I’ll start with an update – we’re expecting a new member to join our family in a few months. In the meanwhile this tiny sprout has totally disrupted my life, but thanks to her we went to Paris for a long weekend. It took us two years to allow ourselves a short vacation abroad after our first child was born and four years after the second, and although we’re not yet sure if it’s going to turn into a geometric or an arithmetic series (the latter is courtesy of my husband, since I’m not into series that involve numbers), but it looks like we’re in for a long wait before another opportunity arrives.
So as the first trimester hell came to an end, I plunged into planning a trip to Paris. One of the advantages of going to the same place for the fifth time is that you no longer feel obliged to go to the ‘must-see’ touristic locations, so instead of trying, unsuccessfully, to see the Mona Lisa you can spend your Sunday morning watching the Parisians jog in the Luxembourg Gardens while eating a sandwich and drinking coffee.
By now you probably understand that this became kind of a gastronomic trip, because I had to compensate myself both for the last three months of chicken soup and for the years ahead. It is well known that there’s no arguing with a pregnant and hormonal lady, so that was decided. I picked some recommendations from magazines and blogs (mostly from David Lebovitz), found a nice hotel in Saint Germain – my favorite neighborhood – made Excel charts (yes, I’m that deranged) and felt ready to start satisfying my hunger for everything.
Here comes a not so short summary of the most interesting and yummy things from our trip followed by some smartphone pictures.
Day 1 (Thursday) Saint Germain des Prés
We arrived in the afternoon and like the very hungry caterpillar realized that we have to look for food. A quick peek into the excel and Cuisine de Bar, which was really close to us on rue du Cherche Midi, was chosen. It’s a little bistro that serves mainly tartines – warm or cold open sandwiches made with huge slices of sourdough bread from the next-door bakery, Poilâne. We ordered a Saint-Marcellin and jambon tartine and another with smoked salmon – both were great (well, perhaps the first one was a little better). Then we hopped into Poilâne and got a warm slice of a wonderful and delicate flan with thin shortcrust pastry, and I think that at this stage our feelings of guilt for deserting the children have begun to evaporate.
In the evening, after a stroll in the neighborhood we went to L’Avant Comptoir, a tiny bistro of Yves Camdeborde that one enters through plastic door strips with a drawing of a pig (sounds promising, isn’t it?). There is a feeling of a cool and crowded party as you stand by the counter chatting away while noshing on some sausage, cheese or anything from the variety of appetizers and zipping wine.
I soon realized that my perfect planning didn’t take into the account two things: first that I’m pregnant and need a lot of rest and second that I can’t really drink wine, since I’m pregnant after all. So I had to come to terms with reality and to be content with a couple of zips from the perfect Gamay wine we had.
Day 2 (Friday) Les Halles & Le Marais
In the morning we stopped at G. Detou, a confectioners’, bakers’ or any foodie’s paradise shop. I bought Valrhona cocoa powder (and now I know how a real cocoa powder is supposed be) and some other cool tasty things.
Then we went to the Museum of Art and History of Judaism that is showing a comprehensive exhibition of Roman Vishniac (until 15.01.15), a Russian-Jewish photographer that managed to escape to the US in 1939. This fascinating exhibition follows Vishniac’s photographic work from the 1920s in Berlin till the 70s in America, while the majority of the exhibition is centered on a series of photographs of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe in the 30s, a project commissioned by The Joint. It’s a remarkable testimony to the world that completely disappeared just a few years later. If you can’t make it to the exhibition, there is an on-line archive of Vishniac’s works.
Just a few paces from the museum we discovered a lovely garden inside the compound of the Musée des Archives Nationales full of pretty yellow dry leaves. Another short walk brought us to the Marché des Enfantes Rouges, the oldest covered food market in Paris, that had an impressive variety of international food stalls. We went for the French option – a galette (savory buckwheat flour pancake) with jambon, cheese and fried onions.
From all the shops we visited that day I’d like to mention just another one, La Trésorerie, a great shop of homeware goods, a majority of which is made in France or Europe. Naturally, I couldn’t leave it empty-handed.
Just before dark we arrived at Du Pain et Des Idées, and though it’s not the best time for a bakery we still managed to grab some of the last escargot on the display – with lemon, with red berries and crème fraîche and with pralines. I’m lucky that I live so far away; otherwise I’d have been in real trouble.
