Pursuing the Perfect Pub Food

Eating while traveling doesn’t have to be fancy. We have found pubs to offer outstanding tasty morsels of wonderfulness that can be regionally enlightening and really help us connect to a place… CONTINUE READING >> 

We are huge fans of street food. These tasty morsels of walking wonderfulness really help us connect to a place while we travel.

But sometimes weather, or tradition, don’t always allow for eating on the run, we have found pubs to often offer outstanding alternatives that can be just as regionally enlightening.

Short for public house, these neighborhood watering holes have served as thirst quenching gathering places for centuries. They also have traditionally fed patrons with quick, hearty, and locally unique meals.

In the British Isles, pubs date back nearly two thousand years to the arrival of the Romans. When the centurions left some five centuries later, the Anglo-Saxons continued to operate taverns. Over time the pubs became a focal point in many communities, as people frequented their “local” near home or work.

For us Ireland springs to mind when the word pub is mentioned, and there is good reason for that since it is home to some of the oldest. So Dublin is where we will begin this look at our experiences with pub grub.

We sought out M.J. O’Niell’s in the Temple Bar district because it came highly recommended, and happily we found they lived up to their reputation.

The location, in the heart of the city’s cultural quarter, has been home to a pub for some three hundred years.

Lamb stew and a slab of corned beef, both served with plenty of Irish potatoes, seemed like the right orders, along with a couple o’ pints. It is a pub after all.

Picking our poison was no easy task at O’Neill’s, since they pour forty-five different brews on tap, and a bunch more in bottles, from all over the world.

But when in Ireland a Guinness is always a good call.

The next day we returned to the Temple Bar section for a meal at the Turks Head. This eclectic establishment opened in 1760 and features decor that wildly mixes Turkish Bazaar with corner bar.

The Beef and Guinness casserole, along with the fish & chips, was classic Irish fare. For a change of pace we tried a Bulmer’s Cider to wash it down.

Great Britain also celebrates pub culture. While the number of pubs in London has been declining in recent years, there are still a solid thirty-five-hundred of them across the city. Believe us, finding one wasn’t hard.

Since we were staying by the Paddington station, Dickens Tavern was our “local.” Their menu is packed with great British pub food standards, including iconic dishes like hand-battered fish and chips, pie and mash, and our choice, steak & Ruddles Ale pie, which rocked.

Pudding for breakfast and pie for lunch, we learned to like it… a lot.

In our experience, great pubs are not confined to the big cities. We also found stellar fare in Salisbury, where classic fish and chips with mushy peas at The King’s Head saved us from succumbing to jet lag. The sustenance was enough to give us the strength to make it to Stonehenge a few miles away.

The town also seemed to be the home of quirky pub names. The King’s Head struck us as a little off beat, but right across the street we saw The Slug & Lettuce, and a bit later the Wig & Quill. Got to love it!

In Cornwall we found pub and street food intertwined as the pasty, pronounced pass-tee, was almost everywhere. They are so emblematic that they have been given Protected Geographical Indication status.

Traditional pasties consist of a sturdy crust filled with beef, potato, swede (also known as turnip in Cornwall) and onion. They are designed to be hand-held, as in hand to mouth, but will appear on a plate with gravy when feeling fancy.

Even though we may not have as long of pub history here in the U.S.A., the Brits definitely brought their love of taverns with them to America. Then we took the idea and ran with it.

No doubt the most famous and wide spread American addition to pub food has to be Buffalo Wings.

These tasty little morsels are said to have been invented by Teressa Bellissimo at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. This is where the name came from, not that somehow bison sprouted new appendages.

We made a pilgrimage to the source and found the bar awash in fanciful decor celebrating the achievement. Why not? They should be proud.

Their story behind the creation of the original hot wing appetizer back in 1964 is that Teressa’s son and some friends came in for a late night snack. With nothing handy to feed them but chicken wings, which were considered superfluous soup bones back then, she decided to fry them up.

Adding some hot sauce and dressing, next thing you know the Anchor had a taste sensation on their hands. The rest, as they say, is history.

We can testify that they are near the top of the list of the many, many, many, many wings we have consumed.

And perhaps any pub food we have ever found.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We are always looking for good things to eat so let us know your favorite pub food in the comments below.

