Day 2 in Paris dawned clear and bright, despite dire forecasts. Our day began with a Secret Food Tour of the Montmartre area. Funny, bawdy, and very knowledgeable about French food, wine, and culture, our guide P.J. took us around Montmartre clad in a leather biker vest. We began at a local boulangerie, watching the bread being put into the oven. The tour structure cleverly mimicked the Parisian buying habits (grab bread at the boulangerie, cheese at a separate fromagerie, vegetables from a market stall, etc.). At each stop, P.J. and the purveyor would share information about the items at hand, or funny stories about life in Paris. After 45 minutes or so of shopping, we brought our spoils back to a restaurant near where Edith Piaf sang as a street performer. Once seated, we settled down to a hefty tasting meal.
P.J. purchased three kinds of baguettes—regular, whole wheat, and corn—and they served as handy vessels for the parade of meat and cheese. The corn was the real revelation—a little sweet, a little savory, and a whole lot delicious.
We began with a trippel creme cheese with truffles. Soft cheeses aren’t usually our jam, but the earthiness from the truffles really helped it go down a treat. It was followed by a goat cheese in ash and a hard goat cheese. The soft was too funky, but the hard was a favorite of Paul’s.
Next came the meats. Salame, meat from the neck that tasted like andouille, and actual andouille made from intestines and stomach that tasted like tiny ribbons of chewy fat (not my fav). Strong cheeses rounded out the savory portion of the meal—Comte and Roquefort.
Finally, we rose to walk off some of the goodies we’d just consumed. First, was an amazing macaron and chocolate shop run by two Korean bakers/chocolatiers. We had honey, fig (the only French bakery to have real fruit filling), chocolate, and coffee macarons. Next, we had choupetts. Delicious light pastries with a tiny crunch stuffed with whipped cream. We both agreed we would have enjoyed them even more without the cream.
The tour ended with crepes from a little hole-in-the-wall crepe shop. We chose the lemon, butter, and sugar, at my suggestion. While good, the order was definitely not the best thing on the menu. That comes later…
Stuffed full of decadent Parisian treats, we made our way to the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees, and the Eiffel Tower. We had tried to see them the day prior, but one of my mini freak-outs happened en route. Dazed, staring at the subway map like it was in Greek, we missed our window and had to hustle to the wine tasting. We saw many beautiful things on this trip, but the Arc de Triomphe monument really blew me away. Not sure why, but it made me a little teary.
We took a short metro ride across the river and briefly walked around the Eifel Tower just long enough to snap a few photos. Not being masochists, we decided to forego climbing the thing.
Paul then suggested heading to the Place des Vosges, reputed to be the most beautiful square in Paris. Though its charms were somewhat dimmed by the leaden sky and light rain, we spent some time walking around the square and stopped to see the exterior of Victor Hugo’s house. Because three hours is way too long to go without wine when in Paris, we stopped and enjoyed a couple glasses at a quiet café—sitting outside and enjoying the quiet of the rain-dampened square.
On our way to the Place des Vosges, we passed through the Place de la Bastille, the site where the Bastille prison once stood. The square no longer contains any remnants of the notorious structure, but is home to a large monument to another of France’s many revolutions. The monument was slightly spoiled by the Nokia advertisement wrapped around it.
We wandered around the St. Paul/Marais district before making our way back to Montmartre and the Sacre Couer. We took the funicular up to the Sacre Couer and when we tried to get back down, some people had messed up the machines so they could sell illegal tickets. Not cool, folks, not cool. In the dark, the whole thing felt menacing and next time I’d be better prepared with pre-purchased tickets to avoid any trouble.
We had a kind of lackluster dinner of escargot, rump steak, croque madame, and a Cote du Provence rose. Biologically, we were sated, but psychologically we were still searching for a French food experience that would blow us away. Determined to indulge in something memorable, we went in search of the hole-in-the-wall crepe stand again. And, boy, are we so glad we did. The crepes were delicate and golden. Stuffed with savory, melty cheese and ham, or sweet, nutty Nutella, they were the best bites we had in Paris and were right up there with some of the best food of the entire trip.
Look at those looks of pure joy, folks. Pure, crazy joy.