This little piggy went to market

Ah, another day, another market… you’ve gotta love Paris.

We saw the stands being erected for a street market on one of the streets shooting off from Bastille while we were walking around in search of Valentine’s Day dinner. Sure enough, the next day it was teeming with vendors and throngs of shoppers. This market was a little more spacious than the one we came across up by the Eiffel Tower the other day, but no less busy or impressive.

We spent a happy half hour or so wandering up and down the stalls, checking out the wares. Mountains of sumptuous strawberries, oceans of fish the likes of which we’ve never even heard of, bins of olives, honey, hats, purses — you name it. It’s too bad the weather isn’t a little bit warmer, I found myself yearning to assemble the perfect picnic and seek out the nearest garden.

 

the Bastille street market

the Bastille street market

As an quick aside – Even the terms of endearment here are food-related. One such example, people call their children and loved ones “mon petit chou,” which literally means “my little cabbage.” How cute is that!

Earlier in the morning, the baby and I hoofed it over to the supermarket to pick up some rations and supplies. As we passed a high school tour group, I heard two of the girls catching sight of us and cooing about what a cute little French baby I had! The ultimate compliment! Could we really be passing for locals?!?!

I’m afraid I committed a cardinal sin – I stopped into Starbucks. Hubby cringes as I write this. As a seasoned traveler, it is nearly unforgivable to him to frequent an American chain establishment when there are so many local authentic French cafes in proximity. I justified my actions by reasoning that I just wanted a cup to go on the way to the store. Plus, I knew the coffee would be consistent. Starbucks, alas, is the same everywhere. Disappointingly, quite a few cafes seem to serve coffee out of a machine, not the good perked kind you’d expect. 

So anyway, I ordered my grande latte and asked for directions to the supermarket, then went on my way. However, in wheeling the baby stroller over cobbled stones and streets, half of my coffee ended up sloshing out all over the pram. Divine justice, perhaps?

After a spin through the market, hubby offered to take the baby off my hands for a few hours so I could enjoy a visit to Sacre Coeur. My favorite sight on my last trip to Paris four years ago, I was really looking forward to a return visit to the scenic spot. I’d really hoped hubby would want to join me, but he declined and in retrospect, I’m glad he did. The stairs and crowds would have been difficult to navigate with the baby in tow. So, I hopped on the Metro and was on my way. 

Coming off the Metro in Montmartre, I got a little confused. For starters, the exit itself entailed about three flights of stairs up a narrow winding staircase. Ugh. By the time I and my fellow Metro-ers emerged into the daylight, we were huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf. The spiraling stairs disoriented me and I didn’t immediately see any directional signs to the cathedral, so I ended up setting off in the wrong direction. Fortunately, a big looping turn through a pretty residential area (more uphill climbing) deposited me where I needed to be. 

The white domes of Sacre Coeur gleam from the hillside like a sentinel, and although it was slightly hazy, I imagine that in the sunlight they shine as if they’ve been kissed by heaven itself. As noisy and thronged as the exterior of the cathedral is, the interior is reverent and quiet the second you step in the door. The sanctuary literally took my breath away, it’s hard to believe this kind of beauty actually exists. The sun streamed through the stained glass windows to illuminate the faces of the visitors below. Talk about a religious experience in the truest meaning of the word… I’m not Catholic, but it’s impossible not to feel in God’s presence here and I found myself reciting a silent prayer. I lit a candle in honor of my mom and one for my father-in-law as well and left feeling spiritually renewed. 

Once you step back outside into reality, the commercial side of Paris tourism slaps you in the face. The crowds here are unbelievable – groups of people in all shapes and sizes speaking every language under the sun, cameras and tour guides in hand. A duo of Polish wannabe rappers were accosting the eardrums of passersby with their boom box and their self-promoted street show, which as far as I could tell consisted of a few So-You-Think-You-Can-Dance-style hip thrusts, some juggling, and a lot of hype.

