12-26-17 Sainte Chapelle, L’Epi Dupin and the Eiffel Tower

Exterior of Sainte Chapelle surrounded by the original royal palace and now a complex of government buildings.

We have been in a lot of churches over the course of our travels but nothing equals Sainte Chapelle with its stain glass displays of Biblical stories. Built at the direction of King Louis IX over the course of seven years, it was and completed then consecrated on April 26, 1248. Built to hold the King’s collection of holy relics from the Crusades, it has become a must see destination for anyone visiting Paris. The Crown of Thorns, however, is now at Notre-Dame.

Located not far from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame it was originally part of the King’s Palace, it was originally intended to house the relics acquired by King Louis IX he acquired including fragments of the True Cross, the Holy Lance and the Crown of Thorns. The Church is divided into two levels –

The ceiling of the lower level of Sainte Chapelle.

a lower level was a place of worship for the Palace Staff and others while the

Statue of Louis IX – he commissioned the building of Sainte Chapelle
The main alter of Sainte Chapelle on the second floor of the building.

















upper level that is truly monumental and sumptuously decorated with stain glass was for the King and Regent Queen. Around the upper level are among the finest of their type in the world, are the great stained glass windows.

The Rose Window
The upper level of Sainte Chapelle
A close up of one of the windows.
Another view of the upper level






















When you first walk in, on the lower level, you see the structure of the building, some stain glass above the lower walls and a statue of Saint Louis. Along one side are souvenir stands and some commentary but nothing really dramatic. However, after navigating the spiral stairs (that were originally for the servants as the King entered at the upper level) you get to the main event.   Fifteen huge mid-13th century windows fill the nave and apse while a large rose window with flamboyant tracery dominates the western wall. There are 1,113 stained glass windows! Much of the chapel, as it appears today, is a re-creation, although nearly two-thirds of the windows are authentic.

Janeen and Claudia with the Royal entrance behind them.
One of the saints along the walls
Saint Stephen

The Audio guide takes you though most of the windows, the sculpture and other features of the room. We spent the better part of a couple of hours going over the place – listening to the audio guide, reading the information and generally taking it all in. Each stain glass widow tells a story – most from the bible but a couple about King Louis and his life. All in all it is really an impressive place – almost overwhelming with the beauty.


After we finished up with Saint-Chapelle we went next door to the Conciergerie.



The lower level of the Conciergerie – wide open spaces
Stairs going to the upper level
Ryan and Chris
The Chapel near the cell were Marie Antoinette was held.
Conciergerie courtyard
























Formally part of the palace it became a prison,  a revolutionary court and Marie Antoinette’s prison until her trial and execution.   The upper floors of the building now house various courtrooms and government offices while the basement has representative rooms showing the cells that were used and information about the revolution and the Reign of Terror.

The front of L’Epi Dupin along the street.

After finishing up here we headed out for lunch across the Seine river at L’Epi Dupin. This was a recommendation from a friend in LA, Randy, and it was not a disappointment at all.

Our group with chef François Paseau

Ryan acquired the chef’s cookbook. We chose to have the tasting menu and three bottles of wine!


Our tasting lunch

After enjoying our lunch, we took the bus to the Eiffel Tower arriving early evening (6ish or so).

Claudia at tower
Here we are the evening at the Tower.
Ryan, Claudia and Chris in front of a sculpture of the Tower.
Janeen at the tower
Claudia and Ryan at 2nd observation deck
Ryan, Claudia and Chris with the tower above from the observation deck.

Janeen and I headed back to the apartment while Ryan, Chris and Claudia waited in line for tickets to go up the tower to the second level of observation.


12-25-17 Christmas Curry and a night tour of Lights

Our little Christmas Tree in our apartment all decorated and lovely.

Christmas in Paris – yes, we have been able to stay long enough that it is actually Christmas in Paris.  Gift giving was limited as you might imagine – what with our flying back to the US in a couple of weeks and Ryan and Chris not in their final apartment yet it didn’t make sense to buy a lot of stuff now.

Chris and Ryan have made Rice and Curry for our Christmas dinner.





And it wouldn’t be really Christmas with out Rice and Curry as the main meal of the day.  So, Ryan and Chris have put together a lovely lunch with all the various side dishes and tasty things to go with it for our late lunch.

