I can return to Paris again and again for the rest of my life. Just being there–with no intention of seeing anything new–is a fine vacation opportunity. With our tour over, I enjoyed a personal day before heading for Amsterdam and the Netherlands to scout for my upcoming TV shoot. The plan: Take my own audio tours and eat very well.
We’ve produced about 45 self-guided audio tours (all free with my Rick Steves’ Audio Europe Travel App), and every chance I get, I try to actually take them. When I follow along, I can see if they work well. And (this may sound a bit weird) but I also take them because they cover my favorite places–and I simply enjoy hearing myself talking about them. It’s fun to be immersed in a tour of a place like Paris’ Gothic lantern of stained glass, Sainte-Chapelle–and drift by another traveler enjoying the same audio tour. So far, the only one that doesn’t work well is Florence’s Uffizi Gallery (because they rearranged much of the featured art).
As has been my theme in the last year or two of guidebook research, I am finding new experiences to complement the great sights. Food tours are trendy across Europe, and I’m taking lots of them. Food tours generally take three to four hours and cost around $100. Some are worthwhile, and many are not. In Paris, we joined a Paris by Mouth food tour: six stops in three hours for €95. Our guide was an expert, expat foodie, and I gained a fun new appreciation of baguettes, croissants, cheese, and the way French people make the most out of eating. (For much more on this food tour–if you don’t mind a little food porn–see Trish Feaster’s blog at The Travelphile.com.)
After 50 days of steady work (OK–steady fun, too), I treated myself to a Michelin-star restaurant. We don’t list many destination restaurants in our guidebooks, but people come to Paris to eat well, and you’ll certainly do that at Le Violon d’Ingres.
At Le Violon d’Ingres, the dishes are extremely creative and, while excellent, I’m glad I opted for a sampler menu which gave me twice as many plates (with half-sized portions) as a regular menu. The Degustation Menu cost €95 for eight small plates served delicately and beautifully presented. I added on the matching wine. If you’re planning on binging for an extravagant meal in France, you’ll get the best value in smaller towns in the countryside. But for me, my fine Parisian dinner at Le Violon d’Ingres was a splurge I’ll never forget.
As we list his restaurant in our book, renowned chef Christian Constant dropped by to see us. There’s a family tree-type photo wall of all the chefs who’ve trained with Monsieur Constant. After our meal, I was not surprised that his kitchen has spawned so many highly regarded and successful chefs.