Hungry, I made my way slightly off the main souvenir shop drag into a cafe for a snack. The Six Nations rugby tournament was this weekend, and I found myself seated next to a table full of enthusiastic and loyal Scots, both the men and women decked out in kilts. I ordered a Croque Monsieur sandwich and my first Coke in about a week. Croque Monsieur is another French menu mainstay; you can find them in almost any cafe or bistro. It’s basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but this being France and all, they find a way to make it richer and more decadent. The cheese is added on top of the bread, along with a little bit of creamy bechamel sauce, and then the whole thing is broiled. When’s the last time you had a grilled cheese that required a knife and fork? Delish. You can even get it topped with a fried egg, in which case it becomes a Croque Madame. (A reference to ovaries perhaps??)

Unlike in America where your food often arrives with a whole slew of condiments, the standard food adornment here is mustard. Servers bring a little carrier to your table that contains salt, pepper, and a small jar of spicy Dijon. And when I say spicy, I mean SPICY. This stuff will clear your sinuses and make your eyes water if you take too much. It’s yummy in small doses, though. Also, there seems to be one kind of salad dressing here and one kind only – a creamy tangy dijon vinaigrette. Don’t even think about asking for Ranch.

Hubby and I decided our tummies and our wallets needed a little break from dining out, so I embarked upon operation Cook-At-Home tonight, a real adventure in a kitchen the size of a closet. Two electric burners and a tiny cutting board made cooking here feel like a Top Chef challenge, but I managed ok. The knives, pots, pans and tools here are sparse, but what we do have is of the highest quality, so that helped matters quite a bit.

I’d stocked up at the store for spaghetti with a sort-of Bolognese sauce. The electric burner took about 20 minutes to boil a pot of water for my pasta, but that was the most difficult hurdle I had to overcome. I jazzed up a bottle of store-bought marinara sauce with some hamburger, mushrooms, zucchini and tomatoes. With a side salad and some fresh baguette, it wasn’t bad. It felt good to cook, but I really found myself missing my arsenal of spices from back home. I had also picked up a bottle of Cotes du Rhone at the grocery for 2.40 euros, and was pleasantly surprised to find the quality on par with much of the wine we drink back home at three or four times the price.

our first home-cooked meal in Paris

our first home-cooked meal in Paris

As I sit here writing this, it’s cold and misty outside, yet here I am, safely ensconced in a cozy little cafe with a cup of cafe au lait cooling on my table and a view of the Bastille monument just outside the window. At the table next to me, a stylish older woman feeds a small Yorkie terrier tiny pieces of sausage off her plate.

Ah, les Francais….

Valentine's Day a la Francais

Oh my goodness, where to begin… let’s see. Breakfast the past few days has consisted of croissants and coffee – darn near the most perfect culinary combination ever invented.

Today is Valentine’s Day and hubby and I decided we would commemorate the occasion with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. When in Paris… we took the Metro from Bastille to the Champs Elysees, walked down to L’Arc de Triomphe, then hoofed it over to the tower itself. On the way, we came across what has to be without a doubt the most amazing street market I have ever witnessed. To be sure, it was the mother of all farmers’ markets.

This market was all enclosed by one long narrow tent set-up and stretched on for nearly 8 blocks nonstop. It was stand after stand of the most beautiful offerings I’ve ever seen – everything from made-on-the-spot steaming cauldrons of paella to seafood, flowers, produce and even the occasional non-food items such as shirts and jewelry. Every single item was absolutely beautiful and laid out in displays of the utmost precision.

The French are obsessed with aesthetics, and this market was a perfect example. It’s not good enough to have some great produce mixed in with some so-so produce at the bottom of the bag. For example, you know how in American supermarkets you can buy a container of strawberries and at the bottom of every container you’ll find several berries that are starting to mold or are just not that ripe? Not so here. You can rest assured that every single berry in the bunch will be perfectly ripe, juicy and delicious. No waste whatsoever. It’s like that with every single thing you might want to buy, you’ll know it’s all of superior quality and freshness right down to the very last bite.

