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La Joie de Vivre in Paris (Part Deux)

In my previous post, I began to tell you about Paris--what to see and do and suggestions of hotels to make your home base. In this post, I will get into the eating and drinking aspect of your holiday to the City of Lights. To begin, here are a few tips to help make your food experience go as smoothly as possible:

  • Dining options are usually classified as either cafés, bistros, or brasseries. A café is the most casual and serves coffee, alcohol and light fare. A bistro is generally a small, modest place that is meat-centric (as opposed to seafood). A brasserie is generally a larger, slightly more upscale establishment offering more seafood than meat. Although these days there's a fine line between bistros and brasseries.
  • Listen very closely to this one! An entrée is actually an appetizer. Don't get fooled or you'll end up leaving the restaurant quite hungry!
  • Café au Lait (coffee with steamed milk) is the drink to order with your petit déjeuner (light breakfast usually consisting of a croissant or pastry with coffee or tea).

WHERE TO EAT

BISTROS & BRASSERIES

Drouant for a delicious dinner that highlights chef Antoine Westermann's farm-fresh, local, seasonal veggies. I miss his bistro, Mon Vieil Ami, but this is the next best thing. Reservations needed. (18 Rue Gaillon)

Septime for one of the most popular tables in town. Modern, bistro dishes in a rustic yet elegant atmosphere. Reservations a must and can only be booked 3 weeks in advance. If dinner is too competitive, lunch is a great alternative. (80 Rue de Charonne)

Huitrerie Regis for oysters in a lovely, quaint seafood and oyster bar. Menu includes a large selection of bubbly and white wine (naturally). There is a minimum 1 dozen oysters per person rule, but it was delicious and the best place to try France's famous fines de claires oysters. They don't take reservations and the place is small but if you go on the early side of the dinner rush you should not have a problem getting a table. (3 Rue de Montfaucon)

Josephine Chez Dumonet for some of the best duck confit around as well as other French classics served in a traditional bistro setting. Reservations needed. (117 Rue du Cherche-Midi)

Le Stella for seafood in true brasserie. When it's nice, request a table outdoors on the terrace. I recommend ordering the seafood tower or at least some oysters to accompany your meal and fit in with the crowd! (133 Avenue Victor Hugo)

Le Relais de l'Entrecote for steak frites. This casual yet delicious eatery is a must if you like steak & french fries (don't expect anything else on the menu!) Just tell the waiter how you would like your steak to be cooked and watch as your plate keeps filling with steak and fries. There are a couple locations around Paris but it doesn't feel like a chain. They don't take reservations so I recommend going to dinner on the earlier side if you don't want to wait in a long line. (20 Rue Saint-Benoît)

Le Bistro Marbeuf for a casual meal in a cosy French bistro. A great option if you're in the Champs-Élysées neighborhood. Reservations recommended but not necessary. (21 Rue Marbeuf)

CAFÉS

Eggs & Co. for a sit-down breakfast or brunch. This really cute little place in the Saint Germain neighborhood serves (farm fresh) eggs and lots of them prepared in a million different ways. I recommend the eggs benedict with a green side salad to balance out the meal. Good coffee and freshly squeezed OJ too. Truly an egg-cellent choice! (11 Rue Bernard Palissy)

Coutume Café for a light breakfast, snack, brunch and/or coffee in a rustic, cozy atmosphere. (47 Rue de Babylone)

Café Trama for a really delicious croque monsieur in a rustic yet modern setting. (83 Rue du Cherche-Midi)

Briezh Café or Little Briezh for authentic crêpes. The savory, buckwheat variety are what draws the crowd but sweet ones are also available. Whatever you choose you can't go wrong. Reservations recommended. (109 Rue Vieille du Temple & 11 Rue Grégoire de Tours)

Cuisine de Bar for a tartine-filled lunch. Open-faced sandwiches served in a cute, light & airy setting. Reservations not accepted. (8 Rue du Cherche-Midi)

Cosi for yummy sandwiches served on warm, fresh flatbread. This is the place that inspired the chain we know here in the States but is not associated in anyway. Great to take away and have a picnic lunch in the park. (54 Rue de Seine)

