Public Service Announcement for French Tourists

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Well, it’s a rainy night in Paris and I’m sitting by the Seine

It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain.

Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine

Oh, but in the morning there’ll be hell to pay

Somewhere along the line.—Billy Joel from “Somewhere Along the Line”


The above lyrics are from one of my favorite Billy Joel songs.

On our recent trip to Paris, I ate wonderful food.  So what could be the problem that would elicit a public service announcement from Big Surf Daddy?

Now we didn’t have any rainy nights in Paris and with three toddlers, we didn’t sit by the Seine.  We didn’t eat much fancy food, but we did have some good wine.  It’s the next line that matters…

If you aren’t accustomed to eating rich cheeses and breads in your diet, you may need to introduce them into your stay in France gently.  I ate as much bread and cheese as I could the first few days.  Well “Somewhere Along the Line” came pretty quickly.

I had to make a stop at the local pharmacie in Brunoy, where we were staying for the week.  You see, cheese has a binding property in your digestive tract…you get the gist of this problem.

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The local pharmacie had the answer.  I was eating cheese and bread the next day.

Enjoy the cheese and bread in France, just don’t cram it in like I did.  France has been making great breads and cheeses for centuries, so they will be there tomorrow.


Eating in Paris…Deuxième Partie (part two)

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How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?—Julia Child


I know Julia Child was NOT talking about France when she said this.

We recently spent a few days in Paris over the Christmas holiday with our immediate family.  We met up with my son, his wife and two year- old daughter.  My daughter-in-law is going to be a mother again in about three months.  So “bun in the oven” continues in the bread theme here.

We also traveled with my daughter and her husband and her two children, ages two and one.

So based on what you know for now, if you tuned in to an episode of fine French dining experiences on these pages, you may be disappointed. Parisienne dining “adventures” may be more apropos for our days in Paris.  Afterall if you want to have a fine dining triumph in Paris, sharing it with three toddlers is probably not the way to go.  However we did eat some really good food. Of course, it goes without saying that our breads, wines, and cheeses were good everywhere.

The photo above is a nice cafe decorated for the Christmas season.  We did not eat here.  Are you kidding?  Look at those lights on the tables, how long do you think those would last?  But alas, you can dream in Paris can’t you?

So let me give some advice to those who want to go to Paris with small children.  It’s good to research cafes and restaurants before you go, but be ready to chunk those plans and make decisions on the run, depending on the mood of one of the children.  So most of our restaurant choices depended on who could accommodate a double stroller and a single stroller and where would be the least likely place to start an international incident.

Our first meal was a late lunch in the Latin Quarter, Cafe St. Victor.  We were ready to eat and did not want to walk anymore and they met all of the above criteria for our group.  The bonus for us… the service was really good and the waitress was so good and patient, especially with teaching me how to eat escargot with meat hooks for hands.

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Cafe St. Victor, near Notre Dame in the Latin Quarter.


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We shared a good assorted cheese plate for starters.


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I loved the escargot even though the utensils were quite cumbersome for me.  My dissection skills were long forgotten from college biology. In the end our waitress brought me a toothpick and said this may be better.  Just dig them out.  She was such a good soul.

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Mrs. Big Surf, had one of her favorite dishes, French Onion soup.  I wonder if they just call it onion soup over there.   Anywho, she loved it.


Our next stop was a real treat for me. We found Odette on Rue Galande in the 5th arrondissement in the Latin Quarter.  We bought some of their famous choux a la cremes.  This was a very good decision for all involved.

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So we had to wash down these lovely cream puffs with some hot chocolate and we found it at Shakespeare and Company Cafe.

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The hot chocolate was really good but it wasn’t the best we had.  This cafe is across from Notre Dame, with a good view of the famous cathedral.

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This was the best hot chocolate and some say the best in Paris.  Angelina is a famous tea room and cafe with a history as rich as its hot chocolate.  Ask for the African hot chocolate and as an additional treat get some of their memorable Mont Blancs.

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These are the Mont Blancs.  6 Euros each.


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Angelina is across from the Louvre so there are lots of people in the area. There will be a long line outside, but if you want to get your hot chocolate and Mont Blancs to go, you can circumvent the line and go on in to the bakery. We made the mistake of standing in line for about 45 minutes before we figured it out.  You’re welcome.