 

seafood vendor at the awesome street market

seafood vendor at the awesome street market

produce at the street market

produce at the street market

 

 

Hubby ordered a chocolat noir crepe from a made-to-order crepe stand. The crepe master manning the grills was an older gentleman who looked like he’d been creating these lovely treats his entire life and had the technique down to a science. Making the perfect crepe is nothing short of an art form. It takes the perfect batter, ladled out in the perfect amount onto a hot grill at the perfect temperature. A quick and careful spreading of the batter with a small wooden tool and then a smooth flip to assure the ideal brown crust. Fillings added at the optimum moment to melt the chocolate to just the right degree and expert origami folding. There you have it. Hubby took one bite and his eyes nearly rolled back in his head in sheer ecstasy.

 

the crepe master

the crepe master

 

This market just absolutely blew my mind. If I lived here, I could go crazy eating my way from one end to the other. It would take me forever, but God, I’d welcome the challenge. It was just exceptional. There’s nothing else I can say.

Seeing as how we were in the midst of sightseeing and had no way to keep things preserved until we returned to the apartment at an unspecified later time, we refrained from buying anything. Geez, it was hard, but probably smart. I could have gone broke there.

After a spin around la Tour Eiffel, we stopped into a cafe for a warm-up. Unable to resist the thought of Patrick’s earlier treat, I ordered a cafe au lait and a crepe of my own spread with Nutella. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Nutella, I pity you. Get with the program. Immediately. It’s a crack-addictive chocolate hazelnut spread the consistency of peanut butter, a welcome addition to ice cream, pancakes, crackers, fruit – you name it. When I was pregnant, I enjoyed thick spoonfuls of it on cinnamon graham crackers. When it’s spread onto something warm, it melts ever so slightly into near-orgasmic perfection. Ah….

Baby started getting cranky, so we grabbed a taxi back to the apartment for a little downloading. After some laundry and unwinding, hubby took off to a nearby tabac/bar to watch some of the Six Nations rugby matches while baby and I took a brief nap. Hubby returned to the apartment an hour later with a beautiful bouquet of pink-blushed roses for me as a Valentine’s Day gift. What a guy! In testament to the French attention to detail, the roses were wrapped in pink tissue and thick white paper, tied with some raffia with a business card and a bonus orchid tucked in. Lovely! Hubby said he even had a conversation in the tabac about the bouquet, the other men commenting on the high quality of the product. Bonus points for hubby. Just what every woman wants to see on Valentine’s Day – the man she loves bearing flowers! 

For dinner, we decided to get dressed up for a nice meal out. Not that every other meal we’ve had thus far hasn’t been nice as well, but this being Valentine’s Day and all calls for something extra-special. Venturing out in new directions, we wandered up to the Bastille roundabout and ended up in the Hotel Bastille. It looked like a hopping, busy place from the exterior, but it wasn’t until we’d gotten inside and ordered a drink that we realized it really wasn’t a restaurant at all. The only few plates we saw customers enjoying were actually desserts and when the tab arrived, we discovered the server had talked us into about $40 worth of drinks (one round, mind you – a jumbo-sized beer for hubby and a nice-but-not-THAT-nice glass of red wine for me). Yikes. We devoured every single olive in the complementary nibbler and most of the peanuts to try to get our money’s worth. Oh well, the ambiance was good and we wrote it off as a special occasion treat, then continued on in search of dinner.

The Bastille area has been busy during the week, but tonight it was positively thronged with a party crowd. Mohawked young men smoking in small groups on the sidewalks, stylish men and women on their way to clubs, and tourists seeking hotspots. Finding the mainstream establishments a little bit too trendy for our taste, we ventured off the beaten path a little bit to find something quieter and came across Cafe Vosges – a smallish diner-style establishment that looked friendly and inviting. 

Our waiter was a kind, patient young man who took in our fractured French in stride and made us feel at ease. The French menu didn’t offer much we were familiar with, but I recognized the term “entrecote” as steak. Seeing as how all I’d had to eat today was a croissant at breakfast and some Nutella crepes for lunch, I was ready for some real sustenance. Hubby followed suit and ordered the same. The waiter took our request and we went along with his suggestions, not realizing we’d just asked for our steaks rare.

