Galeries Lafayette Building 1, 2, 3- Paris

History from their website: 

LAFAYETTE 1, 2, 3

In 1969 a new store was opened on the other side of rue de Mogador, initially dedicated to young fashion and christened “Le Club 20 Ans”. For the first time, this club gathered together several different product ranges (clothing, pharmacy, music) embodying this particular lifestyle. Lafayette 2 was then taken over by men’s fashion, and later expanded with the addition of Lafayette Food & Drink in 1990. This is how Galeries Lafayette became the first “urban facilities centre”, bringing together boutiques, customer services, parking and direct access to the underground.

In 1974, a new chapter began with the removal of the legendary central staircase and then, a decade on, the central ground floor was reconfigured to make way for high-end boutiques.

In 1980, Galeries Lafayette created its “Fashion Festival”. Right up until 1999, the “Festival Oscars” would select the best designs created for Galeries Lafayette, and invite prestigious artistic directors to stage their shows. The list of famous names kept on coming: Karl Lagarfeld, Robert Wilson, Jérôme Savary, Marie-Claude Pietragalla, David LaChapelle, etc. In 1984, the store celebrated the opening of its designer department with its “France has got talent” exhibition, which welcomed Azzedine Alaïa, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

In 2001, the brand went even further upmarket and enlisted the services of Jean-Paul Goude to manage its public relations. His first advertising campaign “The adventures of Laetitia Casta in the land of Galeries Lafayette”, marked the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. The photographer would go on to breathe new life into the brand with his nonconformist campaigns, always embodying Galeries Lafayette’s core values.

In 2004, the Marks and Spencer store on Boulevard Haussmann was transformed into Lafayette Maison, following the company’s purchase of all Marks and Spencer stores in France in 2001. Since then, Galeries Lafayette has proudly enjoyed a triple presence on the Boulevard Haussmann.

GALERIES LAFAYETTE HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE

Galeries Lafayette has remained a family business for five generations. It has transcended time, war and financial crisis to prove its unrivalled capacity for innovation.

In 2008, the management of the Group took the initiative to create a Heritage Department, with the aim of keeping the Group’s rich history alive, encouraging reflection on its true identity and strengthening the bond between the present and future organisation, and its history.

The department’s main objective is to preserve, conserve and highlight the architectural heritage of the Group and its historical archives, which are available for public viewing by appointment. These archives retrace the complete history of the Group in all its complexity and unique originality.

Their Home and Fine Food section is one of the best curated in Paris. It houses patisserie powerhouses such as Alain Ducasse, Pierre Herme and our most recent fave, Sadaharu Aoki.

In case you're not into shopping,  you can take a moment to enjoy a stunning and indulgent break on the Terrace at Galeries Lafayette at the 7th floor of the main store. They have La Paillote Restaurant & Cube Bar but there’s also a huge area to walk around and take in the view for free.

Also a plus for established retail haven like them is that the VATs are processed efficiently.

Supreme (Paris)

We wanted to check if the queue was minimal compared to New York City and Los Angeles. We went in the middle of the day and it took us about 20 mins to be let in the merch area. The store is tucked in a row of hip retail space in Le Marais but not in the grand scale of Champs Elysees. Although the wait time was minimal, the downside was that they were not stocked with most of the bags. The staff were nice and friendly though.

Their location: 20 Rue Barbette, 75003 Paris, France

Parisian Classics: Du Pain et Des Idées, and Angelina Paris

Du Pain et Des Idées

Our niece, Nishi, recommended this from our last trip with them to Paris. We all loved the escargots at that time. I loved the sacristains this time. 

Du Pain et Des Idées dub themselves as “Fine and Traditional Bakery” and I found that they live up to that name from our most recent visit. Founder and Baker Christophe Vasseur was a fashion industry sales executive prior to pursuing his boulangerie dreams. The bakery itself dates back  from 1889 and Vasseur  first opened its doors as Du Pain et Des Idees on February 22, 2002. Stepping into the bakery is like stepping back in time with the interiors and display. They  take a traditional stance on the process of baking as homage to the communal quality of the bread. Classics from a classic.

