A surprise birthday trip to Paris

Angela and I just finished up a quick trip to Paris to celebrate her birthday. This was our third sojourn to The City of Light and we loved it just as much as our previous two visits. We had previously seen many of the popular tourist sights, so this trip was focused on spending time together, eating delicious food, and enjoying the city and its surroundings.

Booking our trip

This trip was a bit more spontaneous than others. I usually book our travels ten months in advance, but this trip was only booked in mid-April. An opportunity arose via a Delta SkyMiles flash sale to travel to Paris, France or Seoul, South Korea for four to five nights for a reduced price. I strongly considered Seoul given that we’d been to Paris twice before, but in the end I knew I’d want to go somewhere we’d previously visited for such a short trip. I booked an itinerary of LASLAXCDGMSP-LAS for 128,000 SkyMiles + $134.73 each. I was able to accrue those SkyMiles by signing up for American Express’s Delta Gold Business and Delta Platinum Business cards and putting ongoing spend on them and other American Express cards. I generally don’t compare directly to cash costs, but it would have been prohibitive to book a similar trip during the end of summer period without using airline miles. As an added bonus, we were booked to fly on Delta’s new product, the Delta One Suite, on both TATL flights.

For lodging, I was looking for a luxury property that wouldn’t annihilate our travel budget but would be worthy of the celebration of Angela’s birthday. I eventually settled on Hotel de Berri, a relatively new Marriott property near the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It is convenient to public transit, the individualized decor for each room is an interesting feature, and the price was half that of similar properties. I won’t talk much about the hotel, but we enjoyed our stay there and appreciated the service we received. I’m glad we stayed there on this trip, but I wouldn’t recommend it to most people traveling to Paris and would likely not stay at the property again.

Off on another adventure

We dropped Fitz off the morning of August 1st and made our way to the airport. After checking in, we skipped the Centurion Lounge and opted for The Club at LAS because it was much closer to our gate and we were limited on time. For water, coffee, and a light bite it was a perfect place to stop.

Our flight to Los Angeles on Delta’s E175 was short and uneventful. We took the inter-terminal bus from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 so we didn’t have to clear security again and set off for the Delta Sky Club located a two minute walk from our gate. The Sky Club was fine, with drinks and light bites on hand. The service was friendly and attentive. Sky Clubs aren’t the most extravagant lounges, likely because of their relatively lax access policy, but they do the job when all you want is a place to rest away from the craziness of the terminal.

Before long, we were boarding and settled in for our journey. For this flight and the return, I booked Angela and myself seats across the plane from each other so we would each have a private suite to maximize our ability to rest if so desired. I had heard a lot of good things about the Delta One Suite and I wasn’t disappointed. The seat was soft, comfortable, and spacious. The bedding was adequate and the privacy door is a good addition that makes a difference on overnight flights where you want to be isolated. The service on our outbound flight was mediocre, but the service on the return was friendly and attentive. The food was generally good, particularly the main courses, but the accompaniments left a bit to be desired. Delta undeniably has a winning seat, but they could work on their service consistency.

We flew overnight to Paris and, after passing through immigration (which took quite a while, unfortunately), we hired a taxi to our hotel for check-in. Our room was, amazingly, ready for us. We jumped at the chance to settle in, unpack, and get a shower and some rest before heading off for our first stop of the trip, Chez Monsieur.

We visited this restaurant on our last trip to Paris and were excited to return. Luckily, the food was just as delicious as we remembered. We started with a dozen exquisitely prepared escargots – so delicious! For our mains, Angela ordered blanquette de veau while I opted for the duck breast. Both were exceptional. For dessert, we decided to split the profiteroles which were quite tasty with just the right touch of chocolate. This meal was a great way to start the trip!

It was, somewhat surprisingly, still quite light out during our walk back to the hotel. We enjoyed a languid stroll through the Parisian streets, stopped at the supermarket to pick up some bottled water, and got to bed in preparation for a busy day.

A birthday visit to the gardens

We awoke on Angela’s birthday and, after a light breakfast, set off for Versailles. This would, ordinarily, be a rather straightforward journey from downtown Paris. Unfortunately, there were several train lines undergoing maintenance that caused our voyage to take much longer than anticipated. We eventually got off the metro completely, walked two miles, and then jumped back on to the RER C at Javel and rode it to Gare de Versailles-Château–Rive Gauche. At least we got some good pictures on the way.

We alighted from the train and walked the short distance to the palace grounds. We had purchased our tickets in advance and were able to bypass the gigantic line into the chateau and walk directly into the gardens.

The gardens are incredible and enormous! We walked the entire grounds, visiting each individual grove, and heading up and down the Grand Canal.

We also walked to The Grand Trianon and The Petit Trianon. We explored both buildings, marveling at the opulence and splendor. They are really something to behold and are well worth a visit.

Overall, I’m glad we returned to Versailles to see the gardens in bloom and explore the Trianon Estate.

After walking more than a dozen miles around the garden, we returned to Paris via train, stopped briefly at our hotel to freshen up, and headed off for a very special dinner at l’Arcane. This restaurant was recommended by someone on Reddit as one of the best places they’d ever eaten, so I made reservations months in advance to ensure we’d have a table. After taking our seats and ordering some sparkling water, we were informed we could opt for the five course or seven course mystery menu. We chose the seven course option and started an incredible culinary journey.

