The airport arrival is somewhat miraculous, somewhat disastrous.
We’ve just moved out of our tiny seaside cottage in San Diego two hours prior, stuffing our last load of belongings into storage and running from a sudden tropical downpour into the safe haven of our Uber.
There’s traffic on our way to LAX and we spend the entire 2.5-hour ride unsure if we’ll even make our flight. Once we’re finally through security, after a brief mishap with leftover Thai food that spills all over Nick’s shorts, we breathe an enormous sigh of relief.
Before boarding our 9 p.m. plane, we split a heavenly tuna melt and a glass of velvety red wine. The start of this trip feels the same as many of our other big trips do at the beginning. It's stressful. It's filled with last-minute tasks. And it starts with us making the promise that we’ll be more prepared next time. However, this time, there's one key difference.
We've purchased one-way tickets to Europe.
After ten hours, the plane touches down at Charles de Gaulle Airport and we awake from our half and huddled slumber. Above us, the flight attendants are scurrying about with French yogurt, croissants, and little cups of hot coffee. We cradle the coffee cups in our hands and the people next to us offer long, half-giddy-half-sleepy yawns.
We've made it to Paris.
Once outside the airport, a driver picks us up in a navy blue Volkswagen Passat. As we wind through the streets, we find the sounds of the sirens, the signs, and the roads to be different yet exhilarating. Our windows down, we stick our heads out, breathing in that deeply familiar scent of the unknown.
This is the smell we love.
We arrive at Hotel 1K, a hotel in Paris where we’ll be doing some food photography. It’s a Peruvian hotel and it’s located in the 3rd Arrondissement of the fashionable Le Marais shopping district. Outside, the hotel building is a bright blue and vibrant orange, and inside, it bursts with hip, exotic decor.
A kind receptionist greets us in French then, upon seeing our expression, quickly smiles and talks in English instead. There’s a little elevator we take to our room, which is small but has a perfectly situated open window with shutters that look out on to the street below. A man across the way hangs out his window eating a baguette, looking down onto the bicyclists, who yell at one another in French if they’re cut off.
It feels like late morning (it’s 10 a.m. California time) though dusk has fallen and it’s almost 7 p.m. now. Hungry, we venture outside in a delirious state of glee, walking from block to block and watching in awe as the Parisians laugh and drink and kiss.
There’s a mint green market and as we peer our heads inside, the smell of cured meats and fresh bread beckons us forward. La Maison Plisson is its name and this will—forever be—cemented in our minds as our first food experience in Europe (both individually and together).
We order a glass of champagne and a take on deviled eggs, though the waitress, kind yet assertive, suggests we try a more appropriate pairing like the charcuterie board. The meats are delicate in texture but robust in flavor.
And the bread and the butter…we have never tasted anything so rich yet entirely light and ethereal at the same time.
Paris is unlike anywhere we've ever been.
Waking up the next morning, our excitement seems to counteract our jet lag. We throw on walking clothes and venture downstairs to an array of breakfast food—warm croissants from the pastry chef, lemon yogurt in glass jars, freshly squeezed orange juice, espresso, slow scrambled eggs.
We eat quietly in subtle admiration, then spend the early afternoon walking all around Paris. From the Seine River, which flows through the heart of Paris, to the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which bursts with generations of the world's best writers, each sight is as romantic as the last.
When our are legs sore and our multiple espressos have worn off, we wander back to the hotel for our scheduled food shoot.
Discovering a universe of Peruvian food wasn’t how we initially thought we’d find a home on our second day in France. But Chef Juan Carlos has lived around the world, and the last place is, ironically, Leucadia (the artistic, laid-back California beach town we’ve moved from just yesterday).
He brings out his food, kindly encouraging us to try each dish as we photograph. We sample ceviche and pork belly. Street corn and tacos. Green apple mousse and berry cream for dessert made by his pastry chef, Romain.
Their food is a rainbow of colors and wild flavors, a sea of sensations.
When we’re finished, Juan Carlos guides us to the bar, making suggestions on the best bakeries and Eiffel Tower viewing spots as we walk through the kitchen and through an unassuming white door.
Where do locals go to escape the tourists and indulge in an outlandishly creative cocktail, we find? Why, a hidden place in the heart of Le Marais with the largest selection of Mezcal in France. This is La Mezcaleria, the hotel’s animated speakeasy whose menu comes in the form of an outlandishly wonderful poetry book.
In it, we find cocktails like Dick the Shark, made with scotch, mezcal, and green mango. And Muxhes, also made with mezcal, but brilliantly mixed with red curry, rum, and coconut liqueur, complete with a rim of Pop Rocks.
Eager to soak in our second and last night in Paris, we finish our cocktails and follow Chef’s suggestion for the nighttime Eiffel Tower light show. When we arrive at the tower, the sheer size of it leaves us without words, so we walk around it a few times to see it from every angle.
A few hours later, our body clocks now in a state of complete confusion, we’re hungry for dinner.
Everything is closed, so we saunter for miles with nothing to be found. “Food is done,” each owner tells us with a half sympathetic smile.
At this point, we have now walked 10 miles over the course of the day and night. It’s midnight and we're becoming increasingly more ravenous. Then, like a food mirage, we find the Yelp listing, which leads us to the 1st Arrondissement.
Au Pied de Cochon is open 24/7.
There are white tablecloths with red chairs and ornate chandeliers hanging beside burgundy drapes. Oysters are being shucked and a window display of fresh seafood seems to serve as a food art installation.
People are boisterously drinking martinis and wine from carafes, eating big steaks, slabs of pork, and bowls of French fries. Entering into this Paris restaurant from the sleepy, closed streets is like stepping foot into an alternate reality—an unexpected, Parisian food fantasy of a bygone era.
We order the fish and chips with house-made mayo and the traditional Ceasar salad. In between bites of bread, we relish in the tastes of our meringue sugar pigs and wash them down with sips of red wine.
Back at the hotel, exhilarated by Paris and now entirely jet lag (a feeling we've never felt), we don’t fall asleep until 4 a.m. But the next day, with the magnetic energy of the city moving through our blood, we stop for cappuccinos and soft bagels at Cafe La Perle then run to catch our train for Burgundy.
This, we find, is a freedom-filled fantasy. It’s a one-way ticket—but a million ways to go.
a quick behind-the-travels phone video from our two nights in Paris
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