Sunday, August 14, 2005

We're Back!

Neither of our flights were cancelled, so we were able to return home without too much trouble. We had a 4 1/2 hour layover at Heathrow so we did a lot of shopping while we were there. (Though we didn't buy much.) Since there would be no food served on our 10 hour flight home, we took the food coupons they gave us and used it to buy lots of chocolates. Wait, I mean we used it to buy fish and chips at the only restaurant in the terminal...(Uh yeah, that's it.) :) We also bought sandwiches to bring onto the plane.

As we arrived at our gate, a table had been set up with tons of prepackaged snack foods and bottled water. They said to take what we wanted so we grabbed several handfuls of food and hopped on the plane. We ended up with more than enough food and it was actually quite fun because it felt like a picnic.

I watched Monster-In-Law, Hitch, and The Interpreter. They were all entertaining movies, but none were particularly great. Before long, we were back in Seattle.

It was sure great to be home! I've included a few of Emily's photos of me below, including my paparazzi-in-action shot. :)

Stay tuned for my next blog entries starting around 9/1 - Sky and I are off to Atlanta, Georgia for DragonCon!

Chef of the Century, Joel Robuchon

After some speedy walking and a brief subway ride, we arrived at our dinner reservation with not a minute to spare.

We were seated immediately at a long U-shaped counter, almost like a sushi counter. Waiters hustled and bustled in the center of the U-shaped counter and took our orders.

Most of the food was fairly pricy. The tasting menu, which had about 9 courses, was around 90 euros (about $105). We limited ourselves to one or two courses plus dessert (of course!) to keep the price down.

But before I get too far into the menu, let me tell you about Joel Robuchon. OK, actually I don't know much about it him, but I HAD heard of him. When we had walked by the restaurant the previous day, I was surprised to see a restaurant where I actually recognized the chef's name. :)

I'm a big fan of Iron Chef. He was frequently mentioned as a great influencer for Iron Chef French, Sakai-san, and was occasionally mentioned as a chef under whom various challengers had trained under. (I also discovered that there's a book about his cooking on

The restaurant is called L'Atelier of Joel Robuchon. We didn't actually get to meet The Man. He's no doubt off busy promoting his new restaurant at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. :)

We had a great time and the food was really good too. I had lobsters with mushrooms and asparagus and Emily had a breaded fish (which looked kinda creepy since it still had its head.)

Our desserts were also delicious. After dessert, we struck up a conversation with the two American couples to our left and helped one fellow figure out how to use his new digital camera. We did a good job promoting good will towards Microsoft. :) They weren't surprised when we told them where we worked.

After our great dinner, we wandered (a little more slowly) past the Paris Opera house, the Galeries Lafayette, and the Napoleon temple before returning to our hotel to pack for our flight home.

Moon over the Seine (not so romantic, actually)

After our long hike back down the stairs, we walked along the Seine looking for a boat. The day before we'd seen an open-topped boat pass by that had canned tour commentary playing over the loudspeakers, alternating languages. That may not sound too exciting, but we decided we wanted to ride that boat.

We walked down a bridge or two, passing other boats which weren't quite the one we'd seen, to the Pont del Alma (or something like that) and found Bateaux Mouches (no, not Bateaux Mooses.) They had the boats we were looking for and one was about to leave for its hour-long tour of the river so we bought tickets and hopped on board.

The commentary played in about five different languages, so it didn't end up being that helpful. It did occasionally tell us what some of the pretty buildings were called and what they were used for. For some reason the English always seemed to play just as we went under a bridge, making in nearly unintelligible because of the echoes. Coincidence? Hmm...

We passed various parliament buildings and old Parisian townhouses and made our way around the island that Notre Dame is on. As we got to the far side of the island, we saw a group of youths dressed in black playing music on a landing by the river. They started yelling (in French) at the boat and one of them dropped his trousers showing us a view of his pasty white rear end. OK, bit of fashion advice folks, if you're going to drop trou - please wear light colors. Black just doesn't suit pale skin unless you're a vampire.

I didn't dignify the event with a photo as some things aren't worth remembering too clearly. We were highly amused by their antics, and enjoyed the rest of the cruise in high spirits. (Well, we were mostly happy because we were about to go to the fancy Parisian restaurant we'd made reservations for the day before.)

In addition to bored teens, the boat also passed the Musee d'Orsay (did I mention it's a refurbished train station?), the Eiffel Tower, and mini Liberty.

Lots of stairs

Mean Emily made me walk up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower!

Well, OK, she didn't really make me, she just pointed out the size of the elevator line vs. the stairs line and we agreed that the shorter stairs line looked much more tempting. :)

The Eiffel Tower has three levels. The lowest level is fairly wide and has a cafe and sometime back in the 60's even had an ice rink that was visited by a skating bear from the Moscow Circus...

It's a lot of stairs and every few landings there was a poster describing some historical event or weird fact about the Eiffel Tower (hence my bear knowledge.) It was about 330 stairs to the first level and then another 3 or 400 to the middle level. From there, you had to wait in a LONG line to take the elevator to the top (no stairs option). Since the middle level is already pretty high up, we were content to walk around taking photos from there. My photos below show the Seine River, the Louvre, and the gardens next to the Eiffel Tower.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Walk to the Eiffel Tower

We passed all sorts of beautiful buildings on our way to the Eiffel Tower. We saw Gothic style churches, Les Invalides (a palace that now houses Napoleon's tomb and a military museum), the Elite Cavalry School (for spoiled royals who became military officers but couldn't tie their own shoelaces.)

Musee d'Orsay

First thing on Saturday morning (after picking up pastries, of course) we walked to the Musee d'Orsay across the Seine River. We arrived about ten minutes before opening and a short line had already formed. We ate our pastries in line and then went in when it opened. I love museums when they're still fairly empty and it was nice to wander around and have some of the rooms to ourselves.

Both Emily and I had been to the museum before, but we both liked it so much on previous visits, we wanted to return. My favorites were the Degas, Renoir, Tissot, de Nuncques, Levy-Dhurmer, and Monet paintings and the huge cutaway model of the Paris Opera House. I also really liked the Art Nouveau furniture and vase section, though I felt that they could've included more there.

After spending most of the morning walking through the Museum, we left around lunch time and ate at the small Mucha Cafe nearby. (Mucha as in Alphonse Mucha, the famous art nouveau artist.) The food was delicious (especially the shrimp and avocado appetizer! YUM!) and we were energized for further walking.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Friday evening

Friday evening we returned from working (in the suburbs) and strolled around Paris. Actually, it was probably more like a hike because we were out there walking for hours.

We found one great restaurant, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, (Mr. Robuchon is a world famous French chef), but had to make reservations for Saturday night. Eventually, after walking past Notre Dame, various lovely churches, Parisian townhouses, parliament buildings, the Louvre, and others, we made it back to the vicinity of our hotel. We stopped at the pastry shop and had quiches and pastries for dinner. Yum! :)

Burgundy Hotel

In Paris, we stayed at the Burgundy Hotel and I again lucked out with the better room. My room was on the top floor with a tiny balcony and a view of an old church and the top of the Eiffel Tower (which is lit up at night). Emily faced an inner courtyard and didn't have a balcony.

Also down the block from our hotel was an Acropolis-like temple built by Napoleon. We were fairly close to the Paris Opera house and the not too far from the Louvre either. There was also a great pastry shop right around the corner. ;)