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Farewell to Russia

13 Feb

Our last day in Saint Petersburg was divided between a quick tour through St. Isaac’s cathedral (just across the street from our hotel), a bit of shopping, and a bit of errand running.  We don’t normally have errands to run on vacation…but then again, we don’t normally get fined for trying to enter a country illegally – therefore forcing us into “fine paying” errand running.

First stop – St. Isaac’s.  I am so glad that we did not leave Saint Petersburg without seeing the inside of this gorgeous cathedral.  Like everything else we saw, it is gilded and decorated in an over-the-top manner.  One thing is sure, the Russians certainly believe that Jesus prefers gold leaf to wood; however, according to Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade…this is not the case.

Inside the stunning St. Isaac's Cathedral

Brett on top of the colonnade at St. Isaac's. It was freezing...but it was worth it! Beautiful views of the city.

View of St. Isaac's Cathedral from our hotel room

St. Isaac's Interior

Second stop – random Russian bank.  With the help of our hotel concierge, we located a nearby branch of the bank that would accept payment for our Immigration fine.  So, we took in the sloppily, handwritten form and hoped for the best.  Fortunately, without so much as one word of English spoken, we were able to complete the task, get a copy of a very official receipt, and head on our merry way.  Based on our debacle at the airport, we allowed 2 hours for this, but surprisingly – we were in and out in about 30 minutes.  Kind of makes you think that it happens a lot, right?

Third stop – a bit of shopping.  We couldn’t leave without buying a few trinkets!  We picked up some traditional gifts for friends and family at home (you will get them when we come home in May!) Here are my favorite items that we picked up for ourselves…

"The Woman in the Red Hat" by local Saint Petersburg artist Aminov Khalim. Oil on Canvas. The oranges and reds go perfectly in our apartment. Plus - I love a lady in a hat!

Gold, black enamel, and diamond egg pendant created by local Saint Petersburg jeweler Alexey Pomelnieov. A sweet reminder of our trip and a symbol of new life and love. A big thank you to my wonderful husband!

A thank you kiss for my "little egg" !

Enjoying one last glass of champagne at The Kandinsky Bar at the Hotel Astoria before heading to the airport.

Farewell Saint Petersburg!
We had such a lovely time, and we hope to come back to visit again soon.  Perhaps, our next visit will be in the springtime…(That said, I recommend that “first timers” experience the “real” Russia and go in the winter.)
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Royal Russia – Day 4

9 Feb

I woke up on our 4th day in Saint Petersburg with ballerinas on the brain.  The night we would go to the Mariinsky theater to see Swan Lake, starring one of Russia’s Prima ballerinas, Diana Vishneva, had arrived.  The Mariinsky, now in its 229th season opened in October 1860.  Music by Tchaikovsky (and other famous Russian composers) was heard here for the very first time.  I was so excited I couldn’t stand it!  But it was still hours before curtain call…we had plenty of time to explore more of Saint Petersburg!  So – to the Yusupov Palace we went.

Mirrors and crystal balustrades were used in the ballroom to make it appear even larger.  Because even though they were not part of the Royal Family, as one of the wealthiest families in Russia before the revolution, the Yusupovs wanted nothing more than to impress their peers…and the Romanovs for that matter.  The Yusupov palace certainly leaves quite the impression. (Recognize the kissing couple in the mirror??)

While the ballrooms and music rooms of the palace were rather magnificent, it was the private theater that amazed us most.  Can you imagine having such a theater room in your home for you and your closest friends? Much less one with its own “tsar box”.   A bit pompous to say the least!

The Yusupov palace was one of our favorite sites in Saint Petersburg.  In addition to all of its splendor, its history is remarkable.  Knowing that Rasputin was murdered within its walls just before the start of the revolution gives it an extra eerie and mystical feeling.  I highly recommend it!

We worked up quite an appetite touring the palace – so we headed to a nearby restaurant for a late lunch before  returning to the hotel to get ready for our night at the theater.

