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Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

When I was in Paris earlier in the year, I didn’t just eat macarons. I also ate a lot of cheese. And when I say I ate a lot of cheese, I don’t meant that I ate it every day, or had cheese courses at restaurants, or spent all my time in fromageries.

I mean that, every few days or so, I’d buy an entire round/block/geometrical-shape of one type of cheese and would eat the entire thing in one sitting. Because that’s how I roll. (“Roll” being the operative word.)

I’m pretty sure my bones were thanking me for all the calcium, even if my heart was simultaneously shaking its little heart-fist at me for the sodium assault.

Can’t win ’em all, right?

(I shall test the cheese-reviewing waters today with just one cheese, and then you can let me know if you’re interested in hearing more on this rather savoury topic.)

Petit Valençay

Petit Valencay

I wonder if Egpytians or aliens built this pyramid of wonderment?

This little pyramid of goat’s cheese is Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée-certified and made from raw goat’s milk. It was the first cheese I bought in Paris, and it swept away my prior beliefs about goat’s cheese. To me, goat’s cheese has always been pungent, assertive, and in-your-face “goaty”. This cheese, however, was the antithesis of being punched with a goat’s udder*; it was subtle, creamy, gooey at the edges yet firm (not chalky) inside, and in some ways reminded me more of a brie than a strong chevre.

Petit Valencay

See the gooeyness at the edges? Mmm-mmm.

I tasted butter, hazelnuts, cream and cream cheese, almonds, grass, and a deeply satisfying umaminess. The blue-grey rind had a slight flowery and hay-like flavour, which was unhindered by bitterness. This cheese was so rich, so creamy, and so mellow yet complex, that all of a sudden the packet was 110g lighter and I 110g heavier. And all I had left to savour was the pyramid base, marked deeply by the ridges of the packaging…

Petit Valencay

Cheese bottom!

Question Time: So, folks and friends, what say you? Are you at all interested in seeing some cheese-y-goodness (or badness) on this blog every now and again?

* What the?! I’m sorry.

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It’s been far too long since one of my Art Whisperer tours appeared on this blog. I think it’s time we took another wander through the corridors of Paris’ Louvre, don’t you?

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

From an aesthetic point of view, I like how the clarity, precision, and permanence of this statue contrast with the blurred-in-motion crowd ascending towards it. From a Life Lesson point of view, however, the forward-facing nature of the ascending crowd calms me. For if there’s one thing the re-jiggered Dr. Who has taught me, it’s that we humans should never turn our backs on any statues that look like angels. (And that no one can replace David Tennant in my deepest heart of hearts.)

Vénus et les Trois Grâces offrant des presents à une jeune fille, by Alessandro Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli

Vénus et les Trois Grâces offrant des presents à une jeune fille, by Alessandro Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli.

Venus (on right): Not one single person has told me how beautiful I am today. Not one. What’s the point of living if no one will tell me I’m beautiful? Look at how the light has gone out of my eyes.

One of the Graces (on left): That is the single most entrancing lock of hair I’ve ever seen cascade down someone’s forehead. Look but don’t touch. Look but don’t touch. Look. But. Don’t. Touch.

Scènes de la vie de saint Jérôme, by Sano di Pietro.

Scènes de la vie de saint Jérôme, by Sano di Pietro.

Have you ever wanted to know what a lion looks like when it finds out about the seven deadly sins and realises it will never get to heaven? Now you do.

Though it hardly seems fair, seeing as lions are born into their pride.

Les Enfants d’Ascoyghe Boucherett, by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Les Enfants d’Ascoyghe Boucherett, by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Oldest Girl in Painting: “Then I bought a Chihuahua this big, so that it would fit comfortably in my handbag and we could be together for always. But then it defecated on the brocade lining and I, erm, sent it to the happy farm in the countryside.”

Middle Girl in Painting: “This is what Jesus looked like, right? Right?” (Editor’s Note: Too far? My sincerest apologies if it is.)

Youngest Girl in Painting: “And this is how I orchestrate the crazy singing voices in my head.”

L’Enlèvement d’Héléne, by Guido Reni

Part of L’Enlèvement d’Héléne, by Guido Reni

So I’m a big fan of cute puppies in paintings, but dear holy bucket what is that thing on the left? I fear its tail is sentient.

Lady painting in the Louvre

It’s like a real-life painting version of a Babushka doll! Except not at all like that.

You know, if I tried to do this, I’d end up standing in front of an easel with a stick figure drawn meticulously upon it. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, Van Gogh’s artistic talents weren’t appreciated in his own lifetime…

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Yesterday’s post was for Laura but today’s post is for Louise, as she (Louise) has just touched down in the city that stole my heart. I think the Dreamworks musical Anastasia said it best:

Par-ee holds the key to your heart,
And all of Par-ee plays a part.
Just stroll two-by-two
Down what we call “la rue!”
And soon all Par-ee will be
Singing to you!
(Ooh-la-la. Ooh-la-la!
Ooh-la-laaaaa!)