OTHER DELIGHTS

Poilâne for fresh apple tarts right out of the oven. Despite being a bakery, do not expect a baguette to be found here. Several locations but I prefer the one in Saint Germain. (8 Rue du Cherche-Midi)

Eric Kayser for one of the best baguettes in the city. Yummy croissants too. Many locations but don't let that deter you. I prefer the one in Saint Germain which also has a few tables for snacking onsite. (18 Rue du Bac)

Androuet for authentic French cheeses to go with your baguette and wine. Don't be afraid to ask the staff for some help selecting. Several locations but the one in Saint Germain is strategically across from Eric Kayser for baguettes. (37 Rue de Verneuil)

Berthillon for ice cream or glacée as the French refer to it. This is one of the best ice cream parlors in the city so if you're only going to have ice cream once, make sure this is the place. Having a pocket dictionary is always helpful in deciphering the flavor menu. (29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île)

WHERE TO DRINK

Prescription Cocktail Club for a prohibition-era drink in a dark, speakeasy, loungey atmosphere. Fun place to go after dinner. Located in the Saint Germain neighborhood and a little tough to find because of the lack of signage but you'll know you found the right place when you see the bouncer outside. (23 Rue Mazarine)

Tiger for a craft cocktail in a trendy, retro setting with a bright, tropical twist. This place specializes in gin & tonic (they offer several spins on the classic and make their own tonic) but for those not into gin they offer some other fun, tasty cocktails. Located in the Saint Germain neighborhood. (13 Rue Princesse) 

La Terrasse at Hotel Raphael for a rooftop cocktail with views of the Eiffel Tower. Open for lunch and dinner, which is a tough choice. Either way you get an amazing view! Reservations by phone or email are necessary to get a table on the terrace. (17 Avenue Kléber)

Les Deux Magots for an aperitif or coffee in Hemingway's old hangout. Grab a table outdoors when the weather is nice and watch the Parisian world go by. (6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés)

Les Philosophes to take a break from all the walking through Le Marais. Perfect for an aperitif or coffee outdoors on the terrace. Also has some of the best onion soup incase you need a snack too. (28 Rue Vieille du Temple)

Well, I hope you're hungry and thirsty because you've got lots of eating and drinking to do! This list could go on and on since there is just so much good food in this city. You won't go home hungry, that's for sure! Have you been to Paris already? What is your favorite restaurant? Bon appétit!

Ireland Day 3: Beara Peninsula & Killarney

Day 3 of the Ireland Adventure is all about nature. I didn't know I could be that outdoorsy, but the great thing about traveling is that you can surprise yourself sometimes. On our 3rd day in the Emerald Isle we left Cork (read about it in my last post) and headed west towards County Kerry and discovered the natural beauty the area has to offer, which is some of the best in all of Ireland. I've heard many people say if there is only one part of Ireland you can visit, this would be the one. After seeing it, I can understand why. This is the Ireland on postcards.

BEARA PENINSULA

One of 4ish peninsulas in Southwest Ireland, the Beara Peninsula is the bit of land between Kenmare and Bantry that juts out into the Atlantic. It is where County Cork meets County Kerry.

SEE/DO

Ring of Beara - A scenic route along the coast of the Beara Peninsula offering stunning views and some of the prettiest nature around. This drive is a little less known and therefore less touristy than the famous Ring of Kerry on the neighboring Iveragh Peninsula. For this reason alone I recommend it, but it's also a good choice if you don't have a full day to dedicate to the Ring of Kerry or if you're like us traveling when daylight hours are limited and you want to see as much as possible before it gets dark.

NOTE: If you do decide to stick with the Ring of Kerry, beware that in summer months it can become extremely congested with tourist traffic from buses, cars, cyclists, etc. especially on the narrow parts. If you're going by car, consider starting later in the morning, giving the buses a head start. Check its website before you go to make sure you are driving in the right direction around the peninsula (clockwise or counterclockwise). It helps manage traffic flow and stress levels because 2-way traffic on some parts is a real tight fit, especially with large tourist buses. 

