As I sat in my kitchen preparing a buckwheat crêpe recipe from the David Lebovitz – My Paris Kitchen cookbook, I remembered Paris.
Parisian crêpes were something I sampled while abroad, though did not make a significant effort to seek out the best crêpe possible. Looking back now, I might arrange the trip according to culinary priorities like visiting all the best local markets to take pictures of the gorgeous French food. Yum. Food culture you could explore forever. Seriously, like until the end of time.
“Paris is the most expensive city I’ve ever been to. Maybe even in the world,” I was warned by a coworker from Europe long before going. My Paris tips came in many shapes, forms and sizes prior to visiting, mostly centred around the high cost of food, general merchandise and people’s reluctance to switch to communicating in English unless you first try French.
Traversing the many bridges of Paris during an art student’s city walking tour, we discussed art, wars, death, plagues, religion, rebellion. France weathered it all. We walked outside of the Louvre, right past that recognizable glass pyramid structure after crossing the bridge of locks lovers had attached signifying their love forever or whatever.
“It’s so expensive. We went from store to store looking for good deals, but everything was so expensive. One day all we ate was baguette and drank tap water. It was really really tough,” the young backpacking couple from Vancouver mentioned. I met this couple in Madrid, Spain and compared many travel stories. Tap water in Europe would be confirmed by the “No bubbles? Bottled?” comments, and might result in a bit of confusion.
“When you get to Paris, you must attempt to first speak French. The French like that. If they see that you’re trying, they’ll respond in English. Otherwise they’ll pretend they don’t understand or speak English and you get to fumble like an amateur and take your chances,” I was warned by another who had visted.
I never quite experienced that snottiness, but I did experience the Just speak English glare on occasion. France was like French class multiplied by a hundred and was so much better then reciting grammar like some robot for ten years every day in Ontario public school. Hearing, seeing and living French in my books was a hundred times better, and often more tasty.
My new travel friends, a girl from Canada and a guy from Estonia there on a conference wandered with me through the Saint Germain district headed for destination Notre-Dame cathedral.
Evening had fallen, and we entered the large dark structure. It was completely packed with other curious tourists and visitors. Going through it was a major shuffle but well worth it, to step through a piece of French history.
The main shopping area Champs-Élysées at Christmas time in Paris was like its own festival. Brightly lit Christmas lights and very well thought out storefronts. These displays were amongst the best in the world like Harrods of London or Barneys New York. A huge bubble at one shop contained several mannequins with floating fake snow continuously blowing and swirling around. For shoppers, this would be the time and place to drop some serious Euros.
Later that trip, when I approached the Eiffel tower feeling almost starving (as usual) , I found a little cafe off in one of the close-by side streets. A fresh quiche was a perfect snack for approaching the long anticipated Eiffel tower. Standing almost underneath it looking up, I thought it would be bigger. It didn’t seem over 300 meters tall but nonetheless I snapped all kind of glorious selfies as the evening glow came on and the structure was lit by yellow lighting.
Back in my kitchen, I’m back to reality simmering up some buckwheat crêpes with sage chicken, goats cheese, tomato and egg.
I’ll always have those Paris memories…snagging croissants from roadside stalls next to the Hôtel de Ville, wandering the old charming streets with art galleries, and buying art supplies, exploring restaurants with old friends, snapping pics of the Moulon Rouge and hiking up a million stairs to Sacré-Cœur, wandering through Saint Germain in the early evening and passing by those corner cafes peering in at all those classy looking people mingling.