Angelina Paris

We got to Angelina inside Galleries Lafayette quite late as it’s easy to be distracted by everything else in the store. We had about 30 min before they were closing so our choices were limited  because most were out of stock. I was still able to get their signature Mont Blanc which is a dessert of puréed, sweetened chestnuts filled mostly with whipped cream. The name comes from Mont Blanc, as it resembles a snow-capped mountain. The munchkin was also able to enjoy their sipping hot chocolate again this time. I didn’t like my iced coffee drink and the hubby wasn’t too keen on his mixed juice drink too. Our timing wasn’t all that great so the services were so so. I couldn’t really take time to select merchandise too that I would consider taking back to the states.  I’m glad that the Mont Blanc and sipping chocolate worked out at least. See my previous post at Angelina in Versailles here

Fauchon (Place Madeleine, Paris)

I would always put Fauchon on our travel itinerary and somehow, something always derails it. This time I made sure to put it as one of our breakfast destinations. Fauchon is located at Place de la Madeleine in central Paris's 8th arrondissement. Auguste Fauchon opened the first shop in 1886 and has multiplied ever since. We first perused the café as we came early and they were still setting up. We decided to go over their main store before going back to the café for breakfast. Fauchon is all about French luxury. All the merchandise are displayed with impeccable sophistication. They have that old world European glamour similar to Harrods.

Their customer service is quite an experience, they staff particular attention in putting together your edible selections from the counter from the wrapping to the boxing. They likewise make the transition from picking out to procuring a seamless transition. While shopping Is really never a chore,  they do give you the luxury of taking the time to look around and enjoy what they have to offer without feeling hurried.  Needless to say that their packaging and branding is on point. The macaron box was just fundamentally chic. I can also say that their macarons are very good. We also loved their wide selection of teas and to my delightful surprise, Nespresso pods with the Fauchon brand!  A wide array of chocolates, fine wine and anything epicurean really.

We then headed back to the café so we can have breakfast. I picked out a sampling of pastries and cakes to with coffee (and milk of course for the munchkin). I must say it all tasted as good as they looked. I miss Fauchon already.

Sainte-Chapelle (Paris)

This was on the top of my Paris list this time. I saw pics on Instagram and was so intrigued by the beauty of the stained glass. What a sight to behold! It was so gorgeous and I was so moved by its magnificence that I almost felt like crying, almost not worthy to see it with my own eyes (last time I felt like this was when we went in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Israel). A memorable visual treat.

From their website

HISTORY OF THE MONUMENT

A gem of Gothic style. Built in seven years, an impressive feat, the Sainte Chapelle was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ's crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis. 

Religious and political influence. Having these sacred relics in his possession made the already powerful monarch head of western Christianity.

Stunning stained glass. Arranged across 15 windows, each 15 metres high, the stained glass panes depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments recounting the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris.

Musee D'Orsay

For some reason, Musee D’Orsay always had closure when we were in Paris previously. This time, we were glad that it was open and we got a 2-in-1 ticket deal courtesy of Eurostar. Orsay houses most of the masterpieces of the Impressionists era such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, etc. (I've linked the artists with their Artsy.net pages). 

We started at the La Campana to marvel at the massive clock. Love the Stuart Little vibes it gave the munchkin’s pic. We then relaxed for a bit at roof top as the views were marvelous. I could actually just sit there the whole day and watch the boats pass by. We then proceeded to view the artworks. 

From their website

From station to museum

The Gare d'Orsay then successively served different purposes : it was used as a mailing centre for sending packages to prisoners of war during the Second World War, then those same prisoners were welcomed there on their returning home after the Liberation. It was then used as a set for several films, such as Kafka's The Trial adapted by Orson Welles, and as a haven for the Renaud-Barrault Theatre Company and for auctioneers, while the Hôtel Drouot was being rebuilt.

