Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Disappointment and Delights.

Inside the at Pierre Herméshop at 39 Avenue Opéra.  It's all about the macarons!

I

   woke up well rested and ready to go.  I looked over at Z and he was still sound asleep.  As I made my way to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, I could hear the sound of raindrops hitting the skylight.  Ugh.  Another crappy weather day.

As I sipped on my cup of tea, I did a bit of reading but nothing related to Paris.  The only confirmed activity I had for today was a tour of the Catacombs at 4p.  Otherwise, the day was wide open to explore the city as we wanted to.

I let Z sleep until around 10:30a and then I rustled him awake.  Poor kid.  He still wasn't feeling well but he's been such a trooper.  He's not let his cold slow him one bit!

By quarter past 11a, we were standing inside the boulangerie located barely 20 feet from the front entrance of our apartment.  It was closed yesterday but today, it was opened and we were going in for breakfast!  Boulangerie L'Essential which features breads and pastries made by Anthony Bosson.  The sign, posted on the front door, proudly advertises Bosson as the 4th place winner of the 2013 Concours du Meilleur Croissant au Beurre AOC Charantes-Poitou a.k.a The Best Butter Croissant Competition. Only in France do they have a competition for best butter croissant. So of course, we had to try it.



We stood in line and when it came our turn, I ordered a croissant au beurre, one pain au chocolat (my favorite) and then something that looked like a brioche of sorts.

We carried our bag of a goodies to a small table and gave a moment of homage before diving into each one.  First, the butter croissant which you can easily identify because they are straight, not crescent shaped - if you get the curved one, it's made with some other fat like margarine.  In fact, it's against the law (yes, there is a law) to create a straight croissant unless it is made will all butter.  Lesson.  DO NOT by a crescent shaped croissant when you're in Paris.  Go straight!!


First the butter croissant.  The thing was about the size of my face, it was so big but yet it was light as a feather!  I broke it in half and I could feel the crunchy exterior crack between my fingers.  Inside it was light and flaky.  One bit and I was in heaven.  Buttery and absolutely delicious!  Next it was on to the pain au chocolate.  The pastry was perfect - probably the same butter dough as for the butter croissants.  My only complaint was that I thought it could do with another stick of chocolate.  In fact, I thought classically there are 2 sticks inside.  Lastly to the brioche thing which they served upside down, with a light sugar dusting. It was also delicious.  Eating all this really made we wish I had ordered a cup of coffee.

On our way out, I had to take a peek at the pastry case.  Oh....there were several slices of cake that were definitely calling out to us.  I had warned Z before we arrived into Paris that there would be no stopping me from buying cake.  Usually my sweet tooth takes a back seat to my love of all things salty but the one exception is when it comes to French pastries.  There is not a single one that I don't love.  Period.  And I shall have as many as I please on this trip.  Period.


After our teeny weeny bit of breakfast, we made our way to the metro.  It was a steady rain.  I reached for the blueberry poncho and draped over me, my backpack and my camera.  I am in the fashion capital of the world and I, unabashedly, look like a bag lady.  Perhaps I should consider designing a fashionable poncho for travelers.

We exited and as Murphy's law would have it, when it rains, you take the long route to get to the Louvre - walk around the block in the wrong direction.  My pants and shoes were quickly getting drenched and I was not a happy camper.


When I finally saw the glass pyramid, I knew we were in the right place.  But as Murphy's Law would have it, when you have time to read up to plan your day and you don't, you arrive at a museum that is closed for the day.  Yes, the Louvre and several other museums, in Paris, are closed on Tuesdays.  Damn!!  Wet and a bit cold, I am really not a happy camper.


The only thing that lifted up my spirits a wee bit was the machine that cleans the glass of the pyramid.  Very cool device!  I did wonder why the chose to do the cleaning on a rainy day.  Perhaps it was intentional to make use of the rain water.


Well, not our lucky day with the Louvre.  We had no choice but leave.  From here, I suggested to Z that we make our way to the Visitors Center which is located a short walk from the Louvre.  We might as well get some information - I wanted to inquire about getting either the city or museum pass as well as information on a cabaret show.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel stood between the Louvre and wherever Z was leading us to. The triumphal arch was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon's military victories of the previous year. At first glance, it looks like a smaller version of THE Arc de Triomphe.


On the very top stands the statue titled, "Peace riding in a triumphal chariot"  by François-Joseph Bosio (1828).


Bas relief work under the arch.  Unfortunately, raindrops on my lens marred the image a bit. 

We took shelter, under the arch, for a few minutes.  My pants and shoes were soaked through.  I looked at the beautiful architecture of the arch to distract me for a few minutes.


