I first went to Paris as a teenager on a trip that changed my life. My grandparents decided to take me to Europe for the 50th anniversary of D-Day. I was part of a trip with veterans of World War II, many of whom had landed on the beaches of Normandy in June of 1944 and had not returned until this trip. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least, and taught me what made “The Greatest Generation” so great.
This trip was the first time I visited Europe. We landed in London, then spent a few days there and a couple more in the south of England before taking a ferry across the English Channel in appropriately choppy seas to Normandy. When we reached Omaha Beach, I waded out into the sea then walked back in, taking pictures as I came ashore. Although it was nothing like the experience so many of those vets had as they stormed the beaches that June morning, it at least gave me a basic view of the shore where the defeat of the Nazis began.
When we reached Paris the mood changed from somber to celebratory. How can you be in Paris and not be happy? It’s Paris! As Americans we sometimes forget the incredible role that Paris has played in our history. Not only did we liberate it from the Nazis in August of 1944, as many on my trip experienced, but it is also where some of our Founding Fathers rallied support for our independence from the British. If not for the involvement of the French, our Revolutionary War may have lasted much longer and cost many more lives.
There’s No Place Like Paris
Paris is a city of excesses. It is home to some of the world’s greatest art collections. The crème de la crème of Western cuisine is full of French influences, and teachings. No one makes wine like the French. No one makes cheese like them, either. Let’s not forget the amazing artists, writers, and theologians that have called Paris home. It is a city that has it all.
Beyond the grand destinations you’ll find in Paris, are the smaller ones, where I think the city really shines. Yes, some of the best restaurants in the world call Paris home, but if you detour onto a windy side street, and work your way deep into a neighborhood, you can find something even better: a local cafe.
I love beef. I’m a Texan, so of course that’s true. I’ve had beef of all varieties in places near and far, but perhaps the best steak I’ve ever had was a steak tartare at a tiny neighborhood bistro on a cobblestone street in Paris. It was amazing. It was magical. It was a fantastically Parisian experience.
My world-traveling wife just returned from Paris and brought me back a treat: French beer! Yes, of course you would be expecting wine, but on the heels of her successful German beer importation, she was kind enough to do it again with beer from France.
A Beer to Savor
My prize was the Duchesse Anne Triple from Lancelot Brewing in France. Europeans brew many of the world’s best beers, including one of my favorite types, the tripel. One of the great abbey ales, tripels have a heavy yeast and malt flavor, with a distinct hop flavor also.
These are great sipping beers. You don’t want to pound tripels with your buddies at a tailgate, these are beers you savior, beers you enjoy. The Duchesse is the perfect example of a solid, European tripel. A deep golden color, it’s a full-bodied, bready beer with hints of fruits and spices, but nothing that overwhelmed the palette. You taste the hops, but they don’t knock you over the head like an IPA.
This is a beer perfect for those summer evenings at a street side table in Paris. The hustle and bustle of a busy European city, with cabs whizzing by, women walking small dogs with collars decked out in gems, Edith Piaf music coming from an old record player inside the cafe, and people arguing in multiple languages as they pass by. Munch on some steak tartare, drink your Duchesse Anne Triple, and finish with some tasty macarons. A perfect evening in Paris.
It’s an experience made possible by the sacrifices of farm boys, factory workers, and school teachers who stormed those Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944 to liberate millions from Hitler’s Europe. My trip with them is something I’ll never forget, and every time I have visited Europe since, I have seen the Paris streets, the English countryside, and the snow-capped Alps in a whole new light.