Paris snapshots…(mostly food!)

By Caitlin Kelly

Paris is a city I know and love. I first came here in my early 20s, returned for a year when I was 25 on a journalism fellowship, and have come back as many times since as time and budget allow. I speak fluent French, so I love having the chance to use it and hear it once more.

It’s a city known for the ferocious impatience of its inhabitants, especially to those who speak not a word of French. Maybe it’s me, or the holidays or something in the water, but everyone, this time, has been welcoming and patient, even when (quelle horreur!) I asked to take home the delicious left-overs from a restaurant dinner a few nights ago. They were offered to me in a tidy plastic box, and I was still enjoying them two days later…

The past few visits — the most recent October 2009 — we’ve stayed in a rented apartment on the Ile St. Louis, in the middle of the Seine, with easy walking to the Marais. This time, we’re in the 7th, a quiet, bourgeois, mostly-residential neighborhood. The apartment we’ve borrowed is on the ground floor, absolutely silent, facing a courtyard; the view from bed as I write this is of an ivy-covered wall through tall four-paned windows; it belongs to a photographer and photo editor we know professionally.

Like many such Paris homes, we enter through a heavy door facing the street, using a code on a keypad, then step through an outdoor entrance way guarded by Marie, the friendly concierge. Through another heavy door and we’re into a large, airy courtyard, faced by many other apartments, some with tiny balconies, some of which have a small tree on them.

Maybe everyone is away for the holidays. Or maybe they’re just French — but it’s soooooooo quiet! No traffic noise. No shouting or kids yelling.

I love the apartment’s so-French design details — from the wide, smooth, bare herringbone wood floors to the egg-shaped doorhandles in the middle of the door at waist height. The whoosh of the water-heater in the kitchen is the only sound. The toilet is in its own separate small room — freeeeeeezing! The kitchen floor is red hexagonal tile. (We promised no interior photos, so as to respect our friends’ privacy.)

Some images…

Carbs, carbs, carbs....
Carbs, carbs, carbs….

This is embarrassing! Butter, bread, pastry, pasta…No, we don’t eat like this at home. But a daily fresh baguette is something of a necessity here. The raisin bread at the top of the photo is from Poilane, considered one of Paris’ best bakeries. It’s sliced very thinly but is very satisfying and chewy. Yes, there is even a bar of Lindt chocolate in there as well. Sigh.

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I have never seen meringues the size of a baby’s head. No, we didn’t buy them! There was a long line-up for the bakery where I saw these.

Love 'em!
Love ’em!

Some of you may know the clothing brand Petit Bateau, whose cotton T-shirts are popular for their quality. This is their shop on rue de Grenelle, in the 7th, a few doors from where we’re staying. It also has the most gorgeous baby clothes and shoes.

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One of the many things I so love about Paris is color, and often deep, rich colors I rarely see at home in New York. Here’s a doorway in the 7th.

And the exquisite carving on some buildings….this, on Ave. Bosquet in the 7th (a bourgeois neighborhood.)

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Those of you who know Paris know well some of the designs that are typical — like these broken-tile floors, often found in bistros of a certain era. This is from Le Baratin, a well-known resto in Belleville.

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I was in a florist shop when this woman entered — wearing a long black shawl pinned atop her head, which sported a very tall pile of hair. She walked away down the street with an enormous armload of flowers and her groceries. Note the spectacular periwinkle blue of the shop exterior (a frame store.)

I love the scale and intimacy of the streets here, so very different from New York, where I live.

A street in the 7th.
A street in the 7th.

This quiche was our first food purchase, 13 euros, about $16. It’s salmon and spinach and baked within its own wooden hoop, like a culinary embroidery. One of the best quiches I’ve ever eaten! It’s been much more fun to buy and cook some of our own food at home than eating out three costly meals a day. The apartment we’ve been loaned is steps from the Rue Cler, a famous market street — with multiple wine shops, bakeries, a fish-monger and many other food vendors. Foodie heaven!

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More photos soon…

33 thoughts on “Paris snapshots…(mostly food!)

  1. I love Paris and really should go more often since it is so close to Cornwall. I’ve been four times beginning with my first visit in 1979/1980 to see the new year in. I went back for the 1999/2000 New Year celebration and John and I went to Paris for our honeymoon in 2009. With a sixth wedding anniversary in February, I think it is time to go back! I have only seen Paris in the Winter except for a September trip with my sister. I much prefer the cold months to the muggy Fall experience especially when using the Metro to get around.

    1. Hey, good to hear from you!

      Neither. We’re fortunate enough to have a network of fellow career journalists (writers and photographers) and we all know one another (or know a 3rd person well enough to vouch for us); I just rented a studio on the Ile St. Louis this way, through a shared list. I am not an airbnb fan (I know people love it; I once tried to use it and got fed up with the endless self-revelations demanded) but I am sure a rental agency would be a good option.

      It is, for me, so much nicer to have an apt. — we had another one, also on Ile St. Louis — twice before. 1) makes the place feel like home; 2) save $$$ and time on eating out constantly to be able to stay in for meals; 3) cosy! 4) more room! Unless you’re spending $$$$, Paris hotel rooms will be very small.

      I really enjoy it and would highly recommend it. Food shopping here is so fantastic that having a place to cook and eat is an added pleasure, even for a simple meal.

    2. My airb&b experiences in Bordeaux and Amsterdam worked well this past summer (when I was based in Paris for several months) Depending on whether you live in a “destination” that others want to visit, you may try another great option — home exchange. I

      1. Difficult for us living in a (nosy, gossippy) co-op with a lot of house rules. But we might do it at some point.

        Depends if people who want to come to NYC are willing to travel the 40 mins from Tarrytown or not. πŸ™‚

      2. Salut! Depending where The Saint.Jeffreys is/are located, home exchange might be an option worth exploring,…… Almost every NYT Paris journo I’ve met lives in the 7th. If you haven’t already tried Cafe Constant, by all means do… nice cuisine, value, unpretentious (no res).

      3. ALL Parisians want to come to NYC (singles, couples, families, all exchange)…
        I would not call Cafe Constant cher. Menu is flexible. I have a French foodie friend who’s a school nurse and watches her sous. She and I have a long-standing date to lunch together chez CC. I’ve been there for (late) dinner, too — after an event at the American Library in the 7th. No, I wouldn’t go just any old time, but on nice occasions.

      4. It’s a lot more comfortable…more room and allows you the option of eating at home, which saves money and is healthier. Food shopping here is so glorious, it’s a shame to miss that experience.

      5. I’m a paying member (no other relationship) of Trocmaison.com – Troc = swap, maison = house). On the homepage, one can select English (or another language). Any Qs, LMK.

  2. Are you still in Paris? If not, next time, tell me! I would love to meet you! I don’t know how you can contact me but I am the ones who think that every things is possible… in Paris πŸ™‚

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