The meat arrived not just rare, but bloody. Not fans, hubby and I stumbled our way through asking the nice waiter to take the steaks back and have the chef cook them a little more, which he did in a most gracious way. I didn’t know how hungry I actually was until the food came; I devoured my salad and half of hubby’s fries, then pounced on the steak once it came back, cooked just right second time around. 

Baby soon decided he’d had enough of being cooped up in the stroller and started in on his high-pitched squeals, so we tipped the waiter big and high-tailed back to the apartment, where we look forward to baths and an evening of relaxation. It’s going to be hard to top this Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day a la Francais

Oh my goodness, where to begin… let’s see. Breakfast the past few days has consisted of croissants and coffee – darn near the most perfect culinary combination ever invented.

Today is Valentine’s Day and hubby and I decided we would commemorate the occasion with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. When in Paris… we took the Metro from Bastille to the Champs Elysees, walked down to L’Arc de Triomphe, then hoofed it over to the tower itself. On the way, we came across what has to be without a doubt the most amazing street market I have ever witnessed. To be sure, it was the mother of all farmers’ markets.

This market was all enclosed by one long narrow tent set-up and stretched on for nearly 8 blocks nonstop. It was stand after stand of the most beautiful offerings I’ve ever seen – everything from made-on-the-spot steaming cauldrons of paella to seafood, flowers, produce and even the occasional non-food items such as shirts and jewelry. Every single item was absolutely beautiful and laid out in displays of the utmost precision.

The French are obsessed with aesthetics, and this market was a perfect example. It’s not good enough to have some great produce mixed in with some so-so produce at the bottom of the bag. For example, you know how in American supermarkets you can buy a container of strawberries and at the bottom of every container you’ll find several berries that are starting to mold or are just not that ripe? Not so here. You can rest assured that every single berry in the bunch will be perfectly ripe, juicy and delicious. No waste whatsoever. It’s like that with every single thing you might want to buy, you’ll know it’s all of superior quality and freshness right down to the very last bite.

 

seafood vendor at the awesome street market

seafood vendor at the awesome street market

produce at the street market

produce at the street market

 

 

Hubby ordered a chocolat noir crepe from a made-to-order crepe stand. The crepe master manning the grills was an older gentleman who looked like he’d been creating these lovely treats his entire life and had the technique down to a science. Making the perfect crepe is nothing short of an art form. It takes the perfect batter, ladled out in the perfect amount onto a hot grill at the perfect temperature. A quick and careful spreading of the batter with a small wooden tool and then a smooth flip to assure the ideal brown crust. Fillings added at the optimum moment to melt the chocolate to just the right degree and expert origami folding. There you have it. Hubby took one bite and his eyes nearly rolled back in his head in sheer ecstasy.

 

the crepe master

the crepe master

 

This market just absolutely blew my mind. If I lived here, I could go crazy eating my way from one end to the other. It would take me forever, but God, I’d welcome the challenge. It was just exceptional. There’s nothing else I can say.

Seeing as how we were in the midst of sightseeing and had no way to keep things preserved until we returned to the apartment at an unspecified later time, we refrained from buying anything. Geez, it was hard, but probably smart. I could have gone broke there.

After a spin around la Tour Eiffel, we stopped into a cafe for a warm-up. Unable to resist the thought of Patrick’s earlier treat, I ordered a cafe au lait and a crepe of my own spread with Nutella. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Nutella, I pity you. Get with the program. Immediately. It’s a crack-addictive chocolate hazelnut spread the consistency of peanut butter, a welcome addition to ice cream, pancakes, crackers, fruit – you name it. When I was pregnant, I enjoyed thick spoonfuls of it on cinnamon graham crackers. When it’s spread onto something warm, it melts ever so slightly into near-orgasmic perfection. Ah….