The Insider’s Guide to Canadian Train Getaways

Canada is the second largest country in the world. If you’re aiming to see it all from coast to coast in one trip, cross country train travel is the ultimate way to go… CONTINUE READING >> 

A classic Canadian train journey is full of history, scenery and quintessential Canuck culture.

But with the trip spanning more than 2,700 miles, planning a seamless trans-Canada train vacation is no simple task.

I spoke to Canada travel expert Katherine Foxcroft at Canadian Train Vacations (which has booked over 15,000 Canadian train vacations over the past 25 years) about how you can make the most of your Canada train vacation.

She had a lot of helpful things to say about planning the perfect Cross-Canada odyssey. Here are some of the insider tips she had to offer:

How Much of Canada Can I See in One Trip?

Canada is the second largest country in the world. If you’re aiming to see it all from coast to coast in one trip, it is possible to travel cross country by train in two weeks. You’d simply have to book a ride on the overnight sleeper train Via Rail Canadian.

However, you won’t have much time to stop and look around. (You’ll see most of the scenery through the train window.)

“For those who want to get off and explore along the way,” says Katherine, “we’d recommend around at least 20 days to see all of Canada, or a couple of weeks to explore some of Eastern Canada, and the Rockies.”

If you have a shorter vacation, it might be better to choose one region of Canada (such as the West Coast, The Rockies or the Maritimes) and really immerse yourself in it.

When you narrow it down to a specific region you’ll have more time to get off the train, walk around and really see your destination up close. (After all, there’s so much to see and do in every province… so you don’t want to rush it!)

Which Part of Canada Should I Visit?

Here’s one of the most difficult Canada conundrums – if you have to choose only one part of the True North Strong and Free to visit, which one should it be?

Katherine says there is no right answer – it depends on your interests. She has met travelers who are fascinated with the First Nations cultures of British Columbia, those who dream of hiking to glacial lakes in the Albertan Rockies, or those who want to embrace the unique cultures of Canada’s big cities such as Toronto and Montreal. So the key is to ask yourself – what aspect of Canada most intrigues you?

It might help to think about the types of experiences you want to have during your trip. If you love history, you’ll want to explore the East Coast and Quebec, where some of Canada’s earliest settlements can be found. If you crave stunning mountain scenery, a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver To Banff is an absolute must.

Do some research into the festivals, museums and attractions you want to visit, then plan a train journey that hits your top highlights. Canadian train journeys are much more flexible than you might think. You can add in stops at different cities along the route, as well as tours, excursions and other activities.

Katherine recommends talking to someone who understands the logistics of how the trains fit together, and what the distances and travel times are. This can really help when figuring out how to make connections between different trains and ensuring your logistics are smooth.  

Which Level of Service Should I Choose?

The various trains in Canada offer a range of service levels, from simple economy class seats to luxurious and spacious private cabins.

So, I asked Katherine to share the insider scoop on which level of service offers the best value on each train.

Train: Which Level of Service is Best?
The Rocky Mountaineer The highlight of this journey is the stunning scenery, so opt for GoldLeaf service as this will give you access to the spectacular views from the upper dome cars.
The Canadian Train Choose Sleeper Plus and get your own private cabin on this cross- country route. You’ll have the best of both worlds – the social atmosphere of the dining car and dome car, plus a quiet place of your own to sleep.
The Corridor Train Business Class offers the best value when traveling on this Ontario/Quebec route. You’ll enjoy priority service at the train stations and you’ll be treated to drinks and food.
The Ocean Train On this East Coast train, you’ll enjoy the best value service in Sleeper Plus Class. (Be sure to wake up early and watch the sun come up as the train glides through Chaleur Bay.)
What’s It Like to Sleep on a Train?

Wondering what to expect on an overnight train?

“The first night is a little strange,” Katherine explains, “listening to the sounds of the train, and feeling it go up and down hills and mountains.”

However, that strangeness quickly fades and the experience becomes cozy and familiar.

“You get to know the people in your car really well. It’s super relaxing to meander from the lounge cars, dining cars, dome cars, and your cabin.”

Life on the train is incredibly relaxing – a chance to sit back and watch the stunning scenery go by – dense forests, mirror-like lakes, craggy peaks that fill the horizon. Many passengers say they bring a book along with them thinking that they will get some reading done, only to leave the book untouched on their lap as they gaze in awe out the window.

