Paris, Part deux. Day 3.

Our third day in Paris got off to a better start–that is, I set the alarm appropriately so we were on schedule. We left the hotel around 9 am and went to have breakfast in a distinctly Parisian, less touristy cafe called Patisserie Viennois (located at 8, rue de l’Ecole de Medicine), which was about a 2 minute walk from our hotel. I had read about the chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) served there in The Sweet Life in Paris, a book by David Lebovitz (an expat and pastry chef turned cookbook author/Paris blogger). The cafe is on an extremely narrow street and you will easily pass by if you aren’t specifically looking for it. Once inside, it is a very small, quaint cafe with a very sweet, mostly French-speaking woman behind the counter. After telling her in my (really, not so bad) French that we were there for breakfast, we put in our order at the counter: deux chocolat chaud sans chantilly (without whipped cream) et un croissant chocolat et un gateau des pommes (apple cake). There was also a lot of pointing and gesturing towards our desired breakfast foods…The woman pointed towards a small dining room off the main entryway and we seated ourselves in a wooden booth.

Chocolat chaud et une croissant chocolat at Patisserie Viennois--note the sugar packets!

Shortly afterwards, out came some delicious pastries and some thick, rich hot chocolate (a far cry from last night’s poor excuse for cocoa…). It was not too sweet (perfect for us!) and almost had a coffee-like taste to it–delicious! Just what we wanted. It actually came with a side of sugar cubes, and we ended up stirring in at least one! So good. After finishing breakfast, we paid at the counter and were on our way.

Pantheon

We walked past the Luxembourg Gardens again and walked over towards the Pantheon (same name as the building in Rome but no relation). This building was initially built as a church but now houses a lot of important, deceased people (interred there). We did not go into it but instead walked around the backstreets to get to rue Mouffetard.

Rue Mouffetard is a wide, pedestrian-only street in the 5e arrondissment that has several restaurants but mostly is an outdoor marketplace. It is sort of like a steeper, more chill version of Rue Cler (in the 7e). We stopped into a wine shop and found a staff member there who spoke perfect English. We told him that we wanted a bottle of a red wine and that we were not necessarily particular to any specific region. He pointed us to a merlot (which we like) that was 3 euros. Sold!

Rue Mouffetard. The produce stand of the infamous grapes is on the right...

We then walked along to a cheese shop (fromagerie) and picked up an amazing brie au poivre (soft cheese with black peppercorns) for something like 3 euros also. I was excited to eat this with our baguette and pain au cereal that we had purchased at the Eric Kayser outpost at the Galaries Lafayette yesterday. Delicious snacks in hand, we made our way down the street, passing chocolatiers and patisseries (but we were still chocolat-ed out from breakfast) and headed towards a produce stand.

Note: We always bring a reusable shopping bag with us that we fill with our purchases. They can be collapsed down into small, 2″ packages that are easily stored in the giant purses I carry. I like the ones by Envirosax in particular. Speaking of purses, I like anything that zips across the top and can be slung cross-body for security reasons. The one I am currently coveting is the Kristen Hobo by Coach. Gorgeous!

Back to rue Mouffetard…I don’t know why I didn’t do math or really look at the sign listing the price, but I ended up buying a bunch of grapes that cost 9 euros. 9! I thought my French was wrong when the guy told me the cost. Rather than saying “Non, merci,” I paid like $13 for a bunch of grapes that cost $2.99 at the Giant down the street near home. C’est la vie. My husband and I said that we would never speak of it again and it was an innocent mistake, live and learn, etc. So I decided to write it down to be permanently recorded in this blog.

Another thing that we have consistently done is forget to bring a corkscrew with us when we go on vacation.  This is something that we forgot on our last trip (trying to describe what a corkscrew was to the kindest shop owner ever in Siena using my broken Italian was nothing short of hilarious–he ended up giving us one for free!) and again intended to bring but forgot. So we picked one up later at Monoprix, a department store with a pretty good supermarket where you can get anything from sandwiches to Tupperware (which we picked up–more on that later) to clothing.

After all of this walking and shopping, we went back to the hotel to put our purchases in the tiny fridge that came with our room. After a brief rest (my feet!), we headed back out and walked up Boulevard St-Germain towards the Seine.

I’m not sure if you have noticed a trend by this point, but we like food. We had eaten macarons (distinctly French delicacies that consist of two light, airy, melt-in-your mouth cookies with a layer of cream or jam sandwiched in between) during our first trip from a small patisseriein Montmartre, but had not gone to any of the renowned patisseries that specialize in macarons. So we made it a point to make a pilgrimage to two of the main ones, Laduree and Pierre Herme.

Laduree-photo courtesy of http://www.ratemybistro.uk

Laduree is a patisserie and a tea shop that is famous for its macarons. They come in every imaginable flavor and are packaged beautifully. The shops themselves are beautiful and very feminine–lots of pale pink and mint green and cream. You are actually forbidden to take pictures inside (one of the patrons was scolded for photographing the macarons when I was on line), which is a bit absurd. I mean, it’s a store for Pete’s sake, not the Mona Lisa (which, incidentally, you canphotograph).

Laduree macarons; picture taken in our hotel room

Anyway, there is a gorgeous tea salon (we did not go into the restaurant part of the shop) in the St-Germain location, as well as in the one on the Champs Elysees (right near our hotel from our first trip), with lushly upholstered chairs, mirrors…very elegant. There are several shops around Paris, an outpost at Versailles, and there are carts at Charles de Gaulle. You can choose a pre-packaged assortment or select the ones you want yourself (which is what we did). I think we got 12-15 of them for something like 20 euros.