Healy Pass - The BEST part of the Ring of Beara and a highlight of our entire trip. It is a MUST whether you're short on time like we were or if you have all the time in the world. The Healy Pass (also known as R574 on the maps) is a road (barely) which runs North/South and intersects the Beara Peninsula cutting it down the middle. The drive brings you on windy narrow roads up through the sheep-speckled mountains where you actually have to brake for sheep crossing the road. There is everything from grassy hills and rocks to waterfalls and rainbows. It's truly beautiful, so much that it seems fake. Prepare to be in awe the entire drive! It takes under an hour, but make sure to factor in time for staring at the majestic views and for picture-taking. And for chatting with the sheep. If you're lucky, like us, you will be the only ones on the entire road (besides the sheep). It felt like we had this beautiful, undiscovered land all to ourselves. YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS! 

Sheep-speckled mountains in Healy Pass, Beara Peninsula, Ireland
Sheep-speckled mountains in Healy Pass, Beara Peninsula, Ireland
Waterfalls everywhere in Healy Pass
Waterfalls everywhere in Healy Pass
Coming down from the mountains
Coming down from the mountains
Very photogenic sheep and a background that ain't so bad either
Very photogenic sheep and a background that ain't so bad either
The view never gets old
The view never gets old

EAT/DRINK

PF McCarthy's - A lovely traditional pub located in the quaint town of Kenmare, this place is a great place to stop for a bite and a pint at the end of the Ring of Beara drive. There's a warm fire going, local beers on tap, and a tasty menu with healthy (even vegetarian) options. The town of Kenmare is really cute (and small), which is perfect for stretching those legs after a long drive. NOTE: In the off-season there are not a lot of options for dining on the Beara Peninsula for lunch as many businesses close for the season, so plan accordingly. This is a great place to stop though, in or off-season. (14 Main St, Kenmare)

The Purple Heather Bistro - Also located in Kenmare, this restaurant is a good option for lunch if you're looking for sandwiches and soup or a salad rather than "pub grub." (Henry St, Kenmare)

KILLARNEY

This mid-size town is best known as the jumping off point for the Ring of Kerry but offers some fun pub life, cute shops and good restaurants. It has a true Irish feel and Christmastime is especially festive here.

SEE/DO

Killarney National Park - Located just outside town, this national park is a major highlight and must-see of the area due to its stunning mountains, lakes and woods. There are many viewing points to pull over along the way, but make sure you do not miss Ladies View, Muckross Lake and Torc Waterfall. The short walk through the woods to the Torc Waterfall is so incredibly green with leaves and moss and shamrocks, it's like something out of the Irish Spring soap commercials. The park is technically part of the Ring of Kerry circuit but is also easy to access from the Ring of Beara via the N71.

Ladies' View in Killarney National Park
Ladies' View in Killarney National Park
Walking through the woods
Walking through the woods
Approaching Torc Waterfall
Approaching Torc Waterfall
Looking for the 4-leaf variety
Looking for the 4-leaf variety
Torc Waterfall, this photo does not do it justice
Torc Waterfall, this photo does not do it justice

Ross Castle - Located on the Lough Leane lake in Killarney National Park, stands this old stone tower house. The grounds are exactly what you would picture of Irish countryside-- a castle situated on a lake with swans swimming about, surrounded by green land. The castle itself offers B&B accommodations for those looking for a unique experience.

Ross Castle grounds
Ross Castle grounds
A lovely Irish castle
A lovely Irish castle
One of the old towers
One of the old towers
Love the stone detail
Love the stone detail
The castle standing tall
The castle standing tall

Muckross Estate - Also located in Killarney National Park, this compound consists of the mansion of Muckross House, the farms, and the abbey all of which are situated on the edge of Muckross Lake. Entrance is by guided tour. For a really special experience, hire a jaunting car (horse-drawn carriage) to take you around the grounds.

Gap of Dunloe and Molls Gap - Located slightly outside of Killarney National Park, these passageways through the mountains are beautifully rugged and offer majestic views. Though in the summer they can get extremely crowded and backed up with traffic, especially the Gap of Dunloe, so plan accordingly.