Getting ready to eat on Christmas Day

After relaxing and getting everything cleaned up we headed out for an evening bus tour of Christmas Lights.   There are lots of lights and the double deck bus with an open top was the way to go.  An hour and a half trip around some of the neighborhoods and shopping areas was a nice way to take in the sites.

Champs Elysees Christmas lights along the road
Trees along the way all lite up!
Lights on the front of the hotel
Lights across the street
All the trees light up nicely.
Lights along the way
Ferris Wheel and park along the river.
Haussmann strings lights across the street.
The Galeries Lafayette goes all out with decorations!


The Tower from across the river.

Of course we went by this place a couple of times.

Can you have to many pictures of this thing?
Here is the Tower as we went across the river on our tour bus.















































Of course we went by this place a couple of times.

Can you have to many pictures of this thing?
Here is the Tower as we went across the river on our tour bus.

12-22-17 Shopping for food, Angelina’s for Brunch and a Christmas Market

Our friend, Claudia from Morro Bay has joined us for a couple of weeks at the apartment.  When we visited with her in late June I had invited her to join us for Christmas and New Years.

Claudia having a glass of champagne

Well she did and what a treat it is for all of us to have her here.  During her first full day her, after having dinner with us when she arrived, we all boarded the metro and went to the market.  Just like the last time we went it is an experience to walk up and down the rows of stalls and see all the wonderful foods available – all fresh.

Claudia and Chris on metro
Lobster, salmon and other wonderful fish available.
Oysters – lots and lots of oysters.
Fresh meats at the Market
Fruits from all over! Interesting stuff.
Canned and jars of Foie Gras
This is a producer – they raise and process the foie grase.
I was surprised at the amount of fresh flowers around the market.
Ryan picking up some meat for our Christmas dinner.
Fresh vegetables – lots of them.
Chris and Ryan with our shopping cart at the market
David at the market























The following day, Claudia, Ryan and Chris took a couch to the Beaches of Normandy and Janeen and I stayed home and relaxed.  The following day we were off again to have brunch at Angelina’s.

Angelina’s storefront on the shop side of the restaurant.
Not chocolate at Angelina’s is wonderful.
Having brunch at Angelina’s






































Angelina is a famous tea house and is known primarily for its almost pudding-like hot chocolate and for its Mont Blanc dessert. We sampled all of that along with bunch prior to heading out to the Christmas Market

The Christmas market was a huge affair at the end of one of the metro lines.  There must have been several hundred different stalls with all kinds of stuff for sale.  Some of it interesting others not so much.

Claudia with Santa at the Christmas Market
This place takes old LP’s and makes cut outs in them. Very artsy.
Roasted Chestnuts at the Market
Lovely olive wood kitchen stuff – janeen used to work for a place that imported this to the US. We still have some in our kitchen.
I liked this bison head at this food provider.
Lots of sausages – bowls of them and all different
Just one of MANY food vendors at the Market.
Lots of stalls at the Christmas Market









There are roasted chestnuts everywhere including on shopping cart grills along the street.  This was a much more formal spot.












There were lots of places selling food items – sausages in all sizes and types were available here.




Of course, there were places to eat and drink.  Mulled wine seemed to be a favorite given the 45 degrees.






Chris (wearing a sweater my mother made for me!) and Ryan


Over the last several days we have ventured out to various parts of Paris – looked upon wonderful sites and had some good times.  Lots more to come over the next couple of weeks!





12-15-17 A Few days in Paris

The last few days have been filled with adventure – even if we didn’t do anything major. We went to a small Christmas market, the Louvre for a few hours, bought some macaroons at Ladurée, walked by the Arc de Triomphe and generally had a fantastic time. So I have put up some pictures for your general enjoyment.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart
The four of us at Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Christopher, Janeen, David and Ryan at Arc de Triomphe
Four of us at the overlook at Sacred Heart
Here we are at the Arc.
Chris hugging the bear.
Ceiling glass of the Pyramid
Fancy Ceiling
Fancy ceiling at the Loure
Crowns at the Lourve
Four of us below the The Louvre Pyramid
Part of the sculpture gardens
Mona Lisa – huge crowd in front of her.
Ryan and Mona Lisa
I don’t remember what this was called…sorry.
Cute statue
The Winged Victory of Samothrace, that was created about the 2nd century BC. Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace – Janeen taking a rest in the background.

