Finding Balance Abroad: Our Trip to France!

Bonjour!

We had just boarded the plane to Paris. “Do you think we should buy a five-day metro pass since we’ll be using it so much to get around?” he asked. My heart sunk several inches. I grinned up at him sheepishly. “Hm. I was hoping we could walk everywhere so we could see even more,” I answered. A few moments later the rest of the truth came out, “…and if we walk everywhere I can eat as much as I want.” He stared at me blankly. The man for whom the calories-in-calories-out equation is meaningless pondered the thought for a moment. “We’ll figure it out when we get there,” he replied calmly. I put my head against the back of my seat and watched the Nutella crepe, steak frites, and baguette dreams I’d been having for months drift by me. I sighed and agreed we’d figure it out when we landed.

As it turns out, we took the metro everywhere. Still, those Nutella crepe, steak frites, and baguette dreams came true (and then some) and I don’t even have a spare croissant around my waist to show for it. How? Well, thankfully, we also did a ton—literally A TON—of walking. We walked so much, in fact, that by the end of each day our legs were sore from hoofing it all day long. In the end it was the best of both worlds: We used the metro to traverse the city, which enabled us to see so much more than we would have had we stayed above ground all day. Once we made it to our desired location we strolled throughout the arrondissement as we bopped from site to site. We also followed a few walking tours from our guidebook, which took us down so many fantastic historic streets we probably wouldn’t have otherwise found and racked up several miles with each one along the way. And if you’ve ever been to Paris then you know that some of the metro stations are nearly the size of airports so we’d have to walk quite a ways within the station when transferring from one line to another, which we got quite proficient at by the end of the week. (I even learned to navigate the metro system, which may not seem like a big deal, but is a pretty huge accomplishment for me and my direction-impaired brain. Bonus: I was even better at it after several glasses of wine!)

Fact is: I would have enjoyed those crepes, frites, and baguettes no matter how much walking we did–we were on vacation after all! But whether I’m at home or away I like to maintain a sense of balance. I want to eat what I want while traveling and still feel great–healthy and energized–the entire time. What’s more, I’ll never be one of those people who are satisfied with just a taste. Heck no! I like to experience my food so I try to balance that indulgence with activity. And when I come home I like to pick up exactly where I left off without even the thought of doing a silly cleanse or detox (I cringe just writing those words). Ultimately, being able to enjoy every scrumptious bite (plus a daily bottle of wine) and still feel fantastic made everything that much more delicious. And of course, getting to share the most incredible food in a spectacular city with the person I love made everything that much more unforgettable.

Here’s a taste of some of the food we ate (and ate…and ate).

Our very first meal was at Cafe Med, this tiny (about 18-seat) restaurant located on Ile St. Louis. Although it’s in a touristy area, I’m pretty sure we were the only Americans in there. The food was fresh and speedy (great for our first day when we were ready to dive into site-seeing), but the best part was the French family sitting next to us: a mom, a dad, and three kids under the age of 10. The family shared a bottle of wine and the little boy sitting next to me kept pounding his down as soon as it was full again. By the end of the meal the three kids were getting tipsy, their faces were flushed, and they were giggling and sinking under the table. We couldn’t take our eyes off of them!

Robert ordered a three course prix fixe menu (which he called a “tasting menu” the entire time we were in France haha). Sadly, the only photo I snapped of his meal was the tomato & mozzarella salad:

I had a salad with smoked salmon, tuna, tomato, and avocado.

And for dessert we shared our first crepe.

The next day we followed our Frommer’s guidebook to what they called a “food-lovers mecca,” Fauchon. As a food lover, I can attest that it was a mecca…and heaven…and paradise all wrapped into one. It’s this ginormous gourmet food shop (there are actually two locations across the street from one another–one focuses more on savory foods while the other features sweets.) We could have spent hours upon hours browsing the huge selection of breads, cheeses, cured meats, fish, freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, desserts and so much more. Alas, we had just come from the Louvre so we’d worked up quite an appetite. Here, Robert enjoyed his first of many cheese plates. (Sad story: As you may know, I don’t like cheese. I probably don’t deserve to be allowed into Europe, but I promise that Robert ate enough cheese during the week for the both of us.)

I have to admit that I was a little..okay, a lot…overwhelmed by the huge selection. I ended up with this sandwich that contained only two things: delicious ham (more like prosciutto) and butter. God I love the French. I also had this amazing asparagus salad that I can’t wait to recreate: asparagus, cucumber, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, and radishes in a light vinaigrette with lots of fresh herbs.

Excited to dig in!

Most days began with a stop at one of the patisseries near our hotel. Here’s a bite of pain au chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant).

A chocolate-filled croissant topped with almonds.

And a croissant filled with apples.

We were lucky enough to have lots of sunshine during our trip, but there was one day where it poured all day long. We still managed to accomplish a lot that day: Went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, explored the fifth arrondissement, and walked the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. To escape the rain for a bit, we took an extra long lunch at a highly-recommended (and somewhat upscale) place called  Le Comptoir in the Relais Saint-Germain hotel. It was a tiny restaurant and I was too embarrassed to snap photos of our meals, but now I really wish I had. It was one of the best eats of our trip. Although my basic understanding of French allowed me to decode the menu at most places it was useless here so we played menu roulette and chose our dishes blindly. Neither of us were disappointed. However we’re still not sure what, exactly, Robert’s was. We think it was roasted rabbit–something neither of us would normally order, but should in the future because it was out of this world. After lunch we went to the creperie next door. We learned that you should only go to creperies that have a long line because it means they’re extra good. Before lunch this place had a super long line even in the pouring rain, but lucky for us it had died down when we were done eating so we snuck inside for this bad boy. I can still taste it just looking at this picture. Yum!

While I don’t have a photo of the food we ate at this fantastic little restaurant in Montmartre (called Le Progres) here’s a picture of Robert and I sitting outside. I’d say we enjoyed about 90 percent of our meals al fresco. It’s the best!

He had a cheese plate (again) and a phenomenal minestrone soup that I kind of wanted to steal. When they brought it out there was a pile of veggies and herbs in the middle of the white bowl up front and the white pitcher contained the broth that he poured on top before eating. I had a multi-layered veggie tart with roasted eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini, and peppers drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and an olive tapenade on the side. In other words, it was a perfect excuse to eat nearly an entire baguette since everything required a bread vehicle.

After five days in Paris, we headed to Tours, a small Medieval town in the Loire Valley. Before catching the train, we browsed a HUGE farmers market (it went for blocks and blocks) under the metro stop near our hotel. I could have spent hours there, but we only had about 15 minutes before we had to be on our way. I was again paralyzed by the giant selection, but we ended up picking some fantastic Mediterranean dishes that we shared on the train. They were so darn good. The one with the fork in it was my favorite–it was bulgur and lentils with caramelized onions on top. Note to self: Get more caramelized onions in your life ASAP.

I wish I had so many more food photos from Paris to share with you, but I always got nervous about looking too touristy in the restaurants (because our guidebook with color-coded stickies didn’t give us away.) Next time we travel I’ll get over myself and take way more pictures I promise.

For now, stay tuned for Part 2: An eating tour of the Loire Valley!

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One thought on “Finding Balance Abroad: Our Trip to France!

  1. Pingback: Wedding Wednesday: Pre-wedding Moon « A Balanced Life Cooks

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