The hotel closed its doors on January 1st, 1973, not without having played a historic role: the General de Gaulle held the press conference announcing his return to power in its ballroom (the Salle des Fêtes).

In 1975, the Direction des Musées de France already considered installing a new museum in the train station, in which all of the arts from the second half of the 19th century would be represented. The station, threatened with destruction and replacement by a large modern hotel complex, benefitted instead from the revival of interest in nineteenth-century architecture and was listed on the Supplementary Inventory of Historical Monuments on March 8, 1973. The official decision to build the Musée d'Orsay was taken during the interministerial council of October 20, 1977, on President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's initiative. The building was classified a Historical Monument in 1978 and a civil commission was created to oversee the construction and organisation of the museum. The President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, inaugurated the new museum on December 1st, 1986, and it opened to the public on December 9th.

La Maison du Chocolat

Luckily, we were within a half mile radius from a La Maison du Chocolat. Since they were not in Harrods anymore, I took advantage of the proximity. I primarily get their macarons.  All their macarons have chocolate as the base. Their macapuno/coconut macarons are a particular favorite of mine. You can also never go wrong with nay of their chocolate treats. Their staff also excels in customer service. Their packaging is always elegant, wrapped delicately, be-ribboned and all.  They let you take your time with your selections while being given samples upon samples. Since it was so hot at the time we were visiting Paris, I took them up on trying their glacees with choices of toppings. They made a nice seating set up in the store so we can enjoy the glacees. I also loved that they also gave me a reusable insulated bag to preserve the quality of the macarons in their boxes as a gift with purchase.

The location we went to: 

52 rue François 1er
75008 Paris
FranceTel : 01 47 23 38 25

Sacre Coeur and Montmartre

You can’t really miss Le Basilique Sacre Coeur when you are taking in the Parisian landscape as it’s this ivory figure sitting majestically on top of the hill of Montmartre. The munchkin was excited because we told him we were going to ride the funicular near the train station. You can also come up through this cute train shuttle, and of course, the old fashion way, going up several flights of stairs until you get to the top. Montmartre has an artistic history pertinent to the Belle Epoque and still one of the beloved pockets in Paris. Artists that had studios or worked in or around Montmartre, include Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Suzanne Valadon, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, and Vincent van Gogh.

Per Wiki, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871[1] crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.

As for its architecture, the Basilica’s website indicates:

Construction

The Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Six other architects succeeded him to complete the building.

Style : Romano-Byzantine

In contrast to the Gothic churches of the Middle Ages like Notre-Dame de Paris (1163-1240), the style is inspired by churches such as Saint Sofia in Constantinople and San Marco in Venice.

Stone

The exterior travertine stone, known as ‘Château-Landon’, comes from the Souppes-sur-Loing quarry in Seine et Marne and is particular in that it is extremely hard with a fine grain and exudes calcite on contact with rainwater, making it white.

Jardin des Tuileries (Place de la Concorde, Paris)

Since we didn’t have to spend so much time at the Louvre this time, it gave us a chance to enjoy Jardin des Tuileries leading up to Place de la Concorde at a leisurely pace. Such a nice open space to relax, have a picnic, chill with your family or let the kids run around.

Per the Parisinfo.com: The Tuileries Gardens get their name from the tile factories which previously stood on the site where Queen Catherine de Medici built the Palais des Tuileries in 1564. The famous gardener of King Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre, re-landscaped the gardens in 1664 to give them their current French formal garden style. The gardens, which separate the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde, are a cultural walking place for Parisians and tourists where Maillol statues stand alongside those of Rodin or Giacometti. The gardens’ two ponds are perfect for relaxation. The Musée de l’Orangerie, where visitors can admire the works of Monet, is located south-west of Tuileries. 