EAT/DRINK

O'Connor's - A traditional, cozy little pub with live trad music nightly. Perfect for a pint by the fire. (7 High St)

Courtney's Bar - A fun pub with an impressive whiskey selection. Fills up for the live bands and is a lively late-night spot. (0 Plunkett St)

Treyvaud's - A good option if you're looking for variety and something other than the usual Irish stew. Food was good and the staff was very attentive. (62 High St)

Petit Delice - An adorable French bakery serving good croissants and espresso. A nice alternative to tea and scones. (42 High St)

STAY

Killarney Royal Hotel - Centrally located, this boutique hotel has simple, comfortable and clean accommodations. It is the sister hotel to the Hayfield Manor in Cork, where we also stayed. Rates from 100eur/nt. (College St)

Killarney Plaza Hotel - Located right on the edge of town and only a 5-minute walk to the action this grand hotel is also a good option. Rates from 90eur/nt. (Kenmare Pl)

If I had to pick, this was my favorite day of the vacation. Seeing the landscapes on the Beara Peninsula and in Killarney National Park was one of the most unique experiences I've had. In my opinion, there's no better way to enjoy Ireland! Next up will be the Dingle Peninsula and Limerick to wrap up the adventure. There's good stuff ahead so stay tuned!

Ireland Day 2: Cork & Kinsale

River Lee, Cork City Ireland
River Lee, Cork City Ireland

I feel like Rick Steves saying this, but thanks for joining! For day 2 of the Ireland adventure, we're headed south to County Cork. Cork city is just shy of about 3 hours from Galway (which, incase you missed it, I covered with County Clare in my last post). It was definitely the largest distance we had to cover on our trip so we did it as efficiently as possible and took the major highways. We chose to see the city of Cork and the little seaside town of Kinsale, which I HIGHLY recommend. Here are the highlights:

CORK

Located on an island in the River Lee, the city of Cork is a lively college town with a youthful vibe. Strolling the major roads I could have sworn I was in an English city by glancing at the shops and buildings (a mini London perhaps), but once I tucked away down some smaller streets and alleys I felt back in Ireland again. The city was decorated for Christmas which made for a festive vibe. It was fun to explore and was a nice city but was not my favorite stop just because the culture didn't feel as rich as other places we visited and I tend to enjoy the smaller towns more than the bigger cities. But to be fair, we did not spend a lot of time here.

SEE/DO

English Market - A large, enclosed market loaded with stalls selling everything from the local catch of the day to fresh produce to baked goods. I'm a sucker for a good food market because you get a taste for local culture so naturally I loved strolling this place. (Princes St)

Fish at English Market Cork
Fish at English Market Cork

Stretch Your Legs - Cork is a wonderful city for walking whether it's along the river banks or down the pedestrian-only streets. In particular, the Paul Street/Emmett Place area, Oliver Plunkett Street and surrounding side streets give you a good feel for the city and are loaded with pubs, shops and restaurants.

Jessica's shop Cork City Ireland
Jessica's shop Cork City Ireland
Alley in Cork City Ireland
Alley in Cork City Ireland

Jameson Distillery - Technically in nearby Midleton, this is mecca for whiskey fans. Take a tour with a tasting at the end or skip the tour altogether and opt for the premium whiskey tasting in which you get to sample some rare reserves. (Old Distillery Walk, Midleton)

Blarney Castle - Located about 15 minutes outside of Cork city, this is the home of the famous Blarney Stone. We decided to skip this because Ireland is full of castles that we were going to see and I really didn't care to kiss a stone that thousands of others laid their lips on! (Blarney)

EAT/DRINK

Farmgate Cafe - Located upstairs in the English Market, this delightful eatery serves up fresh, local food sourced from the market below. Choose a seat along the balcony counter for great people watching. (The English Market, Princes St)

Franciscan Well Brewery & Brewpub - A craft beer delight, this place brews its own beer and has a beer garden for when the weather is nice. (14 North Mall)

STAY

Hayfield Manor - Located about a mile from the city center and tucked away down a residential street, this lovely 5-star boutique hotel is worth staying slightly outside the city for. It was like we were pulling up to an old mansion in the country. The Christmas decorations and fireplace in the lobby were lovely. Rates from 150eur/nt. (Perrott Ave)

Hayfield Manor Cork City Ireland
Hayfield Manor Cork City Ireland

Imperial Hotel - This 4-star hotel is a good option if you prefer to stay in the city center. Rates from 100eur/nt. (South Mall)

KINSALE

Located on the coast about 30 minutes south of Cork, is the adorable, charming, little seaside town of Kinsale. The buildings are so colorful and the streets super quaint. We enjoyed how quiet it was when we were there but in the summer it can get pretty packed with tourists, but I don't blame everyone because this town is not to be missed.