Baby started getting cranky, so we grabbed a taxi back to the apartment for a little downloading. After some laundry and unwinding, hubby took off to a nearby tabac/bar to watch some of the Six Nations rugby matches while baby and I took a brief nap. Hubby returned to the apartment an hour later with a beautiful bouquet of pink-blushed roses for me as a Valentine’s Day gift. What a guy! In testament to the French attention to detail, the roses were wrapped in pink tissue and thick white paper, tied with some raffia with a business card and a bonus orchid tucked in. Lovely! Hubby said he even had a conversation in the tabac about the bouquet, the other men commenting on the high quality of the product. Bonus points for hubby. Just what every woman wants to see on Valentine’s Day – the man she loves bearing flowers! 

For dinner, we decided to get dressed up for a nice meal out. Not that every other meal we’ve had thus far hasn’t been nice as well, but this being Valentine’s Day and all calls for something extra-special. Venturing out in new directions, we wandered up to the Bastille roundabout and ended up in the Hotel Bastille. It looked like a hopping, busy place from the exterior, but it wasn’t until we’d gotten inside and ordered a drink that we realized it really wasn’t a restaurant at all. The only few plates we saw customers enjoying were actually desserts and when the tab arrived, we discovered the server had talked us into about $40 worth of drinks (one round, mind you – a jumbo-sized beer for hubby and a nice-but-not-THAT-nice glass of red wine for me). Yikes. We devoured every single olive in the complementary nibbler and most of the peanuts to try to get our money’s worth. Oh well, the ambiance was good and we wrote it off as a special occasion treat, then continued on in search of dinner.

The Bastille area has been busy during the week, but tonight it was positively thronged with a party crowd. Mohawked young men smoking in small groups on the sidewalks, stylish men and women on their way to clubs, and tourists seeking hotspots. Finding the mainstream establishments a little bit too trendy for our taste, we ventured off the beaten path a little bit to find something quieter and came across Cafe Vosges – a smallish diner-style establishment that looked friendly and inviting. 

Our waiter was a kind, patient young man who took in our fractured French in stride and made us feel at ease. The French menu didn’t offer much we were familiar with, but I recognized the term “entrecote” as steak. Seeing as how all I’d had to eat today was a croissant at breakfast and some Nutella crepes for lunch, I was ready for some real sustenance. Hubby followed suit and ordered the same. The waiter took our request and we went along with his suggestions, not realizing we’d just asked for our steaks rare.

The meat arrived not just rare, but bloody. Not fans, hubby and I stumbled our way through asking the nice waiter to take the steaks back and have the chef cook them a little more, which he did in a most gracious way. I didn’t know how hungry I actually was until the food came; I devoured my salad and half of hubby’s fries, then pounced on the steak once it came back, cooked just right second time around. 

Baby soon decided he’d had enough of being cooped up in the stroller and started in on his high-pitched squeals, so we tipped the waiter big and high-tailed back to the apartment, where we look forward to baths and an evening of relaxation. It’s going to be hard to top this Valentine’s Day.

Viva la France

My first 24 hours in Paris have been fairly great, but only after an auspicious start, I must admit. 

Monday night, I was packing and preparing for my flight from Cork to Paris the next morning when we got word on the radio – a serious storm was quickly approaching northern France and all Paris airports were to be closed from 8 p.m. that night until 10 a.m. the next morning. My flight wasn’t due to leave Cork until 10:50 a.m., arriving in Paris at 1:35 p.m. local time, but I was nervous. What if the flights were off schedule, or worse, cancelled? What if we couldn’t get there on Tuesday at all? Hubby was due to be traveling on business Wednesday through Friday and would not have been able to pick us up if we were delayed a day. I’m a worrier, what can I say?

Well, I’m thrilled to report that all’s well that ends well. The airports reopened; my flight from Cork to Paris was only delayed about 15 minutes; and short of a couple sorta terrifying air pockets, we arrived safe, sound and pretty much on time.

