I was listening to Eurovibes, a nice music selection produced by EuroNews, while waiting for flight AF561 to take off from Beirut to Paris... Enjoying some of my favorite tunes, I decided that on this trip I would write the memoirs on an hourly basis... I really wanted to share this journey with you, as detailed as I possibly can. To be honest, I am not the type of person who likes to be committed to an appointment or a plan. I like things that are spontaneous. They are much more fun I think. I was supposed to wake up at 04:30am to take the MEA flight to Geneva, but unfortunately or maybe fortunately - I don't know - my alarm did not set off. My phone crashed due to the new iOS 7 downloaded on my iPhone. Anyway, here is what I have noted and experienced to share with you...
"Isn't bizarre that the sun is shining that much at 04:30am?" I said to myself! Jumping out of bed, I grabbed my phone to only discover that it was off. "It's 06:30am and I missed my flight!" A million ideas went through my mind. I took a deep breath and reorganized my thoughts, thinking of a plan B. 1- call MEA. 2- Call the taxi. 3- Get ahead with my day as planned... It was a chance for me to try and for the first time, MEA's dedicated Gold Cedar line and see how effective it is. Just after three rings, the operator answers. At 06:30am, he was awake and waiting to serve customers. It only took him 10 minutes to find me a seat on Air France to Paris leaving at 10:15am. Quick and easy, the problem was solved and a new plan was on its way to see the light. Air France Business Class on Boeing 777-300 Leaving to Paris to attend a course I've been taking (a new specialty in the medical field), I decided to take some Lebanese sweets to share with my colleagues.
Two kilos of Al Hallab mixed sweets, which will definitely introduce them to some of Lebanon's wonderful creations. I want them to taste the perfection we create in our homeland and not the Turkish ones filled with fat and sugar, the French are used to eating. I also grabbed two cartons of cigarettes for my French friend - a carton is $12 in Lebanon and around $80 in Paris- and here I was up on the plane.
I was happy as I stepped into the plane to be welcomed by a nice, smiling hostess who led me to my seat and helped me with my luggage. Her big smile and bright eyes expressed pride in what she does. She made sure I'm comfortable and relaxed. Drinks followed, then newspapers, a wet refreshing napkin and the lunch ritual. Every move is mastered to perfection. I do agree, the seats, onboard Air France’s business class are smaller than the ones of MEA and the screens are too small compared to today's speedy technology. But I didn't mind as long as the service I was getting was perfect.
Today's lunch suggestions:
- Salmon mousse roulade with spinach
- Marinated salmon, Swiss air-dried beef
- Grilled tournedos of beef with pink peppercorn sauce, baked potatoes, zucchini and pumpkin pearls
- Filet of sea bass, shrimp, calamari, parsley potatoes, pumpkin and zucchini
- Orecchiette pasta filled with creamed mushrooms and spinach, tomato sauce
- The day's suggestion: Mouloukhieh with chicken
- The dessert trio: white chocolate dome, orange mousse, seasonal fruit tartlet
- Sorbet and choice of fresh fruits
The hostesses passed to serve the first round of drinks, the aperitifs offered with a mise-en-bouche, a salmon roulade presented on a plastic spoon, with a box of almonds and cashew mix produced by Traou Mad de Pont Aven. I’m still listening to my Eurovibes CD, which I insist is a must listen. You can download it for $11 from the iTunes Store.
The wines I've tasted today selected by Olivier Poussier, best sommelier of the year 2000:
- Bourgogne Blanc, Macon Villages 2011, Maison Louis Jadot: this cask-aged Chardonnay, fruity and rather expressive, truly represents the style of Jadot and the fineterroirs of the Macon area. A classic wine of the continental climate, it is fresh, delectable and full of energy, fragrant with flowers and savory white fruit. It is the perfect white wine for an aperitif.
- Bordeaux rouge, Haut Medoc chateau Cantemerle 2008, 5e grand cru classe: this chateau lies in the commune of Macau, bordering both the Garonne River and the appellation of Margaux. In the middle of the water, is southern part of the Medoc produces delicate wines thanks to a gravel soil of the highest quachamplity. The wines are mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, they offer fresh supple tannins and are bursting with fruit. A tasty light, soft and full of flavors wine.
