My Trip To Paris By RaShonda’s Explore Savvy

RaShonda of Explore Savvy is one of my favourite local travel blogger. Between her recent trips to Cuba or Milan and her scooping of fabulous cheap or error fare her facebook and twitter feeds give me major wanderlust – and make me want to buy all the airline tickets! Earlier in the year, she posted about an error fare on TAP Portugal, which I quickly snagged for a cheap Thanksgiving get-away. I mean, $280 round trip to Lisbon? How could I not jump on that? She also took advantage of the mistake, but rather than just stay in Portugal, opted to hop along to Paris. Here are some highlights from her trip to Paris earlier this year.

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS
As Laetitia mentioned, I came across a TAP Portugal deal for $285 round trip tickets from New York to many popular destinations in Europe. It was too good to pass up. My husband and I like to celebrate our anniversary in a different place each year so I figured we would take advantage of the deal to spend it in the City of Love this time around!

Explore Savvy's Anniversary trip to Paris

 

HOW I GOT THERE
We flew TAP Portugal. It was okay but nothing to write home about. If you ever fly this airline, my advice is to bring your own food and snacks. For what they lacked in food, they had plenty of red, white, and sparkling wine which made the food slightly more palatable. All of their flights from the US transit through Lisbon. If you have the time, they offer free tours during the stop-over, which is always a plus.

WHERE I STAYED
I’m a member of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) which means I earn points when staying at Starwood properties like Westins, W Hotels, Meridiens or Sheratons. They have properties around the world and I always try to capitalize on the use of points when I can. I wanted to stay some place that had its original Parisian charm and not your typical American hotel chain. Fortunately SPG had a few options that fit that requirement in Paris. We booked a room at Le Dokhan’s, a boutique hotel in a 19th century Haussmanian building in the 16eme arrondissement. It was recently acquired by SPG and was definitely the best of both worlds. From receiving a complimentary anniversary toast in Paris’ first champagne bar (located in the lobby level) to taking photos in its Louis Vuitton elevator, this place was oozing with charm.

Louis Vuitton elevator at Le Dokhan's in Paris

Also, it’s a short stroll to the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower! And while we didn’t use our points this go around, we earned enough for a free night or two in a less expensive city.

BEST THING I ATE
Paris is known for having tons of Michelin-rated restaurants and I figured I’d book one for our anniversary. I’d gone through the listing and narrowed down our selection to a few choices and ended up picking Kei, a one-star French restaurant which a slight Japanese influence. Each dish was so unique and the best part was all of them were very tasty. The service was absolutely amazing and I’d definitely recommend it to someone who’s celebrating a special occasion.

Kei

Kei

BEST FREE ACTIVITY
I’d definitely recommend spending the afternoon strolling down the Champs-Élysées. There are so many cute cafés and restaurants where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat and just sit there and people watch. There’s also a ton of shopping. While many of the places can be found in the States too, they do offer different options in the European stores.

TOTALLY WORTH THE SPLURGE
I know they’re opening in Washington, D.C. soon, but I finally had a chance to a go to Ladurée. We went to the one located on the Champs-Élysées. The line was out of the door but fortunately it moved quickly. As we made it halfway through, we noticed people walking right past us and into the small café area. We followed suit and learned we could order our macarons from there with no wait. Who knew?

Explore Savvy at Laduree

We ordered 8 macarons to go but still ended up sitting down and ordering a tea, a cappuccino, and a fancy ice cream dish. While, this was not our most expensive eating experience, we spent nearly $60 on an afternoon snack with a few macarons to go. But hey, you only live once 😉

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS
I always hear people talking about how French people are so rude. Honestly, my husband and I had a totally different experience. As long as you realize that the culture in Paris is not the same as in the United States, you will see things differently and enjoy your experience. One major difference: service at restaurants! Waiters are usually not ignoring you, they’re just giving you your space. If you need something just make eye contact or wave to them and they’ll be right over. Also, if you’re not fluent in French, learn a few basic greetings. Trust me, when you simply try it goes a long way…

Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com

Explore Savvy trip to Paris

 About the author: RaShonda Riddle is a nonprofit marketing director by day and travel enthusiast by night. She loves food, art, architecture, and learning about other cultures. Her passion is exploring the world one country at a time. You can read more about her travels on her blog Explore Savvy and on her social media channels (facebook & twitter.)