Traveling solo with an infant gets a little tricky, and Paris is not proving to be very baby-friendly. Baby did fantastic getting through Cork airport and we navigated the flight just fine, in spite of my somehow having forgotten to pack baby wipes and/or a pacifier in the bag. (What was I thinking?) However, once we landed in Paris, it was a whole other story. For starters, I found out that the stroller we’d checked in Cork as we boarded the plane would not be returned to me at the gate; instead, I’d have to schlep the baby all the way through to baggage claim in his carrier, along with a purse, a backpack and a diaper bag. 

Charles de Gaulle airport is, as my husband would say, one big fuck-off place. With clear covered tunnels criss-crossing in never-ending directions, I felt like I was stuck in a giant human hamster cage. So there I am, loaded down like a pack mule, inching my way through the what feels like a miles-long line at the passport inspection. Several folks smiled politely at my sleeping son as we crept along a few steps at a time, but it was two young French girls directly behind me who really stepped up and came to my rescue. When they urged me to cut to the front of the line, I was hesitant, not wanting to violate any unspoken French rules of etiquette right off the bat. But they insisted, one of them grabbed the baby carrier and starting plowing her way through the queue with me trailing behind. She deposited me at the front of the line, smiled politely and returned to her place with me spouting “merci” after her like I had Tourette’s. 

From there, passports duly stamped, we were on to the baggage claim where, lo and behold, the stroller was there waiting. Having had to bring along a month’s worth of clothes, etc. for me and the baby on this trip, I think I did extremely well to limit my packing to one small suitcase for him and one good-sized rolling bag for me. Silly me, I had expected hubby would be there to meet us at the bag claim and help with the suitcases. Nope. We would have to traverse yet another long hall first to meet him in the arrivals area. Now picture me, trying to push a stroller forward with one hand and drag a loaded trolley cart behind me with the other. This is where the stereotypical French rudeness really became apparent – not one person took pity and offered to help me, even the guards and airport employees who flat out watched me struggle along. The passengers practically cursed me and ran me over in their haste to get by as either one or the other of my vehicles veered off course toward a wall every few feet.

By the time I managed to get out to the arrivals hall and hubby came running up, I had worked up a sweat and was so frustrated I burst into tears. After a few minutes of calming down, we were on to the next part of the adventure – the Metro. If Charles de Gaulle airport is a hamster cage, the Metro is a labyrinth series of mouse tunnels. 

The Metro is really a cool thing in concept, but with a baby, c’est impossible. I have no idea how people in wheelchairs get around on it. Maybe they just don’t. There seem to be hardly any elevators, and the ticket-controlled entries and exits are so narrow, our stroller wouldn’t fit through several of them. More than once, we resorted to taking the carseat off the stroller, collapsing the stroller down and carrying each through on its own. Yikes. Not to mention there are about a million stairs up and down to deal with as well. 

One other point I’d like to make about the Metro – it is prime property for busking. Every time I’ve been on it in the past 24 hours, I’ve been treated to live musical performances. The first was a young gent with an accordion, next came a surprisingly good string performance of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” worthy of a MUCH nicer venue than the Metro tunnel, and then finally a dreadlocked guy cranking out an acoustic version of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” in a heavy French accent. I would have given him a few euros for style points alone if I’d had any change on me. 

Anyway, we finally arrived at Gare du Nord, where we said fuck this nonsense and smartly grabbed a taxi to the apartment from there. Our digs for the next two weeks are just off the Place de Bastille, one of the oldest and most historic areas in the city, now a bustling area full of shops, cafes and an ultra-modern opera house. The Bastille itself perches sedately at the center of a huge roundabout with streets shooting off in all directions. 

The apartment itself is dollhouse TINY, but in pristine condition and decorated very nicely. We have a small sitting room, one bedroom, a miniature kitchen, a bathroom and a loft sleeping area. The furnishings are quality and the windows and ceilings are tall, letting in a surprising amount of light. Exposed wood beams on the ceiling give the whole place a rustic feel. It’s a cozy little home as opposed to the antiseptic style of most hotel rooms. The two flights of rickety stairs we have to climb to get in are going to kill me, or give me buns of steel. Which is actually a good thing to offset the amount of fattening food I plan to consume over the next two weeks. 

