Sunday, July 14, 2019

Swiss Ms. Behaving

Trip date: September 2018

Forest and I met Nicky at Paris' Gare de Lyon, we were heading off to Switzerland for 2 days of hiking in the Swiss Alps followed by a weekend cheese festival. I was beyond excited!

The train ride was long, at 6+ hours, and we had 4 changes to make. But it was also as beautiful as you’d expect and since we watched the scenery with a bottle of bubbles it was also delicious. We passed gorgeous lakes and rolling green hills that turned into craggy mountains. There’s no other word for it other than stunning. And being from Seattle, I'm use to my fair share of gorgeous mountain scenery!

The scenery was dotted with villages, alpine huts, green valleys, glacier-fed lakes and snow-capped peaks. We rode from Paris passing thru Basel and Bern on our way to Interlaken. Here we changed to a smaller train, the Berner Oberland-Bahn, and continued to Lauterbrunnen.

In Lauterbrunnen we walked across the street from the train station and took a cable car up to the town of Grütschalp. Finally we boarded the small BLM train to our last stop, the town of Mürren. Since Mürren is a car-free village at 5,374 ft, this is really the only way to arrive; it was an entire day adventure and I couldn’t have loved it more!

Forest had wanted to do this type of trip for years, she’d been talking about hiking to and staying in the Swiss alpine huts, which is what we originally looked into doing. But then we found this great chalet in pedestrian only Mürran and decided to have a home base and hike the trails around the area.

It was a 60 step climb up from the sidewalk to our chalet, a hike in itself with luggage! I had packed light though, just a day sized backpack and a cube in a small suitcase shared with Forest.

Our chalet was 2 levels, Nic and I had twin beds upstairs, and there was a murphy bed, a small kitchen and dining area downstairs. We also had a great deck with views directly of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. We loved everything about it except for the lack of freezer in the fridge!

After unpacking, we set out to explore, which was easy as it is a very small town of 450 people with just 2 main streets. We got some grocery shopping done before finding a wonderful terrace for cocktails at the Hotel Edelweiss.

It was a little surreal to be sitting outside in the shadow of these magnificent peaks! And the weather was so perfect, completely the opposite of the rain and cold that had been forecasted when we all packed.

We moved inside the restaurant for dinner, and only were able to get a table as we had reserved one when we had arrived for drinks. It’s a popular place, and for good reason. My rosti was absolutely amazing!

We stopped on the way home, begged a bag of ice from a nearby bar, and made a few rounds of martinis at home, enjoyed outside on our deck.

The next morning we set out for our first day of hiking on the Mountain View Trail. The hike started with a trip up the Allmendhubel funicular. Until I came here, I didn’t understand how these towns and trails are all connected by a series of gondolas, cable cars, and funiculars. It was pretty amazing! And not cheap at about $10 per ride.

We were starting with a fairly easy 2+ mile hike that would take us to Grütschalp. At the top of the funicular we had a full view of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau peaks. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we only passed a handful of other hikers the entire time.

We passed a lot of Swiss cows wearing huge bells however, hiked thru pretty fields, and had unlimited photo ops of the mountains as they were never out of our view. It was pretty awesome!

As we descended the trail we all decided that hiking in the opposite direction would have been much tougher as it was pretty steep on our last bit, so keep that in mind if you don't love vertical trails.

We ended up having a sad lunch of landjaeger and bread at the train station in Grütscalp; we should have hiked the trail to Winteregg where there was a proper restaurant. Blame our distraction on the views!

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring Lauterbrunnen. We rode the gondola down, which is pretty steep and had poor Nicky terrified! The town, at an elevation of 2,631 feet, has a population of ~2500 and cars are allowed. It's still absolutely adorable!
It also has the impressive Trümmelbach waterfall which can be seen from all around.

We did a little shopping, then stopped for a glass of wine, before riding the gondola and the BLM back to our sweet chalet in Mürren.

Above Mürren is the Schilthorn summit where many scenes in the James Bond movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" were filmed. So that night we had 007 martinis while sitting outside at the Eiger Guesthouse, which had kindly provided us with ice for our chalet the night before.

We moved inside for dinner where I excitedly ordered the fondue. As the owner served me she asked if I knew how to go about it, and having impressed her with my answer she also brought me a shot of kirsch (and was happy I knew what to do with that too)!

We had another day of hiking planned for the next morning, so we were off to bed, full and very happy hikers!

All Bernese Oberland photos here.

Other posts from this trip:
Long Weekend, Paris Part 1
Long Weekend, Paris Part 2

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Long Weekend, Paris Part 2

Trip date: September 2018

Sunday morning in Paris. After a croissant and coffee in the apartment, Forest and I took up our friend Cliodhna on her lovely invitation to come over for a glass of champagne at her home in the 18th. Her and her hubs have a fantastic terrace and she'd done a great job of turning it into quite the garden.