Looking back towards the Louvre.

We eventually made it to the Visitors Information Center, conveniently located near the Pyramides Metro stop.  Inside, the place was packed!!  I stood in line and waited my turn.  The woman behind the desk patiently answered all my questions.  She wasn't very friendly but thankfully, she was helpful.  I ended up buying a 2 day city pass for each of us.  The city pass includes a two day Paris Museum Pass, a Big Bus sightseeing tour, a 1-hour Bateaux Parisiens cruise on the Seine, skip-the-line entry to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower and an unlimited transport pass on the metro and rail systems.  (I guess I will save our unused metro tickets for another trip.)

Per recommendation from the sales lady, I also got two tickets to a cabaret performance at the Lido.  That should be fun!

We were inside the Visitors Center for quite sometime.  When we emerged, so had the sun!  Thank God!  I just hoped it would stay that way so I could continue to dry off.  My toes had been drenched in water for so long, I'm sure they were as wrinkled as raisins.

I had no idea where Z was leading me but I knew the name the moment I saw it above the window - Pierre Hermé.  In the world of French pastries, his name is synonymous with macarons and his love of unusual flavors and flavor combinations.

We HAD to go inside this shrine to the macaron.  There were so many colorful macarons to choose from and at 2.40 euro each, we needed to pick carefully.  The Taiwanese woman who was serving us patiently explained each macaron - what the almond dough was flavored with and then what the filling was.  There were some fillings, like lucuma ( a subtropical fruit native to the Andean valleys of Chile, Ecuador, and Peru) that we had never heard of.  Of course, she recommended that we should have the Ispahan, the eponymous macaron of Pierre Hermé.  In Paris, macarons often have their own names....it's not just a macaron, it's an Ispahan and if you just say Ispahan, everyone who is anyone in the Paris pastry world will know exactly what you're talking about.  The French are very serious about their food!


We took our precious macarons and continued our walk.  Next thing you know, we're standing at a traffic circle looking over at a building I immediately recognized.  In 1996, I came here and watched a very artistic performance of Swan Lake.

Palais Garnier  was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. I've always just called it the Opera House. Today, its steps were perfect for us to sit on and enjoy our macarons. I have to say, Ispahan was my favorite. The lucuma flavored one was indeed very unusual. The sales lady had told us the flavor was reminiscent of maple syrup and while it was a very faint taste, it did indeed taste of maple!


We sat, nibbled on our macarons, watched the world go by and soaked in the sun.  We've not relaxed like this since our last afternoon in Ghent and it was nice.  As we were sitting and enjoying ourselves, I already knew exactly where we would go next!  I was going to be retracing steps I took decades ago!  One of the most renown department stores in the world with one of the finest food halls in the world!


Lafayette Gourmet is the food hall of Galeries Lafayette.  We stepped inside the main store to get directions to the Lafayette Gourmet which is housed in a separate building.

Food is a very serious business here and Lafayette Gourmet is testament to the French love of food.  The top floor is focused on prepared foods.  You can get everything from chocolate and pastries to  pate, Petrossian caviar, teas, coffees, and preserves, to restaurants serving up fresh seafood, tapas, sushi, dim sum, and a salumeria.


 

The lower level houses the market place.  Here, shoppers can buy fresh produce, fresh seafood as well as items from the deli and cheese counter.  Refrigerators hold delectable items like smoked fish, freshly made pastas and other items needed to whip up a gourmet meal. I swear, if I lived in Paris, I would balloon up to the size of a zeppelin....far surpassing elephant!


I didn't even mind it when it took forever for Z to use the facilities - it gave me more time to check out all the food items.  Oh....the smoked fish were right up my alley and I even found a package of smoked roe.  I love roe and I loved smoked foods.  I must attempt to do this with my smoker when I get home!

The deli counter pretty much stopped my in my tracks.  Pates, terrines....they were all shouting out to me, especially anything en croute.  I was so tempted to buy some stuff but at the same time, I was not in the mood to be lugging around food while we're traipsing all over town.

Then came the cheese counter.  Let's not talk about that.  I have a weakness for cheese.  I took a picture and quickly scooted off.  I didn't want to leave drool marks on the glass.


It was well past lunch time but the small eateries were doing a hopping business. I figured that Z's eyes would convey the look of all the yummy food to his tummy and in turn, it would register it was in need of food.  But when I asked Z if he wanted to eat here, I got a mixed response - I think he was afraid of the sticker shock he would face.  I had long resigned myself to the fact that it costs more to eat here so I am eating but if he doesn't speak up, I  move on and move I did.


Once we were done ogling at all the food, we headed back out to the streets and to the Metro.  There were skulls and bones waiting for us!