Tip: Macarons tend to go stale rather quickly.They are also very delicate, so my husband had read somewhere that keeping them in a plastic container helps to preserve them and keep them from being crushed. Again, we intended on getting something from the States and bringing it with us but we forgot. So we ended up dropping like 5 euros on a Tupperware container from Monoprix and used this to store our purchases.

Inside Pierre Herme, photo courtesy http://janinevasta.com

We left Laduree with gilded, mint-colored bag and headed over to Pierre Herme. The store front is somewhat austere compared to Laduree and the store itself seems to be more masculine overall, from the blue-colored boxes to the male employees. It looks more like a sleek jewelry store than a chocolatier/macaron shop.

Pierre Herme macarons

We ordered an assortment of flavors (again, we chose them but they were also available in pre-chosen boxes) for about the same cost as those from Laduree.

We walked north on rue Bonaparte and along Boulevard St-Germain and headed across the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Seine just near the Louvre.

We stopped on the bridge to take some pictures and take in the gorgeous early April Paris weather.

On the Pont des Arts

As we continued over to the Right Bank, we realized that we were hungry (again). Mind you, we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and were only carrying the macarons, not snacking on them yet! We found a small, inexpensive to-go type of eatery and quickly grabbed some sandwiches and bottles of water and made our way over towards the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre.

It was Tuesday, so the Louvre was closed. During our honeymoon, we had visited the museum and it was just swarmed with tourists. Even though the museum was not open this time, there were still a good amount of people milling about, enjoying the sunshine.

The Louvre, with I.M. Pei's famous glass pyramid

We found ourselves in the Tuileries and grabbed a few seats off to the side of one of the first fountains when you enter the gardens from the Louvre and ate our lunch there while people-watching (one of my favorite pastimes). For dessert, we each had a Pierre Herme macaron (mine was rose-flavored; Dave’s was creme brulee–yum!). After digesting and taking in the sun (I am a self-admitted sun worshipper; in fact, it is painful for me to be sitting inside typing right now when it is absolutely gorgeous weather!), we finally got up and continued on our way.

The view from the Louvre, looking at the Place de la Concorde and all the way down the Champs Elysees to l'Arc du Triomphe

We had not been to the Palais Royal, so we walked in that direction. We ended up not going inside, but walked around the courtyard and the gardens. They were doing construction on part of the palace but it was beautiful nonetheless.

We also pointed out various sites from movies that we had made it a point to see over the past year that featured Paris, like the Tourist (though I think the cafe that was in that was near the Place Vendome) and a French film called Paris, starring Juliette Binoche. We also passed by the Hotel Regina, where Samantha Brownstayed in one of her visits to Paris (just near the Palais Royal). During our Seine River cruise, we passed the bridge that was seen in Inception and Last Tango in Paris. We had also watched Charade for its Parisian setting. We cannot wait to “revisit” Paris in Woody Allen’s newest, Midnight in Paris.

The Louvre Metro stop

Probably one of my favorite things about Paris is the opulence that surrounds some of the Metro stations. The one that speaks to me the most is the Louvre station. The almost cage-like effect of the jewel-toned glass structure is a piece of work in and of itself. Then, going down into the station itself feels like a museum (which obviously was the point). There are glass cases that house artwork, so you don’t even have to go to a museum to get a bit of culture. I really don’t see how this would fly in New York or Philadelphia…the stations would be vandalized without a doubt (note the faith I have in my compatriots). The tile work on the walls of many of the stations is really stunning and makes the metro ride go by that much more quickly. The one piece of “artwork” that I was most taken by was an ad featuring some of our most cultured exports to Europe–I’m sure they’ll be a fantastic representation of Americans abroad, since our reputation is already so pristine. Of course, I’m being sarcastic since I’m referring to our old pals Snooki, J-Woww, the Situation, etc. When I turned the corner and happened upon this fabulous piece of work, I couldn’t help but laugh:

Le Snooki

I love how exaggeratedly orange they all are–oh wait, I’m pretty sure that’s their natural skin color. Who are we kidding–I can’t wait until August to see them in Florence. My DVR is already set.

After taking the metro back to our home base (Odeon), we headed to the hotel to pack for our departure early the next morning and to get ready for dinner. We ended up going to a restaurant called Marco Polo, which was just around the corner from our hotel and across the street from the Les Editeurs. We were both exhausted and craving Italian, so this hit the spot. The owners threw me for a loop–when we were seated, he looked at me and said, “Due?” (two, in Italian). I replied “Si” without hesitation, then realized that we were in Paris, not Italy. The owners are sweet, older Italian gentlemen and ended up chatting with us briefly after our meal (antipasti misto to start–an assortment of cheese, grilled vegetables and proscuitto–and a simple pasta con pomodori e melanzane for me, pollo for Dave). In Italian, he told me he figured I was part Italian due to my dark hair and inquired about where my famiglia was from in Italy (L’Aquila, in Abruzzo) and telling Dave (who doesn’t understand a word of Italian) that I was a keeper. Bellies full of yummy food and vino (I mean vin), we headed back to the hotel to prepare for our early departure to Londres (London) tomorrow.

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