I honestly can’t say that Brett and I are ballet connoisseurs, but I don’t think that one has to see a million ballets to know that Diana Vishneva is the real deal – a real show stealer.  Her movements are nymph like – graceful and absolutely beautiful.  It is hard to take your eyes off of her.  That paired with the perfect backdrop of the Mariinsky Theater created a truly magical moment.

A quick photo opportunity during one of the two intermissions.

They flutter around so much that it was very difficult for me to snap any clear images.  That said, I actually like the way the pictures turned out.  I think they show just how quickly the dancers pirouette about.

Following the ballet, we went to The Russian Empire Restaurant.   While the style of the place is a bit clichéd, we couldn’t resist having a meal inside the Stroganov Palace.  Where better to have Beef Stroganoff, am I right?

There is a  famous “tale” told of Catherine the Great visiting the palace for a dinner in which the Count promised her the most delicious olive in the world.  As it turned out, her olive was basically served to her in the predecessor to the Turducken.  As the story goes…she was first presented a full cow, within it a full pig, within it a full lamb, within it a goose, and so on and so on until a tiny squab held inside the most perfect and delicious olive within it.  The restaurant tries to keep this legend alive by serving what I considered to be an extremely tasty olive.  Stuffed with sturgeon and served in a succulent sauce, it offers a very unique and enjoyable flavor. So although, The Russian Empire is not avant guard in terms of modern cuisine or style, I would still recommend it.  In a city like Saint Petersburg…it is actually quite fun to be a tourist – to allow yourself to live and dine as Russian Royalty.

Royal Russia – Day 3

6 Feb

The majority of our 3rd day in Saint Petersburg was spent strolling through the room after room of the majestic Hermitage.   Of course we only saw a tiny fraction of the treasures that the Hermitage holds (it would take 365 days of touring for nine years to see every item in the collection) but what we did see was remarkable.  In actual fact, the building itself is outstanding even without its contents.

My wonderful husband intently studying one of the exhibits in the Hermitage.  I couldn’t stop myself from intently studying him!

Then…I suppose – he was studying me!

Snapping a photo of the above hallway – one of the more famous ones in the Winter Palace would have been nearly impossible in the summertime.  But again, we were rewarded for braving the cold and had much of the Hermitage to ourselves.  The only downside being that the Museum workers snapped at me for wearing high-heeled boots that made “too loud of a noise” when I walked.  Had others been around…I don’t think they could have singled me out!

Honestly, I don’t know the name or anything about the artist of this statue – but of all the things we saw that day, it was my absolute favorite.  Most likely because it reminded me of my two darling and very best friends – Mary Kay Bowden and Kimmy Willson.  Not that they look anything like the statue!  It just reminded me of our days as little girl ballerinas dancing together.

After hours of art and culture – we decided to treat ourselves to proper cocktails and appetizers at the Lobby Bar in the Grand Europe Hotel just off of the Nevsky Prospect.  Great company, great drinks, and great people watching.  The furs alone made my mouth water.  Sorry PETA.

We ended our night with a divine meal at Mix – the new Alain Ducasse restaurant in the W Hotel.  Once again we filled our bellies to the point of explosion!  Below are two images of our favorite dishes…

Our first courses were our favorites. LEFT: Brett's Chicory Ham and Black Truffle. RIGHT: My Soft Boiled Egg, Tender Lentils, and Toasted French Baguette.

Just as expected, day 3 in Saint Petersburg did not disappoint – but just like the 2 previous days, we were absolutely spent at the end of it.  There is so much history to learn, so much beauty to absorb, and so much food to eat that our brains and bellies needed to rest!

Up Next: Royal Russia – Day 4…Off to the Ballet!

