Monday, 31 August 2009

Paris Revisited

View from the Hotel Room - Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel

The view of Tour Eiffel from the balcony of our room. Pretty impressive :)

I hadn't been back to Paris since my one and only visit there years ago, probably when I was about thirteen. It's never called out to me. Oddly enough Italy yells out to me with flailing arms and yet I've never been there ... hmm ... so much for "the calling" theory. So a few years on I was ready to put aside memories of a miserable first visit - very probably brought on by a nasty bout of teenage angst - and make another trip to the city of lights, romance and French snobbery at its snottiest. Of course the fact that my father was willing to foot my bill as traveling companion to my stepmother was an incentive too :D

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur - Paris

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur - Paris

One should always do a little of the touristy when on holiday :) The very crowded Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

Off on an early morning train ride on the Eurostar (a first ... which was one of the highlights of the trip ... totally showing off my "provincial-ness" here:) and we were in Paris just after noon. Fear then set in. Oh dear God, I'm going to get yelled at all through the trip, aren't I? I hadn't learnt any pretty French phases to smooth things over when people realised I only spoke dreaded English. Odd this fear of mine since I've survived numerous trips to distant lands and never felt this anxious. For Paris I had only come armed with very prettily practiced "bonjour" and "merci" which, thankfully, kept me alive for the next four days. Only once did I have to extend beyond this to, "deux café au lait, s'il vous plaît" (a charming smile was inserted at this point). In return, I got a barked, "what size? big, small?". In English, no less. Ahh at least I tried :)

Arc de Triomphe/ Champs-Élysées - Paris

The ever majestic Champs-Élysées crowned by the Arc de Triomphe

The Paris of my twenties certainly seemed a lot more charming than the Paris of my teens - delightful as only the French can be, as spread out and huge as I remembered it and as stonkingly hot as London will never be. I loved the French approach to food. Good, fresh food and lots of it. It was salad and dessert galore. On one of the days as I sat resting my aching feet at a cafe I saw a very chic and disgustingly slim young woman sit down and order lunch. Salad and an ice cream sundae. And why ever not? All in moderation. I like that.

1st Day Lunch - Paris

Lunch on the first day, a ham and cheese salad for me. Bread and an apple tart for my stepmum

Oddly enough I hadn't done much foodie research, other than the casual glance through a not very good guide book on the Eurostar. I already knew about Ladurée (but forgot about Pierre Hermé) but was, by chance, reminded of Poilâne. And that was about it. I was happy to just go with the flow. Huge on our holiday menu were salads. Huge, yummy and a whole lot more digestible than confit de canard in the baking heat.

Salade Niçoise - Paris

Dinner one evening - Salade Niçoise with a twist - rice (hidden from view at the bottom of the plate) instead of potatoes and additional corn kernels. I wonder what a purist might say about this?

Salade Nordique - Paris

Dinner one evening - Salade Nordique. Whatever a Nordic salad is but this was good - little prawns, smoked salmon and salmon tartare on half a avocado.

By chance we passed Les Deux Magots along Saint-Germain-des-Prés, alright hardly by chance since we did spend a good few hours walking up and down the road window shopping. Whilst I had a very boring café crème, my stepmother ordered the very Italian affogato, which came with an utterly delicious chocolate hazelnut praline on the side - to be fair I'm biased to almost anything containing chocolate and hazelnuts.

Coffee Break - Paris

Coffee at Les Deux Magots - affagato with a lush chocolate praline on the side.

And in homage to my father, who was stuck in an English country hotel attending a conference, we had his obligatory fruit de la mer - twice. The first was far tastier and cheaper than the second. I usually make it a point never to eat at the most touristy of spots - anything on Leicester Square or Piccadilly is a no-no. Anything off the central area is fine but when you're hot, tired, hungry and not in the mood to have a foreign language tested on you ... a tourist restaurant seems almost heaven sent :) But beware the over-priced, nasty food!

Langoustine - Paris

Fruit de la mer - fresh and reasonably priced.

Fruits de Mer - Champs-Élysées, Paris

Fruit de la mer on our last night - ergh!

Soup De Poisson - Champs-Élysées, Paris

Feeling a little ambitious, we had a fruit de la mer platter as well as a soup each. I got the soupe de poissons, which arrived with all the condiments (rouille, croutons and grated cheese - it was either gruyere or emmental , I wasn't sure which). For about €14, this was nasty!

The one place I did track down was Poilâne. I know there's a branch in London, which I have yet to visit, but it's never quite the same as the original, is it? With a few wrong turns and a terrible sense of direction we finally made it to 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, a quiet unassuming street. Here we were treated to their famous Tartelettes Aux Pommes (apple apple tarts to you and me) - rich, buttery puff pastry topped with sweet, yet sharpish caramalised apples. Nice, very nice. I really must track the Poilâne in London down.

Tartelettes Aux Pommes - Poilâne

Tartelettes Aux Pommes - Poilâne

Beautiful apple tarts.

Purely by chance we passed Fauchon at Place de la Madeleine. With a few minutes to spare before the store closed for the day, we popped in for a quick look around and emerged with a few goodies of our own - little caramel madeline and a oh sooooooooo delicious palmier. Buttery and yet so light and brittle with a thin layer of caramalised sugar. Ahh I'm in love! Utterly gorgeous!

Caramel Madeleine - Fauchon, Paris

Caramel Madeleine - Fauchon, Paris

Caramel madeleine

Palmier - Fauchon, Paris

Palmier - Fauchon, Paris

The utterly delicious palmier - thin layers of buttery, caramelised gorgeousness.

I love paris in the spring time, I love paris in the fall , I love paris in the summer when it sizzles, I love paris in the winter when it drizzles ..............

I think I've become quite fond of Paris ...

But how could I have forgotten my macarons from Ladurée, which survived the track back from Paris. I shared my morsels of goodness with Stuart who slurped with them down. So much for slow, quiet appreciation of food :) We shared all of them so we had a little taster of all the flavours but I'm still not sure which I would call my favourite. I love salty caramel, so those were good. The slightly tart blackcurrant violet had an edge over the raspberry and as much as I dislike my food carrying flowery over/under tones (jasmine doesn't count .... jasmine's just devine lol), I really liked the orange blossom. Ooo I want more of these little darlings! Maybe a trip down to Burlington Arcade tomorrow ....

Macarons - Ladurée, Paris

Macarons - Ladurée, Paris

Macarons from Ladurée - having survived the track back to London. They don't look to have fared very well on the journey but they tasted yummy nonetheless. From top: Raspberry, Blackcurrant Violet, Orange Blossom, Coffee, Bitter Chocolate and Caramel with Salted Butter.


Su-Lin said...

Looks like a most delicious trip! I've now got to hunt down that apple tart in London. Poilane's butter biscuits are also gorgeous!

Luscious Temptations said...

Su-Lin - It was a pretty darn delicious trip. Too delicious for my own good as I keep itching to book a Eurostar ticket :) I keep thinking about those palmiers from Fauchon. We didn't get any of those butter biscuits so that probably another excuse for another visit or to track Poilâne down in London.