We Came, We Saw, We Ate
Having been to Paris before and having already done many of the the big tourist attractions, our mission on this trip was to live like Parisiens, while seeking out the best places to get the things we wanted to eat.
Day Zero – 18 April 2016
Departing from Nashville
Heading to Chicago
The 7 1/2 flight to Paris was made better due to the fact that it was so empty that Audrey and I each had 3 seats to ourselves and could lay down.
Arriving in Paris was a breeze. Immigration was quick and there was no customs.
After getting our checked bag we made our way to the shuttle that took us to the terminal with the train station. We bought a weekly city train/metro/bus pass called the Navigo Decouverte for about 25 dollars. It allows unlimited travel, is a really good deal, and encourages you to explore the city.
We then caught the 30 minute train to the city proper, about 9 stops away, where we transferred to the metro.
Two stops later on the Number 4 metro and we emerged into the bustling neighborhood of le Marais.
A short walk later we were at our hotel, The Hotel Brady, located in the interesting neighborhood of le Marais.
After checking in we set out to get some food.
We walked to a neighborhood called le Canal Saint-Martin to go to what I believe to be the best boulangerie in Paris, the Du Pain et Des Idees. There seems to be a bakery on every corner in Paris, but they are not all equal. Most bakeries go from flour to a loaf of bread in hours. Du Pain et Des Idees uses a traditional technique that takes two days. Going to this boulangerie was a must-do, and we went back several times. Their baguettes were really good and their pastries were absolutely delectable.
We also stopped at a small, neighborhood fromagerie in le Canal Saint-Martin called La Cremerie on the way back to get some cheese. Most French cheese is made from raw milk, which was something we were excited to learn.
La Cremerie had a nice selection of cheeses. The people woking the shop were friendly, as was the case for absolutely everywhere we went. They probably didn’t cater to tourists too much because English was not really understood. Fortunately, our French was good enough to communicate.
Neither Audrey’s or my French is good enough to carry on a real, meaningful conversation, but it seemed that because we tried to use what French we knew when we could people responded to us favorably.
Some of our best experiences were interacting with the French people in shops and cafes.
We called it a day kind of early because we were exhausted from travel and we wanted to be well rested for the next day.
The next day we started out having a coffee and a pain au chocolate in a cafe called Le Parisien that we just stumbled across and thought looked nice.
Our hotel actually served breakfast, but we didn’t go all the way to Paris to eat breakfast in our hotel.
Le Parisien was a very nice cafe with nice people running the place. We went there twice. It wasn’t an overpriced tourist trap as are some cafes in areas heavily trafficed by visitors to the city. Coffee at the bar was a Euro and might have been the best coffee we had on the whole trip. It can be more expensive if you sit at a table because you can sit there all day if you like to people watch and write your novel.
The cafe espress (espresso) was my go-to version of coffee because it’s not something I can make at home and I can drink it without milk and sugar. The young woman in the photo above introduced Audrey to the cafe allonge, which is a better version of the americano. The cafe allonge is made by an espresso machine that is allowed to run longer to add more water through the coffee directly into the cup, as opposed to an americano, which is essentially an espresso to which water is added. There’s a difference.
The total cost for breakfast – 6 Euros.
After breakfast we walked down to a vintage clothing shop called Kilo-Shop Kawaii that sells clothes by the kilo.
Unfortunately, the shop wasn’t open yet so we adjusted our plans.
We decided to check out the Musee D’Orsay and headed off in its direction. Passed Notre Dame on the way.
We then crossed the Seine to the Left Bank…
…and hopped on the Metro for two stops, which seems silly, but because we had the pass we used it.
The Musee D’Orsay was just opening and there was no line when we got there, which was great.
There was a Rousseau exhibition. Got to see this.
Oh, and this, by Manet, which was controversial for its day and is one of my faves.
A friend had recommended eating in the restaurant in the Musee D’Orsay, so we did.
I had foie gras, which was me completely abandoning in the worse way my avoidance of factory farming. It came with some kind of chutney, and was good.
After lunch we decided to have dessert and set out for Jacques Genin, located in one of my favorite neighborhoods called le Haute Marais. It was hard to find and we had virtually given up looking for it when we walked right by it.
It’s an upscale tea salon and is supposed to be among the best chocolate and pastry shops in Paris. It feels kind of like you’re walking into a jewelry store or high-end boutique when you enter.
It was nice place take a break.
It’s reknowned for their mille-feuille and lemon-basil tart, both of which were crazy wonderful. The chocolate didn’t live up to my expectations, though, if I’m honest. I wanted to be wowed. I wasn’t.
Later the same day we returned to le Haute Marais to get some things for dinner.
We went to the Marche des Enfants Rouges for some produce. Built in 1615, it’s the oldest Parisien outdoor market.
