When my husband Dan and I were first dating, we went on dates to numerous restaurants, but nothing compared to the French dinners he cooked for us at home.
Having learned quickly about my love for Paris and all things French, and since he was always looking to expand his cooking repertoire, Dan started making us classic French dishes straight out of Julia Child’s masterpiece that she wrote along with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, entitled Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
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The dinners Dan made from this glorious book were outlandishly delicious, and so we experienced joie de vivre in Massachusetts thanks to Julia Child and Dan’s skills in the kitchen. It was like stepping back in time and dining in the French restaurants of great master chefs, right at home! I encourage you all to try it. You can purchase Julia’s famous cookbook by clicking on the image of it below. I am personally planning on trying my hand at cooking classic French cuisine as well, and I will definitively be sharing posts with you on this subject in the future!
Dan and I also went out to dinners and wine tastings and even headed out to Brewster, Cape Cod for a celebratory wine tasting dinner in honor of the Beaujolais Nouveau at Chillingsworth, a famous restaurant on Cape Cod where Julia Child frequently dined and stayed.
Chillingsworth, to this day, maintains a small mantelpiece filled with photographs and messages, all in homage to Julia.
This celebration of the Beaujolais Nouveau brought back fond memories of Paris for me, when the signs would be out in the windows of the Parisian cafés in November exclaiming, “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” or “The New Beaujolais has arrived!”
As I learned in Paris, the Beaujolais Nouveau is a young red wine made from the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region of France, which lies south of Bourgogne, or the Burgundy region, and north of the city of Lyon.
Every year in France, on the third Thursday of November, just weeks after the grape harvest, the Beaujolais Nouveau is released. The French are very strict about this. Under French law, the Beaujolais Nouveau must be released at 12:01am on this day! Parties and festivals are held all over the country and across the world to celebrate this young, hardly fermented, fruity wine.
So across the Atlantic, at Julia Child’s favorite restaurant on Cape Cod, my husband and I enjoyed a multi-course dinner starting with pairings of the Beaujolais Nouveau and transitioning into pairings of Mâcon-Villages wines from Bourgogne.
Many months later, after tackling Julia’s poulet rôti, boeuf bourguignon, haricots verts à la crème, purée de pommes de terres à l’ail, biftek haché à la Lyonnaise, and soufflé au chocolat, among many other recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Dan surprised me with a trip to Paris. Of course I wanted to go! This would be our first international trip together, and I was beyond ecstatic to be traveling to Paris avec mon amour. And Dan even gave me the time I needed to help plan the trip and to pack!
In Paris, we stayed at the lovely Hôtel Vaneau Saint Germain.
The hotel is decorated with a classic French décor and is located at 86, rue Vaneau, a quiet street in the 7ème that lies just steps away from the famous Bon Marché and the Grande Épicerie de Paris. We found this location to be ideal, because we were in the 7ème but could stroll right over to the 6ème and the heart of Saint-Germain.
We dined at nearby cafés and restaurants and picked up gourmet snacks at the Grande Épicerie when we felt like a pique-nique or a déjeuner wherever we chose. There was also a market right across the street from the hotel that really came in handy for snacks, wine and cheese, yogurt, and bottles of Vittel (we absolutely love food, if you cannot tell).
The nearest station de métro, Vaneau, was literally a stone’s throw from the hotel’s front door, which made traveling around the city facile.
Our first day in Paris, we walked all around the 7ème and 6ème and then decided to head toward the river and the center of the city. We ended up at the magnificent Notre Dame de Paris.
We passed by the front of the imposing Notre Dame and around the back to the Pont Saint-Louis, the footbridge and only bridge that links the two islands in the middle of the Seine River in Paris, Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis. As we stopped and looked out over the bridge and listened to the sounds of a live jazz musician there, little did I know what would happen on that very spot in a few short hours!
It was just after this that Dan decided (for reasons I would later discover!) that he would replace his current blazer with a Parisian upgrade. I took Dan to rue de Rivoli, where we found a nice little shop perfectly suited to this occasion. Although the sales clerk provided various options, Dan decided upon a navy blazer by Karl Lagerfeld (Vous êtes un génie, Karl!).
I discussed the size and fit of the new blazer with the sales clerk en français, and within a short time, Dan was walking out of the shop with a Lagerfeld blazer that looked like it was made for him. And it was perfectly Parisian. It remains his favorite to this day.
Following this exciting and purposeful shopping excursion (the best kind, in my opinion), we wandered over to Chez Julien and made dinner reservations for later that evening. After that we strolled around the Marais, enjoying simply walking and taking in Paris. Eventually, we made our way back to the restaurant for dinner.
We were seated outside, under the awning, facing the beautiful and wide rue de Barres. We enjoyed a delicious dinner with a crisp white wine. After dinner, as night was falling, Dan suggested that we walk over to “my bridge,” the Pont Saint-Louis where we had stopped and lingered earlier that day.
A short while later, we had arrived on the Pont Saint-Louis, in the very heart of the City of Light, on the bridge that links the two islands in the center of the Seine River. In view of Notre Dame, and amidst the sparkling lights of the buildings and bridges of Paris, Dan got down on one knee, held up a beautiful diamond solitaire ring, and asked me to marry him! I said yes! I remember feeling as though time had stopped, and I knew this was one of the most important moments of our lives.
We were still on the Pont Saint-Louis when we called up our family members on Dan’s phone, taking turns talking and being welcomed into our respective families. Afterward, we stopped for a celebratory glass of wine at the Brasserie de l’Île Saint-Louis. We then strolled along excitedly that night back towards the general direction of our hotel, eventually stopping in Brasserie Lipp and actually closing the place down. We were the last two people in the restaurant, at the corner table in the back left under the stairs, and all of the well-dressed waiters were offering us congratulations on our fiançailles until we finally left.
It was a night of magic and love and significance for us, and we will cherish it always.
Is there any sight more lovely than the shimmering, golden lights against the glamorous night sky of Paris? Do you have a romantic memory from Paris, or do you dream of going to the City of Light? Share in the comments below! We would love to hear from you! And don’t forget to sign up with your e-mail below to receive our newsletter, Paris, Meet Boston Weekly, which includes weekly blog updates and beaucoup de Paris, Meet Boston inspiration!