In addition to the hypnotic scenery, sleeping on the train means your every need will be taken care of. Katherine says one of the most surprising things that travelers on train trips across Canada discover is how high-quality the service is.

The staff are incredibly attentive and will bring you snacks, make up your cabin and help you with anything you might need. Plus, on many of the trips they will host activities such as local wine tastings and live music performances, as well as entertain you with tales about Canadian history.

When you add in the fun of mingling with other passengers onboard, the Canadian train experience is unlike anything else in the world.

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

A Little Talked About Sign of Aging

Here’s the thing. My best features come from my Romanian roots. I’ve always enjoyed having dark hair and blue eyes. I am psyched that my “gray” hair is silver, some people pay big bucks for that. Dracula was Romanian, and by most accounts was a particularly handsome man-thing.

That being said, we Romanians are a very hairy people. My beloved Grandpa not only had follicles growing out of his ears, but in his later years his lobes looked like small woodland creatures. My stunningly gorgeous mother had quite the collection of… CONTINUE READING >>

Veronica Writing

Here’s the thing.

My best features come from my Romanian roots. I’ve always enjoyed having dark hair and blue eyes.

I am psyched that my “gray” hair is silver, some people pay big bucks for that.

Dracula was Romanian, and by most accounts was a particularly handsome man-thing.

That being said, we Romanians are a very hairy people. My beloved Grandpa not only had follicles growing out of his ears, but in his later years his lobes looked like small woodland creatures.

My stunningly gorgeous mother had quite the collection of creams, bleaches, waxes and other tortuous means of ripping hair out of unwanted locations. No hair loss treatments in her bathroom! She was just the opposite.

Luckily, I have a dash of the less hirsute Western European DNA in the mix, so I don’t look like Cousin Itt. Yet.

Armed and ever aware of my Romanian hairy-heritage, I remain on steadfast lookout for the inevitable mustache, the gratuitous nose whisker or stray fur bearing mole. I’ve been beating back a unibrow since puberty. I am immune to the pain of tweezers.

But as the years have passed, I’ve been forced to employ magnifying reading glasses to keep up my persistent plucking practice. Seeing is a top priority while I keep unruly outgrowths at bay.

But nothing prepared me for what I found in the mirror recently.

I HAVE AN EYEBROW ON MY EYELID! And it’s a honker. Browbeating me, as it were.

Let me clarify a bit. My newest brow tress is situated on the lid that covers my eye when I blink. This position gives the little monster the undue advantage of not being visible when look in the mirror with my eyelids open.

I’ve concluded that the ten-foot-long eyebrow hair achieved its great length by hiding under the rim of said eye-wear. But discovering the existence of the strong willed stray gave me no advantage, it had cleverly chosen an impossible-to-tweeze spot. This fact did not detour me from the task at hand though, the sucker had to be plucked.

In order to get close enough to the mirror for my assault, I donned my cheater-glasses and hoisted one knee up on the vanity for hands-free support while leaning in at a vertigo inducing angle.

With one eye closed, clutching the tweezers in my right hand, I used my left forefinger to gingerly reach behind the lens of my cheaters whilst trying not to leave a view-obstructing smudge. I could therefore elevate my upper lid high enough to see the offending hair.

Unfortunately, this feat prevented any light from coming in from above, seriously impeding my efforts. The thought of pinching even a teeny part of my eyelid with the tweezers during the yanking procedure promptly precipitated my aborting of the mission.

Three more eye-wateringly unsuccessful attempts and I had resigned to the fact that the obstinate sucker was never coming out. I was destined to go through the rest of my life with a marmot covering my eye. Maybe I should just treat it as a pet and name it.

Problem is, the only moniker I can come up with should not be repeated in mixed company.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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Only One Day in Paris? Here’s What to do!

What if you only had one day to spend in Paris? 

How could you spend it and see the highlights?

What if you have a week, but have no idea where to start?

We have the answer! Find out how we saw  Paris’ most famous landmarks – including lunch in the Eiffel Tower and dinner on the… CONTINUE READING >>

Straight up from under the Eiffel Tower! GypsyNester.com
Looking straight up from the bottom of the Eiffel Tour.

Paris sits near the top of almost every traveler’s must-see list.