Is Ladurée Finally Coming to Washington, DC?

Laduree storefrontDo you know how long I’ve been waiting to write a post like this? Well, I’ve lived in DC for about 12 years and been blogging for 6… so that answers that question 😉

I had actually had thought I’d be writing a post like this announcing that Maison Kayser had finally nailed down some retail space in the District but it looks like Ladurée beat them to the punch (please be true, please be true). And I’m not going to complain about that (though I still would LOVE for Maison Kayser to open in the District pretty please!!!) {update: that’s happening too soon! Hurray!!}

Laduree at the Louvre Museum

Laduree at the Louvre Museum

Laduree on the Upper East Side, in New York

Laduree on the Upper East Side, in New York

News that one of Ladurée‘s signature pastel green coloured storefront would be opening in Georgetown appropriately broke in the Georgetown Metropolitan.   I had really hoped that if Kayser or Ladurée were to open in the District they would settle in City Center amongst their fancy French neighbour Hermes, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Caudalie. Obviously Georgetown is a really great fit as well and we’ll have to wait until opening to see whether the lines for macarons at 3060 M St. will rival those of Georgetown cupcakes a few blocks away… 

Laduree Macarons

If the famous Parisian macarons shop does open in Washington, it will only be Ladurée  fourth US location, after two stores in New York and one in Miami. {update: there’s one in Los Angeles now as well.} Ladurée has been owned by the Groupe Holder since 1993. Groupe Holder, of course, also owns Paul BakeriesPaul Bakeries‘ US expansion begun right here in Washington D.C., where it currently operates 7 bakeries (with an 8th one slated to open soon at 13th and K NW). Will the macarons be baked in France and flown over frozen or will they be baked in house? Will it be macarons only like the UES storefront or more of a salon de the like in SoHo? So many questions!! But this is very exciting news regardless of the answers 😉

Happy St. Honoré to all the bakers & pastry chefs

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of assigning saints as special guardians and protectors of different trades and professions, and bakers and pastry chefs are no exception! Saint Honoré, the former Bishop of Amiens in the North of France, is revered by bakers as their patron saint, in part due to a church that was built in his honor in 1202 that became the site of the bakers’ guilt. Technically, the patron saint of pastry chefs is St. Michel. But the line between boulangers (bakers) and pâtissiers (pastry chefs) is often blurred in France, with most boulangeries selling pastries in addition to bread. 

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho – picture Laetitia-Laure Brock

The St. Honoré also happens to be a delicious dessert made of cream puffs, puff pastry, pastry cream and caramelized sugar. It’s not named after the saint, but after the Parisian street where the bakery that invented it was located. So not only do all boulangers and pâtissiers have a holiday to celebrate, they also have the perfect treat to celebrate it with!

Check out this great story in NPR to learn more about the holiday and its signature pastry, the St. Honoré pastry.

 

Laduree Soho to Open February 5th

 

Laduree’s anticipated Soho Salon de The finally has an opening date! What’s really exciting about the location, other the fact that it’s opening just in time for my upcoming work trip to New York City, is that it will sell more than macarons. Laduree Soho will be a retail bakery, of course, but also tea room, and full-service restaurant, overseen by chef Johann Giraud.

laduree, laduree soho, laduree salon de the, laduree new york, macarons

I can’t wait to check it out next week!

Laduree Soho opens February 5th, 2014 at 396 West Broadway.

A French Twist on Halloween

There’s nothing French about Halloween. Unless you want there to be 😉

Since Ladurée no longer offers this beautifully stunning box of Halloween macarons (le sigh), you could head to Olivia Macaron since the Georgetown shop offers an adorable pumpkin jack themed macaron. Or you could also bake the quintessential parisian treat at home…

Halloween macarons, macaron, jack o'lantern macaron, pumpkin macaron

Spiced Pumpkin Macarons by cakecrumbsb

And while I’m still traumatized by my attempts to make candy corn infused vodka, maybe the Halloween Candy would work better in a macaron:

If making or eating macarons isn’t your thing, you might want to a) stop reading my blog b) dress up like one instead…

DIY Macaron Costume by Kelly of Studio DIY

DIY Macaron Costume by Kelly of Studio DIY

Speaking of dressing up like a french pastry, I’m also a big fan of this croquembouche costume! But if this is too cutesy for you and you’re pretty good with the sewing machine (and the duck tape), you could also whip out this Eiffel Tower outfit…

ps: how adorable is the kid’s version of that costume? If you’re not crafty, you can always buy this sexy Iron Lady costume or maybe you can just carve one in a pumpkin (I tried and failed miserably though…)

Eiffel Tower pumpkin, paris pumpkin, eiffel tower jack o'lantern

Or you can just have fun with it like my friend Johanna of Notes from a Messy Kitchen did last year with her clever “French Kiss” costume. J’adore so much more than the French maid costumes!

