A Weekend in Paris!


A Weekend in Paris! We love sharing great places, must see spots, best “foodie” stops, new “foodie” finds and other great experiences and discoveries during our frequent visits to Paris in the off-season.  Paris is so alluring with its specialty “condiment” yes “condiment shops (such as Maille, Hediard, Fauchon, etc), artistically decorated chocolate boutiques and unique shopping hide-a-ways that there is always something new and inviting to enjoy no matter how frequently a visitor one might be. As part of a value added service to our tour programs, we hope those of you reading these monthly Paris posts will find something enjoyable for yourself, and add one of our experiences or finds to your agenda the next time your in this beautiful walking city!

During this month’s Paris visit, we…

  1. Re-visited some old favorites — 3 MOF chocolate shops,
  2. Spent a “fun day” Sunday at the Louvre,
  3. Discovered a new French style burger joint — Big Fernand and
  4. Reviewed another Paris hotel.

Chocolate typically grabs everyone’s attention, and in winter it sure puts a smile on my face!  So sticking with my standard of “only the best” for my family, we stopped in at my three favorite chocolate shops — Yves Thuries, Patrick Roger and Jean-Paul Hevin. Each of these chocolate and pastry chefs sports the highest and most prestigious title one can be awarded as a chocolate maker et pastry chef, the famous “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” title!  These chefs have out performed all others in their “metier” or specialty profession by winning a very strict and timed competition.  As a winner of the “MOF”, as most in the culinary world dub this prestigious title, these chefs have the exclusive right to wear the colors of the French flag on their “chemise” (the chef jacket). What exactly does being a MOF winner mean you ask?  It means that these are the best in class! When you purchase chocolates and pastries from any of these three chefs, you are purchasing the best quality, the finest products, and at a very exclusive price that reflects their prestige!  Our recommendation is that if you’re going to purchase French chocolates, why not purchase the best? Try some for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Yves Thuries – Click here for website page for all Paris locations.

Patrick Roger – Click here for website page for all Paris locations.

Jean-Paul Hevin – Click here for website page for all Paris locations.

After making rounds at our favorite “sweet” spots, we opted for a “fun day” Sunday at the Louvre. The first Sunday of every month, museums in Paris are free. Lines are a little longer to get in, but the one at the Louvre moved quite fast —only a 15 minute wait for an 11 am arrival.  Exploring the Louvre proves to be as entertaining as actually viewing the master pieces of art, sculpture, jewelry, architecture and design for which this “grand maison” is famous. On average I recommend dedicating about 4-5 hours maximum to explore the riches within these walls. Some practical information:  There are two lines of entry, both of which are security check points — one is at the pyramid entry above ground and the other is through the carrousel mall area below ground (stair way entry located next to the Arc de Triomph du Carrousel – or in simpler terms “the arched sculpture” across the street from the pyramid). Once past security, there are manned kiosks and automated kiosks.  There are ample food and beverage options inside the Louvre, and they become very crowded at French lunch hour of 12-2 pm.

If you can hold off and wait until you’ve finished your visit at the Louvre, there’s a great “French style” burger joint just a few blocks behind the museum — BIG FERNAND.  This gourmet burger joint offers a wonderful traditional French burger and grilled chicken sandwich with a choice of toppings including a selection of French cheeses.  Top off your plate with their home cut french fries and local beverages (small selection of wines also available). Getting there from the museum — Exit the Louvre via the Rivoli exit, then walk down Boulevard de l’Opera towards the Opera Garnier.  When you come to the Starbucks (at the corner on the right hand side of Blvd de l’Opera), look left, cross Blvd de l’Opera and walk straight down the side street to “Place du Marche St. Honore” where you’ll find Big Fernand on the right hand side. For more details and other locations, click this link — (English version of the website is still under construction, but addresses are straight forward and easy to read).

