Having visited Prague, Budapest and quieter cities / towns such as Bruges, Burano, etc., I can’t help but to describe Rome and Paris to be touristy. Most of the attractions are filled with people and I agreed with the guides that these are the most visited cities in Europe. However, having said that it was only when I came back sorting my photos that I appreciate the beauty of these two cities.
Just when I thought the crowd at the Vatican was bad, Paris was flooded with people as our stay coincide with a long weekend in Europe, so the Seine river cruise, the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles, were extremely packed with people.
Anyway, the word “Habsburg” would be the highest frequency word to be heard throughout the entire trip for they ruled the "Austrian Empire" from 1804 to 1867 and "Austria-Hungary" from 1867 to 1918; and it is amazing how the attractions of Paris get associated with the Schonbrunn Palace and the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. There were two marriages involving the Habsburg and the French and it all started with Maria Theresa (female ruler of the Habsburg) who believed in making love, not war.
Picture is obtained from a CD, Schonbrunn Photo Gallery
To cut long story short, Maria Theresa married her daughter, Marie Antoinette off to Louis XVI and this family was living in the Palace of Versailles until they were brought to the Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution. While we have heard about the art museum, Musée du Louvre (perhaps through the novel and movie, The Da Vinci Code), this art museum was a former royal palace, Louvre Palace. Tuileries Palace, on the other hand, was subsequently built for the wife of Henry II of France and when Tuileries Palace was expanded in the 17th century, the southeast corner of the Tuileries get connected to the Louvre Palace.
During the invasion of the Tuileries Palace to capture Marie Antoinette and her children, the Swiss Guards were massacred during their attempt to protect them. This brings the lion monument (in Lucerne) into picture for it was constructed to dedicate the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss. Hence, the lion was portrayed to have been impaled by a spear and was covering a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy. Beside the lion lies another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland.
Although Place de la Concorde (in Paris) is known to be the largest square in the French capital, this was the execution ground for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.
Lastly, as Marie Antoinette was part of the Habsburgs, the portraits of Marie Antoinette can be seen in both Schonbrunn Palace (in Vienna) and the Palace of Versailles (in Paris).
Photo is downloaded from Wikipedia
During the later stages of the French Revolution, Napoleon I married Marie Louise, a great niece of Marie Antoinette, and had Napoleon II. However, after the collapse of First French Empire, Marie Louise and Napoleon II were exiled back to Austria. Hence, there is a room in the Schonbrunn Palace that is dedicated to Napoleon II for he was not allowed to have any contact with the outside world and sad to say, the poor chap died at the age of 21 due to tuberculosis at the Schonrbrunn Palace which the Habsburgs felt that it was the best way to end this.
Picture is obtained from a CD, Schonbrunn Photo Gallery
Although Napoleon II was first buried in Vienna, Adolf Hitler transferred the remains of Napoléon II back to Paris as a gift and both the father and the son are buried in Les Invalides.
Since we are on the topic of Napoleon I, there is a distinctive arc, called Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel facing the famous glass pyramid of Musée du Louvre. Right on top of this arc, there are four horses sitting on it. This bronze statues of the four horses are also known as the Horses of St Mark's. Napoleon I marched on Venice, ending the 1,100 years of Venetian independence by forcing its surrender in 1797 and he had these horses forcibly removed from St. Mark’s Basilica and carried off to Paris, where they were used in the design of this arc to mark his victory on the Venetian.
History-aside, being dessert-lovers, how can we miss out the flagship store of The Macaron Inventor and The Picasso of Pastry?
Since there was no metro lines linking Laduree, Champs-Élysées and Pierre Herme (along rue Bonaparte in the Saint Germain des Prés) directly, we have decided to walk from the Eiffel Tower to Laduree, Champs-Élysées (2.2km) and then to Pierre Herme via Boulevard Saint-Germain (4.1km) and the reason why I blah blah so much in this post is that we passed by Les Invalides on our way to Laduree and we spotted more Laduree(s) while we were in the Palace of Versailles and on our way towards Place de la Concorde.
Laduree seems to be the Louis Vuitton of macarons. Upon entering the store, we were surprised by the twin long queues. One for take-away and the other for dine-in. There were so many tourists buying macarons in bulk and I am dead serious about it. Imagine spending more than 200 EUR on macarons. We noticed that was how the Chinese spent while we were queuing for our take-aways.
The restaurant is worth a visit for the different sections of the restaurant and bar were decorated elegantly. However, we were disappointed how close the tables were placed and there was clearly some bias in their service for the Caucasians that came later than us got their orders taken promptly while we waved for their attention for a good 10 minutes.
Plaisir Sucré, Strawberry Napoleon and Isaphan were our orders and frankly speaking, we were disappointed, considering how much raves we have heard about the place. It might have been good if we have not set such high expectations and I could easily list the good alternatives we have back home.
Plaisir Sucré (7.70 EUR, SGD$13.65) was the best pastry we had during our trip (till that point, you will know why when you read my post on Pierre Herme tomorrow) for the smooth and creamy milk chocolate whipped cream but what was disappointing was the thick tempered milk chocolate and that the crispy praline and almond meringue sandwich cake with crushed hazelnuts weren't contrasting. It was good as a chocolate treat but this creation was supposed to have 5 distinctive layers, which was not in this case.
Millefeuille Fraise (8 EUR, SGD$14.10), generous servings of strawberries, sweet and ripe; caramelized puff pastries with nice sugary fragrance and vanilla fine mousse of the right consistency and sweetness. With such fabulous combination, what was it that was disappointing. The puff pastries were soggy so imagine having your fork piercing through this slice of creation, yes, everything collapsed or got mashed up. It was good but minimally I expected the puff pastry to retain a certain level of crispness.
Isaphan (8.60 EUR, SGD$15.25) was a sore disappointment all together, the rose macaron shells were hard, lacking the meaty crust and the rose petals cream not being smooth at all. We are not sure if such thoughts came because of the high expectations we had since Paris is known for their pastries and Laduree has been quoted by many to be one of the best. I checked with my colleague who visited Laduree last year and she is no food blogger. She was very frank with me to give me a thumbs up for their macarons but not their cakes.
Now where are the macarons? Well, we wanted to save some room for Pierre Herme so we bought some macarons for take-away and raced towards Pierre Herme which is more than 4km away with less than 2 hours before they closed.
Ladurée Champs Elysées (within walking distance to Arc de Triomphe)
75, avenue des Champs Elysées
Tel : +33 1 40 75 08 75
Ladurée Versailles (in the courtyard of the Palace of Versailles)
Château de Versailles
78 000 Versailles
Tel : +33 1 30 83 04 02
Ladurée Royale (within walking distance to Place de la Concorde)
16, rue Royale
Tel : +33 1 42 60 21 79
Ladurée Bonaparte (within walking distance to Pierre Herme)
21 rue Bonaparte
Tel : +33 1 44 07 64 87
Ladurée at Harrods (for this is a must-visit mall in London)
87/135 Brompton Road
London SW1X 7XL
Tel : (0) 203 155 0111