French Kiss costume, Halloween costume

Bonbons ou baton! Whether you give your holiday a French Twist or non, have a great Halloween!

Roland Garros Macarons

Tennis and macarons go la main dans la main in France. Every year, Paris plays host to one of the grand slam tournament, les Internationaux de France de Tennis, which the French just call Roland Garros (after the stadium where it takes place.) I’ve attended a couple of games in my days, including an all Williams women finals back in 2002. While we don’t make everyone wear white like some other fancy tournament, this is Paris and it’s tennis, so you probably won’t be too surprised to hear that you can purchase champagne and macarons at the concession stands. I mean, beer and hot dogs are SO Flushing Meadows 😉 In 2011, they came in kind of unappetizing colours though: yellow (for the tennis ball), dark ocre (for the clay) and dark green (for the logo.)

Photo credit Compass Group France

Never one to miss a good marketing opportunity, Laduree launched a commemorative macarons box for Roland Garros last year:

Image courtesy of Laduree

And this year, it’s Häagen-Dazs that’s hitting an ace with these macaron ice cream sandwiches. You won’t find them at the stadium though, the limited edition macarons will be sold exclusively at Häagen-Dazs’ flagship store on the ChampsÉlysées from May 15 to June 15 (for your info, the Roland Garros tournament takes place Porte d’Auteuil, right on the edge on Paris, from May 21st to June 9, 2013). They will come in 5 flavours: banoffee, pralines & cream, vanilla, macadamia nut brittle and lemon sorbet. A box of 5 will retail for 10. 

Photo credit: Haagen-Dazs

I know Roland Garros macarons is quite a mouthful to pronounce (that’s a lot of rrrs right?) but how cute are these?

Guest Post ~ My Trip to Paris by Cecile

Gertrude Stein once said “America is my country and Paris is my hometown.” I couldn’t agree more! When I am in Paris, I feel very much at home and become une petite Parisienne. Of course, it helps that my father is a francophile and my mother is, well, une vraie Parisienne. She used to live near the picturesque Place des Vosges and I grew up hearing all about Paris, its culture and its fashion. I’m lucky that I get to visit about once a year, and I’m thrilled to share with you a few of the things I love the most about my hometown…

… starting with fashion. French women always manage to look effortlessly chic, elegantly maneuvering the cobblestone streets of le Marais in their Louboutins and expertly wrapping a Hermès scarf around their necks. But all French women, myself included, know that the base of any great outfit is what only a select few people get to see: their unmentionables. French lingerie is typically designed for women by women and it shows! You can find a few good French brands in D.C. at Coup de Foudre on E Street, for example. But when I head to Paris, I love picking out perfectly fitted colorful pieces at Cadolle, the designer credited with inventing the bra (4 rue Cambon) or at Chantal Tomass (211 rue St-Honoré, 1er). Since those will set you back a bunch of euros,  I also love shopping at more budget-friendly Princesse Tam-Tam. The brand targets a younger crowd with affordable, fun, contemporary lingerie. It’s also a chain with locations pretty much all over Paris so you’re bound to come across one while exploring the city.

Another hidden yet important element of a French woman’s style is her fragrance. Perfume has been one of my passions since I pursued an MBA in luxury goods with a concentration in perfume in Monaco. Perfumes define your personality, whether it is fresh and fun, romantic or sensual, what better way to discover this than in Paris? Visiting perfume boutiques such as Annick Goutal (14 rue de Castiglione, 1erand Chanel (31 rue Cambon, 1er) will help you determine whether you are a Petite Cherie or more of an Allure Sensuelle. You can also visit Romano Ricci (yes, he’s related to Nina Ricci…)’s new concept store Nose (20 rue Bachaumont, 2eme) to get a tailored scent assessment. Finally, a sensory tour of Paris wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Ateliers Parfum Guerlain’s flagship store. Conveniently located on the Champs Elysees (68 Avenue des Champs Élysées, 8eme), the boutique dates back to 1912 and features a shimmering art-deco interior that will transport you to the famous avenue’s most glorious days, before H&M and Abercombie and Fitch moved in.
Beyond shopping, Paris is obviously known for its art and many museum. My favourite is le Musée d’Orsay, which houses an impressive collection of impressionist masterpieces in a former 19th century railway station. If you need to take a break from the Renoirs and bronze ballerinas, don’t miss the breathtaking views of the Seine from the fifth floor.
Great views of le musée du Louvre from le musée d'Orsay (picture: Cecile R.)

