Top 5: Things to do in Paris

Nope, I haven’t been here YET – but I can dream of my top 5 things to do in this city of romance, right?

5. A walk along the Siene River

In the city of romance, the Seine River is its lifeblood. Formerly a major trade route, today the river’s islands, bridges and quays evoke the most romantic visions of Paris. This nostalgia is heightened after dark when the Seine shimmers with the watery reflections of floodlit monuments and bridges. C’est magnifique!

4. Le Jardin du Luxembourg

When the weather is fine, Parisians of all ages come flocking to the formal terraces and chestnut groves of the 23-hectare Jardin du Luxembourg to read, relax and sunbathe. There are a number of activities for children here, and in the southern part of the garden you’ll find urban orchards as well as the honey-producing Rucher du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Apiary).

3. Notre Dame Cathedral

Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris is the true heart of Paris; in fact, distances from Paris to all parts of metropolitan France are measured from place du Parvis Notre Dame, the square in front of Notre Dame. A bronze star, set in the pavement across from the main entrance, marks the exact location of point zéro des routes de France (point zero of French roads).

2. The Louvre

The vast Palais du Louvre was constructed as a fortress by Philippe-Auguste in the early 13th century and rebuilt in the mid-16th century for use as a royal residence. In 1793 the Revolutionary Convention turned it into the nation’s first national museum.

The paintings, sculptures and artefacts on display in the Louvre Museum have been assembled by French governments over the past five centuries. Among them are works of art and artisanship from all over Europe and important collections of Assyrian, Etruscan, Greek, Coptic and Islamic art and antiquities. Traditionally the Louvre’s raison d’être is to present Western art from the Middle Ages to about the year 1848 (at which point the Musée d’Orsay takes over), as well as the works of ancient civilisations that informed Western art.

The Louvre may be the most actively avoided museum in the world. Daunted by the richness and sheer size of the place (the side facing the Seine is some 700m long, and it is said that it would take nine months just to glance at every piece of art here), both local people and visitors often find the prospect of an afternoon at a smaller museum far more inviting. Eventually, most people do their duty and come, but many leave overwhelmed, unfulfilled, exhausted and frustrated at having got lost on their way to da Vinci’s La Joconde, better known as Mona Lisa (room 6, 1st floor, Salle de la Joconde, Denon Wing). Your best bet – after checking out a few works you really want to see – is to choose a particular period or section of the Louvre and pretend that the rest is in another museum somewhere across town.

1.  The Eiffel Tower (was that too obvious?!)

When it was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World Fair), marking the centenary of the Revolution, the Tour Eiffel faced massive opposition from Paris’ artistic and literary elite. The ‘metal asparagus’, as some Parisians snidely called it, was almost torn down in 1909 but was spared because it proved an ideal platform for the transmitting antennas needed for the new science of radiotelegraphy. Named after its designer, Gustave Eiffel, the tower is 324m high, including the TV antenna at the tip. This figure can vary by as much as 15cm, however, as the tower’s 7300 tonnes of iron, held together by 2.5 million rivets, expand in warm weather and contract when it’s cold.

* Thanks Lonely Planet for helping me daydream!

Biking in Burgundy

Your faithful guest blogger is back from Copenhagen – notes and photos on that later!

I’d like to share one of my favourite trips outside of Switzerland – biking in Burgundy, France (I thought I’d clarify in case you were thinking the post was about cycling in a maroon shirt…).

In essence, going on this trip feels like you are in a French film – you wind your way through French vineyards, glide through old French wine-making villages, take in the breathtaking scenery, even stopping to sample a grape now and then.
I was with a group, and we stayed in Beaune, France,  and for the cycling aspect we used Burgundy Evasion Bike Tours, which I highly recommend.  Florian, who runs the tiny company, is an excellent guide.  He speaks both French and English.
Here are some photos from the bike rides:

As for Beaune, to me it feels like the quintessential French village – cobblestone streets, lots of wineries for tasting, a wonderful Saturday market (you might recall my love of markets!), little winding streets, and lots of “terrasses” (patios) on which you might enjoy a glass of local burgundy wine.