For the best meal, I went against my general rule of dining in famous cities, don’t eat near popular tourist stops.  I try to go at least two blocks away, however there are always exceptions to the rules, again especially when the children are ready to get out of the strollers.

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Our most memorable meal in Paris for the week was Le General cafe.   The Arc de Triomphe could be seen from the outside tables.  We dined for lunch here before going to the aforementioned Arc.  We were so thrilled with this meal. We ate outside. The heaters were going and I even took my coat off, it was really pleasant to eat outside in December.

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You can see the Arc de Triomphe from La General.

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Mrs. Big Surf and I, and my daughter, ate this wonderful dish of scallops on a bed of risotto made with squid ink.  This was my first experience eating squid ink and I must say, this was the best dish I had all week.

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Since this was an early afternoon meal, my son and daughter-in-law has this good-looking and tasty dish.

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My son-in-law had the chicken fricassee with linguine.


Later we stopped into one of the many creperies in Paris.  I was not in the mood for a crepe so I had some good coffee.  Most of our group had a sweet crepe here and loved them, my wife ordered off the menu for a chicken crepe and she did not like it, but in the defense of the creperie it was not the chicken crepe on the menu. They had a spicy chicken crepe that she wasn’t in the mood for.  All-in-all a success … since the children liked it.

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After spending some time at the Eiffel Tower on our last night in Paris, we decided to walk over to Rue Cler for our last meal in Paris.  We found a small cafe called L’Eclair.

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We loved this cafe.  They were very accepting of our children even though it was fairly crowded.  We all had good food and a very enjoyable time here.

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My wife and most of our group had the classic French sandwich called a Crouque Monsieur, kind of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  Some of our group had a variation served with a fried egg on top called a Croque Madame.

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I had a flank steak with a sauce made from olives and capers.  So tasty.


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At L’Eclaire, we dined under the glow of this neon sign saying, NO BAD DAYS.

This seemed to sum up our time in Paris, there were no bad days.












Brunoy, France…A Charming Stay Outside Paris

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Je suis sous le charme…I am under the charm.


I fell under the charm of Brunoy (pronounced Broon-wah), a community southeast of Paris, France. It has a long history of residences and the town developed during the Gallo-Roman era.

We reunited with part of our family for Christmas and spent a week in this lovely, mainly residential burb, about a forty minute train ride outside of Paris. We rented a lovely house about a ten minute walk from the train station. We were six adults and three children ages two, two, and one.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking…

Immediately we fell in love with the house and the surrounding neighborhood.

Our walks into the town center and the train station were very pleasant (or as pleasant as could be with three toddlers). We ate a few meals in Brunoy restaurants and we took “take away” meals back to our house.  Mainly it was our haven from the busyness and a respite from our days spent in Paris.

My wife and I had been to Paris last year and you can read about that trip in previous blogs here. However, here in Brunoy, I had the pleasure of experiencing a French community with genuine hospitality and friendliness.  The shop owners and workers were so nice and I felt they went out of their way to help us when we needed it.

So if you have the opportunity to stay in Brunoy and visit Paris, I highly recommend it.  The prices in Brunoy are cheaper than Paris, the food is good, the people are friendly, and it is an easy train ride into the city center.  We caught the RER D and rode it to Gare de Lyon and made easy connections from there.  The only issue we encountered was two strollers and many stairs.  But we had six adults and on one occasion a very helpful Brunoyen to help out the ladies when the men left them after a very rare miscommunication.

The following are photos of this charming town.

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A street in Brunoy with Christmas lights.

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This is the front of our rental house from Airbnb.  It was an excellent place to stay.


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Saint-Medard cathedral. Parts of this building has remains from the 12th century.

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Sidewalk on Avenue du President Kennedy.

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A skating rink in place for Christmas in front of the city building in the town center.

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This was our favorite restaurant in Brunoy.

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Paris…Montmartre and Sacre Coeur

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I love Paris when it sizzles.—Cole Porter

Believe me Paris was sizzling this day, temperature-wise anyway.

We dedicated almost a full day to wandering through Montmartre, a beautiful section of Paris on a hill north of the city center.  Since we were staying in the south of the city center, in the 15th Arrondissement, it took about 45 minutes on the bus.  My wife had a few issues with riding underground crowded trains, so we stayed up top in the sunlight.  We enjoyed the bus ride since it allowed us to see more of the city.

