It was ten years ago today that little Puffles and Honey started their big adventures, landing in Paris for a 3-week holiday. Back then, they were still shy little bears, not the fashion trend setters and big adventurers they are today 🙂 We will be celebrating this 10th anniversary in beary style, of course. Today we celebrate Bunny’s birthday and tomorrow morning we take off for another beary adventure. Stay tuned…
One thing has remained constant, their taste for the good things in life 🙂 Ten years ago they sampled some of Paris’ best.
At Place de la Madeleine stands one of the city’s most popular sights – not the church, but Fauchon, a hyperupscale megadelicatessen that thrives within a city famous for its finicky eaters. It’s divided into three divisions that include an épicerie (for jams, crackers, pastas, and exotic canned goods); a pâtissier (for breads, pastries, and chocolates); and a traiteur (for cheeses, terrines, pâtés, caviar, and fruits). Prices are expensive, but the inventories are fascinating. Among its rare delights is Romanian rose petal jelly, which we eventually found on the shelf. We did not buy it, but we did buy the Cherry Cinnamon coffee 🙂 Yummy!
Also at Place de la Madeleine, and in the opposite corner, is Hédiard. Opened in 1850, this temple of haute gastronomie sells similar treats as Fauchon, as well as caviar, truffles and spirits. Hédiard is rich in coffees, teas, jams, and spices. The decor changes with whatever holiday (Halloween, Easter, Bastille Day) or special promotion (the coffees of Brazil, the teas of Ceylon) are in effect at the time. Hédiard is the place to buy tea or thé. The variety of flavours was overwhelming and more so as they were obviously in French. Eventually we settled on the exotic name of Melange of Printemps.
Boulangerie Poilâne is considered by many to be Paris’ best bakery. It certainly is one of Paris’s best-loved bakeries. We visited several times and each time, the shop was full of women carrying bags full of designer clothes! Poilâne hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1932. You can go to taste and admire the beautiful loaves of bread decorated with simple designs of leaves and flowers that’ll make you yearn for an all-but-vanished Paris. The specialty is a chewy sourdough loaf cooked in a wood-burning oven that can be specially wrapped to stay fresh during your journey home. The bread is huge, but you can buy slices of it. Other specialties include apple tarts and butter cookies.
At its several Paris locations, La Maison du Chocolat offers racks of marvellous chocolates priced individually or by the kilo, at absolutely exorbitant prices. We found ourselves in chocolate heaven, a very expensive chocolate heaven. After the initial shock, we selected a bag of champagne truffles. For making a purchase, we were rewarded with a sample of caramel truffle, and it was so divine, it could have converted us to liking caramel. But it didn’t 🙂 The store offers a variety of chocolates as well as chocolate-based products, including chocolate pastries and various chocolate cakes. These are usually more affordable than the chocolates and noticing them in the window on the way out of the store, we promptly went back inside for some cakes and got rewarded with another caramel truffle! Still no conversion…
After the shock over the prices at Maison du Chocolat, we decided to not go to Christian Constant, another chain of apparently renown (and how renown can they be if we haven’t heard of them?!?) and expensive chocolatiers and instead we went to Jadis and Gourmande. This chain of chocolatiers has a less lofty reputation than Christian Constant and more reasonable prices. They’re best known for their alphabetical chocolate blocks, which allow you to spell out any message (well… almost), in any language. We were more fascinated with the boxes of chocolates with different fillings. As the boxes didn’t come with guidelines, the delight was in guessing what the chocolate fillings were. It took repeated tasting 🙂
Dalloyau is one of Paris’ landmark patisseries. It has been making its own chocolates and pastries since 1802, or before Napoleon became emperor, and everything is luxury personified. The pastries are works of art, each tasting even better than it looks. You must forget the calories that you may be downing for one of those divine treats and enjoy the indulgence. It supplies pastries to the Elysée Palace and to the Paris rich society. If it’s good enough for them… Of the sweet delights, the Opera is legendary – layer upon layer of divine taste – almond flavoured biscuit layered with butter cream, chocolate, coffee and cashews… It just melts in your mouth.
One of Paris’ oldest bakeries, Stohrer has been on rue Montorgueil for over 270 years. Stohrer, who is credited with inventing the baba au rhum, was a pastry chef who travelled to France with Polish princess Marie Leczinska when she married King Louis XV. After serving in the kitchens at Versailles, Stohrer opened this store in 1730! We bought an Ali Baba, an even more decadent version of baba au rhum – and it was drowning in rum! It is a very small cake, very siropy and incredibly filling. They have pastries, cakes and chocolates.
For delights of a different kind, we went to Catherine Perfums. This family owned shop sells an impressive stock of all the big-name perfumes and cosmetics at discounts of 20% to 25%. In addition, their paperwork is extremely well organized, allowing refunds of the value-added tax (VAT) to be cleared quickly through Customs. Many on the staff, ie the family, speak English. We met the father, the mother and two daughters. The service was excellent; the daughters in particular know their stuff and recommend the right products. Except for the colour of the foundation. Stand your ground, if you can (I couldn’t back then), and don’t accept the much darker shade than your skin colour. You know that French habit of looking tanned by using a dark foundation colour, that the rest of the world finds so ridiculous. We compared their prices (after the discount) to duty-free in airports and their prices were the same or generally lower and you are getting the VAT refund on top of that as well.
The best shopping experience was at Hermes where we found exactly what we wanted resulting in squeals of delight in the store 🙂 and all the staff were delightful, while the most ridiculous shopping experience was at Louis Vuitton where we had to deal with a particularly stuffy Frenchman. To think of it, the recent experience at Louis Vuitton last October wasn’t the best either. Hmmm… Evidently a certain type of attitude is part of the job description.
During the last visit to Paris, all grown up, wearing French chic and standing on their own 🙂