Yes its January, and Christmas is over but I still wanted to share my recent trip to Paris with you. Paris is one of those places I will never bore of visiting, its full of delights for the stomach and of course for the eyes, its a stunning city in many, many ways. Months back I thought a trip near Christmas would be the perfect start to the holidays for me and my boyfriend, and living in London a quick day trip across the channel to Paris is very easy to do.
Our first stop was Du Pain et Des Idées down the road from Gare du Nord, a perfect place to grab breakfast. We chose a pain au chocolat and a pistachio escargot – not really a snail but a delicious pastry shaped in a spiral. Both were beautiful, I absolutely loved my escargot – the perfect thing to get me in the mood for a day of good food and shopping. We also grabbed a few niflettes, a great little snack – little squares of puff pastry topped with a little orange blossom water flavoured creme patisserie. These little bites seemed like they would be the perfect little afternoon snack, a little something sweet to hold you over until dinner.
After an obligatory trip to Monmarte and the seemingly obligatory attempt at being conned at the base of the Sacre Coeur (little tip – If anyone tries to shake your hand by the carousel at the Sacre Coeur just keep walking, they tie a string to your finger and then try and charge you!) we walked to my favourite sweet shop ever, the delightful A L’Etoile d’Or a regular must have visit, if only to meet the wonderfully quirky owner Denise Acabo.
Visiting the shop is like stepping back in time, its been there since 1903 and it looks like it hasnt really changed much since its doors first opened. Walking through the door I never know where to look first, there is chocolate, sweets and candies everywhere you look and deciding what to buy is always difficult, one little tip – no one in the shop speaks English so try and learn a few words of french or let the wonderful owner introduce you to her favourites, although this can be the expensive option as her enthusiasm is infectious. On this particular visit I bought a selection of Bernachon chocolates, marron glace and chocolate coated sauterne soaked raisins as a little gift for my mum. I also purchased myself a little treat, some passion fruit and mango caramels made by one of my favourite Paris pastry chefs Jaqcues Genin and trust me these are worth the money, they are little bites of sunshine.
After overloading on sugar we went for a little retail therapy at Galleries Lafayette a spraling mass of a department store. The main reason for visiting at Christmas was to see their Christmas tree, a towering tree that reaches up at the entire height of the store. Whilst there, it is well worth popping into the food hall where you find jams from Christine Feber and wonderful Japanese inspired pastries from Sadahuru Aoki as well as a host other wonderful food goods, perfect for buying gifts.
After a lot of walking on a freezing cold morning we were definitely ready for a warming lunch. Taking a recommendation from David Lebovitz we went for steak frites at Aux Tonneaux des Halles. A bargain at only €19 (wine not included) the steak was exactly what we needed on a cold and wet December day, old school bistro food. We were in Les Halles because I had some serious shopping to do. Les Halles is the the traditional heart of the city, it was the location of the commercial markets until they relocated in 1971. Thankfully there is much evidence of what once was, including plenty of cookware shops.
The three most popular shops are MORA a heaven for bakers and pastry chefs, G.Detou a shop packed to the rafters with amazing ingredients from wonderful sacks of chocolate to the greenest pistachios from Sicily and finally the shop where Julia Child apparently enjoyed shopping, E.Dehillerin.
E.Dehillerin is a cave like shop, more warehouse than posh kitchenware shop. The service is brusk but worth the hassle. I managed to pick up some canele moulds for only €10 a piece, a bargain in comparison to the prices back home. With all these shops its all too easy to go over the top, so I would suggest knowing what you want in advance and try not to be tempted, your bank manager will thank you.
Once we were done shopping it was time for more walking. We walked from the Hotel de Ville across the city to the Eiffel Tower visiting two of my favourite patisserie, Pierre Herme and Patisserie des Reves on the way. At Herme I purchased a Tarte Vanille Infinent a tart so beautiful it had a lot to live up to in taste, thankfully it was well worth the money punching a strong hit of vanilla.
Patisserie des Reves which translates as Patisserie of Dreams is probably my favourite shop to visit, the service is always spot on and the style is so much more relaxed than many other patisseries in the city. The pastry chef, Phillipe Conticini seems to love taking the classics of French pastry and putting a modern twist on them. This trip I tried the Gateau St Honore, although it was accidentally dropped on the ground by the Eiffel Tower before I could get it home, thankfully it survived fairly well considering.
The final stop before catching a late train back to London was to see the Eiffel Tower, always at its most beautiful when lit up in the dark.