SEE/DO

Main Street - The entire town is walkable in 15 minutes or less but be sure to stroll this narrow street which is loaded with cute shops, pubs, and restaurants.

Kinsale Ireland Main Street
Kinsale Ireland Main Street
Kinsale Pub Ireland
Kinsale Pub Ireland
Colorful Kinsale Ireland
Colorful Kinsale Ireland

Market Square - Marked by a museum with an anchor leaning up against its building is this tiny little square full of charm, color and cuteness.

The Kinsale Courthouse and Museum
The Kinsale Courthouse and Museum

EAT/DRINK

Fishy Fishy - Quality seafood restaurant serving up delicious local fare in an upscale setting by the waterfront. The oysters from nearby Oysterhaven were some of the best we've ever tasted and perhaps the oyster world's best kept secret. This is one of the most well-known and highest-regarded restaurants in all of Ireland. Reservations required. (Crowley's Quay)

The Folk House Bar - Perhaps one of my favorite watering holes we visited on the entire trip, this pub had an impressive list of whiskey and craft brews and had a comfy leather couch by the cozy, warm fire. It was more than easy to pass the time here! Also a good spot for live music. Tip: Try anything by Blacks of Kinsale for a taste of what's local. And delicious.(Guardwell)

Folk House Bar Kinsale Ireland
Folk House Bar Kinsale Ireland

So, to summarize. Kinsale-- get there, you'll love it. It's hard not to. Next time I'd like to stay overnight there. Cork-- a college town but good to experience if you're in this part of Ireland. Next up: day 3 in County Kerry, including some beautiful landscapes in the Beara Peninsula, loads of nature in the Killarney National Park & pub crawling the town of Killarney. Stay tuned and in the words of Rick Steves, "keep on traveling."

Ireland Day 1: County Clare & Galway

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

The Emerald Isle is one of those places that I've always wanted to see but kept putting off because it just seems so close and easy to get to compared to the rest of Europe. I also experienced Dublin in college and thought I had seen all of Ireland (ha). Even though the pub scene is prevalent everywhere, I missed out on arguably the most beautiful part of Ireland--the Southwestern corner. So when my husband and I were thinking of an easy international getaway for Thanksgiving that we could do in less than a week, I'm so glad we thought to do this. In less than 6 hours via Aer Lingus we arrived at Shannon International Airport on Ireland's west coast and before we knew it we were off driving down narrow windy roads through the greenest countryside imaginable with sheep crossing the road and castles standing tall in the distance. THIS is Ireland! Being the end of November, the tourists were pretty much gone and the Irish were already decking the halls for Christmas--towns were all lit up, there were decorations in the hotel lobbies and some town squares were taken over by Christmas markets. It made for a cozy, authentic experience, which was so unexpected but nice.

When planning this trip we knew the places we wanted to see and there was a lot. To make it work, we drove in one big circle in the SW corner over the course of 4 days and we slept in a different bed each night. It actually worked out quite nicely and ended up being the perfect way to experience Ireland. After taking the red-eye from Boston, we were exhausted for our first day and had a lot to see. Having no rest for the weary, we fought through it but in return this is the greatness we got to experience:

COUNTY CLARE

From the airport we headed north into County Clare. This is the area known for its coastal beauty, natural landscapes, and traditional Irish music and culture.

SEE/DO

Cliffs of Moher - Standing over 700 feet above the Atlantic, these stunning cliffs are the star attraction of County Clare and a must-see. Imagine grassy, green countryside coming to an abrupt halt as big waves crash below, and spectacular views. TIP: Follow the cliffs south for and walk towards Hag's Head to escape the crowds and get the best views. In the summer, if you're lucky, you'll be able to spot adorable puffins that use the grounds for breeding. 

