Thursday, July 15, 2010

Swanning About: The City of Light

After Manchester, Paul was headed to Rotterdam and other Dutch locales to attend to some professional obligations, so I opted to leave him to it and hopped a plane to Paris for a few days of personal indulgence.

I arrived in the midst of a heat wave, a fact I first realized on the train from the airport, which, in true European style, was not air conditioned.  Luckily I keep a fan, which I picked up in Seville a few years back, in my purse.  For fear of coming off as some faux flamenco dancer, I tend not to use it in New York. But french girls seem to have no such compunction, so I did as the locals do and fanned away, all the way to the Seine.

After a short walk through the St-Germain-des-Pres, I arrived at my incredibly well located, very cheap and therefore very funky hotel.  I checked in with Madame downstairs.

-  Vous-etes anglaise?

-  Non, je suis americaine.

-  Ah, j'adore les americaines!

I half expected her to put my twenty euro cash deposit (for what I'm still not sure) in her very ample cleavage.

I was faced with a few stairs.

But after a week of English food, exercise is not necessarily a bad thing so I gamely dragged my suitcase upwards, around and around again.

I arrived in my room to find Ivanka Trump on my wall.

And after I checked out my shower, I spent quite a lot of time trying to find my toilet before realizing that it was across the hall.  But then again I did have an adorable garret window with lace curtains.  And a view of Parisian rooftops above a quaint little street within spitting distance of half of the attractions in Paris.  I kind of liked the place.

After some pre-dinner relaxation I set off for a meal that I had been hotly anticipating for days.  Lauded for its delightful preparations of offal in Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, I could not wait to dine at Ribouldingue.  Situated on a small left bank street a stone's throw from Notre Dame, I was instantly charmed by the establishment's decor, staff and clientele.

Once seated, I was immediately approached by an incredibly sweet waiter who was eager to try out his English on me.  As my French was just about as halting as his English, we were a perfect linguistic match, switching languages when one became too difficult (read: often).  He wasted no time in bringing me the best glass of wine of the trip, the name of which I have tragically forgotten.

I started with a plate of roasted marrow bones.  A bit heavy for the weather, but you see I had a small problem.  For years I loved this dish.  But after a disappointing meal that Paul and I had at Minetta Tavern a while back, which included copious quantities of mediocre marrow bones, I had gone off of them.  I figured if I could rediscover my love for them anywhere it would be here.  And they were indeed delicious, though far too rich given the massive quantity I was handed.

The bones were followed by a lamb's heart preparation which I fell in love with.  The meat, braised in a surprisingly light broth flecked with bits of fresh green herbs, was plump, juicy and gorgeously toothsome.  I used the entire bread basket (and then some) to sop up the delectable juice.

In an effort to balance out all of this decadence I opted for the most refreshing grapefruit and Campari jelly dessert.  Blessedly cool and bitter, it was studded with morsels of ruby red grapefruit and drizzled with creme anglaise (very important to include some fat in each and every dessert I think).  Between the revelatory food and the friendly couple from Montreal with whom I chatted all evening, I was positively smitten with my experience.

Apres dinner, I strolled about a bit, enjoying the shockingly late sunset and the consistently gorgeous sights.  I am still terribly jealous of whoever has this top floor apartment with french doors leading out to a balcony overlooking the Ile de Cite.

The whole city just felt like a sophisticated, sparkling party--one that is so fun you refuse to leave until the sun comes up.

The next day I awoke to a continuation of the heat wave.  In an effort to escape the Parisian oven, I headed out to Giverny to contemplate the water lilies in the shade of weeping willows.

The famous lilies were indeed blooming

but not much else was.

Still, I could see how Monet must have found endless inspiration in this place.  I mean the porch alone was pure rapture.

After a couple of hours among the plantings it was back to gay Paris, where I made a bee-line for the famous Rose Bakery in the 9th Arrondissement.

After contemplating the purchase of the establishment's cookbook for so long, I could hardly come to Paris without giving the place a try, now could I?

Housed in an old garage, the space is long and narrow, and when I came, it was nigh filled with crates of produce.

Clearly I had come towards the end of service, so I settled for the bits and pieces that were left over from lunch.  The salads were incredible, and I cannot remember consuming a dessert as quickly as I consumed their pineapple cake.  If these were the bits and pieces I can't even imagine the main events.  I will be purchasing the cookbook post haste.

Given that my main activity that day had been so cliched and touristy, I figured I ought to embrace the fact, and continue the tourist theme into the evening;  I headed to the famed Cafe de Flore for an early dinner.  The food was nothing to write home about and the service was a bit dismissive but the people watching was fantastic.  And I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with my friendly neighbors...a movie producer and his vaguely employed friend.  After taking the man's card I'm still not clear what his occupation is, but he did apparently know the owner of the largest jazz club in Paris.  I told him that regrettably I was not a fan of jazz!

The next day I awoke to gloom.

Steady rain.  But I could not bear to stay inside all day, so I borrowed Madame's massive umbrella (really, it must have been the heaviest umbrella in Paris) and headed to the right bank.  I simply had to check out the famed G. Detou.

