Versailles by Bike (+ Giveaway!)

Visiting Versailles is a non-negotiable when traveling to the Paris region. It offers grand insights into the country's royal past as well as its horticultural prowess and caters to both those who enjoy lengthy museum visits and those who prefer to spend time exploring the outdoors.

But what can make the experience even better - or perhaps, I should say, more interesting - is seeing it from a different perspective. I have found that simply jumping on a bike and gliding through verdant countryside is all it takes.

Now imagine that experience in Versailles, riding to the city's open-air market to pick up picnic provisions, then throughout the lush gardens along trails and tree-lined paths toward Marie Antoinette's hamlet and onto the grounds immediately surrounding the Château where those handy bikes act as your fast pass inside, allowing you to skip the lines entirely.

That's what you'll get with the Versailles Bike Tour with Fat Tire Tours. And they've kindly offered two spots on the tour for two of my readers on their next visit!

Enter to win: 
1/ Leave a comment below describing your favorite memory from Versailles. Or, if you haven't yet visited, what you'd most like to see there. 

2/ For an extra entry, follow both Lost In Cheeseland and Fat Tire Tours on Facebook, then leave a separate comment saying that you're now a new follower. If you're already following, you can also begin following on Instagram: @LostNCheeseland and @FatTireParis 

And if you don't already have a trip planned, there may be a chance to win one. Fat Tire is currently running a contest (through September 30) for an all-expenses paid trip to Paris including:

-5 nights at the Fat Tire Flat
-Customized itinerary of Fat Tire tours
-Picnic provided by Paris Picnic
-2CV tour with 4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie 

To make it easy for you, you can enter that competition directly below as well!

Entries on the Versailles by Bike contest will close August 30th and the winner will be announced at the bottom of this post, in the comments section of the blog and by email. Bonne chance! 


The Lost in Cheeseland story

Lindsey Tramuta, Paris

Some of you have been following me here (and there or there) for years and know, more or less, the behind-the-Cheeseland story but some of you may be new to these parts and wondering: what is Cheeseland all about and how did she end up in France? Fortunately, I recently had a few opportunities to hold forth about this site and the work that has emerged from it and so, in honor of my 6 year blog anniversary, I thought I would share a few links that offer more to the story:

1// Interview on Eat Boutique: 'Lost In Cheeseland on living in Paris, the Food Scene and Where to Eat in Paris Right Now

2// Q&A with my friend Lou on her blog Lou in Paris

3// Interview on World Radio Paris! Skip to 12min40 to jump right into my section.

For more updates that might not make the blog and sneak peeks from my forthcoming book, sign up for my monthly newsletter HERE!


Love, Loss and the Brighter Side

Plaza Athénée

I never gave too much thought to the term roller-coaster - as in a roller-coaster day, week or year - until I was buffeted by my own this year.

You may recall a brief mention of my cat, who we rescued mere weeks after I moved to Paris nine years ago, becoming quite ill at the start of the year. Since then, caring for her and monitoring her progress attentively became second jobs for both of us. Amid the wrenching low points of the year were several professional highs, making that roller-coaster sensation all the more challenging and confusing. There were excellent days and disheartening ones but all of them were thinly veiled with grief. We were fully aware, though we could hardly bear articulating it aloud, that her condition would invariably worsen, leaving us with a painful decision to make.

Despite our greatest efforts to become an exception to the rule, that day arrived last week. Within ten minutes our trio was shattered. Now, our tiny apartment feels massive with pin-drop silence.

She was our little child, our greatest stress reliever and a true friend. But beyond her role as companion, she taught us to intuit the subtler symbols in life. She couldn't speak but the tiny signs she emitted spoke volumes when we finally allowed ourselves to pay attention.

Plaza Athénée La Cour Jardin Plaza Athénée La Cour Jardin

Four days after we said goodbye to her, we forged ahead together hand-in-hand. In a week of loss, we still felt profound love and hope. On Sunday, our 7th wedding anniversary took on much greater meaning. We had experienced very different travails last year but this was a new, all-consuming cross to bear which, in hindsight, we handled with more grace and fortitude than I expected. 

The idea of celebrating the milestone in any way seemed incongruous with grieving but shutting ourselves in at home would do nothing to uplift. So we upheld our reservation at La Cour Jardin, the courtyard restaurant in the Plaza Athénée hotel, for a change of scenery. What we got was the kind of urban calm and doting attention we had largely deprived ourselves of over the last seven months. It was peaceful and intimate, allowing us to talk privately about the future without our little Cali and reflect on the indelible ways she touched our lives. We managed a few laughs and enjoyed the moment when we realized how much she brought us together, right up until the end. Our petit monstre was a unifier. 

Plaza Athénée La Cour Jardin Plaza Athénée La Cour Jardin Plaza Athénée La Cour Jardin
Plaza Athénée La Cour Jardin Plaza Athénée La Cour Jardin

Feeling the sun's warmth on our faces as we ate and reminisced and surrounding ourselves with chirping birds and gorgeous greens was a reminder to see beauty even at our darkest points. For fellow diners, it was a lazy Sunday afternoon. For us, it was the push to keep going.

La Cour Jardin, open through September 15th (reservations necessary)
Plaza Athénée Hotel
25 Avenue Montaigne, 75008
Métro: Alma Marceau (line 9) 

Lost In Cheeseland Food and Restaurant posts


Tour de France 2015: the Paris Finale

Tour de France 2015 - Paris

You don't have to be a loyal Tour de France fan or even an avid cyclist to be completely mesmerized by the sheer skill involved in the competition. For the first time since I've lived in Paris, I found myself with a front-row spot to witness the riders, buffeted by wind and heavy rain at the start of the ride in Sèvres, whip through Paris for a momentous finale. Stationed at the Place de la Concorde, the riders cracked smiles as fans beamed and cheered from the sidelines and from the edge of the Tuileries Gardens. There is truly something to be said for the sense of community spirit that bubbles uncontrollably to the surface during moments like these. As I snapped photographs in wild succession, the man next to me guided me forward for an unobstructed view. We smiled at one another as if old friends but really it was the tacit knowledge that we both were living a unique experience that fostered the camaraderie. 

Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris Tour de France 2015 - Paris

With such palpable energy, I returned home with not only a deeper respect for the sport but a desire to get myself back on a bike and ride.

Sincere thanks to TrekTravel who provided such a fantastic viewing space for the big event! Visit their website to review the cycling trips they offer around the world.

For more Tour de France photos, click HERE


Hilton Paris Opéra: Before and After

I love a good revival story and even more so when there are archival photos to illustrate the evolution.

In March, I visited the renovated Hilton Paris Opéra, a soaring hotel adjacent to the Saint Lazare train station. Its bandages had just been removed after an 18 month transformation (for the cool price tag of $50 million) and I was there to review the space for Afar Magazine. Formerly the Concorde, the 125 year old hotel was the first to have electricity in Paris and had a strong legacy as a business and social hub.

What left me slack-jawed was less the fact that the hotel had been completely redesigned, updated to beautiful effect, but rather that in an instant, my sole memory of sitting in the Terminus Café some seven years ago, still the name of the street-side restaurant seen in the photo below, came flooding back with vivid detail. I was there to meet a friend for a quick drink before she had to head home to the suburbs, hopping onto the RER A which she picked up right at the train station mere feet away. I remember thinking to myself, what a strange place to have an apéro! The neighborhoods situated immediately around train stations aren't typically the cleanest, safest or most appealing destinations but beyond that, the café itself was in serious decline. It was a place to take shelter in the rain or caffeinate in a hurry but hardly a meeting point to look forward to visiting.

It was the first and only experience I had with the space but it left a lasting impression. 'I hope someone gives this spot a second chance,' I thought to myself. When I returned earlier this year, I was overjoyed to see that it will flourish once again.
Perhaps the most incredible story I learned about the property, specifically with regard to the Grand Salon shown above and below in the recent photos, involves an 80-something Parisian woman who has lived each stage of the hotel's existence firsthand. As a child, she joined her father at the Grand Salon where he would go regularly for business meetings. As he chatted and discussed important matters, she would sit rapt before the spirited commotion of lunching ladies, busy hommes d'affaires and hotel staff zipping between tables to keep everyone comfortable. It was grand, frenetic and exciting, full of life and activity, the kind that latches onto memory and remains a fixture of childhood. As she got older, the grand salon played host to her own adult conversations and served as the backdrop to many lunches where friendships were built and nurtured. 

Today, she returns to the Grand Salon yet again to lunch weekly in the lofty, gilded epicenter of her own nostalgia. The furnishings may have been updated, the dust and tired columns revived, but the integrity and history of the place remains wonderfully in tact, eager and ready to be the frame for new memories.

Read my review on Afar! 

Hilton Paris Opéra
108 rue Saint-Lazare
75008 Paris


Turning 30 in Paris

CakeBoy Paris Cake

Today, I turned thirty. So naturally this was cause for self reflection - the good, the bad, and the on-the-way-up experiences that make me excited for this new chapter in my life and even more so to reach this milestone in Paris. To keep this succinct, I came up with 3 reasons for this upbeat outlook on the birthday, one for each decade:

1/ A firmer sense of self and a solid groove in the city. 
Nine years ago, when I officially settled in Paris, I didn't have a creative outlet, I didn't know what each day would bring let alone an entire post-college career and I was perpetually doubting my choices. In hindsight, that seems par for the course. In our early twenties we barely understand ourselves as young adults and are, in many cases, grappling with the anxiety attendant to transitioning from four years of a familiar routine. I couldn't count the number of times I questioned what I was doing in Paris, particularly as former classmates took to Facebook (the only widely-used social platform at the time, if you can believe it!) to broadcast their new jobs. On top of that, I hadn't yet formed my own network of friends and acquaintances and relied heavily on C's built-in group.

Grad school kicked things into new gears, as did this blog which I launched after graduating. From there, the city became my playground and I connected with others in the process of finding their way in an adopted home. It took years of nurturing, refining and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone but it is this experience that has helped harness my understanding of who I am in the world and, on a smaller but no less important level, in France. My interests and expectations from my environment and my friends have also evolved in the last decade and I am thrilled to see how they grow in the next.

2/ It all gets better from here 
I distinctly recall conversations with women considerably older than me prior to arriving in Paris (a time when I was fraught with angsty, late adolescent anxiety about everything) in which they would assure me that personal greatness and self contentment and assurance lay ahead in my thirties. They insisted that all the insecurities and unhealthy self-flagellation would ease and I would start to appreciate myself, body and mind. I'd tackle the future less by blind enthusiasm and energy but with directed fervor. And by the time I turned 28, that truth finally began crystallizing. I feel liberated from what was once paralyzing doubt. It should be said that Paris as a landscape when you're transitioning into adulthood and womanhood is as terrifying as it is exhilarating, particularly if you're a woman uneasy in her own skin like I was. I wish I had had faith in the wisdom imparted by older women but I suppose I had to arrive at the realizations myself. And now, I'm focused on paving my own route with my own voice and vision, less interested in comparing myself and my work to others who share similar core interests. It's upward and onward from here!

3/ The next journey
Where the unknown is less petrifying and far more exciting. My forthcoming book will certainly, hopefully, be part of that unknown and I look forward to seeing where it leads me! And as always, I keep myself open to where this city will take me. A voir....!

Any thirties wisdom you can impart as I begin this new journey?

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