Ce soir à la Place des Vosges

July 30, 2009 at 12:27 AM | Posted in Musings, Paris 2009, Wanderings | Leave a comment

Still in a somewhat meditative mood from mulling over the weighty things I’ve had on my mind the past few days (see my last two posts), I left work a bit early today.  Sitting in my apartment, I began to play a little game I invented (okay, “invented” is a strong word–a game I came up with) the first time I travelled alone, in Spain, called “What do I want to do today?”  It basically involves sitting very still, closing your eyes, and saying to yourself, “If I had unlimited time and unlimited money and no judgment, what would I want to do right now?”  Then pay very close attention to the first fleeting thing that comes to mind.  Then edit according to practicality.

On that particular trip, the way that I became not vegetarian after 15 years of non-meat-eating was by sitting alone in my hotel room one evening, thinking “What do I want to do right now?” and being quite surprised that the first thing that came to mind was “Eat ham.”  This was also how I discovered that I prefer eating ice cream from a cone rather than a cup, and the way that I figured out that I really don’t like guidebooks very much at all and would rather wander around and get lost than go to a museum.  One time my answer was “Go home” (as in back to the U.S.) and, while that wasn’t practical, it made me feel okay about staying in my hotel room for the evening and reading, with a dinner of olives and a Twix bar. (Remember, no judgment). And then I went to Starbucks the next morning and didn’t feel bad about that, either.

So today when I came home and closed my eyes and asked myself what I wanted to do, the first thing that came to mind was “Go to the Luxembourg Gardens and read my book while spoiling my appetite for dinner by eating a cannelé from Bread and Roses.”  Not to be specific or anything.  I’ve been reading The Fourth Hand by John Irving, and it’s quite good, and I wanted to finish it tonight.

Using this instinct as my guide, I deduced that sitting somewhere pretty, reading, and eating a pastry would make me quite happy.  But in the name of…something, I decided to try a new bakery instead of Bread and Roses, and had heard great things about Pain du Sucre on R. Rambuteau in the 4th. But of course, when I got there, it was closed, with a sign saying that they are closed on Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and for the entire month of August, and all other times except from 10am-7pm on Thursday-Monday, only except on Sundays they’re open from noon to 5pm instead.

A few turns found me on R. San Antoine, smack in front of a honey boutique that had honey on tap out front, and a tasting area in the back.  How could I not go in?  And I’m so glad that I did…it was completely fantastic.  They had 15 or 20 kinds of honey to taste–not only did I not know where to start, but I had no idea what I liked, having never tasted more than one honey at a time.  The honey-purveyor had me start with tasting a very sweet and mild honey–too mild for me, so I asked for one un peu plus fort (a little stronger), and he gave me a chestnut honey that tasted so strong, it almost wasn’t sweet.  I asked to try something between the two and ended up with a petit pot of thyme honey–to enjoy while I’m here–and a bigger jar to bring home.

The store is also conveniently close to Lenôtre, another couture-house of sorts for French chocolates and pastry (they have a pastry school as well).  It seems to be a bit of the slightly-less-popular sister, next to its flashier counterparts of Pierre Herme and Laduree (or at least I seem to hear about it less), so I decided to give it a try in the name of fairness.  I got a bite-sized chocolate macaron, and also something whose name I can’t remember but which, from what I could understand of what the guy behind the counter told me/what I tasted, is some kind of sticky (with honey), buttery, yeasted dough flavored with orange flower water and ground almonds (?), with toasted almond slices on top–it’s probably a 4-inch circle, an inch tall.  Sounded and looked intriguing and I had never heard of it, so I gave it a whirl and took my bounty to the nearby Place des Vosges, one of my favorite spots in Paris, to enjoy my goûter and my book.  When I opened the bag, I saw that he had stuck in an extra macaron–vanilla bean.  Which was amazing.  It was all amazing, actually, and I only wish I could remember the name of the sticky-spongey (in the most complimentary way possible)-sweet pastry so I can try and re-create it at home, or at least eat it again before I leave.  Guess that will involve going back to Lenotre–darn! Oh, and I have now realized that every high-quality macaron I try becomes my favorite, so until I can do a genuine side-by-side tasting, there is no way I will ever settle on “the best.”  Not that I’ll stop trying.

As I enjoyed my snack, I took in the scene in the square:

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I finished my book, which was excellent, and sat for awhile in deep contentment, really enjoying my own company.  And on the way home I thought–Paris and I, we’re not done yet.  Not even close.  We have a long way to go, but I am in this one for the long haul.

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Oh, and yes, I succeeded in spoiling my appetite for dinner. Thoroughly.

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