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel Review —

As hotel recommendations are probably the most sought after information included in our pre- and/or post- tour Paris extended stay package, we chose the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel for our weekend stay.  Located about two blocks from the Galeries LaFayette Department store, it was the perfect location for anyone looking for a nice central yet quieter location.  We arrived by train to Paris Gare de Montparnasse and took the bus 95 from the station to the Opera bus stop then walked the remaining 10 minutes around the corner and down Blvd Haussman to the hotel. We were warmly welcomed at our 8 pm check-in, and promptly given our room keys. Since I was traveling with my teenage daughter this time, we booked a superior twin room and were given a 2nd floor, courtyard view location — very quiet.  Elevators are very prompt- we never had to wait for one which can often be the case in many Paris hotels. The front desk staff are very courteous and ready to answer any questions or respond to special requests with a smile.  The doormen also greet your arrival and departure with a smile, and will get you a taxi with no advance notice (they wait just down the street).

Since we arrived to Paris quite late, we opted for dinner at 16 Haussman, the hotel restaurant, and it was delightful. Service again was outstanding, the food well prepared and at a reasonable price.  The following morning we tested the buffet breakfast.  While the hotel is fantastic and gets a solid thumbs up for everything from room and bedding comfort, in-room amenities to customer service, the buffet breakfast is, for lack of a better word, over-priced!  At a steep 29 euros per person, I expect hot coffee service from a living, breathing human being, not from an airport like automated coffee/tea dispenser. I also expect a selection of hot and freshly prepared “a la carte” breakfast items, not warmers filled with pre-prepared items for self service that are at best luke warm throughout the entire breakfast service.  My recommendation — great hotel but avoid the breakfast.  For the next 2 breakfasts, my daughter and I opted to frequent the Starbucks coffee shop — there are two near the hotel. As you exit the hotel, there is a Starbucks to your right less than half a block away (just by the Chaussee d’Antin Metro entrance—M7, M8, M9), and a 2nd one to your left at about 2 blocks away (by the Richelieu Drouot metro stop—M8, M9).

For the remaining two evenings of dinners during our Paris stay, we dined one evening at the Hard Rock Cafe Paris which is just two blocks down the street from the hotel — take a left as you exit the hotel and head towards the Richelieu Drouot metro stop.  Arrive early to avoid a long wait or eat at the bar (staff will not tell you that it’s an option so when they give you the beeper, go straight ahead to the bar, take a seat and ask the bartender for the dinner menu — Once menu in hand, kindly return beeper to hostess). We saved an hour by electing to dine at the bar. Service was very prompt and courteous. The last evening we opted to skip dinner completely so we could partake in a movie marathon. There are two movie theaters one block over on Boulevard des Italiens that offer a wide selection of movies.  If you find yourself in need of a meal before, after or between movies, there is a nice selection of both French fast food and sit down brasserie/cafe style dining within walking distance.

Getting to the Hotel

  • Quickest access to the hotel from the Gare de Montparnasse rail station is BUS 95 — get off at Opera. Travel time is about 20 minutes.
  • Quickest access from the Gare de Lyon rail station is metro line M14 then switch to the M7 at Pyramides and exit at Chaussee d’Antin — hotel is less than a half block away.  Travel time is about 20 minutes.

— The Short on the Hotel —

Hotel Room Quality — Rooms are typical size for Paris, meaning small, but the layout is very functional and well thought out. Our room included a nice size desk, lounger-comfy chair and table. There are ample electrical outlets for charging telephones, camera batteries, ipads and other electronics simultaneously. Rooms are equipped with ironing board and iron, a safe, hotpot to make in room coffee and tea and a minibar. The minibar refrigerator is large enough to also store additional personally purchased beverages. Bathrooms are equipped with bath amenities and hair dryer.  Both bed and bath linens are high quality. In general, rooms are clean and smell nice.

The Breakfast — Avoid it and go to one of the two Starbucks nearby.

Overall customer service — Service with a smile and no question or request is too much.  Staff speaks several languages and is very helpful.

What makes this hotel stand out as special in our eyes?  It’s location to the fabulous Galeries Lafayette. It’s also still very centrally located to a large choice of restaurants, brasseries, cafes, movie theaters and other smaller boutiques. And a special plus, it’s very quiet!

What’s within walking distance?  The hotel is centrally located to truly be able to enjoy the city on foot.  It’s a short walk from the Opera Garnier, several Starbucks, Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Eglise Madeleine, rue St. Honore shopping street, Hard Rock Cafe, Chipotle, Louvre Museum, lots of fabulous restaurants, brasseries and cafes.

Check out some of the fun photos taken during our weekend in Paris…

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