Off to a wine-tasting!Guess which bottle is the normal wine bottle size???  Yup, the one on the left.  The one on the right would require a serious celebration!

The streets of Beaune.Market produce.  What can I say, the French know how to display their veggies.

Of course my blog posting wouldn’t be complete without a mention (at least one…) of food – one of my favourite French treats is called a “macaron” (macaroon).  This one café (sorry, the name escapes me) offers a large selection of flavours, and you can have it elegantly with tea, as I did below.  (Perhaps mine was less elegant because I drooled so much in anticipation!)

In Beaune there is a very old hospice (no longer being used as one) which you can tour – I also would recommend this!
If you are looking for a trip to France, I would suggest you give Beaune a try…because how can you not follow the sign below??

Happy Sunday,

Savory Saturady – Burgundy, France

I was watching a cooking show on Thursday and the lady create an amazing masterpiece that left me drooling for 30 minutes until I reheated my white bean soup from Wednesday.

It was inspired by Burgundy, a great wine region, which sold me right away.

Beef Burgundy (Beef Bourguignon)

Beef Burgundy / Boeuf Bourguignon
Serves 12

Preparation begins two days ahead of serving and while this dish takes time to prepare, it is well worth the effort. It freezes well, so we have made a large quantity with this in mind.

  • 2.5 kg (5lb) stewing beef, trimmed and cut into cubes
  • Salt and coarse ground pepper – 1½ tabs each
  • ½ cup plus 3 tabs oil
  • 500 gm (1lb) carrots peeled and sliced
  • 6 medium onions, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bouquet garni – fresh thyme tied with bay leaves
    and parsley stems
  • 2 bottles of red wine
  • 2 litres beef or veal stock

Kneaded butter made with 90 gm (3oz) flour and 90 gm (3oz) butter

For the garnish

  • 2 tabs oil
  • 500 gm (1lb) smoked bacon –slices cut into strips
  • 30 – 40 baby onions, blanched and peeled
  • 500 gm (1lb) mushrooms, quartered if large
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Toss the beef with generous amounts of salt and pepper, combine with 3 tabs of oil, carrots, onions and garlic in a large, non-reactive bowl. Toss the ingredients with the bouquet garni and add the red wine. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, if possible, stirring from time to time.

Drain the marinated meat and vegetables and reserve the liquid. Separate the meat from the rest of the ingredients and dry the pieces of meat with paper towel.

Heat a very large, heavy-bottomed casserole over high heat with the ½ cup of oil for 3-4 minutes, or until the oil begins to smoke slightly. Sear the meat, in small batches, until well browned on all sides. Set aside the meat.

Remove the bouquet garni from the vegetable mixture. Add the marinated vegetables to the casserole and cover with a tight fitting lid. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F. Return the reserved meat to the casserole and add half the stock, the reserved wine marinade and the bouquet garni. Bring the mixture to the boil over high heat, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface. This could be 2 cups.

Place the uncovered casserole in the oven, on the lowest possible shelf for ½ hour. Reduce the temperature to 175C/350F. Add remaining stock. Cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.

In the meantime, heat a large, heavy-bottomed and deep sided pan over high heat with the remaining 2 tabs oil. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Drain and set aside the bacon. Add the onions to the pan and cover. Cook until the onions are translucent and begin to brown evenly. Add the mushrooms and cook, uncovered until the mushrooms are tender. Return the bacon to the mixture and reserve.

When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven and place on a medium heat. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. Stir in the kneaded butter mixture, small amounts at a time, until the sauce is nicely thickened. Add the reserved garnish mixture, and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Beef Burgundy is usually accompanied by steamed or boiled potatoes but it is also delicious with wide, flat noodles.

I think I will do a few substitutions. I love mushrooms, so they will go right in there. Also, I will exchange carrots for potatoes, and perhaps throw in a few more garlic cloves. Mmm garlic.

Bon Appetit!