So for my first meal in Paris, I wanted something authentically French, but nothing formal or stuffy. A nice bistro sounded just right, and Lord knows there are plenty to choose from! We first took a stroll around the Rue de Saint-Antoine, taking in all that the avenue has to offer. My mouth watered as we passed food stand after food stand, each offering its own specialty – fabulous breads and pastries, glowing fruits and vegetables, cold cuts and meats, crepes with all sorts of sweet and savory fillings, sushi, Chinese food, cheeses like you’ve never seen, and gorgeous chickens spinning on a large rotisserie, their glistening juices falling to flavor a bed of peeled potatoes roasting just underneath. I wanted to eat everything I saw. 

We settled on a quaint little cafe called Le Rempart for dinner. The owner was good to accommodate us with the stroller and the menu offered casual eats such as salads, a variety of croque sandwiches and a few plated entrees. Hubby ordered a beer, and I a glass of the house red wine, eager to try out my rusty French. To me, it’s always a relief to receive exactly what I intended to get when ordering in a foreign language. I’m always nervous that I’m not pronouncing something correctly and will end up with a plate of brains or liver instead of the chocolate cake I wanted. 

For my supper, I opted for a quiche Parisienne chalkboard special and hubby got a croque Italianne sandwich, both with green salads. The meals were simply prepared and presented, nothing flashy or trendy, just good quality ingredients cooked simply and well. My quiche was studded with tomato slices and bits of savory ham, and the salad was just green lettuce with a few more tomato slices and a splash of tangy creamy dressing. I realized as I was eating it that I hadn’t had a salad in about a week and really missed it! Hubby’s sandwich was an open-faced delight of the same flavorful country ham, fresh mozzarella, tomato and a sprinkling of herbes de provence on a generous slice of baguette. 

Not ready to call it a night just yet, we ducked into another cafe for another drink. I might have mumbled a little, but the server couldn’t understand my request for another glass of wine, which immediately shook my confidence. I got flustered and pussed out, letting hubby take it from there and order for me, as he seemed to be having better luck getting his point across. 

After a sound sleep, I awoke this morning to a fantastically sunny day, thrilled to be in Paris! It’s still cold, but the sun more than makes up for it. Hubby had an unexpected free day due to a travel scheduling glitch, and we decided to take a long walk. I had my heart set on a pan au chocolat, but since it was nearly 11 a.m. by the time I got the baby fed, both of us dressed and ready to go, I worried we might have missed our breakfast window at most cafes and be well into the lunch service. Fortunately, I needed have given it a second thought.

A small patisserie/boulangerie (that’s a pastry/bread bakery for the non-French readers) called Miss Manon suited me to a tee. A glimpse through the window of row upon row of the most delectable pastries imaginable beckoned us inside, and we were glad they did. A couple of friendly young ladies behind the counter took our order (understanding me perfectly, thank God!), served us and made over the baby. I felt right at home. The decor was warm and simple and the pan au chocolat was a little bite of heaven – flaky pastry crust that shattered with each bite to reveal tender layers beneath and parallel tracks of deep dark chocolate running through. Washed down with a cafe au lait, I could eat this every morning for the rest of my life and be totally happy. I hope to come back here for lunch and try some of their sandwiches, or at the very least, sample a few more of the tempting pastries on display. The baguettes looked magnificent, too, jutting out of their baskets like fragrant missiles of goodness. Yum, yum, and yum.

We continued our walk down to the Seine and across to the Ile St. Louis, looping up around Notre Dame, across into the Latin Quarter, cutting over again to the Louvre and making a pit stop into another cafe by the Palais Royale for a warm-up (espresso for hubby and a hot chocolate for me). Our feet growing tired by this time and the baby sleeping soundly in his stroller, we wrestled our way back through the Metro to the apartment for a well-earned rest. 

Now, what to have for dinner tonight??? So much to eat, so little time.