Monthly Archives: August 2011

In Love, With Laduree.

As a patisserie connoisseur, I would like to announce my newest muse: the macaroon. This small, yet plump, delicate morsel has made quite the entrance into the international gourmand arena.  On my recent trip to Paris, I sat down at the Laduree on the Rue Royale, to taste these small sweets I’d heard so much about.  Ladies and gentlemen, the Laduree macaroon did not disappoint.  The entire thing was so flavorful, and the cream inside so decadently rich.  The macaroons come in many flavors, and there is not one thing artificial tasting about them!  The lemon and caramel were my personal favorites.  My only regret was not sampling the cakes, pastries or chocolates in the dreamy display.

But there is more to like about this elegant and extremely feminine gourmandise.  My heroine, Marie Antoinette, is the inspiration behind the theme and decor of the shop. This same decor is also brilliantly displayed on the website, and in the absolutely adorable (and mouth watering!) video, the laduree dream: http://www.laduree.fr/en/reve/zoom.

Against all odds, Laduree is a raging success in Paris, and around the world (New Yorkers- Laduree opened just days ago on 864 Madison Avenue!)  They show no sign of stopping, or losing creativity either.  Laduree’s lastest gig: a bar, serving none other than the macaroon cocktail- unbelievable!

For me, Laduree was love at first sight.  I can’t wait to visit the place again, and have a taste of everything on the menu!  Ahhh, nothing says “French” better than a tiny, creamy, pastel-colored pastry 🙂

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Too beautiful to keep to myself..

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Ohhhh Paris!

Yes, I’ve done it again.  Getting a 50 euro return ticket to Paris isn’t easy, but with the help of a super Thayls sale, anything is possible.  And so I found myself, for the third time this year (smack me, I’m dreaming) whizzing through the Dutch countryside off to gay Pari.

I had booked us an apartment using the travel site Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) on the Ile de la Cite, across from the famed ice cream parlour Berthillon.  The apartment was virtually as centrally located as you can get, and our host Sarah, was absolutely lovely.  We much preferred the apartment stay to a hotel, as we had a kitchen (with lovely breakfast fixings included), along with plenty of towels, a washer/dryer and hairdryer and wifi.  We saved a ton of money, and used the metro a lot less than on previous stays.  Airbnb is truly amazing, as you get location, privacy, and so many extra amenities for your price!

Paris was wonderful as usual, and there were only a few dramas, which mainly consisted of my impractical wardrobe choices, because hey- it’s Paris!  I say, bring out the fancy! (Caution: wearing 3 inch heels for a 40-minute post-club walk home  is a bad idea..)

As for the sightseeing, we were able to visit the Rodin sculpture garden (& musee), the Victor Hugo house, the church La Madeleine, picnic in front of the Eiffel tower and visit the iconic Colette store.  Though Musee d’Orsay is still my favorite Parisian museum, I found the Rodin sculptures to be some of the most provocative, sensitive and detailed art in Paris.  The detail of the muscles, and the delicate emotions in his faces are exquisite, and to me, commemorative of a romantic by-gone era.

As a rule, our trips always tend to include art, but going shopping in foreign lands takes equal prominence.  This is how Simon and I, the fashion obsessed couple, spent one full day of shopping on the Rue St. Honore.   We discovered together that we love vintage shops for two reasons: 1) we can afford it, and 2) the stuff looks cool, and has a story behind it.  The day ended with macaroons at Laduree (more on that later) with a new friend from Amsterdam.

On the return trip back to Amsterdam, I was reminiscing about how the trip would probably be my last visit to Paris for a long time, and thinking about what I love best about this timeless city.  I believe that my favorite part of Parisian life, is just walking on the street.  This sounds mundane, but I definitely wouldn’t say the same about Amsterdam, when walking on the street means dodging bicycles and stoners.

Walking in Paris is all about taking in the beautiful old buildings, the smell of fresh baguettes, and the sound of pleasant French chatter.   The pleasures of Paris are actually quite simple, and to the dismay of the French, the rest of the world is in on this little secret.  Paris remains the number 1 most visited city in the world.  And I certainly won’t forget why.

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Paris, by nightfall.

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Munich.

For some reason, the past few months I have really been wanting to go to Munich.  I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but something to do with my last name being Schultheis, the fact that I’d already seen Berlin, but wanted to know the “authentic” storybook Germany (you know- castles, beermaids, and lederhosen).  Don’t get me wrong- Berlin is cool.  Maybe too cool.   (Side note: I also happen to think that the German accent is one of the best in the world, and am extremely happy in the prescence of such a language). Whatever the reason, I was able to convince my Mom and her partner to join as well, and off we went on Lufthansa to Bavaria.

Upon our arrival via the train station Hauptbahnhof, we found a less than jovial German scene.  Mom gave me the “I want to go home now” look, as we passed seedy casinos, erotic shops, and had to walk past some very drunk people.  Luckily we found the hotel within minutes, and were comforted with Haribo gummy bears on our beds, and a very cheery, rosy-cheeked German desk attendant.