The food was good, as always. Bread is fresh and not spongy, the plates are beautifully presented. I liked the saltiness of the salmon covered with aneth and served with a slice of lemon on the side, cherry tomato and cucumber pickles. A bite of Lollo Rossa lettuce decorates the plate. The dried beef slices are as well very good. Some sparkling water refreshed me between one course and another. Even though the beef was a bit over cooked for my taste, the pepper sauce and steamed vegetables prepared in balls like ice cream scoops cover this detail. Some aneth seasoning adds the needed finesse this plate needs. I enjoyed my meal today.
Dessert was the best part: Sorbet mango/ananas is extraordinary and so fresh. Thick and full of taste, it's been a while I didn't eat something that good. The orange mousse is good, the tart should be crunchier and the white chocolate dome is too sweet for my taste. But I can assure you that those desserts are very good. After finishing, I picked another somber from the tray, the strawberry one, that I found fade and too icy. Time for a movie and some relaxation, a long day is ahead…
This trip, I decided to pass by Disneyland, yes, alone. I really wanted to take pictures of the 20th Anniversary; an event like this should not be missed or recorded. I wanted to take as much pictures as I could of the fireworks and parade every person, big or small, dreams to experience. Landing in Paris CDG, we had to wait for more than 20 minutes in the plane. I honestly was not aware of what was happening as my soundproof headphones disconnect me from the world.
Anyway, we landed; I followed the signs, checked out, grabbed my bags and took a taxi to Disneyland Hotels Park. Dream Castle, a place my travel agency proposed is located few kilometers away from the park.
The adventure has just began… It's 29 degrees; under the sun is not the weather I like. Winter, cold and snow are what I usually search for when traveling. Since Geneva has been canceled, I decided to visit Disneyland and take time to review the hotel tomorrow with a quick stop at La Vallee Village, my favourite shopping destination. Disneyland Paris 20th anniversary, an experience I wanted to live since the beginning of the year. I love this park and the satisfaction it gives to the little kid in me. Already visited California's Disneyland twice and the Paris one as well, but each visit is unique and feels like it's the first. The innocence around the park makes you forget about life and how hard it is. I wanted to experience and take part in the parade and fireworks and share them with you- as much as I can... Sometimes pictures are not like the real thing but it will help you be a part of something, one way or another...
Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Celebrations A visit that started at 4pm and ended at 11pm the same night was filled with as many discoveries as possible. I tried the fast-food restaurants burger as well as the hotdog they call famous. The twister ice cream that reminded me of my childhood and a chocolate muffin from the bakery on main street Disneyland. At 7pm, was parade time! A special 30 minutes 20th Anniversary parade. Thousands of people gathered to meet their special characters. An indescribable happiness can be seen on everyone’s faces. There was positive energy everywhere. 11pm, was show time before the park closes its doors. A 30 minutes show, where projections on the castle, water fountains and fireworks took place. I enjoyed my day, preparing for the come back in couple of years with my kids.
Disneyland’s Dream Castle Hotel: Turns Into a Chaotic Nightmare I have to say: It is not acceptable how bad the food is at Disneyland! Two burgers and hotdog are a disgrace. How bad the food is around here and how expensive. For7 euros for a hotdog constituted of a chewy bread and hotdog only! A burger that left me with a bad aftertaste all afternoon and another that contains more fat than meat. People are giving poison to their kids.
La Vallée Village: One of the Top Things to Do While in Paris Good morning Marne La Vallee. A beautiful Sunday morning and a busy day ahead. As planned, today is Val D'Europe day. Some shopping for the summer season won't do me any harm. Just a few minutes from Disneyland, is my favorite shopping destination: La Valee Village. The hotel called the shuttle service for only 5 euros back and forth I went shopping, then had lunch at the mall, enjoyed an afternoon yogurt and came back to relax before the long busy week starts. Today, I tasted a French version of the Lebanese Shawarma, at Noura Val D’Europe, which I found acceptable and generous.
Noura: Trying the Taste of a Lebanese Shawarma in Paris
It's 7am in Marne La Vallee, I only have two hours before my course starts in Paris. The taxi is waiting and here we go… I'm so excited to eat discover and try new tasty things in the capital this week.