While we had checked that box many years ago, having been in our 20s and crazy enough to drive around the city in a little rented Fiat, most of what we saw was blurry and had a slightly fearful aura attached to it.

By far the bulk of our attention was devoted to avoiding an accident while not getting hopelessly lost.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

Now that we are older and wiser — and knowing we’d be jet-lagged — we decided that hitting the highlights with a guide was not a touristy cliché to be frowned upon, but a stress-free way to visit some of Europe’s most famous landmarks. It also struck us as a great way to scout locations for our upcoming week in Paris. A private tour would be ideal, but expensive, so we contacted Viator and booked their Best of Paris Tour.

David aboard the boat of our Seine River dinner cruise in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Our small band of eight curious travelers from around the world made the outing more interesting and entertaining than a solo excursion, all the while maintaining the individual attention we would have lost in a large group.

Instead of dozens of people in a huge bus, we spent the morning riding throughout the city in a van, sans the anxiety of being behind the wheel.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

The initial part of the tour was a whirlwind overview of the history and geography of Paris starting with a cruise along the Champs-Élysées, and a couple of laps around the insanely traffic-filled circle that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe.

Our guide and driver, Sabastian, who was the perfect combination of comical and informative, mused that an accident occurs in the circle every twenty minutes.

However, having impeccable timing, he limited his lapping to fifteen minutes, therefore beating the odds, and allowing us to escape unscathed.

In contrast to the crazy congestion at the Arc, we proceeded to the narrowest street in Paris, Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche or Street of the Fishing Cat, no doubt the only one in the city without a single vehicle on it!

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Periodically the van stopped for a quick look-around, giving us a chance to hop out and snap a few photos.

Our first opportunity came at the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, where we had a chance to crane our necks up for an eye-to-eye with the gargoyles peering down at us.

Gargoyles and statues on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Built over the course of nearly two hundred years, beginning in 1163, Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to incorporate the flying buttress as reinforcements for the walls.

Not part of the original design, as construction progressed the grand scale of the building required additional support, and a buttress or two was the perfect solution.

Check out more about Notre Dame Cathedral

View from a window of the Louvre in Paris, France

Back in the van, we took a spin through the nearby grounds of the Louvre and, while seeing the famous pyramid was cool, it only made us more detemined to go back and explore the great works housed inside.

We passed the Palais Garnier, generally known as the Opéra de Paris, or Paris Opera House.

The Paris Opera House

We knew it as the home to the Phantom of the Opera, but that is only a small part of why this may be the most famous opera house in the world. The amazing architecture could be more responsible for that stature.

The golden-domed Hotel National des Invalides in Paris, France

Our next stop was the golden-domed Hotel National des Invalides, that is said to have been an inspiration for the United States Capitol building.

The complex was initiated by Louis XIV as a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, and it still serves that purpose today.

It is also home to several museums and monuments related to the military history of France.

Many of the country’s heroes are laid to rest here, including Napoleon Bonaparte, whose tomb is beneath the dome.

The best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, looking across the Seine River from the Trocadéro Gardens

We set out for what is often considered the best view of the Eiffel Tower in town, looking across the Seine River from the Trocadéro Gardens.

Even shrouded in fog, Tour Eiffel stood out as the most impressive emblem of Paris.

Crossing the river for a closer look, we discovered yet another reason to love this tour, no lines.

Lunch at the Eiffel Tower, le 58 Tour Eiffel in Paris, France

Instead of waiting behind the hundreds of eager tower visitors, we walked right on to the elevator and rode up to the first observation level to take advantage of our lunch reservations.

The restaurant, le 58 Tour Eiffel, provides attentive table service fifty-eight meters high on the most recognizable landmark in Paris, and more memorably, a seriously cool way to hang out high above the city.

See more photos of this seriously cool eatery and our antics at the Eiffel Tower

View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Gustave Eiffel designed and built his tower in 1889 as an entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair.

Even though it was the tallest man-made structure on earth, at over a thousand feet high, he probably had no idea that it would become the enduring symbol of La Ville-Lumière, the City of Light.

Long lines at the Eiffel Tower - learn how we skipped the lines! GypsyNester.com
And, again, very grateful we got to skip the lines!

After our meal we hit the stairway and climbed to the second observation level, just over a third of the way up.

