“We’ll be serving pigeon tonight,” she said. “Is that okay with everyone at your table?”
This was one of the first things our waitress asked after seating my sister, her hubby, Mr. Smitten and me on the Bustronome Voyage Gourmand in Paris last month. Never having tried pigeon—or ever having it occur to me that people eat pigeon—I shook my head yes and wondered what other surprises the evening would hold.
Thankfully, it boasted many over the course of our six-course gourmet dinner and wine tasting—all 100 percent delightful. Pigeon included.
The four of us boarded the Bustronome, a two-story bus with a panoramic glass ceiling, at the Arc de Triomphe just before 8 p.m. on July 4, and were seated at the very front of the bus. This meant uninterrupted views while we enjoyed a glass of Champagne and rolled down the Champs-Elysées. It was our first evening in Paris after arriving that afternoon, and the Bustronome was the perfect way to cap off a full day of travel (i.e., we were able to turn the responsibilities of navigating over to someone else, relax and fill our bellies with French food and drink while still getting acquainted with Paris’ most iconic corners).
Before the bus had reached the Place de la Concorde, a storied public square in the heart of the city (and where King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and thousands of others were beheaded during the Reign of Terror—information we learned thanks to the audiopens at every table), we were served our first course: tomato gazpacho with crunchy fennel, wild berries and fried basil.
A little while later—somewhere between La Madeleine, a striking Roman Catholic church, and the even more opulent Opéra Garnier, the setting for the novel “Phantom of the Opera”—the deliciousness continued with zucchini carpaccio with langoustines, lime zest, roasted hazelnuts and squash.
After finishing our carpaccio and watching Mr. Smitten and my brother-in-law take selfies with the Opéra Garnier, the Bustronome continued on its way down Avenue de l’Opéra toward the Louvre. En route, we tried seabream with garden pea cream, radishes, onion and butter of “Espelette” chilli pepper—not to mention being treated to the beginning of one of the most magical “golden hours” priming the sky for a spectacular sunset.
A half an hour later, the Louvre and its pyramids passed by outside our ride’s panoramic roof, and we got to taste the infamous pigeon: pigeon fillet with cauliflower crust, potatoes, watercress and currant jus, to be exact. Suffice it to say, by the time we reached Hotel de Ville and were coming up on the iconic Notre Dame, my plate was clean and our waitress was preparing to bring out the “Napoléon” (goats cheese) and melon with roasted seeds.
With bellies bordering on too full, the Bustronome crept by the Musée d’Orsay, a former railway station turned museum and now home to the largest collection of Impressionist work in the world, and made its way past the Grand Palais, Pont Alexandre III and the Invalides—a complex of museums and monuments honoring France’s military history, including the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.
It was somewhere around this time, as the sun was starting to sink, that we enjoyed our final course: amaretto sponge with apricot compote and thyme flavored whipped cream. To make the moment even more special, the Bustronome staff delivered the dessert to my sister and her hubby with candles and well wishes for a happy first wedding anniversary, which they were celebrating on our trip!
10: 45 p.m.
Perfectly timed, as we finished our meal we also approached the last of our sites: the Eiffel Tower. And just in time to watch the sunset. It was here that the Bustronome parked, allowing guests to get off the bus and snap some photos in front of the monument, and giving us all the option to either stay at the Eiffel Tower or return to our departure point at the Arc de Triomphe.
Because our hotel was closer to the Eiffel Tower than the Arc, the four of us decided to linger, grabbing a spot on the grass to watch the sun turn the sky pink and orange and purple and wait for the Eiffel Tower’s more than 20,000 tiny lights to make it twinkle at nightfall.
Why I'm smitten with the Bustronome:
The bus itself: Luxe and comfy, the layout of the two-story bus (seating on the top with the kitchen on the first floor) means you’re treated to unobstructed views of Paris’ most iconic monuments.
Audiopens: These little devices on every table mean you can socialize with your group and still learn about every monument. Basically, the audiopens are like having a pocket-sized tour guide you can turn on and off.
Accommodating: When I booked the tour, I let them know I don’t eat gluten and my sis doesn’t eat shellfish. They were beyond responsive to both requests (and served the best gluten-free bread I’ve tasted.)
Impressive: They remembered my sister and her hubby’s anniversary, acknowledging it by presenting their dessert in a special way. Small but significant!
Easy peasy: I knew we’d be exhausted when we arrived in Paris at about 2 p.m. I also knew we wouldn’t want to “waste” the entire evening, so to speak, by not exploring. This was the perfect option for us: relaxing, delicious and so, so, so comprehensive.
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