Royal Russia – Day 2

5 Feb

Our second day in Saint Petersburg was completely dedicated to the Royals.  It started with a trip to Pushkin to visit the summer palaces and ended with a fine meal at Tsar.  Pushkin seems a bit like the Hamptons of Saint Pete…sans beach of course.  In addition to numerous Royal Palaces, modern-day Pushkin is full of summer houses belonging to Russia’s upper class.  Our first stop was Catherine’s Palace – nothing if not over-the-top.  Gilded…gilded…everywhere!

Although this palace was originally commissioned by Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great.  It was her daughter Elizabeth, who oversaw the completion of the palace in all its gleaming splendor.  Her specific request to architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli was to build –  “a palace with truly splendid ornaments, fit to be an abode for the ruler of a huge empire”.  And so he did…

In the Grand Ballroom of Catherine's Palace

It turned out that our decision to brave the freezing cold in order to visit Russia in the winter and fulfill our Dr. Zhivago fantasies had other perks…NO other tourists.  We ultimately had all of the Royal Palaces to ourselves.  I don’t think any of these pictures would have been possible in the summertime with wall to wall people.

The main staircase inside The Catherine Palace.  I think I tour guide did a nice job snapping this picture!

Before touring The Pavlovsk Palace, commissioned by Catherine II (i.e. Catherine the Great) for her son Paul, we decided to take a little sleigh ride in the beautiful and freshly fallen white snow!

To be honest…it was almost (okay it was) too cold for this frosty little ride.  But I knew that we could not come back from Russia and tell my Mama Jean (my 80-year-old grandmother who loves snow and all things Russian) that we did not take a “Troika” ride.

After Pavlovsk Palace, we toured The Alexander Palace, built by Catherine the Great for her favorite grandson, Alexander I.  Of course the Palace itself was quite grand, but it was the history of it that intrigued us most.  This palace eventually housed the last Tsar of Russia – Nicolas II, and it felt more like a home than any of the others.  My absolute favorite display case of all is pictured above – Romanov baby clothes.   They really put Baby Gap to shame.

At the end of a full day of trekking through palaces, we decided to treat ourselves to another meal of traditional Russian cuisine at Tsar.  More caviar…more vodka…and their delicious cherry dumplings!

Post dinner dancing at Tsar Restaurant

Stay tuned for Royal Russia – Day 3!

 

Royal Russia – Day 1

3 Feb

After the airport debacle in Moscow, we decided to live it up Russian style.   Like a Tsar and his Tsarina, we would rule the town (in our minds anyway!) for the remainder of our trip.  Let them eat beluga!

We touched down in Saint Petersburg – after a quick and painless 1 1/2 hour flight from Moscow around lunchtime.  By 1PM we had already checked into our room at the wonderful Hotel Astoria.  Choosing a hotel is always a little difficult when there are several of interest to you, but I feel confident that we chose right!  The Grand Europe Hotel is too dated now and the new W Hotel is just well…too American.  Don’t get me wrong, I love America – but I wanted something a bit more authentic.  That said, it didn’t stop us from eating dinner one night at Mix, the new Alain Ducasse restaurant inside the W.  Delicious!

By 2:30PM, we were in the car with our tour guide for an afternoon of sight seeing.  This is when our love affair with Russia officially began.  Here is our journey through pictures:

In front of the Church of Resurrection – also known as Church on the Spilled Blood as it was built on the site of the mortal wounding of Emperor Alexander II who was assassinated there on March 1, 1881.

Brett studying the gorgeous mosaics that cover almost every inch of the inside of the church.  It took over 24 years to complete the church’s interior decor.

Standing on one of the many bridges of Saint Petersburg with the LOML (love of my life) –  Church on the Spilled Blood in the background.

The Peter and Paul Fortress - Saint Petersburg, Russia

Whispering my secret wish into this creatures ear.  According to Russian superstitions…it will now come true!  We shall see….