Walking Path along the Cliffs of Moher
Walking Path along the Cliffs of Moher
Jetsetting with Jess at the Cliffs of Moher
Jetsetting with Jess at the Cliffs of Moher
Vibrant Colors, Cliffs of Moher
Vibrant Colors, Cliffs of Moher

The Burren - The exact opposite of the grassy & green Ireland you see on postcards, this landscape is made completely of rocky limestone plateaus but is just as interesting. You can spend hours walking through, spotting old ruins, or you can drive through some of it which is what we did. TIP: From the Cliffs of Moher, follow R478 to Doolin, then continue along the coast on R477 for some amazing views of where the Burren meets the ocean. 

Limestone rocks fill the Burren
Limestone rocks fill the Burren
driving the burren
driving the burren

Aran Islands - About an hour by ferry from Doolin or Galway, these islands offer remote, gorgeous landscapes, traditional Irish culture and lovely sweaters. They are best explored on bike. We did not make it here on this trip but they are on our list for next time.

EAT/DRINK

McGann's Pub - Located a short drive from the Cliffs of Moher is the little town of Doolin. This pub is located right in town and offers traditional pub fare and a warm fire for the colder months. Food is offered all day and live traditional music is played nightly. (Toomullin, Clare Coast)

Food Heaven - Located about 25 minutes north of Shannon Airport is the quaint, colorful town of Ennis. This cute cafe located in town serves casual fare all day but most notably has the best fresh-baked scones I tasted all week. Add a pot of tea, and this was the perfect little morning stop on our way to the cliffs. (21 Lower Market St, Ennis)

GALWAY

Located on the coast where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic, just north of County Clare lies the city of Galway. The vibe is very Irish--streets filled with pubs, locals speaking Gaelic and street performers playing trad music. There is loads to do and its compact size makes it very walkable. After a day of sightseeing in County Clare we decided to spend our night in this lively and charming city.

SEE/DO

Eyre Square - This is the main square in the center of town. While we were there, the space was dedicated to a festive Christmas market all lit up with decorations, carnival rides and food stalls.

Latin Quarter/High Street - An area packed with pubs, restaurants, shops and culture. High Street is pedestrian-only, so enjoy a leisurely stroll and take it all in. At one end is the river and the other is Eyre Square and you can easily walk the entire length in about 10 minutes.

High Street, Latin Quarter, Galway
High Street, Latin Quarter, Galway

EAT/DRINK

Ard Bia at Nimmo's - A cozy, buzzing little restaurant down an unassuming cobblestone street serving up fresh, seasonal fare from local fish to steak to lamb. The food was excellent and the staff was super nice. Reservations recommended. (Spanish Arch, Long Walk)

The Salt House - The craft beer scene is on the rise in Ireland and this bar had all the local brews plus some. The people were super friendly, the fire was warm and the atmosphere cozy. I would definitely go back to Galway just to go to this bar. Tip: Try anything by Galway Bay Brewery for a taste of something local.(Raven Terrace)

The Salt House Galway
The Salt House Galway

Cupan Tae - A lovely little tea room for your afternoon pick-me-up and tray of pastries. They also serve espresso if tea just won't cut it. (8 Quay Ln)

STAY

The House Hotel - This eclectic, boutique-style hotel was perfectly located in the Latin Quarter. For less than 100eur/nt we had a comfortable, stylish place to rest our head and a hearty breakfast was included. Rates from 79eur/nt. (Spanish Parade, Galway City Centre)

Jurys Inn - This would be another good option, located just a block or two from The House Hotel. Rates from 59eur/nt. (Quay St)

NOTE: I highly recommend renting a car (yes they drive on the left side of the road but you can do it, I know you can!) because some of the amazingness we got to see would not have been possible without one. You may luck out with an organized tour in the high season but with that comes crowds and traffic and lots of it.

ALSO TO NOTE: Consider visiting in the off-season. We felt like we had the sights and roads to ourselves and got to experience local culture that you would otherwise not get if you were among the tourist masses. But keep in mind the days are shorter, temps are lower, and some businesses are closed for the season.

Whew, I never realized how much we actually accomplished on our first day, jet-lagged nonetheless, until writing it out. Stay tuned for day 2 because we're headed south to County Cork. Specifically the city of Cork and the lovely town of Kinsale, which may have been my favorite!