Bonjour, Lyndsey here!
I’m sitting here, on my last day in Paris, in the sumptuous Luxembourg Gardens. It is a warm, sunny day, with clear blue skies and a slight breeze. There are all manner of people strolling around me, lunching, laughing, chatting as a pretty symphony of many unique languages gently fills my ears.
From where I sit, the historic building that houses the French Senate is to my right, the Pantheon behind me, and the iconic Eiffel Tower rises up in the distance before me.
It is a perfect day…
I have tried to only eat traditional French food (vegan or otherwise) during my time here, but this Asian traiteur (deli/prepared to-go dishes) across from our apartment was literally screaming my name and I just had to try it.
I just ate a wonderful picnic of spicy noodles, Thai fried rice, a delicate veggie roll, and sipped wine from a plastic cup.
There are fat little pigeons waddling around my feet as they gobble up the tidbits that I intentionally drop for them. It is the most perfect day and I am savoring every single beautiful second. It is my last day here and I am emotional as I reflect on my time and the experiences that I have gained as my world view has expanded and shifted significantly in just a short time.
My adopted mom and I have just spent the last thirteen days in Paris, France and I have had the adventure of a lifetime. I have had wine and champagne and bread and pastries and coffee and beautifully prepared and presented food every single day. And, yes, I willingly stepped off the plant train and thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful. To pretend otherwise, would be inauthentic and disingenuous. Besides, for anyone who knows me, to say differently would be laughable and utterly preposterous.
I’d like to stop here and quickly say that after being super Dirty and on the CFDG meal plans for over a year, this abrupt change in my normal way of eating had rather severe and hilarious consequences – which I will tell you all about next week…
I was, however, surprised at the amount of plant-based or vegan options that are available in the city of meat and cheese. It is absolutely possible to stay fully plant-based and eat beautifully if you choose to do that. The outdoor markets are fabulous with fresh veggies, fruits, olives, nuts, and amazingly aromatic spices.
I did get in my greens and noshed on beautiful salads dressed with lemon or balsamic vinaigrette and found really yummy pastries and savory items at vegan/vegetarian restaurants.
Vegan Folies, one of my favorite places, was such a hit that I went several times! The kind Frenchwoman behind the counter got to know me and would enthusiastically wave and truly appeared to enjoy practicing her English on me. We would smile and laugh and hug and I felt, in some strange way, that I had made a new friend.
I loved this place because it was informal and all the food options were spread out in a veritable feast for the eyes. There were so many sweet and savory choices, such as sandwiches and desserts, that I had enormous difficulty in choosing. You could take out your goodies or crowd in and eat at a small cafe table. It’s not the fanciest vegan eatery in Paris, but for me, it was definitely the most fun.
I moaned and groaned over a bolognese (tofu) sandwich with veggies and a nut-based creamy mustard sauce! And I also mouthgasmed at every bite of a lentil and potato (eggless) quiche.
I was surprised that I preferred the vegan savory items over the sweet choices. There was a dark chocolate confection, called “Under The Dome,” that was too full of date syrup and almost bitter, and then there was a gorgeous, pink frosted, sparkly cupcake that was just so soaked with almond liqueur that I could only manage one bite at a time.
Of course, the heavenly baguettes that are sold on every corner are vegan and there are so many nut breads and other fresh baked whole wheat goodies that one could live on nothing but bread for a very long time. It is very common to see folks rushing to their next stop with a baguette tucked under their arm and eating it as they go along. Of course, I had to fit in…
I also discovered a Lime-Basil vegan sorbet which I could eat every day for the rest of my life! And, luckily for me, I realized that my large CFDG tote bag made for a fabulous bib.
I was also lucky enough to be able to stay at an apartment while in the city. There are plenty of vegan/vegetarian/plant-based options (although very processed) at the local grocery store, Monoprix, and I loaded up my bag and stocked our little kitchen.
When I knew I was going to Paris, I searched the private CFDG Facebook group to see if there were any Dirties in the city, and I found a lovely Dirty Sister named Arlene. I sent a message and after promising her that I wasn’t a crazed serial killer, I said that I would love to meet up and go to Hank’s, a vegan burger joint with a great reputation, and she said yes!
We had such a lovely time! Arlene is Scottish, with the most gorgeous lyrical accent, and has been living in Paris with her handsome French husband for twenty years. We ate delicious veggie burgers (made with mushrooms, tofu, and brown rice) and chatted like old friends.
We made a standing date to get together again if I ever have the opportunity to return to this amazing city. How fabulous is it that I was able to make this connection and now, a sweet new friend on a whole other continent, all from our online community? It really is like one big family!
Right below our apartment was this Hawaiian place with the best salad I’ve ever had! The sweet lady taking my order didn’t understand English, and I don’t know much French, but somehow (with lots of smiles, laughter, and menu pointing!) we pieced together a takeout order for a delicious creation.
Besides tofu and brown rice, it had sesame seeds, soy sauce, fresh tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, pears, and a creamy cashew-based spicy sauce. It was crazy good!
Now, I wouldn’t want y’all to think that all I did was eat and drink, so I will share some of the highlights of this amazing holiday. I took 992 pictures and want to show them all to you, but I’ll just choose a few…
We enjoyed a cruise, called the Bateaux Mouches, up the Seine River which gave us a glorious view of both the left and right banks of the city and let me tell you, Paris at night is simply indescribable!
It was a gorgeous evening with a beautiful full moon…
We also enjoyed an easy stroll down the Champs-Elysées which provided a magnificent view of the Arc de Triomphe.