Great views of le musée du Louvre from le musee d’Orsay (picture: Cecile R.)

 

Shopping, art… I guess I can’t write a post on the things I love about Paris without mentioning the food. I definitely indulge to the max when I am in the city. I can literally spend my days eating! I recommend people watching over le petit dej at Café Mabillon (164 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 6eme); an afternoon break of delicious hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows at La Maison Angelina (226 Rue de Rivoli, 1er) or to-die-for macarons from Pierre Hermé (72 Rue Bonaparte, 6eme) and Ladurée (21 Rue Bonaparte, 6eme). If the weather allows, improvise a picnic Pont des Arts. The pedestrian footbridge with a wooden decking will l
ead you straight to the Louvre’s 
cour carrée and is a popular spot to take a break and soak up the romantic cityscape (and yes to leave a padlock too). I also love the inventive selection of eclairs at Fauchon (26 place de la Madeleine, 8eme). Rather than compete with the celebrated macarons makers, Fauchon decided to make a name for itself with another classic parisian pastry, which it declined in over 75 different flavors since 2003. During my last trip to Paris, I tried their foie gras eclair. It tastes as decadent as it sounds… And of course, there’s no shortage of options for lunch but I recently stumbled upon Le Petit Jacob (40 rue Jacob, 6eme), a cozy bio wine bar with simple, organic fare like charcuterie or tartines. I recommend it. 

Savory Eclair Foie Gras from Fauchon. Another fun flavor they have is the eclair chien chaud. It looks like an elegant hot dog, but tastes like raspberry and caramel.

Savory Eclair Foie Gras from Fauchon. Another fun flavor they have is the eclair chien chaud. It looks like an elegant hot dog, but tastes like raspberry and caramel.

As you can tell, Paris is near and dear to my heart. Do you have any favourite Paris spots? Feel free to share them in the comments… I’m already planning my next trip to Paris this summer and I always welcome recommendations!
About the author: born in India, Cecile grew up in Arlington, VA. She currently works in marketing for a French luxury hotel in the District. I had the pleasure of meeting up with her in Paris during her last trip there. And by meeting up with her, I mean we flew on the same plane and hung out everyday. I guess I should mention Cecile also happens to be one of my best friend and contributes witty postings to the French Twist DC facebook page 😉 Find her on twitter under the handle @cecileremington.

Je jubile pour les macarons du Jubilé

What do Hello Kitty and Queen Elizabeth II have in common?

Laduree Hello Kitty MacaronsDiamond Jubillee Macarons from Laduree

 

 

They both have inspired macarons boxes from Ladurée! The oh-so-british tribute to her majesty (who is celebrating 60 years on the throne this year) will be a marked contrast to the patisserie’s traditional predilection for pastel colours. Indeed, the macarons will come in whites, dark blues and reds to match the British flag. The macarons themselves will be sold in a Union Jack commemorative box adorned with the royal crown and the emblem of the Jubilee. The limited edition, 6-macarons box will be sold starting June 1st at Ladurée stores in London (there are four of them in the Biritsh capital, plus a carosse at the airport), Paris bien sûr and… New York!! Totally getting one 😉 

Hello Laduree!

If the enchanting “Fleur de Clochettes” collection that the French patissier just released for Easter isn’t adorable enough, Laduree has just teamed up with none other than cutest cat around, Hello Kitty. This collaboration includes the precious little boxes below as well as a selection of cute accessories like post-its, notebooks, stickers etc. All of which I want.

One thing is for certain, you can’t accuse Laduree of not knowing its consumers! And am I the only one who secretly hopes that the macarons inside the pretty boxes would look as adorable as this?
Photo Credit: A Little Random Happiness