 

 

Le Comptoir de Gastronomie (Paris)

Two weeks before we were scheduled to be in Paris, the hubby already made reservations for Le Comptoir. The restaurant also kept popping up in his search for my French faves and traditional dishes, foie gras, and escargot. The restaurant was casual but you do need reservations as patrons keep coming even towards the late hours. They are only a few blocks away from the Louvre.

As for the food, we ordered a wide variety of dishes to sample and share. I’m not particularly keen on duck but theirs was very good, tender and substantial. The escargots were on point, buttery perfection. The only entrée that we felt was off the truffled mac and cheese for the munchkin as it was watery inside. The French onion soup though! It’s the best we’ve had so far and so filling. The soup had the perfect balance of savory with a hint of sweet flavor of the caramelized onions, the cheese was stringy and glorious on top, and the chunky French bread inside the bowl provided a nice base.

The staff were wonderful, friendly and attentive. It was quite a tasty start to our Parisian adventures.

Restaurant Info: 

Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie

34, rue Montmartre
75001 - Paris - France
Tél : +33 (0)1 42 33 31 32

 

 

Eurostar

Taking the Eurostar is a convenient way to travel between London and Paris. They also have routes to Belgium. Since the munchkin is still obsessed with trains, it would be good to do the roundtrip with Eurostar again. Key to affordable fares is early booking and of course flexibility with your travel schedule. Fares vary throughout the day. We also got to board one of their new trains so the munchkin was elated.

You can relax, read, write, daydream or doze off during the trip. They also offer on-train entertainment through your mobile phone. Make sure you download their app first though. I actually watched Phantom Thread through their app. The munchkin gets to finish his Kumon booklets also while on the train and then play games on his phone. While the hubby read magazines through their app.

Here’s more info from their website:

Why travel with Eurostar? It’s très simple.

•Seamless city centre to city centre travel

•No shuttle buses to the city, no baggage reclaim, no worrying about liquids at security

•Up to eighteen trains a day

•Faster than flying, door to door

•Great value fares

•Fast and convenient check-in at just 30 minutes for Standard and Standard Premier passengers and 10 minutes for Business Premier travellers

•Comfort and space to work or unwind Simple and generous compensation policy for delays or cancellations

•Up to 80% less carbon dioxide emissions than flying

Simplicity and speed

Our trains can reach a maximum speed of 300km per hour (that’s 186 miles per hour) on the high speed lines in the UK, France and Belgium.

Our regular journey times are:

•London to Paris - 2 hours 12 minutes

•London to Brussels - 2 hours 1 minute

•London to Lille - 1 hour 22 minutes

Harrods Food Hall (Knightsbridge)

OMG! Just when we thought that Harrods Food Hall couldn’t get any better, they did! I’ve been so anxious to see their latest development ever since they announced the changes late last year (See previous posts here and here) They have double downed on personalizing the Harrods experience for their customers. There is bespoke everything now, concoct your own tea mix or coffee, have freshly baked artisan bread with your initials, name it and they got it.

They also have several “stations” if you would like to eat in. There is rotisserie, steak, fish and chips, etc. We went for the Fish and Chips station as it had the longest queue (must be good!). It was well worth the wait. You get to choose which type of fish. It comes with chips (French fries) and mashed peas (never thought that peas can be so yummy!). The hubby and I agreed that Haddock is the best fish for this dish. I also tried the coconut rice it was simply delish and went well with the battered fish.

Belgravia (UK)

We always have to check out the latest offerings in Belgravia. There was apparently a Strawberry Fields theme going on while we were there. Both stores that we love has several varieties of strawberry pastries much to the munchkin’s delight.

Dominic Ansel

If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that we are quite loyal to Dominic Ansel (See previous posts here, here, here, here, here ). It was Strawberry fest this time! I personally liked his take on the Eton mess.

