, (the first four are zoomed in) as well as a really very unladylike “glow” of perspiration. Ok, I was dripping sweat, yuck!

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I tied up my hair, which had pretty much been devastated by the humidity in the cellars anyway, and went back down Champagne Avenue once again, towards the train station. I stopped in another tasting room, Paul Germain I believe, and had a glass in their outdoor garden.

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I didn’t like this one as much, and I wasn’t cooling off sufficiently so I went back to the frigid air-conditioning of Collard Picard and cooled off with wet paper towels in their tiny but lovely toilette. Classy bitch strikes again. I ordered a glass of my favorite prestige from my tasting this morning and it was waiting for me when I returned to the counter. I relaxed and enjoyed without listening to the speech, as enjoyable as it had been earlier, as it was nearing closing time and the women were busy counting out their registers. At 3 minutes to 6 I said au revoir to my new favorite champagne and hoofed it down to the train station. I took a few more pictures on the way out.

I wasn’t nearly classy enough to go to Pol Roger.

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These lamp posts look quite threatening.

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DSCN2172Although this little town is beautiful, I was told that there is really not much to do at night. I couldn’t live here then I guess, but it sure makes for a nice day trip out of Paris. Just a 1 hour 20 minute train ride. And for the record, I mentioned this on Facebook and forgot to mention it here. Even though I had 6 full glasses of champagne within 3 1/2 hours, I wasn’t even tipsy. A first for me, as champagne has historically given me trouble.

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