Christmas Market
Christmas Market
Christmas Market more things
Christmas Market jewelery
Christmas Market hats
Janeen at the small Christmas Market


12-14-17 Restaurant Arpège

Our deliberate decision to try a restaurant on the Michelin three star listing was while we visited in San Sebastian Spain at Arzak. We went to this restaurant after speaking to friends who had either been to the restaurant or heard people who had been there. Arzak received its third Michelin star in 1989 and has maintained them all since that time. The lunch we had was extremely memorable and has continued to be a fond memory of our trip to Spain. Sometime after going to Arzak I learned about another listing of the 50 Best Restaurants in the world and found Arzak located at number 30.

Since that time we have visited a number of great restaurants ,two of which were on this listing – Le Caladre #29 in Rubano, Italy and The Ledbury #27 in London. Now we are in Paris where great restaurants are plentiful and there are four of the 50 best restaurants and we decided to try Arpège – listed as number #12 (lowest number on the list in Paris) for a lunch.

The entrance is unremarkable but inviting.

Arpège received its third Michelin star in 1996 and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016.

Janeen with Chef Alain









Owner – Chef Alain Passard removed red meat from his menu in 2001 and the following year he bought a biodynamic farm in Sarthe and since then has acquired two more farms in Eure and Manche. Produce from one of Passard’s three gardens is delivered to Arpège on a daily basis arriving just in time for lunch service. These vegetables are famously known to “never see the inside of a refrigerator”.

Cover of the menu
Terre & Mer – this was the tasting menu David followed
L ‘Automne des jardins – one of the three options in the menu
Grands crus du potager – another of the menu options


















There were four menu options – a ‘surprise’ vegetarian menu, an a la carte menu and a tasting menu. We selected one ‘surprise’ and one tasting menu for our adventure down this road.

The interior of the restaurant is not very large – only seating for maybe 30.
Dining room

Wine was either by the glass or bottle and we choose to start with a glass of Champagne, added a bottle of Sancerre and a Domaine Saint Nicolas from the Loire.

Amuse bousch – Home made potato chips with light tastes on top.

Starting with the Amuse-bouche and ending with 3 desserts, the meal lasted the better part of 4 hours! Never rushed, always-attentive service and wonderful tastes were presented for our pleasure. While we tried to keep some idea of what we were having it was impossible to keep track! There was at least 12 courses and we didn’t have the same menu so there where LOTs of different things to sample. Yes, I did get a menu for review at home but even with that it is difficult to bring the pictures together with the descriptions. Pictures, below, are “maybe” in the order presented to us but it’s really hard to decide!

Butternut soup
Beetroot and beets
A velvety autumn soufflé with onions
Hot Cold Egg in herb syrup
Hot Cold Egg in herb syrup spoon full!
Scallops in an orange infusion
Scallops Thinly sliced autumn radish 1
Ravioli multi colored patato with a mushroom broth
Celery cream with Cevennes mushrooms topped with parmesan
Vegetable tartar and horse radish with full earth beets
Jerusalem artichoke with a large spoon of caviar with crystal champagne
Lobster with a honey vail
Multi color couscous with autumn with marked vegetables
Oak Smoked potatoes with onion tart
Janeen’s Monk fish with baby brussel sprouts, potatoes and foam
David’s Monk fish with baby brussel sprouts, potatoes and foam
Dessert duck breast with hazelnut and dark Carmel drizzle
Louise Passard roast Chicken
Onion and gratian
First sweet dessert course
Dessert hazel nut ice cream with lemon verbena sauce
Dessert crispy phyllo with many layers
Dessert crispy chocolate phyllo with many layers 1


Would I go back to this restaurant? Without a hesitation! However, there are so many other great restaurants to try all over the world so my goal is to continue to visit those places on the listing. Next up are those five restaurants listed in the USA!

12-13-17 Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris! Both Ryan and Chris had worked for Disney at the Disneyland Resort for the past 13 years or so, they had been given several park hopper passes that could be used in Paris. They were so generous to save a couple for us so on a bright sunny Tuesday; we headed out for a day of Disney Magic.

