Well, not just vittles. Some beverages and drinking spots must also be included. Gay bars, too, because, well, “all your appetites,” reads the tagline. The source material is a trip with friends and family during Thanksgiving week 2014 to Paris and Zurich. We were, altogether, my mother, Dora; husband, Fernando; niece, Quinn; pals Brent and JT; and Brent’s lovely mom, Betty. We collectively represent Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Kentucky, D.C. and a few other points around the U.S. and the globe. Notably, as we set out, there were only two fixed points on our dining map: Thanksgiving Eve at Joe Allen in Paris, and a family reunion “metzgete” in Erlinsbach, Switzerland. We had to stay flexible on the rest, with a variety to tastes, but few restrictions. Nobody was kosher, vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-allergic nor sober. A very run-of-the-mill bunch, food-and-drink-wise.

We were in Paris first, and for longer, Saturday afternoon to Thursday morning. Our base of operations was an apartment I found on a Colorado-based service, Time and Place. We had ample room for seven with three bedrooms, three baths, a large kitchen and living-dining space, all a couple blocks from Place Vendome and the Louvre – for less than $100 per person per day. While we didn’t suffer any severe ramen cravings – not even Quinn, who lived in Japan for a time as a little girl – we would’ve been easily covered. I never knew that Paris had a Japantown, but we were right in the middle of it.

Typical produce in the Japanese markets nearby

Typical produce in the Japanese markets nearby

After settling in Saturday, we ventured out groggily to the busy rue du 4 Septembre, about a block away, and found La Bombe. We could’ve had mojitos, but we just went French-American, with mostly burgers and a few croques monsieur. Plus beer and water. Just fine, with great wait staff. Then, off to bed. Come Sunday morning, I was up and needed coffee. My need was so great that it awoke Fernando. We walked around the corner in search of the Boulangerie Julien, of which I’d read great things, hoping to find some great pastry to go with that coffee. No dice. Ferme. We walked a couple blocks farther, down to Avenue de l’Opera, where Starbucks sat. It was the only thing open. Come to Paris to drink Starbucks? Well, sure, don’t mind if I do. We brought back a “traveler” of coffee and a few standard-issue Sbux breads. It was plenty to wake everyone up, coupled with the juice, tea and whatnot we’d gotten at the nearby Monoprix Saturday.

Our first outing took us through Place Vendome and to the Champs Elysees Christmas Market. “Chi-chis? What the hell are ‘chi-chis’?” This is what the French call churros, apparently. We bypassed the fried fair food, preferring to mosey up to the Most Champagne stall, where we enjoyed a bottle for about 40 euros.

Most Champagne stall at the Xmas market

Farther down the Champs Elysees, into the commercial area, we found a place for lunch, minus Brent and JT. Nothing along the champs appealed, so we hit a side street and found an Italian restaurant worth noting only for the grumpy looks it put on our faces.

Quinn mastering "resting bitch face"

Quinn mastering “resting bitch face” (Click the pic to see it)

Near the apartment, we also dined at Le Mesturet. Crowded but accommodating, average but inexpensive. Again, great wait staff. Aside from them, the 2014 Beaujolais Nouveau was the star of the season. So we drank a few bottles.

Santé!

Santé!

Wining and dining, no whining!

Wining and dining, no whining!

Despite past visits to Galeries Lafayette, I’d never been to the famed cafeteria at the top. I don’t think any of us had. But it’s been recommended for its view, affordability, wine and quality. So, why not? Indeed there was a bit of view. And everybody seemed pretty pleased with what they ordered. I was. As the guy in charge of receipts, however, I was scratching my head trying to put it all together. What did Mom get for 1 euro? Ah, OK…. She got an egg from the salad bar. Those cashiers were certainly eagle-eyed. While not a rip-off, don’t expect a bargain. Food and wine halls were also fun!

Cafeteria Quinn

Cafeteria Quinn

Get your own!

Get your own!

Brent and Betty navigate the self-serve wine and beer

Brent and Betty navigate the self-serve wine and beer

The basement bounty

The basement bounty

Fernando and I took a timeout at Vue sur Coupole

Fernando and I took a timeout at Vue sur Coupole

Back at the great apartment, we continued to enjoy breakfast in the kitchen daily, usually with a 5 euro box of breads from the aforementioned Julien. The evening the boys hit the bars, we first prepped a take-out dinner at the apartment, featuring some Vietnamese-deli takeout, pizza from nearby Mipi, wine and cheese from Monoprix, and dessert by Julien. Afterward, we boys roamed east to Banana Café, where we were nearly the only patrons, and then Raidd Bar, which, despite being a school night, was packed with revelers enjoying the “shower show.”

