What a week, with two trips to Paris – one for pleasure (a gift to my mum to celebrate her 60th) and one for work. I know the city very well – I work for a French company and get to travel to our Paris offices quite frequently, plus we have plenty of friends living in Paris and try to see them as often as possible.
I haven’t really travelled around France very much though, so each time I visit Paris I try to make sure I eat traditionally French food, even if it is not typically Parisian. As my mum is as (if not more) greedy as me, I knew that the weekend would be full of eating, with a few tourist attractions thrown in.
Because of my frequent travel I have access to the Eurostar business lounge, which was the first treat for my mum as she fell in love with the almond croissants and polished the lot off. Whilst they aren’t the best quality croissants in the world, they are much nicer than the cardboard ones you get in supermarkets in the UK so I can see why she went a little wild.
Filled up on pastry, we made a quick pitstop at our hotel to dump our bags and then went straight off to Montmartre, as mum had never been there before. After walking to the top of the hill to see Sacre Coeur (I had neglected to mention the funicular, whoops), we rested our legs with coffee and cake in one of the little cafes.
Oh those adorable Parisians and their service culture! After being glared at for 10 minutes by the old bat behind the counter, she eventually deigned to take our order of two cafe alonges with milk (why do they always look at me like I am mad when I ask for milk with coffee/) and a mille feuille and a chocolate cake. They tasted worse than they looked, but the sugary hit did help. I thought I tasted alcohol in the mille feuille but when I asked Madame, she didn’t know (not made on the premises then eh?!). But what’s Paris without the waiters eh? It’s an tourist attraction in itself … that and the delights of the metro …
For dinner, I had made reservations at Fontaine de Mars, which is a traditional bistro I have visited before. Originally my colleague Sophie took me there, as I had begged them to find me somewhere which served cassoulet for dinner (it was fabulous). I also took Andrew there for his birthday one year and had one of the best meals ever (rather drunken as well as we tried walking back to the metro and ended up back where we started one hour later!).
I knew it was going to be a great meal but it was made even better by the discovery of Chateau de Tracy pouilly fume wine on the menu! 36 EUR per bottle meant it wasn’t the cheapest but it was destiny for us to try! It was very nice and light, and I kept the bottle as a souvenir. I have discovered you can buy it for £20 a bottle from Majestic wines so I might treat myself to a couple next time I go to one.
For dinner I had goats cheese tart to start, and my mum had crab mille feuille with lobster sauce. For main I had duck confit with sauteed potatoes (confit duck is my absolute favourite – I must try to make it myself sometime), and mum had fillet beef with chips and bearnaise sauce. Unfortunately the beef was too undercooked for her so it had to be sent back, but I think that’s because the French genuinely don’t understand well done meat.
For pudding I had a Mont Blanc – chestnut puree, chocolate and chantilly cream. Hmmm, not very healthy! Mum had Baba au Rhum which was unfortunately drowned in rum and so wasn’t the nicest thing ever. If you are a real rum fan then it’s worth it though.
On Sunday we had breakfast at the hotel (with my favourite fromage blanc which I adore), and set off for the shops. All closed! So we wandered around by the Louvre and Jardin de Tuilleries, then up to Opera and hopped onto the metro to Saint Germain de Pres for a wander. As the hotel breakfast had really filled us up, we didn’t really fancy food on the run, but when we went back to the hotel we stopped at a Paul and bought quiche, a camembert baguette, a palmier and an eclair for a picnic at the hotel. The palmier was the size of my head and fantastically crispy. I hope they don’t sell them in London – if they do my diet will be doomed.
My mum really had a great time and it was lovely to spend the weekend with her in Paris. I’ll always think of her when I see a palmier now! And in fact when I headed back to Paris for work I bought myself one for dinner at the hotel that evening.
I also went to Monoprix, my favourite supermarket out there, to buy some little praline eggs as Easter gifts, although I expect I will keep at least one packet for myself!