The fresh morning air and cool rays of light poured through the trees like gold, illuminating the smooth stone walls of cream, painting shadows of iron lattice balconies over the flourishing flowers adorning every balcony. Shadows of leaves echoed onto the pavement in grey blowing pointillism paintings.
A first time in Paris
Men dressed in dark jackets and aviators carried baguettes under their arm, and for good reason, as the bread was world-class. Cafe terraces spilled out onto every street corner, as youths and hipsters watched the world pass by over espressos and lagers.
Slick black sports cars exchanged engine noises and three-wheeled motorbikes weaved through traffic, keeping the bustling city centre at a fast pace. Below ground, the labyrinthine metro system shuttled Parisians around like a beating pulse.
Fashion pervaded; kids sported tiny converse and designer scarves, and the grandparents made bold statements of taste with small, circular spectacles of red, green and blue. The beauty was all around in the shape of towering monuments that lent their shadows down great boulevards of falling leaves and cutting-edge clothes boutiques.
Let’s talk about food!
Paris has many exciting aspects to write about, so for this post I thought id make a few comments on the high standard of French cuisine, a treat for my taste buds after many months of fried rice. Here are some of the best things that I ate in Paris…
Pride of the French cold meat section, this member of the salami family is mild in spice but greasy and flavoursome, perfect with cheese, and highly addictive!
Mr. and Mrs. Croque
What I know as just a toasted ham and cheese in Australia, in France the name is significantly more eloquent. The Croque Monsieur is usually far more cheesy though, with a layer of cheese over the top as well as in the middle, and served with a salad at a cafe terrace, makes for a formidable snack. Drop a fried egg on top and you have the upgrade, the Croque Madame.
Cheese for every occasion
France is of famous for its cheese. For a naive Australian who just wants to buy a block of regular cheese to use on a sandwich, the selection process is suddenly quite difficult.
Standing in the supermarket staring at the cheese sections at the fridge and at the deli, I felt overwhelmed by the selection. Soft, hard, stinky, sharp, mild, mouldy, sliced, unsliced – not to mention the regional varieties…the choice of cheese is a French supermarket is amazing!
Once they crawled around the garden on slick silvery tracks and chewed on lettuce leaves, now they populate the dinner table. I was looking forward to eating the snails, if only to find out why a slimy gastropod could be a decent alternative to conventional meat like chicken. Served in the shell, bathed in butter and herbs, the little guys came complete with special handling tongs and snail fork. They were deep brown in colour, slightly chewy and very oily, tasting something like a mussel…they just tasted like snail, I decided!
Saint Germain does Pres was the scene of our authentic French dining experience (fancy is implied). The duck landed in front of me for my main course, presented beautifully and simply, a rich, juicy red meat, baked potatoes and a lick of sweet fruity sauce. The French chefs, although churning out meals for tables brimming with people so tightly packed they we knocked elbows, still managed to create culinary masterpieces.
I was completely full by the time the creme brulee arrived on the table, but when I cracked the hard sugar-glazed shell with my spoon and tasted the creamy custard beneath, my stomach somehow found space. French tarts and sweets are one of the best things about visiting Paris. Find my deep-dive into the world of French tarts here!
Theres no denying that the displays of rainbow pyramids of sweet snacks instantly draws the eye, and in me activated a child-like craving for sugar in my brain. Maybe its the exclusivity (because of the big French price tag!) that makes it feel like your parent is allowing you just one biscuit, or maybe it reminds me of being a tiny child about to eat some tasty coloured Lego.
I love the crispy shell of the biscuit, the soft cake-like middle, and the sugary jam-like spread in the centre.
Pastry balls, filled with vanilla icecream, and drowned in warm home-melted chocolate as a sauce. An amazing way to finish any meal…