Paris – Dinner @ Dans Le Noir

8th of November 2011

It’s my 6th days vacationing in this wonderful city and I am totally having a fabulous time.

Best of all, I have my younger brother joining me for the remainder of this trip. Well to show my gratitude I’ve made a reservation at Dans Le Noir in celebration of his (belated) Birthday.

To those of you who have never heard of this specialty resto ~ this is a restaurant with blind servers.

51 rue Quincampoix

Initially, my brother has no idea what type of surprise I had in mind. Our reservation was at 8 p.m. but decided to arrive half-an-hour early. When we arrived around 7:30 p.m., diners were already lining up by the door.

When we got inside the attendant checked us in and were instructed to place all of our belongings (purse, cell phones, cameras, umbrellas) in the locker and wait at the lobby. While we were waiting other patrons sitting next to us started talking about the place and my brother overheard (eavesdropping, perhaps?) the whole conversation. He then asked me “how could they serve us if they are blind?” There goes my SURPRISE!!!

Ten minutes later, the head waiter came and explained to us what we were about to experience inside the dining area. She tells us that the servers are blind and we are going to dine in absolute total darkness. She then asked if we have any food restrictions and/or allergies that they should know about. Dans Le Noir only offers SURPRISE menu. Diners have no idea what’s on their plate. The food will be revealed only after they leave the dining room.

Anyway, when our names were called the manager introduced us to our assigned waitress named “Radi.” Radi speaks both French and English. She was professional and nice. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked if we were ready to go inside. Then she instructed my brother to place his left hand on her shoulder, and I, placing my left hand on my brother’s. Then we started walking using each others shoulder as a guide towards the dining room. As we were walking Radi tells us in advance what is in front of us. When we finally arrived at our assigned table she pulled a chair on her left and asked me to sit. She then pulled another chair to her right for my brother.

While seated, Radi explained to us things that were on our table. She held my hand and guide me as to the location of my plate, fork, knife, and drinking glass. She did the same thing for my brother. She also tells us how to pour water on our glasses by placing one finger on the lip of the glass, and once we feel the water hit the finger then it means the glass is full. Next, she asked which menu we would like to get and we chose three course menu.

While Radi is away placing our order my brother and I started searching for the exact location of our cutleries. We also poured water in our glasses without any difficulties. While waiting for our appetizers other diners kept coming in. Radi came back with the appetizers and while we were eating my brother and I played guessing game. Each time we take a bite we asked each other what we think were on our plate (capers, tomatoes, eggplant and cheese with a slight vinaigrette).

Fifteen (15) minutes later here comes Radi with three additional diners who joined our table. She introduced us to them. The two young couple were from Istanbul and their friend were from Paris. Ada sat next to me on the left and her husband were sitting next to her, and their friend sat next to my brother.

As soon as they got settled, Ada were so lost about the whole idea and made so much commotions finding her cutlery. She could not even find her drinking glass. At one point while trying to find her table napkin, she accidentally touched my boob! I was so shocked and screamed out of my lung – “hey you just touched my boob! All of a sudden the whole dining room burst into laughter. After that episode it felt like everybody around the room loosened up and started having fun time with their own group.

Our food was very good and I felt full after eating the first course. While we were enjoying the meal we again played another guessing game. This time we tried guessing the age of each other through the sound of individual voice. It was so much fun and such a great experience. I realize that everyone would not be comfortable with this though. Trying to figure out what’s on your plate turns into a very fun conversation. This is also a unique opportunity to truly test your senses of taste and smell. This is an experience I will NEVER forget.

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Paris – Day 6

Entrance of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery

8th November, 2011

Today, my brother and I started out very early to visit the famous Parisian cemetery. We left the apartment at 9:00 a.m., took Bus Line 3 (Gambetta?) and arrived to the Cemetery around 10 a.m. or so.

Visiting the final resting place of some of the most extraordinary people who have ever lived is one of the many highlights of my trip. When we arrived at the actual site a free map of the cemetery was handed to us at the main entrance. The map came very handy because we located most of the graves we wanted to see.

While searching for Jim Morrison’s grave site we stumbled upon several Monuments in honor of Frenchmen who died in the Resistance or in Nazi concentration camps. The monument brought chills all over my body. Looking at the horror on their faces were so nerve wrecking and quite disturbing.

After walking like about a mile or two, we finally found Mr. Morrison’s site. There were at least five people visiting when we arrived. There were lots of flowers left to his tomb.

Jim Morrison's gravesite

After spending five minutes at Morrison’s site, we then proceeded and searched for Oscar Wilde’s location. We had trouble finding his grave and after searching for about 20 minutes my brother finally located his gravesite. Unfortunately his grave is under renovation at the time of our visit.

Oscar Wilde - Under Construction!

