Monday, 7 January 2008
Winter in Paris
I am undoubtedly not alone in finding a winter in Paris to be deeply romantic. Spending our days perusing markets for fromage and baguette to savour in our little apartment, far away from the hordes of tourists, was nothing short of heavenly. We discovered the lesser known but ever so delightful museums and galleries in our neighbourhood. Frequenting the same bakeries for our morning pastries and coffee and the same bars for our evening glass of wine made Paris start to feel like home.
Around the corner from our apartment
Our little apartment overlooked the rooftops, a short walk from Montmartre and Sacre Coeur and the most wonderful markets lined with charcuteries, fromageries and pâtisseries. Best of all just next door was the perfect neighbourhood bar. It became an evening routine to pop in for a drink or watch the soccer before going out to dine or back upstairs to prepare the day’s market gastronomic delights. The charming barman would give us little complimentary treats each night, perhaps some orange filled chocolates or a taste of a cinnamon scented spirit prepared on the premises. It was also the perfect place to grab a quick baguette filled with pâté or sausage to sustain us as we set out to explore Paris on foot. It was all too easy to imagine living in this beautiful city forever.
View from our apartment window
Apart from the wonderful array of produce in our neighbourhood, the market we were repeatedly drawn to was the Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter. Cheese shops and florists bursting with blooms spill out along this idyllic street and tucked between them are small bistros serving classic French fare at reasonable prices. Even at 8pm in winter the street is filled with shoppers seeking out the best produce. It’s a delightful sight seeing hundreds of Parisians making their way home on foot or by metro with a baguette tucked under their arm. Rue Mouffetard was the perfect place to seek out Toulouse sausage for a warming winter casserole to be eaten in front of the television with plenty of baguette or a little pâté to nibble with wine as we prepared dinner.
With such a brilliant cornucopia of produce available we rarely dined out. As we wandered the city on foot, we would however stop for an espresso or two sipped at the bar or a slice of tart that looked particularly enticing in a pâtisserie window.
When we did dine out we favoured unpretentious neighbourhood bistros. The type that features herby roast legs of lamb, steak and frites and duck confit followed by the simplest crème brulee and accompanied with plenty of wine.
In the evening I was particularly attracted to the sort of older bistros where young Parissien couples repeatedly send the waiter away when he comes for their order because they can’t draw their eyes away from each other long enough to look at the menu. When they do finally order and the food descends on the table it’s something utterly delicious and rustic like a platter groaning with roast chicken for two with the crispest potatoes and buttery green beans. At lunch I favoured those neighbourhood bistros packed with locals where businessmen meet their wives for lunch and linger over a cheese platter far longer then they intended. I can understand why people say it’s easy to fall in love in Paris but what I never knew before is that when you’re in love there’s no better place to be.