Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Paris: Day 2

Andi and I woke up Thursday morning feeling rested and ready to enjoy a full day in Paris. Somehow we both managed to sleep 13 straight hours, waking for the day at 10:00am! I can't remember the last time we slept so long. I'm sure the time change and jet lag had some to do with it. We hadn't slept the night before since we flew in on the red-eye.

Hungry and ready to get a jump-start on the day, we walked down the street in our Marais neighborhood in search of coffee and croissants. A small Parisian cafe on the corner looked perfect, so we found a table inside. 

Our street - Rue de Rosiers  

Andi ordered a cappuccino, I had an americano and we split a flaky croissant. We asked for two, actually, but our order was lost in translation. A guy seated at the table next to ordered cheesecake with (what I assume to be) a delicious strawberry sauce drizzled over top, and I couldn't help but think how much I enjoy being in a place where desserts are such an everyday part of life. Bread, coffee, chocolate, wine - my favorite things!

A friend of Andi's recommended a restaurant called Grand Coeur for lunch, so we decided to start walking toward that direction. After all, we'd started our day so late it was almost lunchtime! Paris is such a walkable city and since we've only been here once before six years ago, there's so much to take in. Last time we were in Paris in December, the weather was cold and rainy but this trip, the weather has been rather pleasant - around 45 degrees with sunshine. Obviously summertime would be ideal, but thankfully we're dressed appropriately so walking outdoors for hours isn't an issue. 

Grand Coeur turned out to be an excellent choice for lunch. The cozy restaurant situated within a courtyard was tucked away from the street-view hustle and bustle. We arrived around Noon and had no issue getting a table. Andi and I enjoyed wine and some of the tastiest food we'd eaten on our trip thus far. He ordered the lamb and I selected a steak with salad. We also shared a plate of scallops and every single bite was amazing.

Following lunch, Andi and I rode the Metro to Paris' Montmarte area. This area of Paris is famous for its artists and shops, and was on our list of places to get lost for the afternoon. We spent a few hours happily wandering the streets and stopped for espresso at a cafe in Saint George square. 

Later we met up with Natasha, a Parisian food and wine expert, we'd hired to take us on a secret tour of her favorite spots in neighborhood. Another couple from Venezuela and a woman from China were also part of our tour. Together, the six of us spent the early evening strolling along Rue des Martyrs, one of the best food streets in all of Paris.

Rue des Martyrs is named after Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris, who is said to have loved food, wine and women. According to the legend Natasha shared with us at the beginning of the tour, Saint Denis was beheaded in the market square and somehow managed to walk several miles through Paris with blood dripping from his head carried in his hands. The blood trail along the streets sprouted the many great restaurants along the avenue.

Our first stop during the tour was to Chataignier, a dairy shop that's been in business for over 50 years. Natasha spent her childhood in the neighborhood and shared her memories of shopping at this very cheese shop for her family's cheese, eggs and milk. She shared information about the production of cheese this time of year as we sampled cheese with a wine pairing. Andi's favorite was the black truffle brie only produced this time of year.

Next, we walked a few doors down to a local jam shop called La Chambre aux Confitures. Nothing from the outside store front would have caused us to give this store a second look, but the second we stepped inside - oh my goodness! - the comfort and warmth were truly overwhelming. Tiny jars of jam were arranged on floor-to-ceiling shelves in a way that made it feel more like shopping for fancy perfumes than jam. Natasha invited us to take several sampling spoons as she passed around jars of some of her favorite local, fresh-made jams. Each taste was simply amazing! Our favorite was the champagne and strawberries. A traditional Parisian breakfast includes a fresh baguette with butter and jam, and now having sampled its vibrant flavor it's easy to see why.

The next shop we visited was that of Sebastien Gaudard, a highly-regarded pastry chef. We sampled chocolate eclairs as we wandered around his beautiful patisserie. It all felt very Parisian!

If that wasn't enough, our next stop was to Henri Le Roux, the chocolatier who famously invented the salted caramel. The chic elegance of this shop, with hundreds of perfectly square-sized chocolates displayed underneath a movable glass case, made it feel like we were shopping for diamonds in a jewelry store. We each sampled a few different pieces of chocolates infused with various spices before trying his delicious salted caramel chocolate.

For a more savory sampling, we visited a shop next door (which I sadly forgot the name of) for charcuterie. Natasha passed around samples of various cured meats to try with a pairing of red wine. I don't think we'd have noticed this store in passing, and never would have entered in to purchase anything. That's what made Natasha's food tour so fun - to see and experience things from a local perspective.  

Next, more desserts from a newcomer to the Parisian pastry scene, Laurent Favre-Mot. His pastries are viewed more "edgy" and less traditional by French food critics, according to Natasha. We sampled two different items there which were both decadent.

Our last stop was by Popelini, a modern-style bakery serving one of Paris' trendiest desserts - a cream puff filled with different flavored custard. Natasha called macaroons passe in France; the dessert Parisians bring to a dinner party now is choux a la creme. We each ordered one one and split it amongst the group. Oh my goodness, I'm not sure if it was the intense food como we'd reached by this point, but these little desserts were so sweet. Whoo!

Our small group wandered back to the Saint George metro station and said farewell. Andi and I both agreed Natasha's tour of the Rue des Martyrs one of our most enjoyable travel experiences. A definitely must when visiting Paris!

Now stuffed to the brim, Andi and I could've easily called it an early evening ... but we were in Paris! We had to make the most of our last evening there, so we bundled up and decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower. Distance-wise, the Eiffel Tower was about 4 miles away from our rented apartment in the Marais neighborhood and our walk would lead us along the scenic Seine River. Our walk may have been one of my favorite memories of Paris this trip. Andi and I walked and talked and took in all the beautiful sights lit up at night.

Hotel de Ville

Seine riverfront

The Eiffel Tower from a distance

After visiting the Eiffel Tower, Andi and I concluded it's much more magnificent to view from afar. There's a secured entry and exit around the Eiffel Tower now which wasn't there when we visited six years ago. (That's a good thing, I suppose, given events in today's world.) But, it was honestly the only time in our two-day visit to Paris when I ever felt unsafe.

As we approached the entrance, a young man bust through the gate with a security guard chasing after him. She was shouting something at him in French, so I have no idea what he did wrong, but it left an uneasy feeling in both Andi and I's stomachs. Then, standing underneath the Eiffel Tower with metal gates closing us in all directions, I felt claustrophobic. As we left, peddlers selling tiny Eiffel Tower statues pestered us to buy their junk. It all felt ... yucky, and I far preferred our peaceful, romantic view along the Seine river.   

Andi and I rode the Metro back to the Marais neighborhood and grabbed a falafel to-go from L'au Du Fallafel outside our apartment building. It's surprising we were even hungry again after our food tour earlier, but we were. Our last night in Paris came to the perfect end over take-out and iTunes episodes of Mom.

Tomorrow - Belgium!

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