Quite a long time ago, I slipped a photo of some rather delicious cookies, the Crêpes Dentelle de Quimper, into a Paris post about tears and tofu. I mentioned that while these biscuits/cookies were très bien, there were others that blew the Crêpes Dentelles out of the [delicious] water. Louise expressed interest in these tastier cookies, and as she’s now in the city where the cookies exist, I decided it was high time I followed through on my offhand comments.

Pain Aux Amandes

Pain Aux Amandes

Tout simplement délicieux indeed!

First, the runner-up. (Let’s call the Crêpes Dentelles the second runner-up.) Slight disclaimer: I brought a packet of these cookies home for my brother, and he didn’t love them quite as much as I’d hoped. As a result, there’s a small chance that my love for these particular cookies springs from the fact that I rarely eat cookies, and so my tastebuds might’ve over-reacted to the combination of butter, flour, and sugar.

Or else I simply have a more sophisticated palate than my brother. After all, he once finished up a bowl of ice-cream at Sizzlers then immediately went back for pickled onions. (Oh, who am I kidding, I’d do the same. I love me some pickles.)

The Pain aux Amandes are made from farine de blé, sucre candi, beurre, amandes, sel, and poudre à lever, which my French language/research skills translate into flour (Camille, is this a special kind of flour?), crystallised cane sugar, butter, almonds, salt, and baking powder. Pretty simple and trustworthy set of ingredients there, particularly for store-bought cookies.

Pain Aux Amandes

Unassuming to look at, but you know what they say about assuming.

I wasn’t expecting much when I tasted these. I wasn’t even sure why I’d bought them. But my heavens, the buttery depth! The muscovado taste of the sweet sugar! The toasted almonds! There was a depth to the flavour that mere caster sugar and melted butter surely couldn’t create in their natural state. There must have been caramelising and browning involved. Surely.

Oh, and that photo? You better believe I ate the whole contents in less than half an hour. The second time I opened a box of these was the night I met P.PersuasivePilot. Being an incredibly selfless person, I shared. And you know what? There may be nothing better than talking for hours to someone, handing over cookies at regular intervals, and having said cookies accepted by said someone at said intervals with nothing said about it. Like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Croquant de Cordes

Croquant de Cordes

Divinement bon? More like divinement magnifique! (That probably doesn't work, gramatically speaking.)

If the Pain aux Amandes were natural, then these Croquant de Cordes were supernatural. Looking at the picture on the box, I expected to find basic wheat-flour thick cookies hiding inside. Oh no. No no no. These cookies were crackly wafer-thin see-through creations of roasted almond nubbins held together by shards of toffeed-caramelised-sugar-overwhelming-how-can-this-taste-so-good-heaven.

Croquant de Cordes

It's a little hard to tell what's going on in this photo but, as I've mentioned before, the lighting in my hostel was terrible. But look - crackly sugar toffee-like windows of wonderment!

Have you ever walked around a market where someone is making caramelised nuts in the open air? You know that heady aroma of melting, changing, darkening sugar mixed with the rich scent of roasting nuts? Imagine the epitome of that aroma, then taste it.

That’s what these cookies were to me. I refuse to tell you how many of these boxes I bought and ate in single sittings, but I can tell you that I didn’t regret a moment of doing so. Sure, there’s probably a baker out there in Paris making these fresh, but I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted more delicious cookies, packaged or not.

Croquant de Cordes

For the record, these are made of sugar, 20% almonds, that same flour again, and 12% egg white. Anyone up for some reverse engineering?

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We’re coming to the end of the Paris adventures now, folks. Saying that makes me sad, as I feel as though the trip is ending all over again. Thankfully I still have a few Italy posts up my sleeve, so on occasion I can close my eyes and pretend I’m back in the land where people frequently say “bella” without ever referring to the Twilight phenomenon. And that, I must say, is A Good Thing*. 

On my second-last full day in Paris, I met up with Camille for an expedition to one of her favourite pâtisseries, Blé Sucré, which can be found in the 12th arrondissement. 

After our canal amblings and Vietnamese lunches, I knew I could trust Camille to lead me to deliciousness. And lead me to deliciousness she did. 

Ble Sucre cakes

Unlike the workers at Pierre Hermé, the Blé Sucré magicians were happy for me to take as many photos as I wanted.

Oh, beautiful pain! How to choose? The treats displayed here offered up flavours such as pear + licorice, mango + coconut, fig, salted caramel, peanut + chocolate, chocolate chocolate chocolate… 

And yet, for me, there was only ever one option. The creation that I first tried in Japan, the creation that (in Japan) made me long never to eat anything else, the creation that I had been keeping an eye out for throughout my Paris explorations and finally, finally, found a worthy manifestation of at Blé Sucré. 

