Chasing rainbows in Paris

carousel-jardin-des-tuileriesParis has always been romanticised by writers and travellers alike. Perhaps so much so that it falls short of expectations for some, but my heart was swayed by the connection that my sister had with this beautiful, pink-hued city. I had no intentions to go anywhere but London, but Allen reminded me of how much Liz loved Paris and how she and I had planned to meet there in five months times. So, we caught the Eurostar train from London and after three short hours, we found ourselves in the heart of Paris.

We stayed in a cosy apartment in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and after dropping off our bags, we made our way to Du Pain et Des Idées; the patisserie where Kate, from Melbourne’s beloved Lune Croissanterie, found her buttery calling. It was somewhere my sister had always wanted to visit, but her last weekend trip did not coincide with their weekday-only opening hours. I remember tearfully recounting my visit to Kate and admitted to her that whilst Du Pain et des Idess croissants were delicious, they didn’t come close to the ones at Lune Croissanterie. It was still worth the trip there, with an impressive spread of pastries and their famous nutty friendship bread “le pain des amis”. English was not spoken by any staff at the boulangerie but our hand signals succeeded with us walking out with three full bags.

du-pain dupain

We spent the remainder of the afternoon gorging on platter after platter of the freshest oysters at Huitrerie Régis (no reservations, first come first serve basis) and marvelling at the architecture that towered over us at around every corner. Actually, overeating was consistent throughout our whole trip.

The next morning was spent browsing through La Grande Epicerie au Bon Marché, wasting more time than anticipated getting lost in the never-ending aisles filled with exquisite gourmet produce. With our supplies in tow, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. The quintessential symbol of France appeared even more impressive in real life, set off against the azure blue sky. We spent the rest of the morning people watching and being watched ourselves, whilst enjoying our breakfast picnic of foie gras d’oie (goose liver), prosciutto, chèvre with ash (goats cheese), strawberries, a fresh baguette and some beautiful desserts we found at a small patisserie nearby. That was our only day of unrelenting sunshine in Paris. The rest of our days were spent chasing rainbows and dodging the rain.

It was almost a bit frantic and overwhelming because it felt like one would need to eat every two minutes in order to make the most of Paris’ food scene. So, we did what any sane person would do and made every attempt to buy and try everything that caught our eyes. One of our favourite sweet treats in Paris were the delightful pastel-coloured choux à la crème (cream puffs) at Odette and the decadent chocolates at Patrick Roger Chocolatier.

While our trip wasn’t intended to be monument-centric, we managed to tick off quite a few whilst exploring the city tirelessly on foot. The metro system in Paris is circular so catching the metro in specific directions wasn’t as convenient as we had hoped for, so a book of ten t+ metro tickets each (14,10€) proved to be ample for our three days there.

Melbourne, our home city, cultivates the perfect balance between dedication and obsession when it comes to coffee so most cafes pale in comparison. Nevertheless, we tried and found a few lovely spots in Paris that were nice – Coutume cafe, Ten Belles and Loustic. We took this time to rest our aching feet, take a breath and pretend as if we were locals, for just a moment.
Our degree of French went no further than a few phrases but it proved to be satisfactory when making reservations at restaurants and ordering sweets. All were more than happy to put us out of our miseries after the attempts turned into mutilating their beautiful language. Where were all the rude and arrogant French people that tourists complained about? We had yet to encounter one.
We ignored the limits of our stomachs in Paris and opted for the full tasting menus wherever possible. Our dinner at Pirouette in Les Halles, widely lauded as smart, contemporary French bistro cuisine, was impeccable from start to finish. Similarly, we enjoyed our meal at Le Bistrot Paul Bert; a classic French bistro with stubborn wait staff and happened to witnessed the most awkward row between a diner and the wait staff. Awkward, because this all happened on the table next to us and if you have been to Paris, you will recall that the proximity between tables is non-existent. So we attempted to counteract this growing discomfort by blatantly feigning ignorance and talking loudly, as tourists do. In hindsight, it made for great entertainment once the diner stormed out and the surrounding diners congregated to deliberate on the matter.
Our last day was spent leisurely walking through the cluttered lane ways of the hilly Montmartre quarter. When we unknowingly stumbled into the vicinity of the impressive Sacré Cœur, we took the opportunity to take some photos whilst side-stepping the apparent scam artists who tried to tie lengths of string onto unsuspecting tourists’ fingers, in an attempt to extort money from them. A sneaky galette of ham and cheese was scoffed before a lunch reservation at one of my sister’s favourite restaurants in Paris, Seb’on.
The experience at Seb’On was intimate, relaxed and the food was executed with such precision leaving us marvelling, because it was a only a wife and husband duo manning the front of house and kitchen. Seb’On was popular with locals and tourists, validated by the numerous groups who had to be turned away because the lunch seating was fully booked. It’s the kind of food that made you want to persevere through the dish, even when our stomachs protested furiously. The heart stomach wants what it wants.

This trip that was one filled with both immense sadness and happiness. I was at a complete loss because I wasn’t able to experience it with my sister, but at the same time, I felt her with me everywhere.

Paris will always have a very special place in my heart.
For all the beautiful memories it helped me create with my sister.

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