“Sitting here on the banks of the Seine, with the sun beating pleasant warmth upon our backs and twinkling at us through reflections on the river…life is good.”
– J’s thoughts from the journal that we kept throughout the trip (except we fell behind after day 3).
A brief outline of the day:
We began by walking eastward on rue Rivoli towards the Bastille.
We saw the Forum des Halles and walked through…
And then came upon the Eglise St. Eustache, a beautiful church with an 8000 pipe organ (supposedly the largest organ in France). Throughout our trip, I was just so amazed by where random wanderings took us. Several times, we randomly chanced upon a majestic church or building or fountain or statue.
After walking through the church, we continued on our way towards the Bastille. We see a street market on a side street and decide to wander down. J picks up some foie gras terrine and blood sausage. The former he really liked, the latter less so.
We continue walking down the side streets – and I accidentally lead us down a street that I thought looked interesting from a distance, but ended up to be full of stores selling…hm…racy DVDs among other goods. (Yet, Sephora was a further down the street.)
Anyway, a perfectly good supermarket was among these “interesting” stores, so we picked up some Pellegrino and Evian for the road. Approximately 70 to 80 cents a bottle – so inexpensive compared to prices in the U.S.!
All of a sudden, I see Legay Choc among the stores on the street.
After some difficulty in deciding, we choose a croissant and a pistachio pastry. So amazingly good. The croissant was slightly sweet, buttery (but not greasy), and had a good shatter when you bit into it. Just overall wonderful. For the rest of my trip, I compared croissants to this one – and somehow, I felt that the rest fell short. Was this the best croissant that I had on my trip? Or did my hunger augment its tastiness? We will never know, but that sure was a delicious croissant – I savored each and every bite.
After we finished the croissant, we had the pistachio pastry to enjoy. It was slightly denser and heavier, but I loved the addition of chocolate chips. The pistachio flavor was definitely tangible.
Munching on these goodies provided fuel for the rest of the walk to the Bastille.
J had asked that we come here on a Sunday so that we could check out the Richard Lenoir Market. We found stand after stand of fruit, bread, cheese, seafood, vegetables, and more. The fruit and veggies not only looked aesthetically wonderful, but the prices were great (definitely better than those found in New York). Walking through the market, I grew very jealous of Parisians.
J bought a Lebanese snack – a naan-like bread with a half sesame and half herb filling. Moitie-moitie it was called (half-half). We also bought apricots, donut peaches, white peaches, oranges, and strawberries.
After thoroughly exploring the markets, we began the rue Marais walk in Rick Steves’ book, which took us to…
- a Parisian gas station – look at the space this occupies!
- the Place des Vosges, where we encountered a young man playing the harp
- Hotel Sully, where we stopped to snack on the fruit
- Carnavalet, a museum of French history
Afterwards, we sat down by the Hotel de Ville to decide what to do next. We chose to tackle Notre Dame and St-Chappelle, so we walked across the Seine to the Ile de la Cite.
Face to face with Notre Dame, I could not imagine how people built something like that hundreds of years ago. The sheer amount of work that had to go into it…unfathomable. The church – beautiful; the detailing on all of the churches that we visited – incredible.
Next, St-Chappelle. The tall stained glass windows were breathtaking (even though a section had been blocked off for renovation). J and I sat for awhile and just marveled at each of the panels.
After leaving St-Chappelle, we walked to the end of the small island and to the Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris). J suggested that we use Paris’ bike rental system, which is used mainly by locals, not tourists. Biking around Paris was potentially the scariest thing on the entire trip, but also made us feel very…well, Parisian. Bikes generally share a lane with buses in Paris, and riding along a busy street with a bus in front and behind you is quite an experience. I had to continuously remind myself that the biking was not for leisure, but for transportation – and that I had to bike in the same way as I would drive a car, with the same level of caution and aggression.
Thankfully, we made it safely to Berthillon on Ile St-Louis, where we had the most delicious ice cream.
Two cones with two scoops each: peach and pear, salted butter caramel and hazelnut. At €4.20 per cone, we had high expectations. The ice cream did not fail us. Descriptions of the ice cream do not suffice. Pure “wow.”
As I took my first lick of the peach/pear cone, my tastebuds were in disbelief of the onslaught of flavor and texture. The peach and pear flavors were true and intense. How often is it that you order something peach-flavored, and it actually tastes like a peach? Not the fake-candy-peach flavor, but actual peach. The hazelnut tasted like a “hazelnutty Nutella,” according to J. It had large chunks of hazelnut (generously blended in), which added a nice textural contrast. The caramel had that deep, near-burnt, smoky flavor that we’d found in the Laduree macarons the previous night. The pear had the same sandiness/graininess as a real pear. The purity of the flavor…mmm…
After Berthillon, we Velibed over to Chez Omar, a restaurant serving Moroccan food. (I almost didn’t make it, coming very close to being run over by a motorcycle.)
I got the lamb stew with couscous, and J ordered the steak au poivre. We had a glass of red wine to accompany our meal. The owner, Omar, was extremely friendly. The food? Delicious, of course. I do not normally eat couscous, but that meal made me want to go home and make it. (In fact, once we returned to New York, both J and I picked up some couscous from Whole Foods.) The lamb was very flavorful and tender – the meat fell off the bone with a prod of my fork.
For dessert, we each chose a goodie off a huge platter of Moroccan desserts. I went for a eggroll-shaped thing filled with ground almond paste, and J had his eyes on baklava.
After finishing off our desserts, we were fully stuffed. This meal was just over €40. It is easy to eat well and inexpensively in Paris.