Mont Blanc, Ble Sucre

The Mont Blanc.

Typically a mounded combination of whipped cream, chestnut cream, and a contrasting textural base such as sponge cake or pastry, Blé Sucré upped the ante of its Mont Blanc by firstly hiding meringue beneath the pipings of dense, true, chestnut sweetness, and secondly bookending the piece with glossy sheets of high-quality chocolate. 

I cannot say much about this beyond that it was magnificent. The chestnut flavour came through brilliantly, the chocolate was lovely and complex, the meringue was perfectly sweet and the pastry perfectly crumbly, and even the cream on top was valued by this avowed pointless-cream-hater.

See the hidden cream, meringue, and pastry shard beneath the chestnut cream? (And in a distinctly non-edible tangent, this photo reminds me of a particular breed of dog with long shaggy hair, but I can't for the life of me think of the name. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?)

The clever ones amongst you might be thinking “but there were two of you on this afternoon tea adventure… what did the other lovely lady order?” Well, your over-the-internet question shall be answered with the following photo: 

Le Vollon, Ble Sucre

Camille opted for Le Vollon, an intensely dark, glossy dome of chocolatiness that I hadn't given a moment's thought when peering into the pastry case.

Dear Camille, thank you for choosing this gloriously rich sphere of unctuous chocolate. Had you not, I might have continued on in my misguided belief that all Solely Chocolate desserts are dull. I’m not saying that my Lemon Delicious love has been replaced, but it is good to know that, in the hands of the masters, chocolate desserts can be winners. 

Le Vollon, Ble Sucre

Oh yes I did.

And if you’d like a little more Blé Sucré food porn in your life, make sure to head over to this post of Camille’s, which only accentuates my sorrow at no longer being in Europe. 

*I watched New Moon for the second time on my flight to LA and was astonished, as I always am, by how much worse the series becomes the more I read/see/think about it. “Twilight and Its Nauseating Social Message”: Vague PhD Idea #425.

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Well lookee here! I’ve scrounged up a few more photos from travel days that have already been covered in some form or ‘nother on this blog. Plus, I’ve still got another Paris post and all of Italy to chat about, so we haven’t hit the bottom of the travel well yet. Hurrah!

Carvings at Notre Dame, Paris

Don’t it always seem to go / that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone? (Notre Dame, Paris)

Penis Pasta

I might have expected to see this at a store selling Bacholerette Party paraphernalia, but no. This was in a Wimbledon toy store, just a metre or so down the shelf from the plastic baguette and kitchen appliance toy sets. Either For Shame, London... or Bravo, London. I haven’t quite made up my mind.

Paris building

I love Paris' architecture.

Statue, Berlin

The left hand says “I’m modest”, and yet the right hand says... the opposite. (Berlin)

Statue, Berlin

While this dude is all about the confident “look at me!” free-wheeling. (Berlin)

Shoes, Galeries LaFayette

Torture is wandering around the Galeries Lafayette shoe department when you have a bandaged toe and can’t try anything on. Funnily enough, I took a photo of these because they struck me as bad-interesting... but now I think they’re badtastic and I think I might love them. (I do have some brilliant heels from my previous US visit, which I could show y’all at some point if anyone's interested?)

Shoes, Galeries LaFayette

These shoes, however, remain utterly Le Stupid.

Dalloyau macarons, Galeries LaFayette

They really do love macarons in Paris. These were at the Dalloyau counter at the Galeries LaFayette.

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When visiting a city like Paris for the first time, there are certain boxes to be checked. Sights to see, eats to eat, experiences to experience. Some of these, like peering with googly eyes around the Louvre, would likely be on every traveller’s list. Others, like savouring the fragile beauty of a Pierre Hermé creation or meeting a new friend who immediately feels like an old friend, are goals unique to, say, food devotees or lucky people.

I’m sure you can guess what I’m referring to when I say that there is one big To-Do in Paris that everyone expects you To Have Done.

The Eiffel Tower. Climbing it. (And no, sitting in its shadow eating ice-cream doesn’t count.)

Ice cream at the Eiffel Tower

Okay, you have kinda seen this shot before, but that was a different photo. This is more... artsy. Yep.

Now, Vaala, before you say anything, this isn’t me making you wait even longer. This story follows on from the day of tofu and tears. Some of you might recall, at the end of that post, I made mention of a fellow whom I met and chatted with for hours at the hostel, and who rendered me speechless through his admission that he owned a plane?

That, readers, was P.ValuablePilot. The Pilot bit I’m sure you can figure out, but the Valuable?