A boy and his baguette

A boy and his baguette (which was similar to the shower show)

Julien for breakfast

Julien for breakfast

Julien for dessert

Julien for dessert

Just Julien

Just Julien

Setting our own Parisian table

Setting our own Parisian table

Radiant at Raidd

Radiant at Raidd

The Paris culinary highlight was Joe Allen. Maybe because we were mildly homesick. Maybe because it was Thanksgiving eve. Maybe because the prix fixe and the staff were wonderful.

Joe Allen's lights beckon

Joe Allen’s lights beckon

Just like home!

Just like home!

Natty Bo guy and a flag? Happy Thanksgiving!

Natty Bo guy and a flag? Happy Thanksgiving!

Looking pretty thankful!

Looking pretty thankful!

Come Thursday, we were off to Zurich from Gare de Lyon. Our local Time and Place concierge arranged our van over, and everything went without a hitch. Be advised that the station toilets cost about a euro to use. Mom reports they’re very tidy, though. And there’s a Paul boulangerie on the premises for Washingtonians craving a bit of home. None of us checked out the Lyria café car as we’d brought our own picnic of bread, meat, wine and cheese. And Pringles.

A little piece of home ;-)

A little piece of home ;-)

Pay to pee

Pay to pee

Rail-riding selfie

Rail-riding selfie

Once in Zurich, we were met by Uncle Otto (who is not my uncle, technically, but it seems appropriate enough as his grandfather and my great grandfather were brothers) and other members of the extended family: Ruth, Kaspar and Kaspar’s little boy whose name escapes me. While four of us stayed at the Continental near the train station, Dora and Quinn stayed outside of the city with Otto and his wife, Heidi. Otto picked up Fernando and me on the first night to take us back to his home for some traditionally Swiss potatoes and cheese. The pumpkin pie was testament to his hospitality.

Otto's pumpkin pie encore

Otto’s pumpkin pie encore

Post-dinner Champagne pitstop with Otto at Seerose

Post-dinner Champagne pitstop with Otto at Seerose

From the Continental buffet

From the Continental buffet

Back downtown, we ended up a few times at the Christmas market at the train station. While they were “chi-chis” at the Paris market, in Zurich we enjoyed appropriately named churros. There was also a Sprüngli shop at the train station. JT treated me to some hazelnut “Luxemburgerli.” That’s why I love him. Out on the town with the ladies, Heidi was our captain. Thanks to her (and some advice delivered by otherwise occupied Otto by phone), we ended up at The Spaghetti Factory. The name conjures subpar associations with The Spaghetti Warehouse or The Old Spaghetti Factory. This, however, was a delightfully different beast. Very satisfying. And with Zurich being a very expensive city, the moderate prices were incredibly welcome. A quick outing to Cranberry with our ladies followed. In the same vein, Brent directed us to a dandy and affordable lunch spot for sausages, Sternen Grill in Bellevue. Be sure to pick up some hot sauce. For us! Fernando just finished the bottle he brought back.

Churros, not chi-chis!

Churros, not chi-chis!

Followed by churro chomping

Followed by churro chomping

Sprüngli certainly gives the French a run for their money

Sprüngli certainly gives the French a run for their money

Exhibit No. 2

Exhibit No. 2

And No. 3

And No. 3

And Luxemburgerli!

And Luxemburgerli!

The worthwhile Spaghetti Factory

The worthwhile Spaghetti Factory

Heidi and Brent whooping it up at Cranberry

Heidi and Brent whooping it up at Cranberry

Bring us this!

Bring us this from Sternen Grill!

The Swiss highlight, however, was the aforementioned metzgete. Out to Erlinsbach we drove, minus Brent and JT who did some sightseeing on their own. In this little tavern, which we were told was once owned by some branch of the family, the theme was pig. Particularly the savory sausage made out of its blood. I went with the smoked sausage. “There’s horsemeat in it, you know,” Otto slyly teased after I ordered it. Fernando tried to do as the natives do and ordered the blood sausage, but he just couldn’t hack it. We washed it down with a crisp local Sauvignon Blanc. From there, we wrapped up our family reunion with a kaffeeklatsch – though really tea and sparkling wine – back at Ruth’s home.

Sausage eaters

Sausage eaters

The smoked variety, likely horsemeat free

The smoked variety, likely horsemeat free

Dessert, Solothurn style

Dessert, Solothurn style

The following day, before sunrise, it was back to the airport and back to D.C. So, next up is a post comparing our OpenSkies Prem Plus trip over to our World Traveller Plus trip home.