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Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier - Fine Chocolates Made by Hand

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A sixth-floor view of Haussmann’s Paris.

For eight days, I had the pleasure of breathing in all Paris has to offer. What a treat to enjoy a city so full of life. How do you begin to describe it? History, art, architecture, fashion, food, chocolate, joie de vivre … j’aime Paris!

I rented a sixth floor apartment that had views of the rooftops along Haussmann’s wide, tree-lined boulevards—complete with a view of the Tour Eiffel. The street below was lively with the bustle of a café and street market. My apartment was in the middle of two patisseries on opposite ends of the block. Every morning, I planned my day over coffee and pastries. And in the evening, after a long day of wandering, I enjoyed wine, cheese and chocolates before climbing the many flights of stairs to my temporary home. By the way, if you’re staying in Paris for more than a week, I highly recommend renting an apartment.

The six-floor climb to my apartment.

There’s a reason people write songs about Paris in the spring. It’s indescribably lovely and bursting with fresh life. The horse-chestnut trees that line the streets were covered in white blooms. In one of the little parks near Place Saint-Sulpice, I sat and ate pastry from Pierre Herme under a violet drape of wisteria. Tulips and lilacs created a riot of scent and color around the city. It was magical.

I walked and walked, exploring each neighborhood and sampling the fine shops that seemed to be at every turn. Strolling down the boulevards, admiring the many monuments and squares, is awe-inspiring. Getting lost meandering down small streets feeds the soul.

The first Sunday of the month is Museum Day, when you can enter most museums for free. My trip coincided with Museum Day, so I spent a Sunday visiting two of my favorites—the Musée D’Orsay and the Louvre. I also visited the Musée National du Moyen Age, which is famous for its Lady and the Unicorn tapestry series, and the nearby Thermes de Cluny, the ruins of a Gallo-Roman bath constructed around the 3rd century. It was great to see so many people enjoying the museums—locals as well as tourists from all over the world.

Food, glorious food!

Place Saint-Sulpice, a great spot to eat Pierre Herme.

Not surprisingly, the food was incredible. Lunch tended to be my meal of the day. It was a wonderful, leisurely break from my exploring and a great value. At many restaurants, you can basically get the same three-course meal you would in the evening for half the price.

And the pastries! I could fall in love with Paris for the pastries alone. This trip, I scheduled three pastry and baking classes in the vibrant, artsy Montmartre district. The half-day classes, taught in English, had a maximum of six students and were extremely hands on. I became very familiar with laminating dough and butter to make flaky croissants and pastries.

When I wasn’t in class, I was visiting chocolatiers and patisseries. There were shops everywhere. It was heaven. I visited 26 chocolate shops and there were another 20 that I did not get to (this time). On this trip, one of my goals was to make a map of chocolate shops. I got GPS coordinates of the shops with a nifty app on my iPhone. With 26 shops mapped, I have a good start. This will make a fun project in my free time (free time? ha!).

There’s no place like home

Just to be in Paris is inspiring. It felt great just to soak in it. Paris gave me new energy and sparked my creativity. It’s also gave me a huge sense of appreciation for what we have right here in Madison–a friendly city with much to offer. Enjoy the lovely spring surroundings of Madison. Stop and smell the lilacs. It’s great to be home.