 

Peggy Porschen

Easily has become one of the most Instagramable and photographed store in London in the recent years. It’s gorgeous with all the floral decorations throughout the year. They also had their strawberry take. See previous posts here and here

Ottolenghi

While Harrods and Selfridge Food Halls are our old standbys, it was so nice to discover Ottolenghi.  The hubby have been curious about it after seeing the cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and also it always popped up on his Yelp search. I am in love with the setting in their Belgravia location because it looked like a fashion boutique but for food. They didn’t have so much space but the placing of the food platters were strategic and efficient. It was a well curated variety and you buy by the weight. It was colorful as is with Mediterranean cuisine. The dining area is limited to one oversized community table but it works. I was glad that we decided to do brunch as it was superb! I miss this place terribly already but on a good note their menu has actually inspired me to cook up Mediterranean dishes again especially for the hubby.

Covent Garden (London)

The nice thing about frequenting London is that it’s not mandatory for our trio to do the tourist sights as much anymore. Don’t get me wrong, we still get excited to see their major landmarks as we pass by (the Big Ben is undergoing major repairs right now though) but it gives us more time for our other local favorites. Covent Garden is always included in our itinerary as we love the energy of this place. This is usually our first stop, it’s how we welcome ourselves to London each and every time.  Here are the usual suspects:

London Transport Museum- I recommend this if you have a child that has a curious mind. The museum houses vintage trains and buses which are really cool to see. It also information on all other transportations available in London such as taxis and ferries. The munchkin is obsessed with this place and was his request to see first for his birthday. Admission is free for him as a child so only the hubby and I are charged. Check my previous post here.

Venchi- smoothest and best tasting gelato ever for us! Check my earlier posts here.

Whittard of Chelsea- They have both tea and coffee. They just recently expanded their retail space here in Covent Garden.  Since we usually stay in Chelsea, I like getting gifts for friends and family here.

Shake Shack- It’s been the tradition of the hubby to make Shake Shack our inaugural meal in London. Still a fave.

Maitre Choux – the new store is technically in SoHo but I have lumped it in since it’s walking distance to Covent Garden. Still the most sophisticated looking and tasting éclair for us. Check my previous post of the Kensington store here.

 

 

Sky Garden (London)

I wanted to go to the Sky Garden at the 20 Fernchurch Street aka “Walkie Talkie” building last time we were in London but I found out too late that you need to have a reservation even if visiting is free of charge. Since it’s free, they only have a limited amount of tickets that you can reserve for in a day and depending on peaks, they will not have an opening for tickets for months. Since I didn’t want our trio to miss it this time, I researched further and hit a 2-in-1 because I was also looking for a special place to have the munchkin’s birthday dinner at. Sky Garden houses restaurants and bars that you can reserve for and of course, guarantees entrance to the actual garden. I decided on Darwin Brasserie and the hubby was cool with it. I made the reservation 2 weeks ahead and it worked out. The caveat with this types of places though is that they need you to reserve with a credit card and they will charge you 25 pounds per person if you don’t show up (they give you a 2 hour window to show up or else they release your table and get charged). They mean business. 

You check in on the ground floor and once they check you off the list, you go up the 35th floor and then walk up or take another elevator for the restaurant itself. I booked for early evening so we can also enjoy dusk from up there. Darwin Brasserie is centrally located within the Sky Garden. The staff were friendly. Since it is a Brasserie, their focus are on the variety of drinks that they serve. Their menu was simple and the food was average. The view is really their selling point. By nightfall, the whole garden is turned into this massive bar. 

Overall, a really  lovely place to visit, take pics and take in the 360 degree sights of London. British Prime Minister, Theresa May recently hosted a dinner for world leaders at Sky Garden.

Per Sky Garden's website: 

The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street is a unique public space that spans three storeys and offers 360 degree uninterrupted views across the City of London. Visitors can wander around the exquisitely landscaped gardens, observation decks and an open air terrace of what is London’s highest public garden.