Salmon roe cups and lime candies

Goat milk and basil sorbet with diced cucumber

Seafood platter with clams, fried oyster, shrimp ceviche, snails on toast, and squid foam

John Dory sashimi with fried artichooke and saffron foam

Lightly seared beef filet with sesame accompanied by dashi broth

Sous vide octopus in Thai coconut, ginger, and lime soup

Veal filet, veal tartare, candied tomatoes and eggplant, and eggplant caviar

Soft meringue with creme anglaise, hazelnut tuille, and raspberry coulis

Earl Grey tea infused roasted fig with almond milk sorbet and blueberry sorbet

After stuffing ourselves, we headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest. Thanks to the Paris metro for shuttling us efficiently around the city!

An accidental lie-in and whole roasted duck

The next day, we accidentally slept in until 11AM and awoke after breakfast was done being served. Although this was unintended, we were glad for the sleep and laughed that the previous day must have really taken a lot out of us. We had intended on relaxing on this day, anyways, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Taking advantage of our time in Paris, though, we headed out to buy some sweets and chocolates.

First, we stopped at Five Guys for lunch. There are several locations of this American chain around Paris and we chose to eat there as a somewhat hilarious comparison to our ridiculously fancy meal the night before. To my surprise, the burgers were quite delicious. What started out as a joke turned out to be a great decision.

After lunch, we stopped at Pierre Hermé for some macarons. We both chose the mogador as one of our two selections. Angela selected the lychee macaron as her second option whereas I decided upon the chocolate macaron. We ate them later that afternoon and they were soft and delicious, as always.
In addition, we picked up some chocolate from our favorite Parisian chocolatier, Jean-Paul Hévin.

We returned to the hotel to drop off our sweets and then headed out for dinner at La Rôtisserie d’Argent, a recommendation from the concierge at our hotel. On the way there, we encountered some street art, both disturbing and charming.

We also passed by Notre Dame and were able to see the restoration underway.

The restaurant’s specialty is whole roasted duck for two so that’s what we ordered after starting with mixed charcuterie. The meal was a true delight! We enjoyed the fact that the host brought the roasted duck to our table before it was cut so that we could see the way in which it was cooked. I wholeheartedly endorse this restaurant.

After dinner, we strolled along the Seine in the direction of the Louvre before jumping on the metro and heading back to our hotel. It was endearing to see all the Parisians along the banks of the river, drinking wine and having intimate conversations with their friends.

Our day trip to Strasbourg

Having fairly exhausted the sights we’d wished to see in Paris, we decided to take a daytrip to Strasbourg to explore the Alsatian city that is now home to the European Parliament. We took a two hour train ride from Paris Gare de l’Est to Strasbourg Station, walked from the station to the Barrage Vauban, and started our exploration. There’s a corridor that runs the length of the bridge and some stairs that allowed us to visit the roof to take some pictures of Petite-France.

After crossing the bridge, we walked to the Petite-France area and enjoyed reading about the development of the city and the unique provenances of the buildings contained within. There is a considerable amount of signage describing the different buildings, which I greatly appreciated.

We explored the Église Saint-Thomas, the main seat of Lutheran worship in the city. Mozart visited this church and commented on the excellence of the organ.

From there, we walked to the town’s main square, home to the oldest Gothic cathedral in the world, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. The building is incredibly impressive from the outside and, we were later to learn, the inside as well.

Before continuing, we stopped at an Alsatian restaurant to enjoy some local food. While I didn’t particularly enjoy my meal, Angela really liked hers and declared Restaurant Gurtlerhoft a winner.

After lunch, we explored the inside of the cathedral.

After leaving the cathedral we walked to Neustadt, the area of German expansion between 1880 and 1917 during which Strasbourg grew considerably in size. The difference in architecture between Petite-France and Neustadt was quite striking.

From there, we headed to the European Parliament building, which we admired from without, and then walked to a beautiful park, Parc de l’Orangerie. The park was incredibly well-manicured and had some interesting features, including huge storks’ nests everywhere.

After exploring for a while we walked back to the tram and returned to the cathedral. We decided to head to the top and I’m glad we did. The views were incredible and you’re able to see the entirety of Strasbourg and much of the surrounding area. I really think it is a must do for anyone visiting the city.

Shortly after descending, we bought some ice cream to enjoy on the way back to the train station and headed back to our hotel.

The long journey home

After a quick breakast, we jumped in a taxi to the airport, cleared security and customs, and eventually boarded our plane. The flight to Minneapolis was very pleasant. Once we arrived, we had a ten hour layover and, as such, we chose to eat some delicious burgers and wings at Blue Pub Door before heading to the Sky Club. It was a pleasant enough place to sit for a while even if it is was packed. Eventually, it was time for us to head home. We left the lounge, walked to our gate, and hopped aboard the flight to Las Vegas.

Overall, we had a great trip! It was an excellent combination of activity and rest. We ate so much delicious food and every bite was worth it. We likely won’t return to Paris again any time soon, but we will always cherish the memories that we were able to build there.

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