On the Metro heading to the Park

With our Metro passes, we were able to take metro and train all the way to the Park. The final stop of the train is called Marne-la-Vallèe Chessy (cheesy), which seems very appropriate according to James Bell. The metro and train ride was about an hour and we made it without any problems. The weather was very cooperative no rain, but fluffy clouds in blue skies.

Security Check point

First stop, Main Street and blue Christmas trees! Of course, sapphire is the color of the Disney 25th anniversary as well.

Here we are in front of the Disneyland Hotel – which happens to be the entrance to the Park




Main Street – USA?







Blue Christmas Trees on Main Street

We were going to ride down main street but decided to walk – which was nice. While it is the Christmas time there really were NOT any crowds!

Main Street USA?

Onward to Peter Pan and Pinocchio rides in Fantasy Land. Both are very similar to the Anaheim rides but just different enough to be interesting and enjoyable. Neither ride was narrated which we thought was strange – but then they would have had to do the narration in both French and English.









After two rides and a quick snack, we dared to ride Big Thunder Mountain. The Island isn’t an attraction to visit like Tom Sawyer Island, but it is the home of Big Thunder Mountain.

Molly Brown Thundermesa – Paris Disney

You board the train car and it goes under the river and circumvents the island. A really good ride! From Big Thunder we boarded onto the

Here comes Mickey and Minnie!
Goofy and all his buddies.
Lots of toys ready to play.




















The Main Street Holiday parade gave us hand clapping music and colorful dancers and floats, and Santa and his reindeer. So as the sunset, we dared to view the Phantom mansion with its abandoned bride and gold rush western town ghosts.


Mickey, Minnie and Donald in the Parade
Santa and his elves

We also did Haunted Mansion – again, no narrative but very similar to what we know.

The Haunted Mansion
Chris and Ryan in front of the Olaf and Sven ride
Olaf and Sven









Ryan and Chris walked through The Nautilus attraction and David & Janeen found spots in the main square near the castle to view the lights and fireworks on the castle.

Christmas tree with the train station in the background


12-10-17 The Bastille Market

Sunday, Market day and we headed off to The Bastille Market. This is one of the largest partisan markets in Paris and stretches from the Bastille and Richard Lenoir metro stations and has 150 plus stalls.

The Market about midpoint

Stalls are piled high with fruit and vegetables, meats, fish, shellfish, cheese and lots and lots of other things. There was also a spattering of clothing – wallets, handbags, scarfs and even some wine.

Janeen and Ryan of course
Champagne! I did pick up a bottle of Brute

We walked most of the market, fortunately after the rain had stopped, and picked up a few things for our kitchen.

Vegetables – LOTS of vegetables.
Olives lots of Olives and spreads
Mushrooms all kinds!
Meats lots of Meats – there were several different places selling fresh meet…
More fish
Lots of fresh fish, shellfish and oysters
Fruits and more vegetables.
These little plants had been flocked with a white powder! Little white Christmas trees
Lots of spices.
Chicken – he has his hands on a chicken with all its feathers still – fresh for sure
David on the metro
Chris with all our goodies on the metro.






























I fully expect we will hit another one or two while we are here.

12-9-17 Paris – Notre-Dame and Le Rèminet

On Thursday, we flew from Edinburgh to Paris and took a cab to our VRBO apartment to join Ryan and Chris. While the apartment isn’t as close to the center of the heart of Paris, it is certainly close enough to the metro that we can get there easily enough.

Ryan, Janeen and Chris on the bridge over the River Seine. Norte Dame in the background

Our first outing, on Friday the 8th was to get metro cards and have lunch at Le Rèminet. Of course,

David and Chris in front of Norte Dame.







we did get to Notre-Dame for a quick photo prior to going back over the river to Le Rèminet.

Le Rèminet is a small bistro we discovered during our last visit to Paris and have wanted to return. It is not far from Notre-Dame and we were the last people to get seating for the lunch period – they don’t take new reservations after 2:30 and we saw them turn several people away after we got seated.

Our Paris Family all together.

