A Weekend in Paris

This past weekend, I travelled over to Paris to spend some time with my cousin and her family, who were staying just south of Montmartre. After the most stressful hour of my life (from 19:00 – 20:00 on Thursday, September 29th, which included sprinting around Holborn carrying a 30 pound non-rolling duffle bag, busting into my about-to-close school building to print out a missing boarding pass, making it to the check-in-point at St. Pancras with 47 seconds to spare, and rushing through security and border control in order to make my 20:02 train), I settled in on the Eurostar and prepared for the great weekend ahead of me.

Waking up on Friday morning was difficult. The previous night, after the hour from hell and its subsequent train ride, I had to wait in a taxi queue for over 45 minutes and then use my limited French skills to explain to a non-English-speaking taxi driver where the relatively unknown, boutique hotel was in a non-central part of town. But once I was up, any tiredness in me was quickly vanquished by an unbelievably delicious apricot croissant from Midoré, the spacious and bright café around the corner from our hotel. Throughout the weekend, Midoré became our go-to breakfast/brunch place; everything we tried (apple-filled pastry, butter-caramel eclair, cappuccino, hot chocolate, strawberry tart) was just so good, and so cheap.

From Midoré, Megan and I walked over to the Eiffel Tower while the rest of her family went to Disneyland Paris (fulfilling the request of my younger cousin Garrett). For the rest of the day, we utilized our hop-on hop-off boat pass and visited different sites along the Seine. Over the course of the day, we saw the Louvre, Notre Dame, le Jardin de Plants, and – at the place where we spent most our day, getting lost deep into the neighborhood’s streets – St. Germain.

While there were countless places we could’ve eaten, we ended up at Paul Maison de Qualité, an international chain that offers freshly-baked breads, pastries, and other lunch goods. Our sandwiches were just fine; mine consisted of ham, lettuce, and hard-boiled egg on a baguette — something light and cheap enough for lunch. The place we spent the most time and money was actually at Un Dimanche à Paris, a sleek and modern dessert shop in the winding alleyways of the left bank. After perusing about the entire store, we ordered a selection of macarons and white chocolate ice cream and sat outside.

The ice cream was fine, but a little too plain. The macarons, though, were amazing – especially the butter-caramel ones. Each bite was spectacular – a heavenly combination of airy macaron and the most intensely-flavored butter caramel filling. The other macarons had this impossibly-good flavor too – the coffee, hazelnut, and pistachio flavors so deeply intense. We walked back to the boat content.

By the end of the day, none of us had any energy left to search out an acclaimed restaurant in a different arrondissement. Instead, we walked to the sports-bar-restaurant on the corner of our street, Comptoir de l’Europe. We’d seen people eating outside almost every day, and the food had always looked pretty good. I ordered the parmentier de canard confit, which was comprised of a layer of duck confit, a layer of buttery mashed potatoes, a layer of cheese, and two slabs of bacon. This quintessentially French dish was unbelievable. Every bite was so succulent and rich; after a long day of walking, it was amazing – the French version of comfort food. My dessert – a crème caramel – was pretty good too, but nothing was as spectacular as the parmentier. A good end to day one.

On day two, we woke up and walked up to Montmartre. The views from the hill were spectacular (see: picture 1), but the town itself felt a little touristy and – especially on the main boulevards – tchotchke. On our way back, though, I realized that we were just a block away from A l’Etoile d’Or, the “best candy shop in Paris” (according to David Lebovitz). After searching it out, we walked into chocolate (and foodie) heaven. The small shop was teeming with all sorts of different chocolates, confectionery, and bonbons – lined up on the walls, on tables throughout the store, and behind the counter. In the matter of 15 minutes, I’d somehow amassed a purchase of 50 euros. Which isn’t that much considering the Bernachon chocolate bars (from the bean-to-bar chocolatier in Lyon, considered to be one of the very best) were over 10 euros each. I grabbed one filled with Kirsch-laden Sicilian pistachio paste, and another studded with caramelized hazelnuts. I also grabbed an assortment of bonbons from the counter, as well as a super small jar of pure hazelnut butter.

The only thing I have left is the hazelnut chocolate bar; I’m refusing to open it until a big occasion (like when term papers are all done). Everything else, though, is beyond exceptional; life-changing; a religious experience. I’m almost joking.

Au revoir, Paris!

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