The Sky Garden has been designed to create an open and vibrant place of leisure, offering visitors a rare chance to experience London from a different viewpoint.

Here are their list of restaurants and bars:

A Tale of Two Cities

Hi everyone! Hope you’re all having a nice Summer. Speaking of which, I’m back from our trio’s summer vacay and I can’t wait to share stuff about London and Paris.  Yes, London, again, you all know our trio considers London as our surrogate city. We just can’t get enough of it. As for Paris, it’s still magical for us and this trip was one of my fave trips to the City of Lights. Boy, there was no escape with the heat on both cities though. We’ve made new discoveries on places to eat and enjoy sights for both cities which I will also blog about.

 

Double Apron Days

The munchkin and I have what we call "Double Apron Day" also known as "cooking with Mommy day".  It's when we get to prepare homemade meals together. Since I work full time, the munchkin gets super excited when we get to do things together and still have a Mommy-and-me date while enjoying what we've cooked.  I still wear the apron that he made on class back in kindergarten, it's quite special to me. He is still wearing the apron from a field trip years ago. I hope to get us matching Mommy and me aprons soon.

Since he is comfortable helping out in the kitchen, I still make it a point to teach him that safety is always first. I let him stand on one of the dining chairs so he'll have the right height for cooking with the stove. When I'm teaching him to cook, I keep the tone and relaxed and easy so that he can equate joy in cooking. I also try to explain the science of different processes and different ingredients so it's informational and interesting for him. Sneaking in some educational info from him while he's having fun. We've made breakfast : Chocolate chip Perugina pancake for me, and Green tea matcha with pistachio creme for me. We've also made lunch: tricolor pasta with light miso salmon cream; spinach, artichoke and crab dip; and I let him coat pita bread with butter, garlic and parsley.  

We'll have to figure out a way how we can keep doing it after summer. So far it's been fun for us while giving him lessons on basic life skills. 

Schitt's Creek

I had the bright idea of trying out Intenso on Ice Nespresso capsules last Saturday night. I even decided it to make it a double shot and added coffee jelly for good measure. I realized after midnight that I was not about to sleep anytime soon. Fortunately, I stumbled upon Pop TV's Schitt's Creek through Netflix. It so hilarious and I kept laughing that I woke up the hubby quite a few times. 

The show is created by the comically gifted Father and Son team of Eugene and Dan Levy. The premise is that they were a well to do family in New York that got Madoff'ed of all their riches. They were only able to retain one asset, the town of Schitt's Creek, which was actually only bought as a joke. The family is perfectly cast as the consistently fashionable outfitted family who plopped into the middle of nowhere suburbs. Catherine O'Hara is comedy gold as the Mom and has excellent chemistry with Eugene Levy as the Dad. Annie Murphy and Dan Levy plays their privileged kids. It's truly brilliant writing. 

Picks n’ Pics

How was your weekend? It's too quick, right? the good news is we get to look forward to the 4th of July Holiday. Here are my picks and pics for the week. Clockwise:

1. Finally completed my dinnerware from Pier 1 Imports. Every few years I change our set depending if there's a design that catches my eye. also got some "wood" placemat to go with the marble and gold look of the dinnerware. 

2. The hubby and I are huge Takashi Murakami fans (more on that later). I love the the AF1s with his signature flower prints from his Insta. He's also good friends with LV Men's Creative Director, Virgil Abloh. 

3. On a hot summer day, the iced Earl Grey latte from Tous les Jours is just heaven. 

4. I saw this throwback Barbie on Insta and it took me back to my childhood. Day to Night Barbie was my dream Barbie. I was really into her hat and brief case. Fun fact: I used to carry a brief case to school when I was in elementary that made me feel like a "working girl", LOL. 

5. I am a sucker for themed birthday parties. The animals in the woods theme was whimsically cute and perfect for the bravest one year old we know. Happy Birthday E!