Oct 8, 2019

The Paris Diaries #4: 10 Tastings.

It's when I summon up the courage to buy a ticket to ride on a city's metro system that I know that particular city has won a special place in my heart.


The Paris Metro, thankfully, is not as complicated as that of Berlin.  It costs Euro 1.90 for each ride and the ticket machine issues a little cardboard ticket that you insert into the entry gate at the station.  Ticket machines are multilingual and I was able to work things out pretty quickly on my own.



The Metro was so easy to figure out, in fact, I got to my destination with plenty of time to spare before my foodie tour began.


Serendipitously, there was a Monoprix a few minutes away.  One that was not only open at the crack of dawn on a Sunday but also had an entire second floor devoted to non-grocery items.  The beauty department was David Jones level fancy....


I couldn't leave without stocking up on Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse.  And not just any kind of Huile P, the new version with a floral fragrance.  I ended up paying $35 AUD per bottle for it compared to the $42.99 AUD back home.


I threaten promise that I'll have a future post entirely devoted to my Parisian supermarket discoveries but in the interim, may I give you a heads up on the extended range of products that Bonne Maman of the jam fame have here in their home market?  These chocolate sandwich biscuits are so 11/10 I'm planning to stock up before I leave.



In keeping with tradition whenever I visit a European city, I stopped by Maccas to try my hand at placing an order via the self-service ordering system.



My Daim bar flavoured cappucino was ... interesting.




I sipped my coffee thoughtfully as I made my way to the meeting point for my 'Tastings in Paris' walking tour with Paolo from With Locals Food Tours.  Our meeting point was on Rue Antoine-Vollon, a lane in the 12th arrondissement.  I will say from the outset that Paolo was the best tour guide.  He was chirpy but also considered.   He was a wealth of knowledge both of Paris and the world in general as travel is one of his passions.  This particular tour was a private one meaning that I was literally the only person on the tour yet it never felt awkward because we had so much to talk about between us.

The 12th arrondissement is the location of one of Paris' oldest produce markets, the Marche D'Aligre. Historically, the 12th is also where the barricades of the French Revolution were located.  The 10 Tastings tour sees you sample produce from a variety of vendors at the market.




Our first stop was Cafe Aouba which is one of the few local cafes who roast and grind their own coffee beans.

Hands down The Best Espresso I've had in Paris.  Remind me to tell you about The Second Best Espresso too....


Our next stop was Le Pain Au Naturel a boulangerie where we purchased bread for brunch.



There was so much I loved about the tour itself but one of the unexpected bonuses of the tour was being able to live like a local for a couple of hours.  As I queued with Paolo for our bread, I grinned at the preschooler in front of us in the line who was there with grandma and his scooter.  I saw mums and dads doing what I would normally be doing in Sydney if I hadn't been here on a leave pass - having a bit of 'me time' with a good coffee while simultaneously wrangling a child or two and sneaking in a bit of time on the socials on their iPhones.  I saw fellow tourists also savouring their brush with everyday Parisian life.  I saw people from all walks of life brought together by their love of good food.  I saw stallholders attend to their produce with the greatest of care and respect. I heard the banter.  I smelled the food and the coffee.  It was one of those experiences keenly lived with my eyes, ears and heart.

Visiting cities like Paris is often a marathon of culinary, cultural and shopping goals.  Taking time out to do a tour like this was the perfect way to recharge and counter that tourist FOMO you can get when you've flown around 21 hours to your holiday destination.


Our baguette securely wrapped in its paper bag, it was time for Paolo and I to cross the road to another section of the market to select the rest of our brunch ingredients.


Did you know that the French produce at least 400 different types of cheese?


It was hard work narrowing it down to three, let me tell you!


Tapenade is a speciality of the providore we visited.  I was previously only familiar with versions made purely with olives but in France, unique combinations abound.  We finally settled on a fig tapenade to go with our cheeses.


Two things.  To be properly French is to say 'Salut' with your wine while you look your drinking buddies in the eye.  Secondly, 

But wait, that's not all!  We also needed some charcuterie items from the stall across the way...


Ham,


chicken rillettes,

terrine and chorizo were our picks and we added them to the bench next to our cheese and tapenade board.


It only took me that first taste to agree with Paolo that fig tapenade is A Thing.  The sweetness of the figs works with rather than against those olives.  The ham in France is a totally different beast to Australia.  It's less strongly flavoured here and has a less firm and gelatinous texture.  As a person who usually loves cheese more than charcuterie, this brunch on Sunday definitely helped me see the other side of the fence in a good light.


After putting in my best effort with the meats and cheese, it was time to walk / roll down the road past the markets to the next stop on our tour.  Organic produce is a priority for many Parisians.  Many stalls have the green and white AB logo prominently displayed as a sign of their commitment to supplying produce in an ethical and sustainable way.


Fortunately, the grey skies and rain from earlier in the day decided not to linger and the skies soon cleared.




I didn't think I'd have any room for a crepe but I dug deep and managed to find some space.



In hindsight, perhaps I should have gone for a lighter dessert crepe because I could only finish half of this savoury crepe made with cheese and mince.


Our final stop of the day was for a macaron.  I chose a coconut one and it was the right choice - that unmistakable macaron texture coupled with a hit of chewy coconut.


And then it was time to say goodbye to Paolo as I hit the road in search of the day's next adventure.




Paris is one of those cities where you don't seem to have to walk very far before you're face to face with yet another breathtaking historical monument.





On Sunday that would have been the July Column I bumped into.  It commemorates the 1830 French Revolution.


The photos I take of metro stations and their trains are as much for Master SSG back home as they are for me.


There's something universal about metros and other city commuter trains.  Being at a platform waiting for a train makes me feel rapturous with the anticipation of the journey ahead. Disclaimer - I don't rely on public transport to get me too and from work back home....


And before I knew it, I had managed to alight from my train at the right stop, find the correct exit and gotten halfway across the Champs Elysee before I agreed with the girl next to me that stopping as pedestrians in the middle of Sunday traffic was a great idea.  We both now have excellent photos of the Arc for our social media.


Not so Insta-worthy but important nonetheless, fee for use public toilets along the retail segment of the Champs Elysee.  I suspect there are quite a few ventures to be found in the arcades along the street but this is a photo of the one I used.  It's 2 Euros a pop and the stalls are decorated with displays off all the toilet-related merchandise you might contemplate purchasing while you spend a penny.


Monoprix never seems too far from my posts, does it?  I'm ending today's diary with a photo from Monoprix's current campaign.  It's true.  We all have a touch of Karl.  I must investigate this further the next time in store.  Which will probably be sometime later today.

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