For the last 10 years I’ve been making homecoming pilgrimages to Paris – sometimes alone, sometimes with a few girlfriends (or sister!) in tow, and always just for a long weekend. Instead of spending hours in line for museums or tourist attractions, I prefer to meander around my old neighborhood (le 6ème/St-Germain), visit old friends, trek out to the St-Ouen flea market, and devour every crumb of creative and culinary inspiration. Paris is a feast for the senses as well as the soul! I return home exhausted but reinvigorated. And interestingly – despite the daily consumption of whole milk cafés au lait, baguettes with butter, cheese, pastries and chocolate – I somehow come back 3 pounds lighter. (The key, apparently, is walking 8+ miles per day, as tracked by my Fitbit.) Here’s a little taste of my most recent trip. Bon appétit!
You can pack in a lot of Paris in a weekend. My usual itinerary is a redeye flight on Wednesday night and morning flight Sunday that gets me home in the afternoon.
After dropping our bags at the charming Hotel Odéon Saint-Germain, my sorority sister Brenda and new friend Sarah headed out for our first meal in Paris: breakfast at Les Deux Magots Café facing the Eglise St-Germain-des-Prés. We all order cafés au lait – STAT! And then omelettes, which are works of art on a plate: light and fluffy, without a brown scorch in sight, and fringed with a lightly dressed green salad. And because I’m in Paris, I must order a tartine – toasted baguette with French butter and jam. (Shown above.) Toast and jam just never tastes this good at home.
Around the corner from Les Deux Magots is one of my favorite galleries to visit, Galerie Martine Namy-Caulier.
Here you can browse through portfolios of dozens of artists and maybe find a chic souvenir to take home. Since the pieces are unframed, they’re easy to transport.
I bought this small mixed media piece:
After the gallery and a quick stop back at the hotel, we set out towards the Eiffel Tower. On the way, we take in the the sights, admire the architecture, and pick up a chocolate éclair (voted “Best in Paris!”) for later.
I held out until around 4 p.m.; this éclair rocked. The memories of the intense bittersweet (80%) chocolate pastry cream filling and deep dark ganache blanket still give me the shivers. The best in Paris? I’ll have to do more sampling.
Inspiration is everywhere we look. Mini table bouquets and interesting hyacinth bulb blocks catch our attention; these would be fun to try making with Quikrete and milk carton moulds.
We make it to the Eiffel Tower for a quick photo shoot. Here’s our album cover attempt:
Exhausted from the walk, we decide to hop in a pedicab to cross the Seine and head towards the Champs-Elysées.
We’re meeting my friend Kelly who lives in the 1st arrondissement, so we walk down the Champs-Elysées towards the Place de la Concorde.
Then we passed the eclectic store Colette, which was packed with tourists and Fashion Week peeps.
We met Kelly at her apartment and then headed back out for a light “tapas” dinner down the street at Da Rosa (7, rue Rouget de Lisle, 1st).
Then it was time for the main event of the evening:
Yes, that’s the Moulin Rouge. Now I can say I did it. And it wasn’t as cheesy as I had feared; actually the spinning duo on roller skates was pretty amazing.
A quick Uber ride back to the hotel and that wrapped up our first day!
The second day was more of the same: walking, gawking, shopping, eating.
For breakfast we went to Café Flore, next to Les Deux Magots on the Boulevard St-Germain. Our scientific omelette experiment determined that the texture of those at Deux Magots was superior, but the cheese used chez Flore was more redolent and gratifying.
What should’ve been a quick stop at the Pharmacie de Babylone (6 Rue de Babylone, 7th) turned into an extended layover. The super-friendly staff gave us an overview of French skin care lines and we stocked up on all-natural, anti-aging products from Caudalie. We also discovered the chic Read Loop reading glasses and all bought a pair. A very practical souvenir for the over-40 set!
Next stop was my favorite food store: La Grande Epicérie de Paris/Le Bon Marché (38 Rue de Sèvres, 7th). No sign of the Barefoot Contessa, who also raves about this place, but plenty of Parisians were stocking up for the weekend.
What did I buy? That could really be a separate post. In a nutshell: my favorite mustard (Edmond Fallot), onion confit, raspberry jam, cookies for the girls, paper-thin savory crepe crackers, tart shells, cookie “spoons”, apricot nectar (for bellini cocktails, maybe), fleur de sel (flaky sea salt) . . . you get the idea. Some of these products can be found in the U.S. (merci, Amazon!), but usually for double the price. Fear not: I’ve packed an extra duffel bag for the trip home.
Back to the streets, where spring is emerging.
Pre-dinner pastis (anise-flavored spirits) and olives sampling at Provençal restaurant, Chez Janou. (2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 3rd)
Then dinner at Les Fondus de la Raclette for some stinky, melty cheese heaven. (107 Avenue Parmentier, 11th) You melt your own cheese in a mini nonstick pan, then slide it onto your potato and fixings of choice.
More café au lait and tartines to start off the morning, this time at Le Bonaparte. (across the square from Les Deux Magots; 42, rue Bonaparte, 6th)
Then it’s off to Les Puces! The massive, sprawling flea market at St-Ouen is always one of the highlights of the weekend. Kelly was très sympa to drive us out there, saving us the Uber fare or 45-minute métro ride. (More photos from the flea market can be found here in my earlier Paris post.)
After lunch at the flea market and a little more shopping back in Paris, it was time for our send-off dinner. We met my niece Tara (in town for a grad school boondoggle) and friend from yesteryear Tiffany at Restaurant Itinéraires (5 Rue de Pontoise, 5th), a small farm-to-table “modern French” restaurant with a Michelin star to boot. At first glance of the menu I panicked, because the options were very limited. You could choose among two starters (entrées) and main courses (plats), or go for the multi-course tasting menu which sounded more interesting. “Go big before you go home,” we say, so we opted for the tasting menu and never looked back. Even though there were some things on the menu that I normally would not order (i.e., chicken hearts), every course was a visual and sensual thrill.
Shaved cauliflower fortress surrounding a cauliflower mousse; parmesan foam, balsamic glazed chicken hearts, and I forget what else; Jerusalem artichoke and potato purée with an herb emulsion; chocolate and ice cream, one of several desserts presented with the tasting menu. Photo credits: Tara Walter.
Day 4: Return Home
Even with a late morning flight home, there was still time for one last boulangerie run.
Just down the rue de Buci is the Boulangerie Carton (6, rue de Buci, 6th), which thankfully is open on Sundays. I guarantee that one of these ham & cheese sandwiches will be better than anything you’ll get on the plane ride home.
If you ask nicely, you can get one of these tarte aux framboises wrapped up in a 3-sided carton.
Demi baguettes, brioches, and pains au chocolat travel well and are always appreciated by the family. (A few minutes in the oven or toaster oven bring them back to Parisian glory.)
Au revoir, Paris! I’ll be back.
[Special acknowledgement and thanks to my loving husband and daughters for their continued support of these therapeutic “Mommy Paris Weekends”. Je vous aime !]