We stopped for breakfast at Coquelicot, a wonderful little bakery and cafe on rue des Abesses.  We both had a chocolate au pain and I also ordered Quiche Lorraine and an Americano.  This was a delicious start to our day in Montmartre.

We headed up to Sacre Couer.

We climbed the many steps, that are quite lovely and enveloped in shadows in July.  The line was very long to enter Sacre Couer, so we stayed outside to enjoy the beautiful view of the city from this high hill above Paris.

We walked over to the other, lesser-known cathedral in Montmartre, Saint-Pierre de Montmartre.  This is one of the oldest churches in continuous use in Paris.  It was established in the third century by Saint Denis, who has a legendary story himself.  The current cathedral was finished in the 1800’s following many reconstructions, the final one after being destroyed in the French Revolution.  This smaller cathedral has a few intimate chapels with wonderfully colored stained glass windows.  In one of these small chapels, I stopped to pray and felt the wonderful presence of God’s Spirit.  One of those few times in my prayer life where I felt so close to the Creator.

We strode through the many street artists selling and painting portraits and the various shops atop Montmartre. We took in the views and the narrow, uncrowded alleys before we worked our way down the Street of Martyrs.  We stopped in at Henri le Roux chocolates and got a small assortment of tasty treats for later. A word to the wise here, if it is hot, as it was this day, eat your chocolates as soon as possible and don’t carry them with you.  Ours melted somewhat, though they were still just as delicious.


We ambled down toward the city center and found a nice outdoor table at A la Place St. Georges on the St. Georges square. My lovely wife had crepes and a chardonnay and I had a plate of assorted cheeses and breads and a really good red wine. We rested here in this lovely cafe for a while and decided to head back toward our hotel.

We disembarked our bus ride at the Trocadero, for the best view of the Eiffel Tower. We sat by the Seine before making the 30 minute walk along the Seine back to our hotel. It had been a very good day.

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Sacre Couer

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Gargoyle on Sacre Couer.

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A small, sunlit dome on Sacre Couer.

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One of the chapels of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre.

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Artists working in Montmartre.

The following are scenes in our wandering around Montmartre.

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Dutilleul passing through the wall.  Very cool.

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We ate outside at A la Place St. Georges.

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A really good view of  the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero. I assume these gates aren’t normally there. But they made a good foreground to this photo.


Paris…The Lazy way

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To err is human, to loaf is Parisian.—Victor Hugo

This quote summed up two of our days in Paris.

The first full day in Paris, we decided to let the Big Bus take us around the city so we could get an overall view of the city.  These buses have an open upper deck and ear phones to let you hear about what you are seeing.

The last full day in Paris, we were tired and hot, so we rode the Bat-o-bus (water taxi).  We viewed the city atop the gentle refreshing waters of the Seine.  Both of these experiences are highly recommended, especially by two middle-aged tourists during a hot week in July.

I wouldn’t recommend going to Paris in July because of the above mentioned heat and the height of the tourist season, but this was the only week we could go due to other circumstances. Nevertheless, the two modes of transportation around the city were very enjoyable and gave us a good view of Paris. It helps to get your bearings when visiting Paris for the first time.  We did a lot of walking and exploring on our own and I will save those adventures for upcoming blogs.

Normally, I avoid these touristy methods.  However, I can now see the advantage of doing this if you only have a limited time to see the city or if you have a week-long stay as we did and want to take some time to relax and still see the sights of Paris.

The following are photos I took while on board these methods of transportation around Paris.

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The Louvre from the Big Bus.

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Notre Dame from the Bat-o-Bus.

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Towers of Notre Dame from the Big Bus.

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Arc de Triomphe from the Big Bus.

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The Moulin Rouge from the Big Bus.


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The Eiffel Tower from the Bat-o-Bus.

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Bridges on the Seine from the Bat-o-Bus.

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Cafe de Flore from the Big Bus.

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A cafe in shadows on a Paris street taken from the Big Bus.

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One more cafe on the streets of Paris, taken from the Big Bus.

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Parisians on the steps by the Seine, taken from the Bat-o-Bus.


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Church steeples from the Bat-o-Bus.

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Buildings overlooking the Seine from the Bat-o-Bus.

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One of the many cathedral towers in Paris, taken from the Big Bus.

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I had to post an artsy shot from Paris, a little impressionism of the city street from the Big Bus.