But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight. ― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
There is a photo of you taken ages ago it seems. Dressed in black, you stand in front of the verdant Place de Vosges because you are the dramatic kind. You live for the extremes; you dwell in disquiet. You tell everyone who will listen that your heart is a landmine — you could blow at any minute. You’ve begun what would soon be a final siren song to your mother, a woman whom you’ve often dreamt about, a woman whose voices was the loudest sound. Both of you had hair like a forest, one could get lost in the thicket of it. So you walked the streets of Paris obsessing over Dostevysky and Sebald, doubles, fractured selves and the many masks you wore. You roamed a museum dedicated to a grown man’s obsession with miniature dancers, and drank wine in the waking hours because anesthesia felt good. Looking back, you see the beauty in all this and the woman that you will inevitably become. You don’t yet know that although life keeps getting hard you keep getting better. But you are young and everything is a massacre. Paris needs to be dramatic. Paris needs to bear the weight of all of your history.
Time passes. Ten years, to be exact. Although you suspected you would become a thirty-six-year-old adult, the reality of it still shocks you. Is this your hand, your face once youthful showing the years? Are these the years that have finally borne the fruits of your labor? Clean conscience, eyes wide open, a heart more forgiving although not forgetful. The ticking is no longer the bomb, and you return to Paris reading Didion’s Where I Was From, because although you are a different woman now there is no hiding from the place from which you’ve come. There is only the memory of it, and your smile and sigh that life did get better. You did get sober. You did find love in your heart.
When considering a holiday I wanted to be efficient. I wanted to visit a place I hadn’t seen, but I couldn’t help but feel drawn to return to Paris. Not because I wanted to see the sights and stand in front of cathedrals, but because France is home to one of my passions — perfect pastries. It’s funny how time sorts things. How I arrived in Paris feeling all noir and dramatic and now all I want to do is find croissants. It’s CRAZY, I tell you. However, I flew in today, am feeling the weight of jetlag, and have probably consumed my weight in carbs and dairy.
As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans. ― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
As soon as I dropped my bags in my room, I raced out to the Marche D’ Aligre market. An open-air market in Paris’ 12 arrondisement, the scene on a Saturday is dramatic with proprietors offering you samples of their wares (think of vendors as procuring and selling their finery in the form of figs, squash, Egyptian pomegranates, and cruciferous greens) while jostling one another (all in good humor). From fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables to delicious cuts of beef and spices, this is definitely the place where many Parisians shop for the week — and believe me when I say that this market is a gastronomic, visual delight. You’ll also want to weave in and out of the shops that line the street — cheese and fish mongers, butchers and speciality shops that left me wondering why I didn’t rent an apartment where I could have made such AMAZING FOOD.
Ravenous, I popped into Le Chat Bossu, a local bistro notable for their epic cheeseburgers and affordable fare. Although my lunch was indeed tasty, I’m not sure I’d sing the cheeseburger praises from the rafters. People often complain about service in Paris, however, I’ve taken a different approach. Parisians appreciate the time it takes for one to consume and enjoy their food. There is no concept of “table turns” and rushing people to the door, rather a meal is a time for leisure so the service tends to be a bit more lax. After a few times in Paris I’ve learned to appreciate the wait.
Perhaps the highlight of my first day in Paris is Bread and Roses. Known as the place to be, the chill-ax cafe features organic and homemade breads, pastries, tarts, tartines and heartier bites. Believe me when I say that I spent TWO HOURS eating, reading, and chatting up the couple next to me. A menu rife with a delicious array of exotic and indigenous teas, I settled on a warm earl grey (it’s chilly in Paris!) paired with a creamy pumpkin soup with a side of jamon + multi-grain bread. And this isn’t the sort of white bread with a pile of sunflower seeds tossed in for good measure — you can taste the depth of the loaf juxtaposed with the salty, paper-thin slices of ham, which served as the perfect foil for the luscious soup. After, I indulged in a chocolate souffle bathed in a vanilla cream sauce. I nearly died. LITERALLY. I snarfed on a “cereal” baguette as I made my way to the Luxembourg Gardens. And although lunch was on the pricey side, the meal and the richness of it, are really worth it.
A friend tipped me off to a child’s delight — La Cure Gourmande. The sweets and biscuit shop finds its roots in a town in the South of France (Balaruc-les-Bains), and now has locations dotted across France, its latest on the quaint streets of Ile Saint Louis. As I type I’m savoring a vanilla biscuit filled with dark chocolate — and this is just the beginning, my sweet friends. From homemade caramels and lemon biscuits to pistachio-infused chocolates to rows of wrapped sweets, the store is a visual feast for the senses. The service was impeccable and the treats affordable and delicious; I cannot WAIT to bring some of these biscuits into the office!!!
After, I wove in and out of shops, smelling flowers, sampling ice-cream, securing cheese samples and champagne grapes. A short walk and I found myself in the Marais district, home to artisanal shops and the famed Comme La Lisbonne. I discovered the small shop on a lark because I always pause where the lines form. I learned that the Portuguese dessert, pastéis de nata, dates back to the fifteenth century. A mix between a creme brulee and light pastry, you’ll enjoy the creaminess of the custard juxtaposed with the light, flaky crust. And after I discovered that David Lebovitz is a fan, I knew I’d struck gold.
Keep popping back daily, as I plan to chronicle my eats from Paris and Provence! If you’ve got any suggestions, please drop them in the comments! I’m looking for recommendations!