On Wednesday we fly to Brussels. We fly into Brussels because that is the only way Lee can use his miles and let us fly business. We don't mind tacking on an extra city for a day. The flight is uneventful until I try to choke to death on a piece of chicken. I don't need the Heimlich maneuver but I can't talk and continue to cough and have the sensation that something is stuck in my throat for the rest of our trip. It's very weird and disturbing. The more hypochondriac part of my personality envisions some sort of permanent condition, but I can walk and run just fine. It actually bothers me more when I'm just sitting around. The sensation gradually begins to dissipate. Very gradually.
Our hotel Is in a charming area of Brussels, with old buildings and cobblestone streets. We arrive at 7:30 am. For Europe I prefer to fly during the day and arrive at night but that's okay. We can check into our hotel early which is right in the center of this area. We explore a little, find a place to have coffee and a roll, make dinner reservations. We walk up to a big park and a palace, just wandering around. I haven't made us any big plans for Brussels. We are not quite ready to be tourists yet. We have dinner at a little Italian restaurant down the street from the hotel. They have very good, fresh homemade noodles.
The next day, Friday, we explore in the morning and take the train to Paris in the afternoon. It's one of those fast European trains, we are there in an hour and a half. One of Lee's business associates has a private driver and she arranges to have him pick us up. Our apartment is AMAZING! A little studio overlooking the Seine on Ile Le Cite, right around the corner from cathedral Notre Dame. It has a little kitchen, a Murphy bed, a table with flowers. Perfect. For dinner that night we walk across Ile St Louis to Jean and Louise Restaurant, a typical French bistro, where we share beef, a salad, and roast potatoes. It's a simple meal but everything done nicely, with great flavor. We walk back through the darkening streets of Paris and sleep well in our little apartment.
Saturday morning I wake up to walk down the street for bread and pastries. The pastry shop workers are friendly, teasing me about my non-existent French. It's obvious that there is a lot more English in Paris than there was 15 years ago! I know so much more about foreign travel now, and Paris only seems a little foreign. But wow o wow I've forgotten what a grand beautiful city it is. Magnificent buildings, cobbled streets, cafés, the Seine winding through it all.
We set out to be tourists around 10:30am. First to the open air market a few blocks away to buy some things for a salad, cheeses, nectarines, foie gras. Then down to the Luxembourg gardens, and over to the famous Poulaine bakery. This bakery is the inspiration for the main bread book I use. They make bread from their own secret starter. I've tried to replicate their methods with only mediocre results. Their loaves of bread are giant but we can buy part of one so we do.
We sit outside at a cafe. I have a salad nicoise for lunch, Lee has onion soup. Then we walk to the Rodin museum, and have fun wandering through the garden taking pictures. A small Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibit compares the two artists. His pictures are beautiful, many comparing the human body to rocks, fruit, and other natural objects. We walk back along the Seine, stop for a coffee and a sorbet along the way. It's time to put up our feet and rest before dinner.
Dinner is at Au Vieux Comptor - another bistro, another bottle of French wine. Lee has foie gras for an appetizer, I have great big juicy white asparagus, which seem to be in season right now. For his main Lee has a steak, which he can get as bloody as he likes here, and I have scallops in an orange cream sauce. I'm usually not that hot for scallops but I didn't want beef and these sounded good. Very good indeed. No dessert tonight!