Loads of foodstuffs packed into a surprisingly small shop.  I came away with some loot, let me tell you.  And around the corner I came upon a cookbook store, and was amused to find a book on American cooking titled "Yes We Cook!".  However, I could not bring myself to purchase a book which grouped Florida and California into the same "region".

Presently I made my way to Pierre Herme, which I idiotically missed the last time I was in Paris, as I fulfilled my macaron craving at Laduree.  Judging by the line this is Paris's version of the Magnolia Bakery.

Let me tell you, they got the better end of the bargain.

Macarons in hand, I headed back to my hotel and surveyed my purchases.

The best macarons known to man,

medicinal (but more importantly, delicious smelling) herbal tea,

an unfamiliar chocolate brand,

and totally unfamiliar mustard variety.

I cannot wait to give this pot of purple paste a try.

After gorging myself on macarons, I could think of only one appropriate dinner...oysters!  It was off to the 11th Arrondissement.

One of the more fantastic waiters in Paris served me what I can only assume are some of the more fantastic oysters in Paris at L'Ecailler du Bistrot.  I walked nearly all the way home, enchanted with the street performers, the lights, the buildings, and oh all of those top floor apartments with the fabulous french doors!

The next day I was determined to make a day trip out to Reims to see the renowned cathedral and drink some champagne in the region from whence it comes.  But after dawdling at the train station for far too long, I realized that in fact I had no desire to travel.  The weather in Paris was just too perfect and it was my last day in town!

So I headed down to a farmer's market...why had I been wasting my time doing anything else?!  The market was, as one might expect, phenomenal.  The produce was luscious and fragrant and the cheese was oozing and pungent and the pastries...oh don't get me started!  I picked up provisions for the day, and after a quick stop at the Centre Pompidou (admission was free that day)

I headed to the spot I had really wanted to be all this time, to the spot I've been pining over since I last visited this beguiling city...the Jardins de Luxembourg.  Best park in the world, hands down.  No offense to Central Park of course, but come on.

Between the perfectly groomed walkways lined with moveable furniture,

those crazy square trees that the french adore (as do I, it must be said),

the lawns designated for lounging and relaxation,

and the apiaries (!)

there just is no comparison.

I spent the afternoon eating

and reading a book about love.  I practically melted from pleasure.

Later on, I came quite close to grabbing a famous Parisian falafel for my last dinner in the city, but at the last minute opted for a traditional meal in a very traditional bistro.  Discovery of the evening?  I love tomato mousse.  I ambled around the corner from my dinner spot to check out this falafel place about which I have heard so much, and was so glad I had made the decision I did...

...the line was worse than at Pierre Herme!

I spent the rest of the evening wandering the old Jewish quarter, nearly weeping with despair at the prospect of leaving the city.  Like New York (but different), it just gets under your skin and stays there, imploring you to return.  Which I shall.


Sneaky Magpie said...

Sounds like you had some quality time with yourself! Everything looks divine, I miss Paris already!

Mlle Paradis said...

i was just there too! we must have crossed paths. it had been 7 years since the last visit. i thought i might just be "over" Paris since we've had so many lovely adventures elsewhere the past few years. but so not possible! and those late summer nights don't hurt! really such a happy town despite the hot weather and the summer crowds........

materfamilias said...

We were in Paris about the same time as you -- we've visited in the spring the last few years and were worried about going in July. As you found, even with the heat and the tourists, it's still a wonderful city. You've shared some lovely discoveries that I'll note for our next visit.
I should point out that the lineup at L'as du Falafel moves surprisingly quickly and their food is delicious!! Sounds as if your meal was a wonderful alternative though.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Wow! Thanks for taking us along on this wonderful visit, Laura. Sounds like a great time, and the hotel seems totally charming. Next time you're there, you should also make time to stop by perhaps the oddest shop in Paris, an ancient taxidermy business called Deyrolle. They have everything from butterflies to baby elephants and are happy to let you roam around and take pictures.

Robin said...

Aw, making me nostalgic for our trip there. And that campari dessert sounds wonderful - so few people have a taste for it. I admit I love the bitter herbal liquours.

Next time I hit up Paris I WILL see the catacombs however!

Aron said...

That restaurant sounds amazing!

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Laura what a magnificent visit and I leave your blog being incredible hungry and looking forward to hearing more about your visit to the most magical of places in our world. Safe travels to you ~

My Farmhouse Kitchen said... a trip..i just loved EVERYTHING !!!!!

I HAVE to get that cookbook too

i loved all the food talk...wonderful...

i have missed visiting with you, my friend

so happy to stop by today


Meroe said...

Wonderful to read about your trip to a city I absolutely adore. It's hard to think Paris is so hot at the moment. Giverny is divine - great photos!

wild thyme flowers said...

Laura, what a wonderful post ! I felt I was right there with you. I love Paris.

Millie said...

The best piece of food/travel writing I've read in ages! Laura you star girl.
Millie ^_^

Blog Widget by LinkWithin