The entire restaurant, at least on the main floor, seats only 30 people. They can put a few chairs outside but only during good weather. The entire staff was very considerate of our language issues (although Ryan is really getting quite good with speaking French) and we had a very pleasant afternoon.


Oysters – what more can you say?
Marinated scallops, pan sauteed duck liver
Marinated salmon, buckwheat powder, pickels and miso mayonnaise sauce
Duck liver terrine with rhubarb chutney
Champagne to start our lunch.
Lovely Pauillac – a bit young but paired nicely with our main course.
Duck with an octopus taco
Braised beef cheek in red wine, seard duck liver and potatoes puree
A selection of three cheeses
Chocolate, hazelnuts, praline
Tonka bean flavored creme brulee
Creamy coconut, chocloate cornet on exotic spoom, crushed cocao bean



From there we got back on the metro and returned to the apartment for the day.

Saturday was just a perfect sunny ‘tour’ day for visiting various places Ryan and Chris have discovered prior to our arriving with an interesting lunch at a place that serves baked potatoes with all the trimmings – you choose what you want. We also found an Office Depot store. Next time we cruise, we might need a post office, a barber, and a place that sells pillows that please David, and a nail salon for Janeen.

12-5-17 The Table Restaurant – Edinburgh

Prior to getting to Edinburgh, I checked various listings for restaurants to try and make reservations for our stay. The number one restaurant was called The Table. It seems this place releases reservations months in advance and books solid almost immediately. Not wanting to let this get past me, I e-mailed a note and asked if there might be any openings and was surprised to hear there was! Seems a party from London wasn’t going to be able to make it up for their reservation and I was able to grab two spots.

One counter, 10 chairs and 2 chefs.

The Table is a small place, only 10 seats, and we sat at the counter watching Chef Sean and his assistant Keith work magic before our very eyes! It is a BYOB place and we had hoped to get an idea of wine selections prior to arriving, but didn’t get them until the day of the reservation so had already picked up a bottle of Champagne and Burgundy. We figured both of these wines would go with just about anything they put in front of us and we were correct.

The menu is determined based on seasonal ingredients. No choices are available and you get what is prepared that evening. The process is not fast – we were there for almost four hours – and the interaction between the Chef and all the guests is frequent and animated. Doors open at 7, not before, and we arrived finding several couples waiting anxiously to get in out of the cold. Very soon we were all there, the doors opened and Chef Sean started the experience.

View of the counter from the back of the place.

We were able to snag seats in the middle of the counter – 2 couples to my left and 2 couples to Janeen’s right – giving us a prime spot to watch all the action. To my immediate left was a couple from Edinburgh enjoying the evening and texting or emailing to their daughter throughout to let her know what was happening. The couple to Janeen’s right was from a village outside of Cambridge, England and had flown in for the evening! Next to them was another couple from London who were celebrating his birthday having taken the overnight train. We felt really lucky to have scored a reservation.

Amuse-bouche Deep fried pasta with pigs cheek and tomato sauce on the bottom right. IN the middle was braised fennel with sour cherry jelly glaze and the upper left was Cracker with blueberry jell with foie gras.
Ain’t Easy being Cheesy – Potato, Ham Hock and Autumn Tarine with Different Ages of Cheddar
Here’s Chef Sean plating the Lord of the Anelli course coming up!

Throughout the evening there was increasingly lively conversation between everyone present with questions asked of Chef Sean like “How long have you been doing this?” pause, “28 months”. “ What kind of pig is this pork?” “Mangalisca, the Wagu of Pork” Who thought up a teaspoon of caramel powder with Anglesea sea salt as a course? A chef in Chicago.










Someone asked about the source for the hawthorne sauce (local scavenged); and Janeen learned what the red berries hanging on bare branches of trees are called.

Lord of the Anelli – Lobster Anelleti with Lemon and Chervil before the sauce is poured
Lord of the Anelli – Lobster Anelleti with Lemon and Chervil after the sauce is poured
Glasgow Scallops – Scallops with Curried Cauliflower and Buckfast
Chef plating the next course of Sow Your Oats





















Sow Your Oats – Port with Celeriac, Apple and Porridge
Blame Canada – Pancakes with Maple Syrup and Bacon
Werther’s Not so Original – Caramel Powder Inspired by Grant Achatz
Not a Lighter Way to Enjoy Chocolate – Textures of Chocolate with Malted milk
Final taste of sweets
Janeen and Chef Sean

Throughout the evening the items presented were well prepared and plated wonderfully.