From here the three of us had a nice walk past Sacré-Cœur on our way to lunch at Bouillon Pigalle.  We met Thibault, Gail, and a few other friends of Forest's already in line. It wasn't too long of a wait and soon the 7 of us were seated at a big table upstairs in a terrace style space.

This is such a fun spot for lunch! Bouillons are traditionally large, casual restaurants serving up good food at low prices. They were particularly popular in the late 20th century with workers who could get a hot meal (especially the namesake bouillon) at just about any hour.

We ordered a bottle of pink champagne to start, everyone had starters and mains, and we had a Jeroboam of rosé! There were other random drinks and desserts and our total came to €196.80. For 7 people! A JEROBOAM! And the food was great! This is a do not miss if you are looking for traditional French food at a great price!

Many know of my love for hotel bars. I had read about the recent renovation of the Paris Hilton Opera and was interested in checking out the cocktail bar there, so Thibault, Clio, and Forest joined me.
The Main Salon is stunning, and we actually had good Sazeracs! There is another bar, Le Petit Bar, which was closed. I'd happily stop in here for a break from sightseeing or shopping while in the area (the 8th). It was lovely and the service was good too.

We finished our evening with a wonderful dinner at our friend Luke and Nic's. Lots of food, lots of wine, lots of laughing. Did I say lots of wine?

To top off this already over-the-top weekend, Forest took me on a tour of the UNESCO offices the next day! She works for them so we didn't even have to sneak in! The organization owns and manages over 500 pieces of art. The Calder in the courtyard has been on the grounds since 1958!

There are many pieces on display in common areas, like this Picasso mural decorating the lobby!
The UNESCO Headquarters also has beautiful garden areas, a huge library, and interesting architecture on their grounds. Plus you never know who might be speaking in one of the auditoriums! It was a great tour and right up my ally!

It was time for lunch, and luckily we had reservations at L'Antre Amis in the 15th. As we walked along the pretty streets, we passed a film being shot. The street was lined with beautiful vintage cars! Très cool! 

L'Antre Amis has a wonderful atmosphere. It's contemporary with modern decor, but relaxed. This sweet little restaurant offers a €35 lunch menu that was absolutely delicious! And they send an amuse bouche of grilled cheese sandwiches to start!
My beef tartare shaved with foie gras, and chicken with gnocchi in cream sauce were both delicious. And we had a wonderful wine to accompany it all.  Highly recommended!

I left Forest to go do some shopping, while she packed for our adventure in the Swiss Alps the next day. I had read recently about the resurgence of Vuarnet, and how the company had remained family owned since the beginning. As an 80's kid I remembered the brand fondly so I headed to their shop on Rue Boissy d'Anglas, the first one they opened in 2017, on the same street that the brand was founded in 1957!

I had a great time trying on all the sunglasses, and finally chose a pair for my alpine hiking adventure.

The 8th is a beautiful area for strolling, so I spent some time walking around, stopped for a glass of wine, and did a little more window shopping before meeting Forest at our agreed upon time.

We were starting our last night at my current favorite Parisian cocktail bar, Danico. I love the quirky cocktails here, I love the history of the location, inside the Galerie Vivienne passage, and that the space was once the atelier of Jean-Paul Gaultier. It's beautiful and comfortable at the same time.
And our friend Jodi, who just happened to be in town, swung in for a few drinks which was great as I hadn't seen her since the South of France trip the summer before!

Jodi had her own catching up to do as she hadn't been back to Paris in some time, so we said goodbye and Forest and I left to meet Thibault at Gallopin. This 100+year old traditional brasserie has recently reinstated a cocktail program but unfortunately the bartender wasn't working that evening so we weren't able to sample. The menu looks good though, I'd be happy to go back!

We had a lovely light dinner at the bar, the restaurant has great ambiance as one of the old grand dame brasseries, which I am a big fan of. And then Forest and I left for nightcaps at Mabel.

Mabel has been open for years now, always getting glowing accolades. I had met owner Joseph Akhavan at La Conserverie back in the day and was really keen to check out this new bar. But every time I've been in Paris since their opening they've been closed. Either because it's been a Sunday (closed) or August (closed) so I was very excited to get here finally!

Besides the fantastic cocktails, Mabel also has a selection of delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. What better way to soak up the booze! We shared one.

And then it was time to wrap it up. Another wonderful visit to my favorite city to see some of my favorite people. Tomorrow was the start of a girl's hiking trip in Switzerland and we were very excited!

All Paris photos here.