Off we go in search for other famous people. This time we discovered Frederic Chopin’s grave while walking towards Edith Piaf’s location.

Frederic Chopin

Lastly, my visit is not complete without paying respect to my favorite singer….Edith Piaf! Her grave is the hardest to find. It is located all the way in the back of the cemetery and if I am not mistaken its Lot 96. Frankly, I’ve never heard of Ms. Piaf before but thanks to my language professor, he made us listen to her songs in our French class and for our finals, we all went to see the movie “La vie en Rose.” After listening to all her songs and seeing her life story I’ve become an avid fan of her. Je ne regrette de rien!

My favorite French singer - Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf's gravesite

In conclusion: A quick visit to this famous cemetery is such a fun adventure itself and I’m glad we went. We finished the self-guided tour at noon and had Mickey D for lunch.

Next Destination: The Famous Eiffel Tower

Paris – Day 2

Louis XIII

4th of November, 2011

I am in PARIS! This was nearly always my first thought when waking up each morning. Paris is right there out the window, out the door, and the common impulse is for me to get out and walk, to get my bearings and explore this City on foot. By the way, when I woke up this morning I had this pounding headache. It might have been from two glasses (or maybe three) of wine I had last night.

Oh well…I am in Paris and a meal without wine at dinner time is like a beautiful woman with only one eye. Anyway I forced myself to get up in spite of the hangover. I’ve left the apartment around 10 a.m. and begin my First Walk at this magical city.

My first thought of Paris was exactly just how I pictured it. It was absolutely beautiful seeing architectural styles of Medieval and Renaissance-era buildings, classical inspired apartments, narrow streets and elegant people walking along the boulevard. I am super excited to be here and started taking pictures almost immediately. I love taking pictures of street signs so when its time for me to share my travel adventure I will remember all the places and streets that I’ve been to.

History of Paris

From my apartment in the Marais District (4th arrondissement) I’ve concentrated my walk in the direction of Paris’s Hotel de Ville. I’ve passed several well-known streets and hotels such as rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Place des Vosges, the Garden of Hotel de Sully, Hotel Carnavalet and many other side streets and alleys. Marais is one of Paris’ oldest and most dazzling quarters, and has a much different flavor. Since its revival in the 1960’s, it has shone as a center of Parisian artistic and cultural life. Its dramatic residences (hôtels), artisan’s boutiques, galleries, lavish squares, and fascinating history are worth reserving at least a half-day and the best way to explore the City is on foot.

One thing I’ve noticed, Parisians have a different idea about distances. When they described as only a mile away, I am telling you it could turn out to be a walk of several miles. I thank GOD because for the last couple of days, we have been having a fabulous weather and taking a walk is the best way to see other neighborhood. Ahhh to wander over Paris even with an aching feet!

Street signs

OBSERVATION:

One good thing about visiting foreign country, it helps me to be more observant with my surrounding. In today’s walk I paid attention to everything that I stumbled upon. Case in point: I did not see any drunks reeling about in streets nor did men/women talking on their cell phones while walking. Park benches showed no other marks other than the natural wear and tear of people sitting on them. What surprises me the most are the presence of dogs every where. It seems that dog is a part of accessories in here. Parisian women seem never made an appearance except in the company of her dog. A tres petite chien (very small dog).

Paris is just amazing as it actually outdoes its reputation for splendor. It is really hard to explain the splendor of the City, and best of all, seeing the world-famous buildings at magnificently lit against dramatic backdrop of the beautiful sky are just incredible. There is something magical happens when evening sets in this beautiful City. Now I know why it’s called the “City of Light!”

PARIS – Day 1

CDG Airport

3rd of November, 2011 – Thursday

Bienvenue à Paris! My plane arrived at Charles Da Gaulle airport exactly at 8 a.m. (2 a.m. US EST). After retrieving my bags and gone through customs, I stopped by at the nearest tourist office and purchased a carnet of 10 tickets for €12,50 plus a separate ticket for RER B line. Tickets on hand I followed the sign for the train station (“Gare” in french) at Terminal 2. The RER train bound to Central Paris comes every 15 minutes so before I know it I am heading to the City of Light.

Signs to follow

In about 45 minutes or so, I’ve arrived at Bastille station, the closest metro (a/k/a Subway) line where my apartment is located. I got off the train and followed the EXIT sign (SORTIE in french) with my luggage in tow. After walking a considerable distance I’ve finally reached the surface and…

VOILA PARIS! – With my mind full of the splendid views of squares and columns, and bridges, I could not believe I am now in PARIS. The street runs zigzag and abuts against each others and I don’t know which way to turn. As for the weather, it is gorgeously cool with plenty of sunshine. Almost immediately the famous allure and vitality of the City won me over. I have never seen so many cafes in every corner and so many people of every kind. I am so captivated by the human scenery. Sidewalk vendors out on the streets, cars, buses, motorcycles and bikes…it is mind-boggling.