View of the Hermitage from across the frozen river

About to enjoy an amazing meal at Palkin – one of the top Russian cuisine restaurants in Saint Petersburg.  They pretty much had to roll us out after our meal…

I love to watch my husband study a menu.  His intensity is endearing and amusing at the same time.  This  dedication always results in an amazing meal experience, and this meal was no exception.

From the Herring & crème fraîche cocktail starter, to the vodka & caviar tasting with warm buttered blinis, to the cevette (mushroom) soup, to the homemade strawberry sorbet palette cleanser, to the Beef Stroganoff....

To the grand finale...a whole Sturgeon - filleted table side. Also, the wine carafe (and the wine in it of course)was fantastic!

At the end of our 4-hour plus meal…we were spent.  To bed we went to get our beauty rest for another full day of Royal Russia – starting with Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, just outside of Saint Petersburg.

Stayed tuned for our full day of regal palaces!

 

From Russia with NO Love

2 Feb

Walking down the never-ending hallway of LEFT luggage....

I suppose it is not really fair to use the phrase “NO Love” when, in fact, we did feel a Dr. Zhivago and Lara kind of love during our time in Russia.  That said, it is very fair to say that immediately upon arrival, we felt NO love.

It all started when Aeroflot decided to cancel the redeye flight from Beijing.  This forced us to take the morning flight 12 hours earlier than intended and add an overnight in Moscow.  Honestly, we were thrilled.  Our original plan was to visit Saint Petersburg only. Now we had the opportunity to see their capital city and experience some serious Russian nightlife!  I immediately booked a hotel  – just feet from Red Square and began chatting with the concierge about bookings for the evening.  Thanks to our great friend, Michael Davitiashvili and his wonderful recommendations, we were set with a 9PM dinner at Pushkin on the 2nd floor in their romantic Library room, 11:30 after dinner drinks and dancing at Karlson, and a 2AM reservation for dessert and more dancing at the Soho Rooms.  It could have been the perfect evening…but as you may have guessed by now – we never made it.

Perhaps it was excitement that clouded our judgement or perhaps it was just plain ignorance, but neither Brett nor I thought about the implications that arriving to Russia 12 hours earlier might have on our Visas.  You see – getting into Russia is not a cake walk.  The visa application alone is quite comprehensive – requiring all sorts of personal history including details of education, employment, and family.  Somehow – even after completing this lengthy process, it still did not occur to us that our Visas would have such rigid arrival and departure dates.  After all, every other country we have visited that requires Visas (which of late has been almost all of them) offers a window of at least 30 days for arrival and departure.  We now know (after learning by way of quarantine) that Russia is an exception.

The truth is – we noticed the specificity of the dates on our Visas for the first time as we were filling out our immigration arrival cards at 30,000 feet just 30 minutes before landing in Moscow.  Initially is seemed like a cause for concern, but our flight attendants assured us that everything would be fine.  In retrospect, I believe that they were just trying to shelter us from our inevitable fate; and that they didn’t want to disrupt our last glass of champagne before being thrown to the immigration wolves. I may have done the same thing…I mean – who wants to be the bearer of bad news if you don’t have to be?

When we got to the immigration hall, I received a text message that our car service was waiting for us just outside of baggage claim.  We believed (thanks to the false positives of the Aeroflot Crew) that are trip was off to the perfect start.  Immigration was blowing people through the lines, and in no time at all, it was our turn.  Unfortunately, “our turn” turned out to last for almost 10 hours…

While our plane landed at 4:40PM – we were not allowed into the country until midnight.  After flying for 8 hours, the last thing you want to do is hang out in the airport for another 8…especially when you have already reached your destination!  We begged and pleaded to no avail.  Finally, a member of the security crew of the airport  came to our rescue – sort of.  He agreed to escort us to the First Class Lounge and free us from immigration purgatory where there wasn’t even so much as a water fountain.  Unfortunately for us though, the Olympian skilled speed walker was already out of sight when we discovered that our previous first class boarding passes did not currently qualify us to relax in the lounge.  So – from immigration purgatory, we had now entered duty-free purgatory.  Bad duty-free purgatory –  liquor and cigarette only duty-free.

