An American in Paris

As promised, here are a few pictures and recommendations from France. One item will await a posting in our series “Things That Tick Me Off.” While October and November are part of the low tourism period, I do not know why. Paris and the French countryside are ablaze in color and the weather is mild. No lines at museums or restaurants. Forget Spring in Paris, think Fall.

My favorite restaurants were Le Grand Colbert and La Duramee. Le Grand Colbert is a quaint classic French restaurant near the Louvre. The food is amazing and the ambience is pure (non-touristy Paris). Try the oysters and escargot. Laduree is famous for its “macarons” in a beautiful small café in a gilded room with a fantastic painted ceiling. I particularly liked the Pistache macaron.

For a less expensive meal with Parisian regulars, I recommend Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte. There is no menu. You order dinner and they serve you steaks and frites. It is a classic Paris experience – not fancy but good wine, small tables, and terrific food.

Our hotel, The Waldolf Madeleine, was in the perfect location near the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and walking distance to the Lourve and the Seine. It was not, however, what one would expect from a Waldorf or a four-star hotel. Having said that, the staff at the front desk were incredibly helpful (except for a grumpy guy in the evening who was best to avoid). The rooms are very Parisian and quaint (but you need to get one of the deluxe rooms). The hotel could use a good work over and additional staff, however. It is, at best, a three star hotel.

Since I did not have to get back until Monday to teach after the conference, we rented a car and made for Loire Valley. It was a great way to end the trip to France. We enjoyed the challenge of a drive out of Paris, but it probably makes more sense to take the train and rent a car in a city like Ambroise or Tours. (Fortunately, the French insistence on doing everything opposite from the English means that they drive on “the right side” of the road for Americans.) The gas is quite expensive, most companies only give limited free miles, and A10 to Loire adds around 20 euros in toll fees.

While I have reservations about the Waldorf in Paris, I would recommend wholeheartedly a stay at the Chateau D’Artigny in the Loire Valley in the tiny village of Montbazon. The Chateau was truly a storybook experience with 20 foot ceilings, ancient tapestries, and a five-star restaurant. While pricey, it is worth every euro.

The rooms overlook the large estate that looks like a Monet with its slow-moving river meandering through the French countryside. The rooms are filled with antiques. We went with a deluxe room, which again I would recommend. This is the “chateau country” and you can see other impressive chateaux in the distance. Leslie and I had dinner at the Chateau, which was the finest meal we had in France. They featured the white wines of the area, which include such better known wines as Vouray and lesser known labels that are not widely available in the United States. They had to pry the wine list from my clenched fingers. I particularly enjoyed the wine from Chinon, which is nearby. It was slightly sweet but on the dry side. You have dinner in a huge gilded dining room that is hundreds of years old. We virtually had the entire Chateau to ourselves with only two other couples. The staff was incredibly knowledgable, spoke beautiful English, and very solicitous to meet any need or demand.

One of the meeting rooms at D'Artingy

We drove to Montbazon, which is almost three hours out of Paris. Driving is a bit harrowing as an experience in Paris where lanes are practically non-existent, but it was fun. My highlight was going to the small town of Ambroise, which was built around a wonderful castle with cute shops and cafes. Again, they love Americans and seem to enjoy trying to communicate. I particularly loved a tiny Basque butcher shop off of the main square. The owner was a wonderful man who loves to practice English. I bought some boar sausage (which they call “Black Pig Sausage”), which was probably the best sausage I have ever tasted. If you go to Loire, go to Ambroise for an authentic experience – particularly at dusk.

Frankly, you cannot miss in Loire Valley. Every turn seems to have a beautiful French village and its own small wine production. The wine in Loire is often overlooked by wine lovers – overshadowed by the wine in Bourdeaux or Champagne. It is a mistake. For wine lovers, Loire is filled with surprises of wonderful still white wines. I am a wine enthusiast but I favor reds. For that reason, Loire was an incredible learning experience.

Jonathan Turley

24 thoughts on “An American in Paris

  1. “Le Grand Colbert”? … unbelievable!!

    Wonderful way to start the week … beautiful pics, each in its own way though my favorite is the Monet-like countryside

  2. What a very lovely way to begin the week, as Blouise said.

    Decades ago, I spent a summer in the Loire Valley, bracketed by time in Paris, and a week in coastal La Rochelle. Your descriptions, photos, and links bring back some wonderful memories.

    Oh, the food in France… Some of best. My mouth waters at the mere thought of it. (My metabolism was much faster at the time, but I still managed to pack a solid five pounds on my then youthful frame.)

    Thanks. And welcome back.

  3. So did you bring back some wine?

    You look really really happy in that photo with the fountain in the back.

    Our business has a new product we call “Lit Chromes” which consists of big sheets of positive film with a backlit display. I could make one for you and mount it in a desk top frame with a mat and an adjustable light for $200.

  4. JT,

    In that picture at the top of this post, I just realized you’re standing in front of a fountain. At first glance, I thought you were wearing a Carmen Miranda type head piece.

    FF Leo,

    I bet you remember Carmen Miranda!

  5. JT:

    Thanks for sharing your picturesque experiences in France. It looked like a wonderful time. I haven’t been in many years, but I am determined to return to France and visit Brittany where the shellfish are sweet and the people are crusty … or is it the other way ’round? Like an American predecessor, I shall joyfully proclaim, “Chez Jacky*,nous voilà.”

    *Chez Jacky is a wonderful seafood restaurant in Port de Belon.

  6. Awww! Why did the Prof have to go and mention how nice October/November is!?!!?

    Don’t listen to him! [Jedi mind trick mode on!] The shoulder season is not the vacation you’re looking for! You really want to go during July and August! [Jedi mind trick mode off!}

    See? Isn’t Prof. Turley nuts? Doesn’t it make much more sense to go during the summer?

  7. Thank you for the virtual tour and the lovely hi-rez photos. The cat on the cart is precious, the fountain pic is lovely (you were obviously in great spirits) and the Chateau D’Artigny pic is wallpaper worthy. Great camera work for the photos. The last pic with you facing off against the Cthulhu spawn had me going but I assume it was just asking legal advise. Thanks for sharing your visit.

  8. I lived in Denmark for five years and I have been back here for six. Thank you for sharing your experiences…it makes me quite homesick, especially in light of our economic and political realities in the U.S. They always say that the jet lag coming back is more severe, but I think it is the loss one experiences when they have to confront the realities of being back… be forewarned.

  9. Welcome back, sir. Your trip sounds delightful! I’ve never been to France, but visited an artists’ studio and part-time club, Chez Imbecile, in the warehouse district of Houston. Cheetos with marshmallow creme were served.

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