The day I walked 7km for a cookie (and inadvertently saw Paris’ Greatest Hits)

June 18, 2009 at 11:46 PM | Posted in Paris 2009, Paris markets | 3 Comments

Today has been my favorite day in Paris so far.  I went to my French class in the morning, which I am still really liking, although the pace is a bit slow for me (I think I’m in more of a total immersion situation at home/work than my classmates, so I am learning pretty fast).  My class ends at 1 pm at the west end of the Jardin de Luxembourg (in the 6th), and my job is in a southeast suburb of Paris, so I’ve tried four different ways of getting there and it pretty much takes an hour no matter what I do.  Today I decided that I’d rather walk through the Luxembourg Gardens and the Quartier Latin than through the underground tunnels of the huge Metro stops, and as I walked through the gardens I heard orchestra music in the grove of trees on the east side of the big pool.  Turns out there was a visiting orchestra giving a free concert, and I stopped for 10 minutes to listen to the music and eat my sandwich, and then passed by the Pantheon and the market street of Rue Mouffetard on my way to the metro.

At work one of the doctoral students, Severin, was practicing her dissertation defense, so Grace and I went to hear her rehearse in front of the rest of the staff in the lab/research unit where I work.  When I followed along with the writing on her slides, I really understood 70-75% of what she was saying (it was in French).  And even more surprising, I could get about 50% of the question-and-answer afterwards, and even could hear some of the humor–her thesis is about cognitive decline in an English working population, and someone suggested that perhaps the problem was a result of eating British beef.  I feel like my French comprehension, and speaking abilities, have both leapt in the past day or two.  It is really exciting!  And I was reunited with the dataset that I had to leave behind in Paris last summer due to IRB restrictions, and so I can finally finish my paper that has been lingering in my queue for a year.

My local award-winning boulangerie

My local award-winning boulangerie

Then I decided that it was an absolute travesty that I had been in Paris for five whole days and hadn’t made it to one of my top destinations of this year, Laduree, for a macaron (never going was one of my big regrets from last year). It was high time to remedy this situation.  So I set off on Rue St. Honore through the 1st arrondissement to the Laduree location on Champs-Elysees in the 8th.  The very first thing I saw, not 50 meters from my apartment, was a bakery displaying its credentials for placing in, and once winning, the “mellieure baguette de Paris” (Best Baguette of Paris) competition five times.  I apologize profusely for ever suggesting that this neigborhood has bad bread.  This baguette tradition was even better, dare I say, than Eric Kayser (the one I got yesterday).

I continued on Rue St. Honore, glimpsed the outside of the Louvre and then the Garnier Opera, walked through Place Vendome, and at some point I noticed that all the sidewalks were being blocked off on one side of the street, and that there was a red carpet rolled out, and that limousines were rolling up.  Turns out that I was outside the Presidential Palace, and there was some kind of fete going on.  I don’t know if I saw anyone famous, but it was pretty cool!

I continued on, and found myself with the Church of Mary Magdalene to my right, and the Place de la Concorde, and beyond that the gilded Pont des Invalides and the gold dome of the Hotel des Invalides (Napoleon’s resting place) to my left.  Cut over to the Champs-Elysees, and there on my right was the Arc de Triomphe.  I strolled down what was once the grandest avenue in the world and is now the grandest commercial strip mall tourist trap in the world and went into Laduree.  Stood in line to buy 3 petits macarons: chocolat amer

They must need to employ a special person to wipe the drool off the case

They must need to employ a special person to wipe the drool off the case

(bitter chocolate), caramel buerre fleur de sel (salted butter caramel), and pistache, and couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of the pastries.

I ate the pistachio one on my way home, but managed to save the other two.  I walked back down the Champs-Elysees through the Place de la Concorde, with the Eiffel Tower on my left and the Tuileries spread out in front of me.  Through the Jardin des Tuileries (the formal gardens outside the Louvre), past the Petit Palais, through the courtyards of the Louvre to the famous glass pyramid (the museum was mercifully quiet outside, since it was past 9pm, and it’s really quite beautiful, even without going in).  Back down Rue St. Honore and up to my apartment, where my cheese that I had set out two hours earlier had softened to the perfect runny goodness and which was perfect with my mind-boggling bread.

And then to the macaron.  It’s essentially a really, really fantastic sandwich cookie, made with almond paste (I think), so the cookies have a crunch outside and a soft inside, and are flavored and colored according to the type of macaron.  They are sandwiched together with some kind of deliciousness: sticky caramel, cold pistachio cream, chocolate ganache with tiny chopped nuts.  I unfortunately crushed the caramel one in my bag despite my best efforts, but I’m happy to report that the taste didn’t leak out at all.  And my heart went out to an American high school girl at Laduree (obviously in Paris on some kind of class trip) who had  sought this place out and came in with her friends, and then one obnoxious girl said, “This place is ridiculous.  They sell these all over the place.  How good can they be? We’re leaving.”  The poor girl looked completely heartbroken, and had I been any closer to the front of the line I would have bought her one, because really, these cookies are quite an experience and completely worth the euro fifty (about $2) each, as well as the round-trip seven kilometers I walked to get them.

They are even better than they look.

They are even better than they look.

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3 Comments »

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  1. Erika, I get more nostalgic (and jealous) with every post! And your photos are gorgeous!

  2. Your Mom and I are so excited to see you in a few days. We are only calling each other 3 times a day now JUST to check on what clothes you have said we are allowed to wear. A Trustee on the UCR Foundation Board who was a French and Linguistics BA and MA gave us a wonderful walking itinerary for Paris and of course he said you must stop at the (have it written down) for a macaroon, which he added is NOT like the American version AT ALL! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo Joodles

  3. […] lover of deliciousness—and when she feels 100% healthy we are going to sample all of the macarons on the Eastern […]


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