What else could we do but laugh?  Perhaps I laughed after I shed a couple of silly girl tears…but I assure you that the laughing came fairly soon!  We decided to get something to eat, have a beer, and then try to find a place to get some rest before our freedom would ring at the stroke of midnight.

Not exactly Belluga...and not exactly the Blinis or toast points we were hoping for! But we did have pre-packed butter and plastic knives so that's something.

I am not sure why we thought airport caviar would be a good idea…but when in Russia, right?  It was definitely not the caviar tasting experience that I was expecting…but that would come later.  Looking back, I kind of love the way it turned out.  I mean – at least I didn’t fall into a fire or anything!

At 11:30, after several hours of terrible sleep piled up like two puppies on a park bench, we trekked back to the security office to wait for an officer to escort us back to the immigration hall.  At 11:50, a half-naked man poked his head out of the office door to say he would be with us in 5 minutes.  A man of his word, the three of us were on our way to immigration at 11:55PM.  We arrived at 11:57 and were told to wait for 3 minutes.  3 minutes became 10 – but at 12:07 we were released!  Not without being fined first though –  for breaking their immigration laws. 2000 Rubles each (about $75 USD).

I received yet another text message alert that a second car service had been sent and was waiting for us again just outside baggage claim.  (FYI – we had to pay for the first one as well – which is awesome!)  We thought we had reached the promise land…but we were wrong.  Apparently, it is just too easy for them to leave your bags in the terminal in which you arrive.  So they sent our bags to a far, far away Moscow airport land.  For those of you who have spent anytime in the Moscow International Airport, you can appreciate what this meant.  It meant a 10 minute drive plus an hour-long walk down what seemed to be the longest, most disturbing hallway (outside of a mental institution) that I have ever seen.  Eventually, we were reunited with our bags – but there was no shortage of paperwork filled out in order to claim them.  And why have a copy machine when you can just re-write the 3 page bag-reclaim application by hand 3 times?

It was after 2 AM before we reached our hotel.  According to our original plan, we would have been sitting down for a delicious dessert at The Soho Rooms…instead we opted to share a Ritz cheeseburger and hit the sack.  We drifted off to sleep with prayers for a brighter tomorrow.  It’s affirmative.  God does answer prayers!

Stayed tuned for the rest of our Russian tale….I promise it get’s better – and so do the pictures!

TRAVEL TIP:  When we return to Russia (and we will because despite the above story – it is absolutely lovely) we will most definitely allow for wiggle room in our agenda.  The fact that it is necessary for an American Tourist to be sponsored by a hotel (or other travel institution) makes this a bit difficult.  If we had it to do over, we would have initially booked our stay in the hotel for a longer period of time, obtained our Visas, and then altered the reservation for our actual intended stay.  There are probably even better ways to do this…just be sure to look into all the details before you take-off!

Royal Russia Up Next!

Paris in the Springtime Part Deux

8 Jul

Okay…so I realize that it is officially summer.   I also realize that we have officially been back from Paris for over a month – but between planning The Circus of Love in Columbus, Ohio and our Safari Wedding in South Africa (all the way from Beijing) I am a little bit behind on my blonde blogging.  That said, I would like to quickly sum up the rest of our wonderful trip to Paris.  Then…I will get back to stories of our life here in China!

Saint Germain L'Auxerrois Church

Isn’t it such a pity that Jennifer and Jean-Marc were married in such a boring cathedral in the center of Paris?  I really feel for them.  Just wait until you see the reception venue.  Complete white trash.  It is so clear that she is a fellow Kentuckian.  Oh wait…I think I might be mixing their wedding reception up with the “Circus of Love” (i.e. carnival freak show) that Brett and I are having next month.  That’s right, it’s all coming back to me now – Jennifer and Jean-Marc’s reception was held at Château d’Ermenonville – a breathtaking castle just outside of Paris.  Classic mix-up.