Produce seems to be the only thing that seems sort of expensive. However, we’d probably pay the same if Mexicans weren’t working our fields for cheap.
We left with an avocado, an orange, a tomato, and dried dates still on the stem.
We then went next door to Fromagerie Jouannault for some cheese. We got some really good blue cheese.
Before embarking on our trip there were several places we knew we wanted to go to. Caractère de Cochon was one of those places. It’s a cave à jambons – a little shop crammed with traditionally cured hams and sausages, and pates. The selection of jambon (aka prosciuto) was incredible. Solo, the name of the proprietor, was enthusiatic and friendly. He patted his hams with affection when I asked him to describe the differences between his favorites.
We decided to go with French jambon because we were in France. It was aged for 18 months and was delicious.
Solo and his shop was one highlight among many of the trip.
We then walked down the street to Chez Manon, a boulangerie, and bought a baguette for 90 euro cents.
We had coffee at le Perisien and tried the Kilo-Shop again. They had a lot of stuff, but nothing we were looking for.
We then headed to La Crepe Dentelle in the neighborhood of Chatelet. I had read that their crepes were really good.
The place was smallish and felt even smaller because there was very little elbow room and it was packed, but the staff was very nice. We were served hard cider as part of the meal. It was good. I got a little buzz on.
I had two crepes – the ham and cheese, and the Parisien. The Parisien contained a hamburger and a fried egg cooked to perfection. I don’t know how they did that The crepes themselves were more like an envelop filled with stuff than the rolled things I thought crepes were. They were made very well and they were amazingly filling. The crepe part was paper thin, which was impressive. They were pretty good.
After lunch we went to the flagship store of the upmarket French department store chain Les Galeries Lafayette. It’s a ritzy mall filled with expensive designer clothes. It opened in 1912. The ceiling is a glass and steel dome and quite beautiful.
I needed a shirt, but the place was too fancy for me.
We went to the roof to get a view of the city.
That night we went to The Musée des Arts et Métiers. It’s an industrial design museum that was basically just down the street with free admission on Thursday nights. It was pretty cool.
We started the day thinking we were going to take a tour of the canal, but we missed the morning tour and the afternoon tour embarked from another location. We decided to do something different.
We took the metro to the Left Bank and had lunch in a cafe.
After lunch we went to the Musee de Cluny, National Museum of the Middle Ages, which was nearby.
It was pretty cool, but I was hoping they had suits of armor. They didn’t.
After leaving the museum we went to a fromagerie called Quatrehomme in the Left Bank.
It’s one of the top five cheese shops in Paris. The girl behind the counter was very helpful. She suggested a couple different cheeses based on our criteria (must be French and raw) and wrote the order in which to eat them in order to fully appreciate them.
They also sold wine. We bought a very good Chardonnay from Bourgogne, which they opened and recorked for us. The cheeses were great and the experience eating them was incredible. This was another highlight.
We bought some fruit and veg from the neighboring shop, returned to Du Pain et des Idees for bread and pastries and called it a day.
The next day we set out to find the city’s best chouquettes. A chouquette is a type of viennoiserie consisting of a small portion of choux pastry sprinkled with pearl sugar. They are airy and tender and delicious. After some research we headed again to the Left Bank to a boulangerie called Le Quartier du Pain.
Below are the directions to Le Quartier du Pain from Google maps via the Metro. Google maps got us everywhere.
We got two bags filled with a dozen each. Audrey wanted to bring one home, but there was no way they were not going to be gone that very night.
From there we stopped in at a cafe for some coffee before jumping on the Metro and returning to the cheese shop of the previous day to get more cheese and wine. I had done some research and went in with a list of three cheeses that were supposed to be great. The woman who helped us had the air of the owner of the shop and was very helpful. We got all three cheeses.
I have to say, by the end of the trip I was cheesed out.
We then went to the Marche Aligre to get some veg. It was closing down but we got there in time to get some things.
Then we went to the Les Halles shopping mall because I still needed a shirt. This mall was more of what I’m used to, only huge. I ended up buying a simple black t-shirt from a French clothing store called Celio that sells things that are fashionable and affordable. It cost me not even 8 Euro. The shirt has a European cut that I like very much. I should have bought more.
There was a McDonald’s in the mall. You ordered what you wanted on touchscreens. They also sold different kinds of pastries.
Pardon my French, but Paris is fucking amazing
Audrey and I were sad that we had to leave. Five days in Paris just isn’t long enough to do all the things we would like to do there. Parisians in our experience were nothing if not nice. The food was fantastic. The weather was perfect. It was a wonderful trip and somehow I lost 4 or 5 pounds.
Paris’s cobbled streets and old world architecture have charm and character. To live in Paris, to call Paris your home, is to be lucky. Rome is nice. Amsterdam is nice. But Paris…