and statues
Au Revoir Paris 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
(Written by Danh Tran)

No matter how far you travel, there's always a yearning for comfort food that brings you back home. Thus, a craving for pho was on today's morning menu. A quick trip on the Metro to Place d'Italie Station led us to Chinatown and from there, we found Pho 14 on Avenue de Choisy. It's always interesting tasting your culture's food from different regions of the world. In this case, it wasn't as divine as Dallas, unfortunately, but the place was definitely a hotspot, with a line that snaked outside the door and almost around the corner. Regardless, on a slightly cold morning, a warm bowl of pho always hits the spot.

Vietnamese breakfast at Pho 14
Linda, Lee and Martine in front of a flower shop in Chinatown
From the Metro, we transfered to the RER train system, and headed to a bit of history at the Palais Du Versailles. With a quick trip through some suburbs of Paris, we arrived at Versailles and all its glory. From what you know, seen, or heard about the Palais Du Versailles, nothing measures to the experience in person.

The amount of labor and wealth that was invested in this palace can only make one question the price of royalty and the suffering of the people of France. From it all, the tour was an experience and one that must be experienced by all. In addition, the garden of Versailles, in itself, is another day tour and one that we definitely missed out on.
Danh and Martine in front of the Versailles Palace
Lee, Martine and Linda in front of the jaw-dropping Versailles Complex
The Versailles is stunning outside...
and inside. The place is full of enormous and beautiful paintings,
 intricate decorations,
Danh and Martine at the entrance to the Grand Hall
Gyros for lunch
Linda, Lee and Martine outside near the beautiful Versailles Garden
Lee and Bo posing at the Versailles Garden before heading back to Paris
Feeling like a countryside peasant from the amount of walking at Versailles, we were in search of some guiltless lunch. Gyros, here we come! Traveling back to the Left Bank, we had to fill our empty bellies with some inexpensive and delicious gyros.
Wandering in the Left Bank
Capping another wonderful day in Paris
Wonderful cupcakes at Berko
If you love sweets, you're in heaven in Paris. Berko Bakery near Georges Pompidou Center
Of course, no lunch is complete without dessert in Paris, so we were off again in search of a place that was known for its cupcakes, Berko! For those of you who are familiar with Sprinkles Cupcakes, this was our foundation of comparison. Berko cupcakes were a perfect bite size, though not as moist as Sprinkles. However, the cream was on par with Sprinkles and for Paris, it did its job. Exhausted and blistered, we decided to head back to the hotel for a quick break before dinner. Walking on cobblestones in boots definitely took its toll on the women.
After some much needed rest, we decided to wander around our hotel area for dinner. We were lucky enough to come across a restaurant whose exterior was not indicative of its interior. From the outside, Le Cafe Du Commerce looked like a small bar from around the way. Upon entering, this became a higher end, three story restaurant that served escargots and duck liver foie gras--both exquisite, by the way! Being our last dinner together as a group, the night ended in fabulous company, toast and conversation.
Georges Pompidou Center where hidden things are exposed
Walking toward a neighborhood restaurant while Eiffel Tower flashing its display
Dinner of oysters, foie gras,…
… and steaks at La Café Du Commerce Restaurant
Heading toward Champs-Elysees

Sunday, October 4, 2009

(Written by Danh Tran)

With a 9 AM call time, our final day in Paris began with a few flaky croissants and pastries from A La Petit Patisserie and beverages from Cafe Le Piquet. Finishing and ending le petit dejeuner with a great conversation, we headed towards the Louis Vuitton flagship store for some final shopping.

Ready for last day in Paris
Quick breakfast at Café Le Picquet
Lee, Linda and Martine In front of the LV Store
Street scene on Champs-Elysees
Now, if you are in search of some great finds in Paris for the price of free (yes, free!) and are a fan of modern art, I advise you to head to the 7th floor of the LV store and experience the panoramic view of Paris and the amazing art de modern (La Confusion des Sens- Confusion of the Senses).
Lee on LV Store 7th floor balcony
Linda with her new purchase
Danh and Martine
Let's begin by saying that the elevator ride up was visual display that can't be seen.... literally! the lights were off during the whole ascension, as some sort of sensory cleansing. Upon arrival to the top, the art exhibit included several epic pieces like the "ecriture nocturne," which was an entire room whose walls were covered in braille and lit by several florescent lights. This piece ultimately played towards the conflict of the visible and invisible. In addition, there was also a "smoke room," which literally was a room full of smoke from a smoke machine with surround sound of various noises and natural light entering the top of the room.
Linda becomes part of the "Ecriture Nocturne" Exhibit
From here, we ventured toward the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which consisted of a very narrow and spiraling stairway up and down. Though cold and windy, the view was spectacular!
Arc de Triomphe built by Napoleon
Under the Arc
Up the winding Arc's narrow stairway
and we are rewarded with a glorious view of Paris
Lee and Bo
Artsy fence surrounds the monument's perimeter
All this walking created some very big appetites, so we traveled to St. Sulspice for the epic macarons of Pierre Herme. This is the epicenter of the ultimate macaron and pastries. A definite must of Paris! You cannot go wrong with any flavor, though the chocolate and caramel stood out as favorites. Very moist and rich!

A quick bite at a nearby corner cafe with a grand view of the Sulspice Church's fountain and we were off to the top of the Eiffel Tower, while Bo and Lee headed to visit Lee's childhood friend.
We got our fabulous macarons at Pierre Herme
The falling leaves....
Omelette at a café near St Sulpice
Martine and Linda are on 2nd landing of Eiffel Tower
This is surely a must for anyone who's looking for a breathtaking view of Paris. I suggest going in the evening to experience the lights of Paris, as well as the light show of the Tower itself!

The dinner of the night was back to Impala for their steak, scallops, and cod steak. Yum!

To milk our final Paris night, we all met at the local corner cafe near our hotel for some coffee, beer, and priceless conversation. Je t'aime Paris et vous nous manquerez, Paris! Aux revoir!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vacation is over. Time to go back to, as Martine put it, reality. We had such a wonderful time and I believe everyone's expectation has been completely met.

I can't end this blog without thanking our traveling companions. Linda's positive and easy-going attitude really livened up the group and made every meal seemed too short; Danh's knowledge of Paris and France's culture amazed me even though this was his first trip to France; and Martine's exquisite taste for good things brought us to various corners of Paris and allowed us to try things we haven't before. I have a feeling that we will be traveling with them again. But for now...

... Au Revoir from Paris. Lee and Bo Cung

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