Prior post:

Long Weekend, Paris Part 1
Swiss Ms Behaving

Friday, June 28, 2019

Long Weekend, Paris Part 1

Trip date: September 2018

Before a girl's hiking trip in the Swiss Alps, I spent an awesome long weekend in Paris. Paris is always great, and it's always my favorite, but this time I got to see a lot of people I don't normally see, so it was even better! Not to mention tasty!

I flew coach on Icelandair SEA->KEF->CDG. I was given a blanket and pillows (so nice & rarely done now!) and I was able to buy wifi using my Sega points. They sold Nicolas Feuillatte champagne and had some ok seatback entertainment. Not bad I'd say (although seating was a bit tight as the flight was full).

As with a previous visit, I opted to take the €55 flat rate taxi to my friend's apartment in the 15th as it was mid-day, traffic was light, and I was ready to take a nap!

That Friday night was a bit of a whirlwind, as it usually is in Paris. Forest and I had plans to get to the newest of Yves Camdeborde’s wine bars, L'Avant Comptoir du Marche in the Saint Germain area. I've raved about Camdeborde's wine bars and restaurants for years and continue to love the concept and the food.

As I was getting ready to meet Forest I had a text from my friend Beth, seems she was in town from Chicago and saw an IG post of mine mentioning I was heading to Paris. Small worlds... She met Forest and I and we all really liked Marché. The focus at this newest bar of his is all about pork. There are more tables with stools than at the others as well, and even some outside seating. Get the croquettes!

Forest had been invited to the cocktail bar Lulu White's new menu release, so after a few bites we headed to Pigalle. Upon entering the bar we felt like we were in New Orleans! It was a great time checking out the menu and fun to catch up with Beth. Before long our friends Matt & Vio joined as well! Beth had an early flight the next day so we said goodbye and then the 4 of us headed to Golden Promise.

It's not easy to find, in fact it's one of the best hidden speakeasies I've been to! You first enter a sake bar and from there, it's up to you to find the dark cavern filled with whisky. And it's owned by Le Maison du Whisky so there's no surprise that there are over 1,000 bottles of whisky from around the world on their offerings.

Thibault found us all there and joined in for a couple of rounds before we called it a night. That's a lot of catching up for me on my first night in town! Very fun!

We had coffee and croissant/kouign amann at Ble Sucre the next morning. I'd been once before, but the ownership has changed, and Forest had never been as pastries aren't really her thing. It was close to our day's plans and it was a lovely little stop. And the kouign amann is still awesome.

But the highlight of the morning was going to the Atelier Lumieres which had just opened months before in an old factory space in the 11th. Their first exhibit was on Klimt who Forest and I both really like. Stepping into the bare cement space was a bit confusing, until the projectors started up and every surface was covered with Klimt's works.
It was amazing. They also had a couple other short shows woven in. And, because us, we found their bar and had a glass of champagne while watching another light show. If you are going to be in Paris in 2019 they are showing Van Gogh Starry Night. Highly recommend!

We walked the sunny streets of the 11th to the popular Clown Bar where we were meeting great girlfriends, Anna & Clio, for lunch. Clown Bar has been around since 2014, so it's a bit easier to get a ressie now, but is still a foodie favorite. It's not plush, there are no tasting menus, but the ingredients and dishes are unique and decadent.

We had a great meal, and a great time, and a few bottles of natural wine (all the rage in Paris). We continued with some more wine at a random sidewalk café next to the super cool and super overpriced shop Merci.

Forest and I bid our friends à bientôt and made our way to the 16th to meet her friend and author David Lebovitz for a drink at Cravan. The bar had only been open a few months when we visited but the drinks were already proving to be unique in their nod to a former era.

This is such a sweet spot, I loved the space which is an old art nouveau cafe. I was told the coffee and the small bites were good too, but we stuck with cocktails :) And it was lovely to meet & chat with David who's books and recipes I am a fan of.
You can read all the details about Cravan on the 52Martinis site here and on David's site here.

After a few rounds, Thibault joined and the four of us wandered off to find a quiet café with outside tables for a casual dinner (mine included aligot!).

I'd say that was a pretty special start to a long weekend!

All Paris photos here.

Other posts from this trip:
Long Weekend, Paris Part 2
Swiss Ms Behaving


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lowcountry Cuisine and Highend Martinis

Trip date: May 2019

It's exciting for a PNW'er like me to go to the south! Of course there is the history, the architecture, the charming accents, but what's really exciting is to get a chance to eat real southern food! Forest and I did a pretty good job of tasting and sipping around town.

On my first night in Charleston, we took an Uber to the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and had dinner and drinks at Tavern & Table. From the docks you can see the fleets of shrimp boats but we couldn't find any outside seating with a real view of the docks.

