You already know I am in love with anything French. And it was only fitting that I would visit the capital of France to experience firsthand all that Paris has to offer. Last May, my friend Annie Mariel and I decided that we would go to Paris in September. June was too close, July too hot, August emptied of real Parisians… so September was the ideal time to go.
I had not set foot in Paris since I was 16… we will not actively reveal how many years ago that is. Just know that it’s been a real while. They used the French franc then and the European Union did not exist.
So this trip was a re-acquaintance trip of sorts – getting to know Paris as an adult, testing my French language skills, and discovering all that French cuisine has to offer, to a vegetarian. Because something else is also different on this trip when compared to my previous one… I was not a vegetarian then. Not even dreamt about it. On that original trip, I remember quite well ordering steak frites, one of Paris’ staples. But I was confident I would manage…
I will divide my trip experiences in a few installments … because I noticed I took as many pictures of what I ate as pictures from the well-known Parisian monuments – the Eiffel Tower, the Arc du Triomphe, the Mona Lisa, Place de la Concorde…
I hope you will enjoy Paris as much as I did, even if it’s vicariously thru my pictures and commentary… on y va!!!
The trip to Paris is quite long… 3 ½ hours from SJ to NYC and 7 hours from NYC to Paris. It’s a “sort-of” overnight trip because you arrive in Paris at 7AM Paris time, even though it’s actually 1AM for your mind and body. We were lucky to fly 1st class from SJ to NYC, but not so lucky on the long leg of the trip… we ordered vegetarian meals for both of us, Annie Mariel and I, and this is what we got: Curried Chickpeas with White Rice – is this a flight to Paris or to India??? – some overcooked broccoli, a salad and cantaloupe. This reminded me of the airline food challenges in Top Chef a few seasons back. Pathetic to say the least… I was very much looking forward to some great Parisian food.
We arrived in Paris at about 7:30AM. We got into the city at about 8:30AM. Our landlady was waiting on us in our Parisian apartment. We rented an apartment in the 2eme arrondissement because we wanted to live as the Parisians do. And besides, it’s much cheaper than a hotel if you’re staying more than a few days. We were a bit jetlagged and took a power nap to get our energy up…
We arrived on a Sunday morning and Sundays in Paris are very much like I remember things in PR about 30 years ago – no shops are open, everything is closed for the day. Only the Champs Elysées and the touristy areas are open. But we wanted to live as Parisians and that meant to walk to a touristy area if you want to eat in a café or restaurant on a Sunday.
We decided to walk around our neighborhood to get familiarized with it… we were located right in between the Opera/Madeleine area and the Louvre – all that within walking distance. Following my namesake, we decided to head towards Opera/La Madeleine and see where that would lead us.
We found a café aptly named Café Madeleine… hey, I had to eat there!!! I loved that most everything on the menu was accompanied by “frites et salade”, French fries and salad. Remember I told you, all fries in France and French fries… you need to order frites. I ordered a tartine which is an open faced sandwich on toasted whole-grain Poîlane bread (check!!). I ordered the one with cheese and tomato, sans the jambon. The server was not too happy, but I explained in my best French that I was vegetarian and I did not want the ham at all… he understood or was it he felt compelled to please me by my attempt of speaking French by the locals… I will never know.
The tartine looked and tasted delicious… way better than what we had had on the airplane a few hours back. The salad was simply dressed with vinaigrette, worthy of any French café.
And because we were on vacation, we had to end with ice cream… Annie Mariel loves chocolate and I had to oblige. It was delicious. And the wafers that came on the side were awesome too.
This was light and a perfect introduction to our culinary/eating adventures in Paris… stay tuned for more on my French vegetarian adventure. A bientôt…