That has to do with my following piece of advice:

If you attempt to ascend the Eiffel Tower at any time that isn’t the middle of summer, make sure you have someone with whom you can penguin-huddle. I don’t care if, like me, this someone is a person you’ve known for less than 24 hours. Just make sure that he or she is willing to snuggle. (This makes the person valuable to have around, see?) Otherwise, you may catch hypothermia and end up in a Parisian hospital, and as someone who’s been-there-done-that? I don’t recommend it.

The beginning of the Eiffel Tower Debacle began on the night I met P.ValuablePilot when, at about 9:30pm, I mentioned that I hadn’t yet braved the crowds to ascend the Tower. Being a rather adventurous lad, PVP suggested we dash off that minute and try to get a ticket before the 11pm cut-off. A part of me wanted to shout “Forward Ho!” and scamper for the stairs, but the bandaged part of me knew I couldn’t risk damaging the toe through such madcap-through-the-rain scampering.

However, when an hour or so later PVP and I hadn’t decided to pretend we’d never met, we decided to rendezvous in the morning and make Sunday March 21 a day of Eiffeling.

Next Morning:

Smoked tofu and lentil salad, Paris

After a hearty breakfast of lentils and smoked tofu in vinaigrette... (Oh, what a bald-faced lie. Breakfast was, as always, the hostel's free honey and/or nutella on a baguette. But how could I resist posting such a pretty *ahem* photo of lentils?)

March 21 was not a pleasant day, weather-wise. And we lucked out, in the bad sense, with that curse of European travelling: The Dreaded Line of Doom.

In short form? We left the hostel at 11am, all we did was ascend the Eiffel Tower, and we got back at four in the afternoon.

I’d expect that on a beautiful day, but not on a drizzly freezing day at the very beginning of the tourist season. There is no way I would have survived the line without the cuddly and conversational company of P.ValuablePilot, because within an hour I’d lost feeling in my feet, was shivering like all crikey and, for anyone who’s seen my facebook photo, indulged in some very Parisian but unHannah-like behaviour.

So. Many. Lines.

A line for the ticket office, another for the elevator to the second level, another for the elevator to the third level, another for the elevator back to the second level, another for the elevator down to the ground… then sweet, sweet freedom.

For the five hours PVP and I spent working our way to the top of the Tower? We spent five minutes, at the most, at said top.

Eiffel Tower view of Paris

The face says “whee, I’m above all of Paris!” but the hands say “my ears are froze, and my nose is froze, and my tail is froze...”

In a way, the adventure was worth it for the exhilarating rush of joy we felt upon escaping the claws of that metal hell-beast. There is something to be said for laughing and clinging together against the wind as you make your way back to your hostel for a triumphant glass of wine.

View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

Did I mention that, when we left, the line was about a quarter the size of what it had been when we arrived? I thumb my nose at you, European queuing.

And about that plane? Yep. He has a plane. You may well hear more of P.ValuablePilot if he holds true to his word and comes visit me in the next few months.

I’m not going to let him fly his own plane here, though. It’s a wee lil thing, and I’d rather he, you know, survived.

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It’s been a while since one of these Glimpses posts, so let’s skip the small talk and get cracking, shall we? (The Plane Boy story will have to wait a bit longer…)

Statue near Eiffel Tower

Now that, my friends, is some convenient fabric placement. It even... well... curves around... And now all I can think of is poor Adam with his tiny fig leaf.

Paris, Île Saint-Louis

A Rather Nice View of Paris from Île Saint-Louis

Cracker Jacks

Spot the American in line for the Notre Dame! (Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks... has anyone seen Gene Kelly’s Take Me Out to the Ballgame? Love that musical. (“It’s like the Fourth of July, or apple pie, it’s Strictly USA...”))

Canal Bio, Paris

Just a small selection of the vegan/vegetarian products found at Canal Bio. Further down the aisle were my beloved Croque Tofous, some Tofinelle tofu sausages, and tofu pate... I did giggle, though, when I saw frozen beef mince abutting vegan ice cream in the freezer cabinet.

Dalloyau, Galeries LaFayette

The Dalloyau counter at Galeries Lafayette. I only got in a few snaps before being scolded by a No Photos Man. There are far too many No Photos Men in Europe, I think (and before someone else scolds me for a different reason, in my experience they were almost always men).

Louvre

My archivist mother is going to make evil eyes at me through the internet right now, because I’m going to describe this as “A Roof in a Room at the Louvre”. I think the room had something to do with a king. I could google-research it for you... but instead I think I might go check my online Scrabble games.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar in French

Aww, I didn't know that caterpillar in French was chenille. What a pretty word. Chenille. (On the other hand, I have never forgotten the French word for camel, which I taught myself in year 8 for some unknown reason. Chameau, if anyone's interested.)

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