11-4-17 The Scotch Whisky Experience

I admit it, I like a good single malt whisky – and we were clearly at a place that has a lot of these. Specifically we went to

The entrance to the Scotch Whisky Experience building.

The Scotch Whisky Experience. This included a “barrel ride” through the process of how whisky is made, a tour of the largest single Whisky collection in the world and a tasting of the wonderful elixir called Whisky.


The Whisky Experience (WE) is a several story building on the

A cut away showing the various areas of the building.

Royal Mile just before the forecourt of the Castle. We opted for the Gold Tour that included the basic tour, with one tasting, and an additional four regional single malt tasting flight in the lounge. On top of that we also get a one-year membership in the Scotch Whisky Appreciation Society (not sure I will be able to use any of the benefits but fun to have anyway).


The Barrel ride car. Nothing fancy for sure.

The ride doesn’t compare to anything Disney might do, but it was at least clever in its presentation of how whisky is made with an interesting narrative. Having some idea of the process it was a refresher not anything new. After the ride we went into the Sense of Scotland room where a very enthusiastic guide – John, explained the history of where whisky is made. The video included visuals of all the areas of Scotland, the types of country and a general overview of the climates of Scotland. Clearly the video was done during the spring or summer, nothing like the weather in those areas in early December.

From there, we entered into the tasting room. After a brief introduction, we were given the option of tasting a Scotch from one of the six regions of the Country. I chose a taste from Islay and Janeen choose a Lowland pour. Before actually tasting the golden beverage we were taken into the magnificent Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection room.

Hard to believe all these are unopened.
Only one wall of 5! Filled with unopened bottles

This room holds over 3,000 bottles of UNOPENED Scotch Whisky that Diageo collected over the years – living in South America! Seems he liked the stuff so much he didn’t open any of the collection. It was purchased for an undisclosed amount about 10 years ago and is now part of the WE collection. It is with this backdrop of bottles that the guide explained how to smell and properly taste a whisky – a lot like drinking wines actually. Now we tasted our whisky.

After general tasting we end up in the “bar” where we were served our additional flight of four whiskies.

Janeen with her tasting flight


A  nice culmination of the tour. The exit being, of course, through the gift shop we looked at a number of different bottles available, took a few pictures and left to grab some lunch downstairs in the Amber Restaurant.

Barrel stave tree in the shop.

When we were here in 2014 we didn’t take the tour but did have lunch in the Amber Restaurant and had a whisky or two at the bar. Our lunch was nice – local fare and filling. From the restaurant, we went to the Bar to look through and taste a few whiskies.

Yours truly – a very happy guy.



The “book” is divided into regions listing everything they have available. There are more than 350 different bottles to choose from! Impossible to get through more than a couple at a time really but an effort was made to try something different. Our educational take away from all this was the true nature of “blended” whiskey.

Here we are getting ready to taste more whisky

True, there are some blended single malts, but a true blended wart is made from a grain other than malt, then a small portion of a compatible flavor single malt is added to make the blend (the decision to start blending other grain whiskey was to compete with Irish and American whiskeys, perhaps?). Generally, blended whiskey is considered less “harsh” than the single malt that was distilled in the 19th century.

Old Pulteney – Navigator -Softly sweet & fragrant with light tropical fruits & a creamy finish my taste at the bar
Old Perth in Sherry cask – A bit hit of sherry and rich treacle.  Spiced fruit on the palate with dry, nutty finish.  Janeen’s taste at the bar

There are a LOT more blended whiskeys then there are single malt bottled every year.






Thyme Well Spent in the glass.

While at the bar I mentioned a cocktail made with Dalmore that I quite enjoy. The barkeep said they had one too – called Thyme Well Spent. Naturally I had to try it and it was quite delicious, a great end to our meal and tasting.

How to make a “Thyme Well Spent” . Enjoy!


So, having finished with the Whisky Experience we went out to the street, bought Janeen a cashmere sweater and caught a taxi home.