Ten years ago, I moved to Paris. The extent of my knowledge of the city was limited to what I had read, or seen in movies such as Amelie or those episodes of Sex and the City where Carrie flits around in ridiculous outfits. It was magical in the beginning, just like everything is, but as the months rolled along, the reality of it became much different. "Surely you can stay in San Francisco and study your art there" became a dismissive phrase I just got used to hearing. In their eyes, the American girl didn't deserve to be there, and should always be reminded of that at every opportunity. The magic dust was starting to lose its luster, tiny nuisances such as the pervasive heat and constant urine smell of the Metro added up and helped move things along. Though I tried to deny it for a long time, as quickly as I had fallen in love with Paris, I had fallen out of it.
As the years pass, it becomes less and less familiar, memories getting pushed further and further back to so they can be replaced by new ones. Grey Paris even more grey than usual. In fact, before leaving on this trip I tried to remember the exact address of my apartment there. I can't, but I feel lucky. Time has made space in my mind for me to become a tourist again in a city that I once had such a love/hate relationship with. Selective amnesia maybe? In any case, it's a good thing, all those pain au chocolate and picturesque buildings I took for granted as a twenty-something have the possibility to be new again.
When I arrive, I take the metro into the city and as I climb the stairs out of the metro station and feel the sun get hotter and brighter on my face the higher I climb, it makes me incredibly uneasy. It isn't until several blocks later when the clouds roll in to cover the city in a veil of mist that I feel relief. I may not remember a lot, but I remember that Paris is at her best when she gets to be her moody, grumpy self. Then it started raining -- even better! Now that we had drama, we could get this trip started properly. Here is how a few oysters and strawberries helped me fall back in love with Paris...
I hate to be that person that goes to Europe and crows on and on about how EVERYTHING is better there than it is in the US. They have better food, better fashion, better architecture, better better better...better. I find that very annoying but I am going to do it just this once. I am going to do it in the name of French Strawberries.
French strawberries smell and taste like what I imagine strawberry candy flavoring is based upon -- they are remarkably fragrant and perfectly sweet. Wander around any market in Paris in the summer, and you will smell them before you see them. It's not a scent you will ever forget -- I can conjure the smell as I type this, despite the fact that I last ate them weeks ago, thousands of miles away. There are many different varieties of French strawberries such as Gariguettes, Mara des bois, Anaïs, Cléry, and Charlotte -- which are the ones I bought. Charlotte strawberries are small, incredibly juicy and tender and bright red on the inside and outside. You have to eat them fast, or they will quickly turn to mush, but I don't imagine that will be much of a problem for anyone who catches a whiff of these beauties.
These were my favorite markets in Paris not only good for the best strawberries in the world (in case you are reading this well after their season) but also things such as cheese, seafood, charcuterie, knicknacks, trinkets and local produce.
Tue-Sun 9am-1pm, 4pm-7.30pm
Sat from 3.30pm; Sun morning only
Thu 8am-2pm; Sun 7am-3pm
Marché des Enfants Rouges
Tue-Thu 8.30am-1pm, 4pm-8.30pm; Fri-Sat 8.30am-1pm, 4pm-8.30pm; Sun 8.30am-5pm
Like they tend to be regarding most things, the French are very meticulous when it comes to their oysters. Fine de Claire, and Speciale de Claire oysters, for example, are oysters that have been allowed to mature salt water basins for up to two months. One of the best spots in Paris for oysters, Huîtrerie Régis, serves these Claire oysters, from the Marenne-Oléron region of France. The Claires from this region are plunged in a combination of seawater and freshwater, which gives the fatty body of these bivalves a balanced flavor that needs nothing more than a squeeze of lemon or a splash of mignonette. You can, of course, slurp them as-is, since they are that full of flavor.
3 Rue de Montfaucon, 75006 Paris, France
Du Pain et des Idées is one of the most highly regarded bakeries in Paris, and one of the few places you can find the rare treat that is Escargot Pistache Chocolat, so I couldn't pass it up. No snails involved in this pastry, don't worry! They simply get their name because the shape of the pastry resembles that of a snail's shell. I love anything pistachio and anything chocolate, but the raspberry escargot and the apricot tarts were divine as well. There is only one communal table outside, so if it is crowded (chances are high it will be), Canal Saint-Martin is only a short walk away, and you can sit and enjoy your pastries in front of the canal while people watching.
Du Pain et des Idées
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
Barthélémy is like Ollivanders wand shop, but for cheese. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, apologies for the Harry Potter reference, but there is just no better way to describe it. Mme. Nicole Barthélémy is so intuitive that it only takes a few words of garbled French for her to find the perfect cheese to suit your tastes. She's the cheese whisperer. If you choose to travel home with cheese, they will even vacuum pack it for you, which is amazingly helpful if the cheese happens to be particularly smelly. The shop is tiny and stacked to bursting capacity with Brie, Chevre, Roquefort and even heart shaped cheeses from every region. If you're lucky, you will get to witness one of the cheesemongers popping in and out of their magical underground cheese cave from time to time
51 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, France.
This trip was so short, I only barely caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. A person can only eat and do so much! Here are a few more places that I loved.
One of the highlights of my trip was Le Comptoir Général, a quirky tropical hideaway tucked into Canal Saint-Martin. All of the drinks are good, but Diegocito is especially so, with dark rum, lime juice, muddled mint, and brown sugar.
Le Comptoir Général
80 quai de Jemmapes, 75010 Paris
One of the best parts of summer in Paris is there are so many areas dedicated to public lounging.
It's not a visit to Paris without some falafel, and L'As du Fallafel has the very best falafel pita in the city stuffed not only with tons of falafel, but eggplant, tomato, zucchini, and hummus. Touristy? Yes. Should you still go? Yes. You can't eat cheese and pastries for EVERY meal.
L'As du Fallafel
34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France
Oh and one more thing before you go...
I've been nominated for the 2017 Saveur Best Blog Awards in the Travel category, so if you've enjoyed following along on my adventures, I'd appreciate your vote! If anything, at least check out the other amazing nominees. I'm in really good company.
CLICK HERE TO VOTE!