Welcome back for the last part of my Paris trip report! If you missed Part 1 or 2 you can catch it here and here.
Friday we woke with a mission. The mission was food. What else is new, I know. But this was different. We were going to purchase food to bring home with us so that we can have a taste of France from time to time. And what’s the best way to do that? Comtesse du Barry bien sûr! If you look on their website their photos are not very appetizing, but I assure you this is top stuff!
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My husband mapped out the store that would be closest to a metro stop because cans aren’t light and we didn’t want to carry them too far! We arrived at the store when they opened and purchased cans of duck confit (yum!), cassoulet, and a few (ok, more than a few) other favorites. We also picked cute little cans of rillettes, etc for picnics and traveling. Just because you are on the road doesn’t mean you can’t eat in style! After dropping our gourmet (and gourmand) bounty we headed for lunch! [Note: those are the most horrible and unappetizing Wikipedia photos I have ever seen, I promise you, it looks MUCH better than those pics!]
We got our loot safely back to the hotel and headed out for lunch.
Besides being the main movie district for Paris (there are a ton of movie theaters in this area), Montparnasse is also well known for its large Breton community. Bretons are people from Brittany in the north of France. They are known for butter, crepes, Calvados, and cider. On the small streets between our hotel and the main Boulevard Montparnasse, there are at least 20 creperies or restaurants that serve crepes.
During all our trips to Paris, and all our stays in the Montparnasse district we had yet to eat at a creperie. This was mainly due to the fact that my husband makes the best crepes at home, so we figured why bother. But that doesn’t mean we hadn’t been scoping out the restaurants. And time after time there was one creperie amongst the many that consistently had a line to eat there. If you know anything about French people, you will know that they don’t wait in line to do ANYTHING, so a line outside a creperie…pretty impressive. But that didn’t mean we were going to stand in line, no…my husband still refused that, but we did make sure we were there right when they opened for lunch!
The restaurant is called Creperie Josselin, and I was happy to see the former Berkeleian, food guru, and Parisian, David Lebovitz agrees (although he actually said that another creperie, Creperie Bretonne, was better – need to investigate on our next trip!). There are two kinds of crepes made with different batter, one is made with like a buckwheat type of flour and used for crèpes salées – salty crepes (basically your main course) with things such as ham and cheese, mushroom etc. And the second is crêpes sucrées – sweet crepes (your dessert) with honey, sugar, fruit, chocolate, etc. And you cannot miss accompanying your meal with apple or pear cider. It is like Martinelli’s only a thousand times better and with alcohol.
While the crepes were indeed yummy, I think my husbands are better!
We rolled out of the creperie full and content and headed over to see another movie. This time we saw a French political thriller called Une affaire d’état (An Affair of the State) which stars another one of my favorite actors, André Dussollier. Unlike in the U.S., political thrillers are very, very rare in France. I am not sure if the government “discourages” producers/directors or what, but this type of movie just doesn’t get made very often. All the talk shows were commenting on this fact. People are very careful what they say.
In fact, while at this movie, we saw a trailer for another political movie (La Sainte Victoire) that came out on December 2nd starring Christian Clavier. That same evening (or maybe it was the next night) Christian Clavier was interviewed on the news for the movie’s opening and he was very careful about steering the category of the movie from political thriller to “just” thriller. Mr. Clavier who plays the politician in the movie is personal friends with President Sarkozy and had been part of a little controversy earlier in the year, so I think he was trying to remain neutral so as to not piss off his buddy.
Anyway, ‘Une affaire d’état’ was excellent. Extremely well-acted and the storyline was engrossing. I hope it comes to Netflix so that maybe some of you have a chance to see it! Et pour mes amies en France ou en Suisse, je vous propose de regarder !
For some reason I thought the crepes were going to be a light meal…it was not! So after the movie, we decided to picnic for dinner so we bought some bread and cheese and other things to nibble on and ate dinner “in”.
P.S. I also realize that I totally screwed up on Buy Nothing Day – I suck! How about this? I am not buying anything for anyone for Christmas. I am giving to charity instead. And, I am not even stepping foot in a store except the grocery store for the rest of the month! Hopefully, that makes up for the fact that I bought food and movie tickets on the day after Thanksgiving.
When we got up it wasn’t raining so we decided to head over to Canale Saint-Martin. It was a lovely walk in an area where a lot of movies, new and old, have been filmed. The colors were really pretty even though it wasn’t very sunny. We walked for quite a while until we started getting tired and hungry, so we hopped on the metro to Bastille and headed towards the Brasserie Bofinger. Bofinger, a part of the Esprit Brasserie family, is also very old and quite popular. It is a place that I lot of people like to be seen at (in fact there was someone a Duke or Lord or something having lunch while we were there) and it was jammed when we got there.
We grabbed the metro to Chatelet-Les-Halles, a not-so-nice shopping area that used to be the site of the former Paris market. But it has a decent-sized Fnac so we went to see if they had some DVDs that we were still missing from our list. From there we walked a bit more and then hit the metro back to the hotel. Still a little full from lunch, we decided to have dinner at Chez Leon (again). This time we both had the marinière version (à la Marinière) which is white wine and garlic and shallots. I dunked my fries and half a basket of bread in the lovely broth that the mussels had been cooked in.
