crepes

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!

Key West: My Guide to the Conch Republic

If the craziness of Miami has you longing for more laid-back vibes, the Florida Keys are just a short drive away. Key West, the southernmost island, fits the bill nicely with Duval Street bars and gorgeous sunsets in Mallory Square. I highly recommend Key West if you prefer flip-flops over heels, beach coverups to slinky dresses, and dive bars to bottle service. You can easily do this place in a couple of days (perhaps tacked onto a Miami trip) or spend an entire week. Only 90 miles from Cuba (technically closer to Cuba than Miami), this island actually makes you feel like you are in the Caribbean when you're really still in the U.S. No passports needed which makes it a tad easier to access. But there are a couple of items I'd like to address:

  1. Key West is not known for its beaches. That doesn't mean you won't find any, they are there, they are just not the pristine white-sanded beaches you envision when you think of the Caribbean. And actually, you can find prettier beaches at other Florida destinations.
  2. Key West airport is very small so don't expect flights to be cheap. This is especially the case over holidays and school vacations, unfortunately.

But don't let the facts deter you. Simply opt for some quality pool lounging and rent a convertible and hit the road (for the most scenic drive in the U.S.) from Miami or Fort Lauderdale where flights are much, much cheaper. Once you've made it over the final bridge in the keys, here's what you should do:

 

SEE

Duval Street- This mile-long street is Key West's main street that's full of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Definitely take a few strolls up and down and bar hop along the way. No need to chug that beer though--with a lax open container policy you can bring it with you to your next watering hole (plastic cups only!).

Mallory Square- The best place to catch one of Key West's beautiful orange sunsets. Live performers, carts selling everything from drinks that light up to Christmas ornaments, and happy people out enjoying life makes this a perfect place to start your night. Be sure to Google the time of sunset and plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before to watch the bright orange circle get sucked into the sea.

Southernmost Point - A life-size buoy marks this spot. Must get a photo with the view in the background. On a clear day you can spot Cuba (just kidding, but you are only 90 miles away).

Ernest Hemingway House - If you don't mind lots of free-roaming cats, and 6-toed ones at that, then visit the famous American writer's home where he lived from 1931 to 1939 and arguably wrote some of his best work. (907 Whitehead St.)

 

EAT

La Creperie - Both the sweet and savory varieties abound on the menu at this cute little cafe. The owner is from Brittany, France so you can expect these to be as authentic as they get without going to France. (300 Petronia St.)

Margaritaville - I mean, When in Rome! This Jimmy Buffett outpost is the original and in my mind is therefore the best. It offers live music most nights starting at 8p so why not enjoy your Cheeseburger in Paradise and order that Boat Drink? (500 Duval St.)

Ana's Cuban Cafe - A little hole in the wall near the Southernmost point serving up delicious made-to-order sandwiches, Cuban delights and breakfast. (1330 Simonton St.)

Kelly's Caribbean Bar & Grill - For any fellow aviation enthusiasts this is the place to visit because it is the original Pan Am headquarters back when Pan Am was the first American airline to fly an international route - Key West to Havana. The casual restaurant is also the location of the Southernmost Brewery offering beers brewed on the premises. (301 Whitehead St.)

Glazed Donuts - The gourmet donut shop craze made its way to the southernmost point of the continental U.S. to bring you both classic flavors as its name suggests and more adventurous flavors like Key Lime Pie (of course) and candied bacon. Espresso drinks too. Closed Mondays. (420 Eaton St.)

La Te Da - A classic choice if you're looking for a more upscale dinner on a charming, candlelit patio. (1125 Duval St.)

 

DRINK

Sloppy Joe's Bar - If there's only one place you go to while you're in Key West make it this iconic establishment. Casual bar by day, live music and dancing by night. (201 Duval St.)

