Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Le Honeymoon, Day 2

On day two of our honeymoon, I think I woke up around noon. In other words, jet lag, my friend, jet lag. I _never_ sleep that late, and it was a nice start to our second day in Paris.

For our second day, David and I did a few things, including Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, and Ladurée.

First, Versailles. As I'm sure you all already know, Versailles has been the country home / seat of government for the French since the late seventeenth century. By that I mean that different kings used it for different things; some liked it just for hunting since it used to be a small country village with lots of open space. Other kings, however, actually used Versailles as the seat of the French government, so that many important meetings, treaties, and just official biz went down there.

First, however, a shot of the train platform when David and I got lost (because of his direction) on our way to Versailles.

Anyhow, unlike in the olden days, Versailles is no longer a rural village, but instead a suburb of Paris, just about twenty minutes outside the big city. I would say it's just a quick train ride, but for me and David (thanks David) that wasn't quite true, now was it?

Once we got to Versailles, however, we were immediately impressed. Versailles is actually it's own little city now, with the main attraction being the palace itself. Here is a picture as we walked up to the palace, to give you an idea of its size and grandeur:

A close-up on the gold gates:

And, once inside the gates, a look at the center of the courtyard area:

Versailles is obviously a major tourist attraction, and it is hard to forget this fact. That is, it's difficult to really imagine Marie Antoinette making up her toilette here since everywhere you look you are reminded that things have been reconstructed from the originals and a lot of work has been done on the palace since those times. But, it's still pretty magnificent,

Oh, just your average hallway in Versailles.

Ceiling artwork.

Entrance to the Hall of Mirrors, a main gallery of the palace built by King Louis XIV.

and, as you can see, a must-see on any Paris tour.

Once inside we headed straight for the rooms of the king and queen. I don't have any pictures of the kings suite, but below is a picture of the queen's suite, which included about three different rooms.

This was actually Marie Antoinette's room, and that little door to the left of that godawful flowery bed was the door that she used to attempt escape when Parisian rioters broke into the palace and ultimately forced the royal family to move to Paris where they could be watched more carefully.

Speaking of flowers, the gardens at Versailles are something to behold. But...not in November.

You get the idea though, right? While walking around the grounds I could actually imagine kings, queens, and other royal peeps taking their daily walks. I suspect that many a courtier was seduced on these secluded pathways...

After touring Versailles for a few hours, David and I were ready to get back to the city for some sights, and for some sweets. First stop? The Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomph.

The Champs-Élysées is, of course, the most famous of all Parisian boulevards, and it connects to the Arc de Triomphe on one side. I am not normally interested in architecture, but the history behind Paris's famously wide boulevards is actually quite interesting.

This is a crap picture of the Champs-Élysées, but as you can see, the boulevard is quite wide--wider than some highways! It really makes for a grand parade on the last day of the Tour de France, btw. Originally there weren't boulevards like this in Paris, and instead Paris was a medieval city of small streets and narrow roads. There are still lots of narrow streets in Paris, but in the nineteenth century, Georges-Eugène Hausmann undertook a radical revamping of the Paris cityscape, making streets wider and making building façades more uniform. The result is that there are now grand boulevards, large city squares in key locations, and many more buildings with façades like this:

The end result, for me, is a much more beautiful city to walk through. The building façades are truly beautiful, and such a change from the mish-mosh of architectural styles that we see in most US cities. It's like taking a step back in time, now that I think about it. The wide boulevards really highlight the beautifully-designed buildings and just generally add to the charm of the city landscape.

Ahem. Now that I'm done with my pretentious architecture talk, let's move on to the real reason that we were on the Champs-Élysées, which is gustatory.

My friend and reader Julia requested that we visit Ladurée, which happens to have a store on the Champs-Élysées.

So, we obliged, since Ladurée is a confectionary made famous by their macarons. Not macaroons, people, macarons, which are tiny and brightly colored cookies (sort of) made with meringue and filled with soft cremes, ganache, fruit spreads, and other deliciousness. I was skeptical about these macarons, most because they seemed to cute to be really decadent. But, people, I was wrong. These things are good. We waited for nearly twenty minutes to get them, and we paid an exorbitant amount for them (damn Euro!), but it was a necessary indulgence for an American foodie in Paris.

First of all, the store itself is a long counter full of treats, all of which invite you to indulge and give yourself a treat.

Poor lighting, but the only photo I have. Apparently Ladurée doesn't appreciate people photographing their "art."

Second of all, they drive home the indulgence factor by packaging your macarons in boxes and wrapping that could rival a birthday gift.

And finally, and most importantly, they are delicious!!!

They are soft, and pillowy, but with some chew. They are sweet, but flavored with nuance. My least favorite was the rose flavored macaron. WTF? I wouldn't eat a daffodil, why would I eat a daffodil-flavored cookie?!! Same goes for roses, lavender, and f-ing pansies.

But the caramel macaron. Oh, that little one, second from the right? That was pure heaven. Since consuming it I've done a little research and I'm pretty sure that was a salted butter caramel macaron. Yah, salted butter caramel, people. Enough said. But each of them was unique and so flavorful: the vanilla macaron tasted like pure vanilla; the raspberry creme tasted like it had real chunks of raspberry still in the creme. It was all good, people, and so good.

Up on tomorrow's post? The Louvre!

*Have you ever had a macaron? What did you think?


  1. Yay! I'm happy you liked the macarons. I became obsessed with making them a few years ago, and after I messed up the first 5 times or so, I finally figured them out. I don't usually make so many different fillings, though.

    1. You should really quit working on your dissertation and the job market and work on perfecting your macaron craft:-)

  2. From this post I have decided I need some gold leaf in my house.

    I just had macarons for the first time a few months back and was immediately a fan. I noticed when I bought them from the bakery though that they came from a wrapped package so I wonder how much better fresh would taste. Probably a silly question. I'd like to try making my own someday.

    I'm re-reading these post trying to remember what I wanted to comment the first time I read them . . . except it's 7 a.m. and I am starving waiting for the boy to wake up so we can have breakfast together. The yummy food pictures are not helping. Not helping at all.

    Did you feel touristy while you were there? I like visiting an seeing places, but I hate feeling "touristy."

    1. You should make some macarons and do a tutorial on your blog!!! (And then send me some.) I'd like to know how they get those little cookies so bright!
      In some cases I did feel touristy, and I agree that it's not the best. I have mixed feelings about places like Versailles because you know that the place has such history, and yet it is kind of covered over with all the other tourists, the business of making it a tourist spot, and the upkeep and changes that are made to these old sites. I'm compelled to go, but when I get there it lacks something and sometimes feels dissatisfying.