If you notice, I stopped mentioning breakfasts. That’s because, after a while, all the restaurant food gets to be a lot. We started just having a coffee in the morning. Then as you can already see, we were eating a large lunch and a light dinner. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, after a certain amount of days, eating in restaurants gets old and you start missing your “home” food. For us, that was means vegetables and salads. We were getting a lot of meat, some carbs, and not many veggies and we were starting to yearn for a big salad!
When we left the hotel Sunday it was cold, really cold. Our plans were to go to the Palais Royal and to eat at the Palais Royal Restaurant that we had been to for the first time in May. We had intended to go to another restaurant in Palais Royal called Le Grand Véfour during our stay, but we never made it and will save it for another trip. However, we forgot it was Sunday (a lot of restaurants are closed on Sunday) so we took a quick tour and decided to head closer to the Louvre to see what we could find. As we walked out of the Palais Royal and crossed the street, we noticed a little bistro that was open. They were advertising themselves as 100% organic and so we stopped to look at the menu. The owner came out and enticed us inside by offering a free glass of champagne. Me turn down champagne? Not likely!
The building that the restaurant was a part of is really old and built of white stone that was just gorgeous. The interior of the restaurant was a bit of a mess, but we were interested in being warm and being fed, so the aesthetics didn’t bother me that much. We chose le menu, each choosing from 1 of 3 starters and 1 of 3 main courses. I had the herring, like my husband had La Cupole our first night, but my version was actually tastier than the La Cupole version although it was not served with potatoes. My husband had a charcuterie plate that consisted of prosciutto, smoked duck breast, and saucisson. As the main course, I chose sliced chicken and my husband got something that was advertised as similar to beef Bourgninan. Normally I would have chosen that, but my chicken was supposed to have mash potatoes which I had a craving for, so I selected that instead.
The chicken was only okay and was served with rice instead of potatoes. My husband’s beef was interesting, but not Bourgninan. It had too much cinnamon for my taste and it was served on a bed of rice. My husband liked it, and funnily enough another couple, very Parisian joined the restaurant for dinner and ordered it as well and both of them liked it.
So I guess it was a French thing because it did not appeal to me. After our meal the owner came and read off the desert, we had a choice of three. I chose a chocolate fondant and my husband chose a pear cooked in wine. They were both very good, and it turns out very expensive. I thought that the dessert was part of le menu, but alas, it was not.
My chocolate fondant (basically a really rich brownie cost 11 Euro or $18), yikes! I really hadn’t wanted dessert and only ordered it because I could have sworn it was part of the package meal, so I felt a little ripped off. We ordered coffee (bad), paid the bill, and left. We will not be returning there.
We decided to walk through the Tuileries again. I made another pit stop at the restrooms at The Carousel (more on that in a future post) and then it started to rain. We headed back to the hotel and watched one of our French DVDs on my laptop. Still full from lunch, we picnicked again. We bought sandwiches at a local patisserie that were very fresh and very tasty. I was on a tuna kick while my husband eating saucisson every time he could!
Our last day in Paris. That evening we would be going to stay at the Sheraton at CDG (more on that in a future post). We like to stay there the night before our flight because it beats getting up super early the morning of. You end up at the airport exhausted from your trip from Paris only to get on a plane for 11 hours. No thanks. But I am getting ahead of myself. First…
We slept in and headed to La Cupole for the last meal in town. It was just too cold and rainy to head out any further, and their menu is so large it would take a while to get bored of it. My husband decided that we would have tartare de boeuf. This is definitely not something you can get in the U.S. – or very, very few places, as raw meat is a no-no to be served in restaurants.
I thought a bottle of red wine sounded good. Little did I know that it was going to fall to me to drink the majority of it! The tartare was great, the wine tasty and I completed the meal with another café gourmand – hey, I knew it was back to the real world the next day!
We walked back to the hotel and waited a few minutes for the bus to CDG. Air France offers fantastic bus service to both of the Parisian airports for around $20. They leave every 1/2 hour and it takes an hour to get to the airport in a nice luxury bus, you can’t beat it. You do not have to be flying on Air France to use the service and you can buy tickets when you get on. Although a little tipsy, I was looking forward to arriving at the airport in the afternoon, could there be any better place to people watch and explore?!
We walked around and people watched, used the lounge in the hotel to check-in electronically, and save ourselves from a line in the morning. We grabbed a sandwich from Paul for dinner. I got a classic – ham and butter on a baguette. Nothing beats it and it is delicious, it is my favorite Paul sandwich. While not quite the same as making my own picnic at home, we each picked up an extra Paul sandwich that we would eat on the plane the next day with a few other items that I picked up.
Looking back I realize now that our trip was very touristy. Normally we mix it up a bit, by trying out new restaurants and visiting new districts in Paris. We had never been to Canale Saint-Martin before so that was new, but everywhere else we went to was either someplace we were very familiar with our touristy. Ah well, sometimes that is just how it is! Like I said in Part 1, we just wanted to eat and relax and I think we accomplished that.
And with that, we ended our impromptu stay in Paris. The next day we hopped on the plane, ate our Paul sandwiches, and counted the hours until we had our own bed, our own food, and our lovely little cat Jessica.