Admiring the Beautiful Bride's Beautiful Bouquet

Old KY Friends Reunite in Paris! FASHION: Gold One-Shoulder Herver Leger Bandage Dress with Leopard Print Louboutin Peep-Toes

It took less than an hour to get to the château from city center – which flew by as everyone in the last few rows of the bus came equipped with a bottle of champagne. Why is it that the misfits always sit in the back?

Jenny and JM timed everything perfectly.  We were able to check in to our room (which was inside one of the château’s turrets by the way – so cool!) make a quick costume change, and then head down to a cocktail hour in the courtyard area just as the bride and groom were finishing up their wedding photos.

Inside Saint Germain L'Auxerrois

Brett in front of Château d'Ermenonville

Cocktail Hour! FASHION: Late 70's Vintage Gold Lame Halter Dress

We spent the cocktail hour (although we should probably add an ‘s’) enjoying the perfect spring weather while catching up with old friends and chatting up new ones from every corner of the world!

A few quick pics before the dinner began.  The meal was a culinary treat!  Lucky for us…we got to enjoy the five-star cuisine from the Château more than once – since we overslept and missed the bus the next morning!  I still cannot believe that we were the only two guests who missed the bus after a wedding reception that lasted until 5AM!  They certainly do know how to keep a party going in Paris.  That said, I had the best steak tartare of my life the next day for lunch.  I would miss the bus all over again for that.

To Jennifer, Jean-Marc, and both of their families – Thank you so much for including us in your special celebration. We had the best time!  I also have to send a thank you to Alex Leeper for reminding me (and Brett) just how cool kids can be. Alex – you are one cool kid!

The beautiful views from our room!

Rosé at Roland Garros

The next day we were able to go to the French Open – and as luck would have it we got to see Federer  and Djokovic play.  Not each other, obviously, it was only the first round – but it was such fun.  I love how the French do sports.  What better way to take in a match than with foie gras, champagne, and macaroons?

Lunch at the French Open

Brett...are you positive that China's car market is larger than Paris's? Maybe we should move here and find out?

We spent our last night in Paris with Leigh (a childhood friend of mine from Murray) and her husband Damir.  They met us at our hotel bar – which was darling.  We stayed at Le Hotel Burgundy (www.leburgundy.com) for the last few nights – a boutique hotel in the 1st arr.  The rooms are fantastic and it smells like I imagine heaven will smell.

When the hotel bar closed – we all decided to head upstairs, raid the mini bar, and enjoy a night-cap on the balcony. Naturally, Leigh and I could not stop pinching ourselves.  Are we really in Paris together?  The same two little girls who used to play in the mud back in Kentucky?  The ones whose mother’s made them call when they crossed Chestnut Street to go from the Cheri Theater to Pizza Hut?   Mom!  Gay!  We survived!

Parisian Flea Market - Marché Vernaison

We did manage to sneak a little shopping in before we left the next day, but there is not enough time in one’s life to explore all of the treasures that Parisian shops and flea markets have to offer.  I do have one recommendation in particular though – Antiquitiés Bijoux in the Marché Vernaison is a treasure trove of vintage Chanel and YSL.  They carry only the most unusual and well-preserved pieces.  It is not to be missed.  (Allée 1, Stand 3, 93400 St.Ouen.  Tel: 06 03 47 76 11).

Au Revoir, Paris!  Until we meet again….

Paris in the Springtime….Part I

3 Jun

There is a reason that a song was written for this time of year in Paris…because springtime in Paris is absolute perfection!  And while one doesn’t need an excuse to visit the city in all of its blooming glory, what better reason to go than a Parisian Wedding of a fellow Kentuckian childhood friend?!

Like any trip to Paris – ours was filled with delicious cuisine, tasty wines, outdoor cafes, rich culture, high-end window shopping, and a highly contagious “c’est la vie” attitude.  I think I can best describe the trip through our photos…they speak much louder than my words!