From this vantage point the panoramic view of Paris was spectacular, and since the top was hidden in the clouds we didn’t see any reason to go any higher.

See our antics at the Eiffel Tower and learn a few things about her that you didn’t know!

Our Viator guide of Paris, Sabastian

Instead we met back up with Sabastian for an afternoon of opulence at the Palace of Versailles.

After the short drive out of the city, we once again bypassed the waiting crowds and walked right in.

The Palace of Versailles from the gardens near Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

The Château de Versailles became the royal residence in 1682, when Louis the Fourteenth moved out of the Louvre in favor of the country house and gardens that had served as a hunting lodge since 1624.

Of course, major renovations were in order, one can’t rule properly from a hunting lodge.

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

It seems that the redecoration was quite a success! No wonder Louis is known for his furnishings.

We were particularly enthralled by the Hall of Mirrors, and the artwork on the ceilings, but every room made it quite obvious that it was good to be king… that is… until there is a revolution.

Inside the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France

But the rise of the republic did not vanquish the palace, even though many of the furnishings were hauled off by angry mobs — no cake for them — it has been restored to its previous glory.

Versailles continues to play host to political functions by hosting heads of state in the Hall of Mirrors and housing meetings of the Sénat and the Assemblée whenever revisions or amendments are made to the French Constitution.

The garden at Versailles near Paris, France

Nearly as impressive as the interior, the grounds have to be seen to be believed as well. After all, what is an emperor’s country château without a garden? We wouldn’t have to answer that question, because Versailles has the backyard to end all backyards. Even in late autumn, we were easily engulfed by its lovely, lush repose.

Fountain of horses in the gardens of Versailles near Paris, France - GypsyNester.com

Almost two thousand acres of trees, flowers, fountains, ponds, statues, and perfectly trimmed hedges forming designs and mazes, all with string quartet music perfectly piped throughout.  No kidding, no matter where we walked it always sounded like they were right behind the next tree.

The gardens of the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France

Over time the gardens fell into a state of overgrowth, but now the Petit Parc – Louis XIV’s pleasure garden – is being restored to the same condition that it was in at the end of his reign in 1715.

See more photos of Versailles – there’s so much more over-the-top royal stuff to share!

The Eiffel Tour in the fog at night in Paris, France

We returned to Paris at the base of the Eiffel Tower to embark on the last leg of the tour, an evening cruise along the Seine just as darkness was engulfing the City of Light.

The backdrop could not have been better for a romantic meal.

If we were looking for a sure-fire way to improve on the ancient adage: “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou” we would have been hard pressed to find a way.

The food on our dinner cruise on the River Seine in Paris, France

The Bibliothque Mazarine at night during a Seine dinner cruise - GypsyNester.com

Slowly sailing past illuminated landmarks, while enjoying a three-course dinner, was the ultimate end an exquisite day.

Seine River Dinner Cruise in Paris, France

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

DELVE DEEPER:
See where we stayed in Paris
See our antics at the Eiffel Tower and learn a few things about her that you didn’t know!
Follow us to Versailles – there’s so much more over-the-top royal stuff to share!
Want more Paris? Click here!
Check out all of our adventures in France!


Big thanks to Viator for providing this mind-blowing adventure! As always, all opinions are our own. See how you can take Viator’s Best of Paris Tour yourself!

YOUR TURN: Is Paris at the top of your must-see list? Or have you already checked it off? What would be YOUR first stop in Paris?

Doing Paris Like We Live There

Since we have been to Paris a few times, we decided that we would like to see it the way our daughter and her husband do… as home.

So we set out to discover their neighborhood in the relaxed style of a local…

CONTINUE READING >> 

As a prelude to our bike journey across Normandy, we spent a few days hanging with our daughter and her French husband.

Our thinking was that since we had been to Paris a few times, we would like to see it the way they do… as home. So we set out to discover their neighborhood in the relaxed style of a local.

The city is divided into twenty numbered districts known as arrondissements and theirs, the 4th, runs along the north side of The Seine in the area around and including Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Very cool and all, but our mission was to avoid the tourist areas, so we explored the 4th by walking its streets, and popping in and out of shops and cafés. With our son in law Adrien guiding us, we spent our first morning on a shopping excursion in search of the ultimate bread and cheese.