Captain Tony's Saloon - Jimmy Buffett fan or not, this dive bar is a must with bras hanging from the ceiling and business cards covering the walls. Sometimes you'll catch a one-man band and his guitar and other times you'll spend way too much time trying to toss a coin over your shoulder and into the mouth of the fish that rests on top of the sign outside. (428 Greene St.)

Hog's Breath Saloon - Another Key West icon with, you guessed it, live music. Belly up to the outdoor bar and feel like you're in a treehouse. Don't be surprised if you get pulled into a conga line; this place can get rowdy but in a good fun kinda way. (400 Front St.)

Louie's Backyard - For a more refined evening, opt for glass of wine with a gorgeous view of the water. Head upstairs for said view and ask for a table on the balcony. You won't regret it. (700 Waddell Ave.)

Sunset Pier - Head to this colorful dockside spot for an ice cold boat drink and sit back and enjoy the sunset. (0 Duval St.)

 

SLEEP

Casa Marina - Off the quieter end of Duval Street is this grand Waldorf Astoria resort. The pool/waterfront area is one of the prettiest on the island and you can go swimming off the dock into the ocean (a plus when the shore is protected by coral reef). You even get popsicles delivered to your lounge chair. If you're worried about being too far from the action, perhaps a pedicab ride will change your mind. (1500 Reynolds St.)

The Reach - Located next door to the Casa Marina is another lovely Waldorf Astoria resort. Much smaller than the Casa Marina, especially the pool and waterfront, so guests at this hotel are welcome to use the facilities at the Casa Marina if they so wish. (1435 Simonton St.)

The Westin Key West Resort & Marina -  Located steps away from Mallory Square, this hotel is a great option if you prefer to be close to all the action. There is no beach here, but the pool is inviting. Guests can choose to have breakfast dockside at the property's restaurant, Latitudes, and watch the ships pull in. (245 Front St.)

Southernmost on the Beach - If the above options are a little too pricey, try for this stylish hotel. From appearances, it looks more like an inn but offers hotel amenities. It is located, as the name suggests, on one of the few beaches on the island just steps from the Southernmost Point. (508 South St.)

 

Last but not least, if you're lucky enough to be able to visit Key West during the holidays, I highly recommend you do so. Flights and accommodations are pricey but you're guaranteed endless merriment. Palm trees are decked out with Christmas lights, lampposts are decorated to look like candy canes and there are numerous New Year's Eve countdown celebrations to choose from (a pirate sliding down the mast of a schooner....um, yes please). Plus, Duval Street shuts down to traffic to allow for a big party in the street. I promise, this experience will not disappoint.

Whether or not you visit during the holidays, Key West really makes you leave your worries behind and gives you a taste for Jimmy Buffett/Ernest Hemingway-inspired life. It is a crazy but amazing little place that should be on everyone's bucket list. I mean, who can turn down a boat drink while taking in the gorgeous sunset? After all, if we weren't all crazy we would go insane.

Views for days on the drive down to the Keys

Views for days on the drive down to the Keys

The Southernmost Point was getting a fresh paint job unfortunately!

The Southernmost Point was getting a fresh paint job unfortunately!

Gorgeous tropical views abound in Key West

Gorgeous tropical views abound in Key West

Cruise ships docked near Mallory Square
Cruise ships docked near Mallory Square
A Key West sunset
A Key West sunset
Key West decked out for the holidays
Key West decked out for the holidays
Sloppy Joe's on Duval Street is a true Key West tradition
Sloppy Joe's on Duval Street is a true Key West tradition
Captain Tony's for all you Jimmy Buffett fans out there

Captain Tony's for all you Jimmy Buffett fans out there

The original Pan Am headquarters, wow!

The original Pan Am headquarters, wow!

The beautiful Casa Marina Hotel

The beautiful Casa Marina Hotel

The grounds and pool area at the Casa Marina

The grounds and pool area at the Casa Marina

The pool area at the Reach Resort 

The pool area at the Reach Resort 

The Westin Key West Resort & Marina
The Westin Key West Resort & Marina