First though, on a quick practical note – I would like to share with any Beijingers traveling to Paris that we flew on the direct flight from PEK to CDG on Air France which left around 11AM getting us to Paris by 2:30PM.  This was actually really convenient timing – it allowed us to check it, take a quick catnap, and freshen up before hitting the town that night.  On our last visit we took a redeye on Aeroflot and connected through Moscow.  This trip was much easier and we were more adapt to “Parisian time” (i.e. waiting until 10-11AM to really get the day started!).

For the first 2 nights in Paris, we stayed in a lovely Relais & Chateaux hotel in the 8th Arrondissement near the L’Arc de Triomphe.  Lucky for us – we were able to communicate with our taxi driver very easily…because he spoke English?  NO!  Because he was Chinese/French and he spoke Mandarin!  www.hoteldanielparis.com

   

Hotel Daniel in Paris

Living Room at Hotel Daniel - So Cozy!

On our first night, we started at Hotel Amour in the 9th Arr. for a romantic dinner for two in their outdoor courtyard.  The hotel is a bit edgy with a fashionable crowd, and the food was tasty.  Not Guy Savoy tasty – but not Guy Savoy prices either.  It was a very reasonable dinner (great prices on wine) and the setting was lively and Parisian chic.  I recommend a reservation – specifically for one of the hidden tables in the back, tucked among beautiful hedges in a glow of candlelight.  TIP: It is a bit difficult to find a direct contact online.  I suggest emailing your concierge to make the booking for you.

Outside the Amour Hotel. Not our best photo – but the crowd was a bit too cool for tourists! Clearly – this is a self-portrait.

Bird's Eye View of Amour Hotel's Outdoor Restaurant Seating

After dinner we grabbed a taxi to the recently renovated Royal Monceau Hotel (a Raffles Hotel) for a few drinks at Le Bar Long.  It was here where we found our second wind…a second wind to the level of a couple of 21 year olds and we would pay for this later!  Specifically, we would pay for this the next morning!  Maybe we can still go out like 21 year olds – but we can certainly not recover like them!

From The Royal Monceau we headed to Le Baron (in the 8th Arr.  Opens around 1AM).  Proud of ourselves for getting “in” ahead of a line full of 18-22 year old extremely put together Parisians, we danced the night away and left around 4:30 AM with sore feet, hungry bellies, and an inevitable headache on the way. But…what a fun way to get there!

Needless to say, we slept in on Friday and room service seemed the only option for our first meal of the day – around 11!  Afterwards, we threw on some clothes and hit the streets with the intent of buying a wedding gift for the happy couple.  Unfortunately, after unsuccessful visits to the bridal registries at Galleries Lafayette and Printemps, we realized that Jennifer and Jean Marc were actually registered at Bon Marche.  With too little time to get there, we scurried back to the hotel to get ready for the rehearsal dinner and shop for the betrothed online at  www.mariage.lebonmarche.fr. Finally…success!  And let’s be honest, a bit of window shopping in two of the most famous department stores in Paris was not so bad…

Unsuccessful Shopping Excursion. I apparently decided to dress like a human traffic cone.

I love that he is still this jolly after two failed attempts at bridal registries. What a good husband!

Our very kind cab driver made a quick stop by the L'Arc de Triomphe for a photo op on the way to the rehearsal dinner. Who says the French are snobs? I think they are quite lovely!

 

Outside the Buttes Chaumont Park in the 19th Arrondissement. The dinner was inside this beautiful park at Le Pavillon du Lac. It was a fantastic evening full of great conversation with old and new friends alike! FASHION: Vintage 1980's Silk Carolina Herrera Jumpsuit & Red Bottega Veneta Clutch

Paris in the Springtime…Part Deux COMING SOON!

