Or how I ate in Paris.
This post is about a trip to Paris in 2009, travelling for the joy of it, not dictated by work, not a family trip, just my ‘friend’ and I.
I dream of food in Paris – soft, flaky croissants with shells that rain confetti on your clothes, flaking soft, crunch with every bite. I dream of both the brown crunch (does crunch have colour, does colour make a difference to crunch?) and the chewy creamy, buttery core that I like especially when it’s laced with almond paste. Laced, stuffed, full. Not till bursting, and not merely a lick, like a scant tablespoon or so, sitting soft and fragrant, nutty in the centre.
Many years ago, I went to Paris on a 4-day girls trip with a lady who for many reasons I can no longer call friend. It was my first non-work, holiday, choosing-to-go-away-mum’s trip away from my young children at that time and I’ll never forget it. I missed them and I loved Paris – two realities :).
I first visited Paris in 1999 as a university student, from Liverpool. My greatest triumph re food was that the French fries at MacDonald’s were truly French – better than I’d ever had, but then I was not the discerning food lover that I happened to be on this mom-alone trip.
This time, I was ready to eat Paris proper, like the guide books recommended, 10 years not-too-late.
Every morning of our stay, my travel partner and I left the Hotel de Nesle, our 1-star home away from home in the heart of St Germain. Its appeal apart from the location was the decor from hanging flowers at the reception to wall murals and everything else but it was basic. Super basic – shared bathrooms, no food but we loved it, absolutely loved it. It is walking distance to all the sights – the Louvre, Notre Dame (RIP), Forum les Halles and almost everywhere we had plans to see, save for the Arc d’Triomphe and the Eiffel tower, which we could see from everywhere, almost every hour of the day.
Staying at a hotel that didn’t serve food gave us the freedom to discover all the deliciousness there was to be had on the streets of Paris.
Le Petit Dejeuner – Breakfast
I was a bit shocked at the breakfast offerings. I expected continental spreads and greasy fry-ups in the cafes we chose but that was not the case though had we chosen to dine at the Ritz; it would have been a markedly different story, I dare say. One thing we did find in abundance was croissants and other patisserie delights and that’s what we settled for. On day one it seemed like making do but by the day 2, we were so into it and ended up enjoying the leisure of simple choices to begin the day. I say simple but…simply delicious.
The great thing though was the fact that we drank loads and loads of tea. And that suited us to a T. My surprise then to discover the ‘café au bar’ principle. We found that a lot of cafes we stopped at had various prices and the cheapest cup of coffee or tea to be had was au comptoir or au bar.
Dejeuner – Lunch
Can you go to Paris and not have Baguettes or Moules Frites for Lunch?
In Betweens and Betwixts
Of course, you can’t also be in Paris and not think street food – a la Crepes. It was so much fun watching these thin ‘pancakes’ being made.
We also encounted Canneles – my first real life view, after reading about them at C&Z.
I found them delicious, caramelly, chewy, moist – a delightful taste and texture experience, not to mention the shapes.
Choquettes too. I tasted. Nice, light airy. Whatever you do, don’t leave them at the bottom of your bag, any bag or you’ll be having squashettes which are not terribly interesting, I tell you.
We grew to love the Café Pont Neuf – a cafe near the Pont Neuf, where I had my best meal in Paris – Confit de Canard.
It was lovely.
And mind you, I’m not saying that is the best preserved duck to be had in Paris but it was the best I’d ever had.
So there, my favourite Paris eats from ages ago. I can’t wait to go back. Do you have memories of Parisien deliciousness? Share them so I can build that list for the next visit x