For those of you not familiar with France, un sandwich mixte is just a ham and cheese sandwich. But, like most things in Paris, “just” is not part of the vocabulary. Having at least one proper sandwich mixte is always my goal in Paris. The bread needs to have that perfect combination of crunch and softness. The cheese needs to be sliced at just the right thickness with the perfect depth of flavour. And I don’t know what they do with the pigs in France but ham never tastes the same in other places.
This time it took three tries. But when it finally arrives… on a sunny day, in an outdoor café, accompanied by a great glass of St Emilion, you say “oo la la” under your breath 🙂
I did try to squeeze a little culture in between the adventures in merchandising. I had noted in the hotel’s tourist info that the Palais de Tokyo was reopening and doing some kind of 48 hour culturathon apparently. The Palais de Tokyo is not for everyone but if you appreciate modern art, it is worth the trip to the 16th arrondissement.
The first time I went I was sick in Paris so only managed to drag myself there late in the afternoon. Too late for the Musée d’Art Moderne but early enough for the young, hip open into the evening Palais de Tokyo. Sometimes I look at really modern art and think, “OK, the artist is just making fun of us. Or he was VERY high when he thought this was a good idea…” But sometimes it’s provocative, inventive or just pretty. My favourite piece this time was a little of each. I’m not quite sure what it means but it was fascinating to look at – and very pretty. I took a photo so you can decide for yourself.
The Musée d’Art Moderne was a bit more conventional but also included an
an installation that mostly just looked wild and crazy. But maybe that is all art needs to be… I would recommend a visit to both – and then a stop at the surprisingly great café right next to the métro. If you are lucky, the sun will be shining, the light will descend on all that elaborate seventeenth century architecture and you will know there is nowhere else you could be but Paris.
And when it is time for dessert – or a snack – or breakfast 🙂 I have had them at all three times this trip. My newest Paris obsession – macarons at Pierre Hermé.
It all started in 2003 when Sean requested macarons from Ladurée as “payment” for our free accommodation in London. A sweet price to pay 🙂 At that stage in my life, I had some passing knowledge of a macaron but had never had one in Paris and knew nothing about Ladurée. It wasn’t exactly knowledge one acquired in small town Manitoba.
For several years I thought Ladurée macarons were “la bombe” but then I read about some upstart called Pierre Hermé in a magazine. And I started dissing Ladurée. Not a very French thing to do…
It’s not that Ladurée macarons are bad. It’s just that Pierre Hermé is that little slice of heaven on earth that is Paris at its finest. I managed to sample almost all the flavours over my five days in Paris. (Luckily you walk a lot in Paris. The Paris métro is a cardio workout without having to put your gym gear on.) The most dangerous part – and one of the reasons he has become so famous – is that the flavours are seasonable and always changing – so it becomes a classically existential totally Parisian question – can one ever try all the flavours of Pierre Hermé macarons? Certainly not on one brief visit.
Conveniently (dangerously???) you can buy them at a number of different outlets 🙂 They even have an outlet on the shoe floor (yes, an entire floor!) at Galeries Lafayette – it’s almost a little too much pleasure to handle in such a small space 🙂
My favourite is the Infinement Vanille – vanilla taken to a level of perfection only attainable on French soil. This trip I didn’t spend much time on food except for les sandwiches mixtes and macarons but on my final night I had a sublime meal at the Murano Urban Resort that reinforced all the stereotypes about French food and wine that I hold so dear. Wildly it was the first time I ever had a well-done steak sent from the kitchen! Normally you have to order it a little more ‘done’ than you would in North America and the risk is blood, not char. Obviously, some miscommunication had occurred but I just had to show a piece to my French server and it was whisked away and returned in a perfect, slightly bloody form. No self-respecting French person would have eaten it 🙂
I can still remember introducing my mom and my niece to the concept of crème brulée in Paris. They were hooked from the first bite. Paris does that to you. Take a few bites in the right places and you will be hooked for life. Paris will ruin you. It will be like a youthful love affair you never quite recover from. But never regret. The things that change your life. Make you a bit of a snob. But allow you to experience life on levels you never even knew were there before some French speaking guy named Paul seduced you – and made you try his paté… I’ve loved paté ever since…