Brett’s Birthday Get Away to The City of Lights

22 Jan

La Tour Eiffel! FASHION: Multi-Colored Fox Fur Jacket with Brown Suede Over-the-Knee Boots

I love Paris in the Springtime….I love Paris in the Fall!  Ahh – gay Paris!  Is there any other city so full of romance – delicious wines, the creamiest butter, and steak tartare served to perfection?  I think not.  So – I decided to surprise Brett with a trip to The City of Lights for his birthday celebration.

We left Beijing on a red eye flight on Aeroflot – a Russian Airline that offered a first class fare for almost the exact same price as the coach fare of Air France.  So that was a no-brainer.  Thank you Kayak!  We did have a quick stop in Moscow – which was actually kind of fun, and we arrived in Paris at 7AM.  By the way, I would recommend this airline.  Their fleet of planes might be a little older than other airlines, although the interiors do appear to have been updated, the service was excellent, and the price was right.

On Plane to Paris

I knew we would have plenty of time to freshen up once we arrived at the hotel seeing that Paris doesn’t really wake until almost 10.  Gotta love the 30 hour work week!  We stayed at Hotel Cambon – a sweet little boutique hotel across from the original Chanel store and Coco’s actual apartment.  All the rooms have a different, very modern and eclectic design, and ours even had a balcony overlooking a section of the Tuileries Gardens.  It was lovely.  I had arranged for a chocolate birthday cake and champagne to be in the room upon arrival. Okay…8AM might have been a little early to pop the bubbly – but it was 3PM Beijing time – and that is definitely happy hour in France.  So when you do the math – it was clearly acceptable.

In Front of Brasserie Lipp

Our first day was spent at the Musee Dorsay to visit the Impressionists followed by a late lunch at Brasserie Lipp in Saint-Germain to devour steak tartare and escargot.  The evening was spent at Guy Savoy – a 3 Michelin star restaurant.  We gorged ourselves on a 7-course tasting menu with wine pairings that included Guy’s infamous truffled artichoke soup – quite possibly the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.  I think it is obvious that our clothes fit a little bit tighter after our trip!

The next morning we awoke bright and early to wonder the streets while most Parisians were still warm in their beds.  We hit many of the necessary spots…a kiss on the Lover’s Bridge, a stroll by the Seine, the L’Arc de Triomphe on Champs Elysee. And, when our feet (I should say my feet in 5″ heels) couldn’t take anymore, we stopped by Cafe Marly overlooking the Louvre for a mid-morning snack.  For lunch (yes – the trip was based around eating) we went to Nomiya on top of the Palais de Tokyo modern art museum.

Nomiya at Palais de Tokyo

I had read an article about this place in the NY Times a while back, and it sounded very interesting.  Honestly, it exceeded every one of our expectations, and it was one of our favorite activities during the trip.  The lunch – which you must make reservations for well in advance – hosts 12 guests and no more.

Lover's Bridge

Perched on top of the museum in a tiny glass building, we ate great food at a communal table with interesting guests and a panoramic view of the city.  It was a great time – and as it turned out, the woman sitting across from us had lived in Murray, Kentucky (my off the beaten path tiny hometown) for a couple of years as a child.  What are the odds?

The Louvre. FASHION: Ivory Bunny Fur Jacket with an Eggplant American Apparel Lycra Skirt, matching tights, and Fuchsia Gladiators. Taupe Bottega Veneta Top Handle Tote

The remainder of the trip was spent at many other Parisian classics – The Bar at the Ritz, George V, the Pont Neuf, Hotel Costes, some shopping for the birthday boy in the Marais, window shopping on Faubourg Saint Honoree, Plaza Athenee (for drinks with my cute friend Jenny Leeper, her handsome fiance, and her very sweet mother) and a grand finale stop at La Tour Eiffel.  All in all – a perfect trip.

More Pictures from Paris….

Breakfast at Hotel Costes

Le Pont Neuf

Self Portrait at Plaza Athenee

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