Day 3 (Saturday) 12 arrondissement
We went to the food market Le Marché d’Aligre, and just before getting there stopped at the Blé Sucré bakery for a coffee with a slice of cake with prunes and a couple of madeleines (a small cake with almonds). Across the bakery there is a small public garden where local parents played with their children, and while munching on the best ever buttery madeleine I wandered how come they stay so thin; probably because they don’t devour madeleines like me.
During the weekend Le Marché d’Aligre accommodates in addition a small flea market, so there is a covered market and a flea market on Place d’Aligre and a long row of fruit, vegetable and flower stalls along the Rue d’Aligre. The sellers in the covered market are French so it’s very quiet, but outside they are mostly Moroccan or Algerian, and their shouting made me feel like home. Mingling with the locals shopping for the weekend, inevitably, inspired me to buy some perfectly sweet black grapes, two small goat cheeses and a baguette – due to the cold weather everything survived nicely for our light supper that was supplemented with a bottle of wine from the wine shop next door.
For lunch we went to a butcher shop/small restaurant, Boucherie des Provinces, just off the Place d’Aligre. It’s a perfect stop for meat lovers, because that’s the only thing on the menu, but even non-meat-lovers (like me) may find out that sometimes it can be really good, especially if it’s a juicy hamburger with crispy bacon.
Day 4 (Sunday) 1 and 11 arrondissement
On Sunday almost everything is closed except for museums and galleries, so it seemed reasonable to make it an art day. In retrospect it was a mistake since we’re not the only ones that came to this conclusion. However, before joining the swarms of tourists on our way to Jeu de Paume at the end of the Tuileries Gardens, we had a really nice walk in the Luxembourg Gardens surrounded by jogging Parisians and watched a group of men and a couple of kids sailing small boats in the fountain using what looked like a very serious equipment.
Luckily the line in front of Jeu de Paume was still bearable, and we saw a great exhibition of Garry Winogrand’s photographic works (until 08.02.15). Winogrand’s street photography in different cities in America between the 50s till the 80s is a fascinating historical and sociological record of that period, and it was also, chronologically, sort of a continuation of Vishniac’s exhibition who worked in the States after the war.
Instead of trying to get into Niki de Saint Phalle’s exhibition, we gave up and took the metro to a seafood bistro Clamato (an offspring of Septime). It’s a really nice and unpretentious place that offers small to medium sized servings (on Falcon enamel plates), which makes it easy to sample a few of them. Even the non-seafood-lover liked it there a lot, so that says it all. For dessert I had a maple tartlet with Chantilly cream, and felt like my mission in Paris has been accomplished.
Day 5 (Monday) Saint Germain des Prés
Our flight to Tel Aviv was leaving in the afternoon, so in the morning we had time to visit the gourmet store, La Grande Épicerie de Paris. It’s quite impossible to leave it empty handed; therefore, we left with our hands full with foodie mementoes of France that we could take home. And now I’m wondering what should I do with smoked salt flakes – maybe put them on cheese crackers – and what kind of dessert should I make with crème de marrons – perhaps a tart?
I came home a little less hungry and proud of myself that, surprisingly, this time I wasn’t embarrassed to speak in not-so-perfect French that somehow rose from the depths of memory.
Poilâne, 8 rue du Cherche-Midi
Cuisine de Bar, 8 rue du Cherche-Midi
L’Avant Comptoir, 9 Carrefour de l’Odéon
G. Detou, 58 Rue Tiquetonne
Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, 71, rue du Temple
Musée des Archives Nationales, 60 Rue des Francs Bourgeois
Marché des Enfantes Rouges, 39 Rue de Bretagne
La Trésorerie, 11 Rue du Château d’Eau
Du Pain et Des Idées, 34 Rue Yves Toudic
Le marché couvert Beauvau (Le marché d’Aligre), Place d’Aligre
Blé Sucré, 7 Rue Antoine Vollon
Boucherie des Provinces, 20 Rue Aligre
Jeu de Paume, 1 place de la Concorde
Clamato, 80 rue de Charonne
La Grande Épicerie de Paris, 38 Rue de Sèvres