Just back from 2 weeks of travelling, around venice and Paris. Many thanks for good advice from all you international chowhounds! More detail to follow, but here are a few highlights:
First, Venice. Really nice (if small), clean room (en suite bathroom, minibar with bellinis-in-a-bottle, TV and phone) in La Residenza, on a quiet campo right near the water and St. Mark's. Breakfast (coffee, yogurt, pastries) is served in their fab 15th-cent. palazzo lobby, huge high ceilings and loads of detailing. Great offseason rate of 105 euros for a double. Marvellous cookies, pane di doges (like fruitcake, but much better) etc. from Marchini--they've moved, and now are on a little side street off St. Marks. The best spaghetti con vogole (thumbnail sized, so sweet) and mixed seafood antipasti, decent house wine, at Al Mascaron for lunch. We also went to their adjacent wine bar at night for very good wine by the glass with great salume and cheese (try the pecorino!). Nico's gelato, nice location facing the Giudecca but the gelato was only so-so. Another great locals wine bar in Dorosduno--something della Schiave? Tried novello (the Italian new wine, like Beaujolais Nouveau) --blech, really sweet and flabby. Cicchetti at 1 euro a plate, interesting stuff like fresh ricotta crostini with nuts and fresh red currants.
Paris. Divine croissants from Gerald Mulot, fab chaussons aux pommes and macaroons from Laduree. They've recently opened a new shop in the 6th, at the corner of Bonaparte and Rue Jacob. Sweet service (they speak some English) and delicious food at 35 au Rue Jacob--creamy pumpkin soup with chestnuts, braised beef cheeks, tagine of guinea hen (pintade), warm choc cake. About 50 euros for 2, with 2 glasses of wine. Pretty good but slightly overpriced was the nearby Le Rouge Vif. Plus we got seated in the back with 2 tables of loud Americans, even though we speak French. But my fave part was the organic market on Rue Raspail on Sunday morning. More about that later, but it was awesome! We also loved walking around the Marais--a ton of seriously charming-looking restaurants, and lots of happy people in the cafes, some of which were cute and funky (like Au Petit Fer de Cheval) and others which were super-chic. It's all about the tasty vin chaud--mulled wine, the only way to stave off the chill of Paris in the winter. I was also lucky enough to get a pastry/chocolate tour from my pal David Lebovitz, who wrote "Room for Dessert", but more on that to follow.