There were only a couple things on our Munich “must see” list, and as our visit would be less than 3 days, that was a good thing. Must see item #1 was the obvious, Hofbrauhaus, and Marionplatz (yes, that place with the weird glockenspiel).  Our experience was less than buzzed at the Hofbrauhaus, as our waiter (I nicknamed him Friedrich) was rude and made an error on the check, charging us twice for a meal.  Mom was also terribly distraught over picking the wrong sausage for dinner, which didn’t help matters.  We thought things would get better, but they only got worse as we got lost on our way home, and realized that we would not have enough time to see the fairy tale castle, Neuschweinstein 😦

The next day we had planned to visit the concentration camp, Dachau.  This visit in itself needs its own post, which I will do with care, and precision.  Dachau is not a term you want to throw around lightly.

In the evening, we were able to revive over an excellent dinner at the Ratskeller, complete with dessert.  It was definitely the best meal of my vacation (unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the tender, succulent meat doused in gravy).

My mother and Dan would leave the next day to Paris, and I would take on the city for one day alone, before heading home.  I had a great plan.. the only problem was that I was far too ambitious (as usual), and I forgot literally how huge the city was.  In Amsterdam, you can bike through the entire city center in about 22 minutes.  In Munich, it might take days!  Because of the afore-mentioned disappointment over Neuschwanstein, I opted to see Nymphenburg Palace, visit the Englischer Gartens, the famous shopping street Maximilianstrasse, visit the student area of Schwabing, the Viktualienmarkt, and catch my train to the airport at 3pm.  I realized after walking for 30 minutes from the closest metro stop, attempting to reach Nymphenburg, that it was going to be another 40 minutes walking until I would reach the Palace.  Ok, I thought, forget about it- can’t do it.

I moved onto the Englischer Gartens, and after a few steps inside, it looked like I was entering the forest that Hansel and Gretel wandered into.. forget it, I’ll never get out of there.  I quickly forgot about seeing the hip Schwabing, and instead opted for the easy- to-locate Residenz Palace (former royal palace of Bavarian monarchs), and close-by Maximilianstrasse.  Of course by this time it was about 1:30, and I hadn’t stopped to eat.  I still managed to see the both attractions (there was a pink limousine parked outside of Gucci on the Maximilianstrasse!), but it was rushed, and uncomfortable.

Lesson learned: do not try to fit 5 activities into a 6 hour period, before you have to go to the airport.  Especially in Munich, where the streets are as wide as the Mississippi, and it takes nearly an hour to locate each metro stop!  Yikes.  I’d like to say I’ve calmed down a bit with my hectic never-ending “to see” lists when I travel, but I simply can’t seem to shake the habit.  On the last leg of the vacation (in Paris) I slowed down a bit, but according to my best critic (the boyfriend), it was not enough.  Stay tuned…

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Excerpts from my Travel Journal

We arrived at 12:00pm in South Kensington, and  checked into our hotel, which I learned was the former residence of the Earl of Strathmore.  Polished chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and the carpet looked like Christmas wrapping paper.  Brilliant!

Mom and Dan arrived about an hour later, and it was pure joy and excitement to see them again and in London, of all places!  Heading out, we visited the Churchill War Cabinets (fantastic!), Big Ben and Parliament, the V&A and Harrods.

On the same day we walked through the majority of London’s parks.. the sore feet were worth it!

Naturally, I spotted the boutiques where Kate Middleton shops, and I had to take a picture.   Within seconds I was thinking like a teenager, obsessed with her idol.  (The dialogue in my head went something like this: “OMG, like, totally, Kate Middleton and I have been in the same store!!  I wonder what she bought.. like ohmigoddd!!”)

After passing a hip Burberry Britt store, Simon and I came upon a wonderful antique market called, The Apple Market.  Located inside Covent Garden, (which by the way really reminded me of South Street Seaport in NYC), the market was a treasure chest full of watches, rings, necklaces, paintings, and the odd kitchen ware.  I was really pleased with my antique watch purchase, for the low-low price of ten pounds!

On our last day in London, we had tickets booked for Buckingham Palace, which included (drumroll): Kate’s royal wedding dress!  Tears came to my eyes as I entered the palace and set eyes on the grand staircase, and the throne room.  Handel’s Zadok the Priest, filled my ears via the audio guide, and visions of the movie The Young Victoria brought the glorious state rooms to life in my head.  All the regality, glamour, and history of the English monarchy was represented here in this magical palace.

Then, as if that could possibly be topped, came the dress.

I must have stood for at least 25 minutes, smiling in admiration.  Before you enter the ballroom to see the gown, tiara, shoes, earrings, and even the cake, Sarah Burton (the gown’s designer) has a 5 minute video explaining the concept behind the dress, and it’s elaborately detailed construction.  If you look closely at the lace, you can see the design incorporates rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock, which are the classic symbols of the British Isles.  The design of the gown includes references to Victorian corsetry and bustling, there are weighted panels that help the train maintain its lightness and shape, and (this was shocking) 58 organza covered buttons!  In essence, the gown is a nod to the past, as well as the future.

The palace trip was enjoyed by everyone, our only complaint was that we were herded in a very unorganized fashion through high security into the palace.  We felt slightly like sheep.  In any event, our trip to London was coming to an end after the palace visit, and upon finding a very authentic pub to have a last supper, we clinked our pints together, and sung Merry Poppins on the way home.  It was the perfect ending to a wonderfull visit.  Thanks to my travel partners for making it so memorable! xx Helen

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Hanging with my boys :)

@ Gay Pride Parade, Amsterdam

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