And in the daytime, Paris is just as spectacular!
Notre-Dame de Paris, considered to be one of the greatest examples of French Gothic architecture, was soul-stirring!
The Louvre, which is the world’s largest art museum, was unbelievable and too much to see in a day.
However, I did make sure to hunt down the most famous works including: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa…
The Winged Victory Of Samothrace that was created around the 2nd century BC and has been displayed since 1884…
And, finally, getting to see the ornate apartments and furnishings of Napoleon the III was mind-blowing!
In fact, just standing underneath the iconic glass and steel pyramid was intoxicating.
One of the greatest highlights was the afternoon spent in Montmartre – it’s like walking around in a romance novel, where street artists are selling their wares and painting the tourist’s portraits. There are charming windmills, cobblestone walkways, delightful cafes and music. It is a place that once saw the likes of Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, and Degas. But the best reason to visit is the Basilica of Sacre Cœur.
I am not a religious person, nor do I claim a particular faith, but I literally teared up upon walking in and seeing the inside of this historic cathedral. It absolutely took my breath away. I sat down in one of the pews and immediately gave thanks to the universe for all of my blessings.
Also, if you look closely in the picture, you can see a nun down front on her knees praying. She stayed that way, on the cold hard floor, the entire time I was in there. Such a magnificent, peaceful, and holy place.
Another favorite moment was the opportunity to visit and purchase a book at Shakespeare and Company. The famed bookstore, opened in 1919, was a gathering place for many literary legends including Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. As a professed bibliophile, voracious reader, and lover of books this just positively thrilled my soul.
Another beautiful day was spent at the gorgeous Place des Vosges and House museum where Victor Hugo lived for sixteen years. Students from the nearby Sorbonne University were spread out on the grass studying in the sunshine.
And then there’s The Moulin Rouge! A famed cabaret, that opened in 1889, and is the birthplace of the Can-Can dance. It was performed by the seductive courtesans of the time and the hallucinogenic drink, absinthe, was known to flow freely.
Just going shopping at a department store is an experience in Paris! Galeries Lafayette was an absolute study in gilded art and architecture. I’m sure I walked around with my jaw on the floor and looked like a complete wide-eyed tourist.
Arenes de Lutece is an ancient Roman arena constructed in the 1st century AD. It was once able to seat 15,000 people and was used for gladiatorial combats. I can just imagine the majestic lions and roaring crowds!
One of the most awesome experiences was seeing a light exhibition of the artwork of Gustav Klimt at Atelier des Lumieres. Everyone either stood or sat on the floor as his art was projected on the walls, ceiling, and floor. It sparkled and moved and morphed into glorious images and it was all set to spectacularly dramatic music. I was blown away by the beauty!
I also got to visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It is the largest one in Paris (110 acres!) and holds the graves and memorials for some of my favorite artists, writers, and musicians: Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, Collette, Marcel Proust, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and so many others.
And, yes, I might have stumbled upon a hot Nutella crepe…
A simple Sunday walk through Luxembourg Gardens turned into an unexpectedly fun afternoon with a fabulous two-hour free band concert! They even played the 70’s hit, YMCA from The Village People, and everyone was up dancing and singing.
And then somehow a silky smooth cognac found its way to my lips on one of my last nights in Paris!
I’m on my way home tomorrow and I’m as plump as a pastry. My face is round, my jeans are tight, and my belly rivals that of Santa’s bowlful of jelly. Yet, I have zero regrets! I lived outrageously, deliciously, and with sheer delight and awe for thirteen days. I grabbed every glorious moment that was offered to me and savored it on this trip of a lifetime.
You know what else? I found out that I know absolutely nothing about our world and the lives of people throughout our planet. I realized that as educated and as well-read as I think I am, I have so much more to see and do and learn and experience.
Mark Twain famously said:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Oh, how right he was! I am so very grateful that I was given this opportunity to travel and I will hold the experience, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the emotions, and every last detail in my heart forever.
Thank you for letting us peep your adventure, Lyndsey!
Where’s the last place you traveled and what were your takeaways? Talk to us in the comments below!
Orange Cardamom Cranberry Sauce
Orange Cardamom Cranberry Sauce
- 4 Medjool (big) or 6 Deglet Noor (smaller) dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
- 1 cup unfiltered apple juice or apple cider* (235ml)
- 1 large orange, zested, peeled and sectioned (set aside the zest for now)
- 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained (340g)
- 1 large apple, peeled and diced (a sweet variety, such as Gala or Fuji works best / leave the peel on for a more rustic sauce)
- 2 cinnamon sticks or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 5 whole green cardamom pods or 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1/4 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger root
- Chopped pecans for topping
Discard the soaking water from the dates and place the dates into your blender, along with the apple juice and the orange sections (not the zest). Blend for about 1 minute.
Pour all the blended mixture into a medium-sized saucepan and add the cranberries, 1/2 of the orange zest, diced apple, cinnamon sticks, cardamom and ginger root. Stir and bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to burst, the apple pieces soften and the sauce begins to thicken.
Remove the saucepan from heat to cool. Sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Remove cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods and discard.
Sprinkle the rest of the orange zest on top as garnish and sprinkle with chopped pecans when serving.
- For best flavor, refrigerate overnight. Can be served warm or cold.
- *Unfiltered apple juice and apple cider are not the same as apple cider vinegar. Buy either unfiltered apple juice or unfiltered apple cider (no sugar or anything else but apples added and not sparkling).
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with planning a trip out of your corner of the world.