This week, you’ll notice that I really spent my time around the 9th district of Paris. Opera, Madeleine, Moulin Rouge, Lafayette, Gare Saint-Lazare are all minutes away. I didn’t feel like passing by the Champs Elysées this time. I wanted to try everyday places I stumbled upon, places you can have a decent meal without paying an arm and a leg, places that are not known much nor listed in international guides. Besides, I hardly had time to go around too much, since my courses started at 9am and ended at 7pm, when by then I was too tired to do much. I just wanted to get back to the hotel and rest.
50 minutes to reach Paris and another 20 minutes to the hotel. I'm finally here. I arrive to a large black facade hiding an amazing design hotel behind. Wow! I was amazed with the first impression I got. There was a wooden large open space connecting the lobby to the salons and the bar. Old refurbished design with a hint of modernism. English cottage combined with French luxury makes out of this hotel an amazing choice. I was happy to start the week on such positive notes. Up on the fifth floor, the room, simple and homey with a view on the streets below will be my living space for the next six nights.
The Pulitzer Hotel: A Place I’ll Recommend to all my Friends As soon as I arrived, I was so excited to share with everyone some of our Lebanese wonders. I opened the Hallab box of mixed sweets and distributed to all. They were simply amazed. It made me happy to share a real image of the Lebanese food European don't really know about and often confuse them with Turkish and Moroccan ones.
At lunch, together with the group, we went to Place Saint Georges, a Parisian brasserie known in the area. Unfortunately, after a weekend of very bad food, things didn't change. The experience was simple, normal, and nothing special about it. Food is below average. Plates need seasoning and more flavors. As for the night, I really enjoyed a decent authentic plate of sushi at Kim Seoul, a restaurant one building away from the hotel. Real unsophisticated sushi rolls that made me smile while fulfilling my hunger for only 23€.
Kim Seoul, Paris 9e: A Sushi Place I Simply Enjoyed The second day was as special as the first. Eric, my colleague in class got a big piece of goat cheese straight from the factory, along with three bottles of wine to taste. Chevrey-Chambertin, Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuit and Chambolle Musigny. From the restaurant next door, Le Brigadier, where we had lunch, we got ourselves some wine glasses for the afternoon. Pleasure, leisure and studies were all mixed up in a culinary experience that made this day special. I had too much to eat, so I decided to sleep without dinner.
There's a burger craze in the French capital. Le Figaro published a review about the top10 places to have a burger in Paris. I decided to follow that route and make sure what was written is true. This week was the burger week for me: I was on a mission to finding the best one around the French capital. I visited four of them already, and aiming to try the rest during the next trip next month.
La Maison Mère, Paris: Burgers, Hotdogs and Even More Brown&Baker: Another Burger Diner Opens in the French Capital Breakfast in America: Try Their Burger… Nothing Else is Worth the Visit Schwartz’s Deli Paris: People Wait 30 Minutes to Eat this? La Maison Mere, the least known between them, won this round. It proved to be the best by far - The best burger, the best bun, the best meat, the best salad and the best fries. This week turned out to be calm. I didn't even visit the Champs Elysees once, but spent my time around the 9th district where I discovered a tasty Pizza (Cafe Della Pizza) as well as a Lebanese Restaurant, Chez Sofia.
Chez Sofia, A Lebanese Restaurant in Paris
Cafe Della Pizza: Homemade Crunchy Italian Pizzas I was doing some research on some innovative food ideas and I came across something called WikiBar, a place that offers what they call WikiPearl foods protected by an edible skin. Interesting I thought especially that it’s in Paris. So after my courses, I grabbed a cab and headed straight to 4 Rue du Bouloi in the 1st district in Paris, where WikiBar is located.
WikiPearls: Food in an Edible Shell… The Future is Now Nine days have already passed by and my stay was coming to an end. I decided to spend the last night at the airport where I could try a hotel that's been at the back of my mind for a while now: The Sheraton Charles de Gaulle. The experience was disappointing on so many levels, except for the bed and showers.
Les Saisons Restaurant: Sheraton Hotel, Paris Airport The Sheraton Hotel: Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport Breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel, Paris Airport Airport, check-in, duty free, lounge and here we are ready to depart. I enjoyed my time around the airport this time. What made it special was my stop at La Maison du Chocolat, where I indulged in unique sweet creations. Consider passing by this sweet spot the next time you are in Paris.
CDG: Air France Business Lounge Terminal 2C La Maison Du Chocolat: Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport I enjoyed ten days to the max. I am looking forward to my next trip in September.