We started at the patio bar with a round of martinis made with local gin, and then moved inside for dinner. Everything on the menu sounded great but unfortunately most things were just ok. The pimento cheese with bacon jam was awesome though, and the restaurant was nice enough to package up the the leftovers which I had the next day as a snack!

Before heading home, we stopped at The Gin Joint in the French Quarter. They've got lots of interesting gins, and a great cocktail menu. We both liked the cute little bar quite a bit.
Everyone mentions Rodney Scott BBQ, so we were happy that it was just down the street from our Airbnb. We went for lunch one day and I was looking forward to ribs and sides. But the ribs were tough and my sides of slaw and potato salad were both a sad shade of taupe. Not very appetizing. It was disappointing. But, we did pass these guys delivering a whole hog, and that is something I don't see most days!
That evening we had a lovely dinner at Husk. Reservations here can be tough to get, so plan ahead if it's on your list! We arrived early and started with a drink on their outside patio. The drink menu had some nice bottled options as well as a few interesting punches. Very relaxing.
We were then showed upstairs to our table in the dining room in the historic house. It was a much larger space than I imagined. Dinner was great, I really enjoyed getting to try some very hyper-local products, and things that have been brought back from near extinction, like the bene seeds on the delish dinner rolls.
I'd come back here for fried chicken on the patio (not available in the restaurant) as we saw some folks with it and it looked great!

We finished our evening with cocktails at the new-ish Doar Bros. What a great find this bar is! Excellent cocktails, super fun staff, gorgeous room. We got a little spoiled by the bartender Alex, who was making mini martinis and giving us samples of cocktails. I'd absolutely recommend going here!
One afternoon we stopped into The Dewberry Hotel, to have a refreshing beverage in their lobby bar, aptly named The Living Room.

The mid century-modern lobby offers great drinks, including the namesake Dewberry Daiquiri which uses pineapple rum and sherry, made at the chic 4-seat bar. The french fries were also awesome!

Upstairs, the hotel's rooftop bar  Citrus Club offers a similar menu but a more luxe vibe. Seating is offered inside or out, the outside spots come with incredible views.

Our favorite meal of our trip was lunch at Leon's. It's in an old auto garage and is super fun and casual, with a lot of regulars. Always a good sign. We got a bunch of things to share, including the fried chicken, broiled oysters, black eyed pea salad, scalloped potatoes, shrimp roll, and rosé champagne!
The shrimp roll blew us both away! Leon's is a do-not-miss IMHO.

I also had fried chicken at Jestine's Kitchen for lunch. It was very good, and the service and ambiance are very old school southern. I didn't love my slaw side but that is a personal preference on style (theirs is vinegar based).
We'd seen the local Hat Trick gin around town so decided to visit the High Wire Distillery and taste some of their other products. It's a cool space, and you can order a cocktail before you start your tour. Win.
Just like Husk's concept of using indigenous products, High Wire is using local grains and corn in their spirits. Their Jimmy Red bourbon is probably the most unique, using the rare Jimmy Red corn.
Our favorite product was the rum agricole, unfortunately they are completely sold out!

On our last night we decided to do a little cocktail crawl. Shocker, I know!

First stop, the Barbados inspired Cane Rhum Bar. We had some very good rum drinks here and also some really good food; beef empanadas and chicken coconut curry. A lot of people don't realize that a lot of food in the region originated from both the Gullahs from West Africa and Barbados, which Charleston was a colony of!
 A short Uber away, we stopped into Proof which had been recommended by many. The space was very cool and the cocktail list looked interesting. The bartender was so much more interested in talking to his industry buddy at the bar though, he could hardly be bothered to glance our way.
No cocktail is good enough to put up with rude service, so we were one and done. And I would never recommend this bar. There was no one else even it there!

We walked down King Street to our next recommended stop, Prohibition, but immediately upon entering decided it wasn't what we were in the mood for. There was a line-dance lesson going on and the place was packed with drunk tourists. Nothing against line-dancing or being drunk!

We double backed down the street and went into The Belmont which we had noticed earlier. Their slogan is "a fine place to drink" and I couldn't agree more! Pretty tin ceilings, dapperly-dressed bartenders, a great martini. We loved it.

Last stop of the night was at the newly opened Dalila's, which is just off of King Street on Spring. It's a little gembox of a bar, with a Caribbean vibe to their drink menu and some IG worthy wallpaper. They also make a great martini!

Cheers Charleston, you showed us a great time! 

All Charleston photos here

Previous post from this trip:
Charleston Charms

Swiss Ms. Behaving

Trip date: September 2018 Forest and I met Nicky at Paris' Gare de Lyon, we were heading off to Switzerland for 2 days of hiking in th...

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