After catching my breath I’ve started walking in search for my apartment. The apartment is only five minutes walk from Bastille station but not knowing my way around in this great city it took me at least half-an-hour finding it. The streets are so confusing and I got lost in the long run. Thanks to my limited knowledge of the French language I was able to ask for directions and arrived the apartment around noon time safe and sound. Then jet lag and fatigue took over right away. I fell asleep for few hours and when I woke up I’ve gone out to a nearby grocery store (Franprix Marche) and pick-up few things such as fruits, coffee, cheese and a bottle of wine.

At around 8 p.m. I’ve gone out again and started wandering around the Marais District neighborhood in search for a good hearty meal. I found a resto along Blvd. Henri IV (“Chez Margot”) and had a glass of Mojito framboise ou gingerbre for aperitif served with light snacks such as olives and peanuts.

Framboise Mojito

Bastille area - 4 arrondissement

As for my main entrée, I had pâté du jour ou cheese ravioli. It sounded very french but when my meal arrived I was a little disappointed seeing the pâté du jour I just ordered was the American version of Lox (Salmon) on top of cheese ravioli. It was good but I thought I would be eating French meal. With my dinner I ordered en carafe of Rose wine and creme brulee for dessert which was to die for. It was so yummy!

Paris – Day 3

The smell of fresh bread woke me up this morning. There is a boulangerie right next to the apartment and the smell of the croissants or may be its the baguettes make me hungry.

My apartment building

I’ve quickly checked the temperature outside and it looks like Paris is going to have another awesome weather. This may seem unnatural for Paris because it usually often wet in the fall but I AM LOVING IT.

My bedroom - I am on top of the "roof!"

Anyhow, my dear friend Helene and I are heading outside the City to visit hidden gems of France. She has promised to show me around her hometown Rambouillet which lies on the edge of the vast Forest. I am excited visiting these small villages, château and castles. I had mentioned to her once that I am so fascinated with castles and anything “royalty” so she is kind enough to be a wonderful hostess by making my childhood dream a reality.

I shall be back soon to continue on my report.
-Continuation –

I spent all day venturing Rambouillet which is located in the suburbs of Paris. As I have mentioned earlier this part of town is famous for its historical castle. The Château de Rambouillet in particular hosted several international summits. Due to its proximity to Paris and Versailles, Rambouillet has long been an occasional seat of government.

We also visited the chateau of Marie Antoinette which was built specifically as her farmhouse.

ADDITIONAL REPORTS AND MORE PICTURES TO FOLLOW:

Prep for my Paris Trip

Daisypath - Personal pictureDaisypath Vacation tickers

Hello there:

I created this post in the spring of 2011 as my way of keeping track of things I needed for my upcoming trip to France.

In this travel report I will be sharing with you my personal experiences and observations about the place, the food and the people. I want you guys to feel like you are coming along with me on this adventure. This will be a straight forward type of travel reports and I’ll try my best to be descriptive. I hope what you read in here will inspire you to also take that trip you have been dreaming of for so long.

My goal on this trip is to take it slow and be in the moment. I’ve learned from my prior travel experiences that by rushing around trying to see everything, I ended up not remembering a thing… So with this trip I will try to take it slow (just like Ernest Hemingway) and try to get to know the place, to observe, and just enjoy the City has to offer.

Hopefully if I can stick with this plan I’ll be satisfied with what I have seen and experienced.

Special thanks to my husband for allowing me take this SOLO vacation. I thank GOD everyday for giving me such a wonderful partner and I am so fortunate to have him in my life.

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Travel Bug

How did this happen? What was I thinking? –  Truthfully I had no clue.  I’ve woke up one morning and all of a sudden something deep inside tells me I needed a vacation.

Yes, I need a time-off to allow me to break free from the monotony of my daily routine. It’s hard to explain but I have this growing desire to travel alone.
I want to do something different, exciting and challenging. Something that would make me feel alive and exhilarated.

Then my gut tells me something…and yes, I do listen and follow my gut.

I knew right there and then that my passion for travel is back and knocking once again. Everything happened in a flash after that. Before I know it I was already on the phone with American Airline’s reservation department booking my flight to Europe. I gave the agent my preferred month and day, and voila…without further hesitations, I booked my ticket to FRANCE. Yes-just like that!

First stop – PARIS, FRANCE. C’est la vie!

After securing the flight, I sent my four (4) supervisors an email requesting 15 days vacation. Two minutes later I received ALL of their approvals. Yes-just like that! I then forwarded the email to the HR and within a minute or two my request were approved as well, and yes-just like that!

In short – I am going to FRANCE!!!!!! Oh la la.. Bonne la vie!