It seems that every Parisian has their favorite spot for these, as well as wine, coffee, meats, produce, and pastries. While bopping from one store to another, we also discovered several hidden gardens behind the buildings that line the roads.

One of the largest, The Place des Vosges, was tucked away between our hotel and their apartment. The open area forms a huge courtyard surrounded by what was originally a royal palace.

After the revolution it became public, but remained home to the upper crust. That doesn’t keep regular citizens from enjoying the green space because all of the city’s parks are open to everyone. A more poignant park is concealed nearby, hidden down some narrow side streets.

For over one hundred years the le Marais district of the city has had a significant Jewish population, and in the heart of that community the Jardin des Rosiers pays tribute to a true hero.

Joseph Migneret directed the nearby École élémentaire des Hospitalières-Saint-Gervais boys’ school during World War II. When the Nazis began to deport students, he provided false papers and sheltered many, saving them from Auschwitz and death.

Despite his best efforts, as we entered the garden we noticed scores of children that did not escape are memorialized on a plaque.

On a much happier note, we found a perfect way to while away the afternoon when we rented an electric boat for a leisurely float along the Canal de l’Ourcq.

Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the canal to be built in 1802 in order to bring water to the city and aid shipping.  In more recent times it has become a favorite urban escape for Parisians.

We met up with Adrien’s parents at the boat, where they added wine and chicken to our cheese and bread for a simply sumptuous mobile picnic.

Later, we walked down to the Seine for a taste of how the locals end the day. Several bars and restaurants have set up tables by the river and it seemed as though half of the city comes here to socialize as the sun goes down.

After a toast to the day and a snack, we joined in with the crowds walking the path lining the right bank. The fading light proved perfect for a view of one of Paris’ overlooked architectural gems, city hall. The Hôtel de Ville has been the headquarters for the government of Paris since 1357 as well as where the mayor hosts grand receptions.

The next morning we rented bikes and set out along the river once again. With wheels under us, we could cover enough ground to cruise both the right and left banks. After riding a few miles, lo and behold it seemed no matter how hard we tried not to be tourists the Eiffel Tower was almost impossible to avoid.

Such a terrible problem to have… Waaaah, we have to see one of the world’s most famous landmarks!

We also had the chance to walk our bikes through the enormous Tuileries Garden. As with many of Paris’ green spaces, this began as the grounds of a palace, but was opened to the public later. Just one of the perks of post revolution France.

In the afternoon we strolled through the Bastille Square and up Boulevard Richard Lenoir to Belleville. This has long been a working class neighborhood, where immigrants from around the world settle after arriving, and still has that vibe. It is also quite famous among the French as the home of the iconic singer Édith Piaf.

We found a seat outside of a fantastic corner café to soak it all in. The Cannibale Café describes itself as “the ideal pied-à-terre for lovers of the neighborhood, world travelers, Sunday walkers and nocturnal animals.” No way that we could say it better. And yes, the name means what it sounds like, we asked.

Most all of our walks included discoveries of statues, notably American founding fathers Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who both spent a good deal of time in Paris. But we were more intrigued by the unfamiliar.

Just outside of our hotel we met Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. Truly a renaissance man, he worked as an inventor, musician, playwright, and publisher, but it was as a diplomat, spy, financier, and arms dealer that he played a pivotal, if unheralded, role in America’s revolutionary victory against the British.

We found our favorite statue at the nearby Place de la République. Marianne is a national symbol of liberty and reason symbolizing the triumph of the Republic. She is very similar to our own Lady Liberty which, of course, was a gift from France.

After a few days of immersion into day to day life in Paris, we set out by bike to Versailles , and then by boat all the way to the sea on an eight day Backroads Travel tour of Normandy.

We finished the tour back in Paris and the kids took us to another of their favorite places before we left for the airport, the Café des Musees. They boast of “The best Bœuf Bourguignon in Paris.”

Who are we to argue?  The beef is simmered for five hours in red wine sauce and served with carrots and mashed potatoes.

We can’t claim to be experts, but this was certainly the best we ever had.

Food is a huge part of life in Paris, and we found wonderful indulgences, not fancy but certainly delicious, everywhere we went.

Good thing too, because from there we were off to Iceland, home of some of the weirdest food we have ever eaten.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com