Leah bachhuber

Live, read, travel, explore, enjoy

Category: France

A-Marketing for Dinner

There are so many things one “should” do in Paris: go to the Lourve, stroll the Seine, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. All of them are wonderful things, but I did most of those “should’s” on our last trip to Paris. When picking things for this trip, I just asked myself, “what do I WANT to do?” One of my favorite things to do is find good local food markets, so this ended up being a top priority. I researched a number of food markets and Marche d’Aligre stood out. David Lebovitz described Marche d’Aligre as “especially bustling” and reflecting a rich cultural mix compared to other markets in the city. The Atlantic published a piece titled “Antidote to Stuffy Paris: The Last Great Daily Market.” So, naturally Marche d’Aligre topped my list of things that I truly wanted to see.

We spent most of Thursday walking around Paris. We started in Montmartre and headed to Canal Saint Martin, a neighborhood I had heard interesting things about. We wandered along the canal, poking through some of the stores in the area. Canal Saint Martin is quite an artsy and hip neighborhood, I’d compare it to Mississippi or Alberta streets in Portland, though maybe a bit more edgy and a bit less polished. The neighborhood is covered in funky graffiti, street art and hip cafes abound. The banks of the canals are where the Parisian youths gather for food and a bottle of wine (you know you’re old when you start referring to young people as “youths”).

We continued on towards Marche d’Aligre, though when we finally arrived at the market structure it was totally dead and the gate was locked. It turns out the market opens in the morning at 7am and then closes mid-day, then opens again at 4pm. We sat in a nearby park to kill time before the market opened again. Once the market did finally open, it was almost nothing like I expected based on the Atlantic and Lebovitz articles I’d read. I expected a sprawling complex of bustling stalls and a flea market component. When we arrived there were no wares being sold besides food (and flowers), and about half of the stalls within the market structure were closed. I concluded that to truly get the “bustling market experience” I think it is best to come first thing in the morning, or possibly on the weekend.

Despite the lackadaisical feel of the place, we still enjoyed surveying the offerings. There were stalls offering cheeses, meats, flowers, and different desserts. Earlier in the day Daniel had offered to make me dinner at our Airbnb rental. Admittedly, I didn’t jump on the idea because I wasn’t sure I wanted to miss out on an opportunity to dine of one of the multitudes of delicious street-side restaurants. But, Daniel convinced me that we should pick up ingredients from the market and cook them up into something tasty at home. After surveying the fresh pasta choices, I was convinced.

It turns out Daniel’s French is actually quite functional. He was able to talk a bit with the market purveyors and pick out thin sliced jambon, fresh tagliolini pasta, tomatoes, and some shredded cheese (which we thought was parmesan but may have been mizithra), and a slice of chocolate torte. On the walk home from the market we also picked up a fresh baguette, a pistachio meringue (needed sustenance for the walk), and two beers.

Back at home Daniel whipped up an absolutely spectacular meal with our market ingredients. The meal was simple, but oh-so flavorful. The French culinary axiom seems to be: use good ingredients, not too much or to many of them, and the meal will be spectacular. Daniel followed this with delicious results.


Travels to Paris

Bonjour from Paris! I write this blog from our Airbnb bed, it is 4:48AM and I have yet to fall asleep, which means today calls for a double espresso. Actually, make it a triple. On the plus side, I’m watching the Parisian sky slowly turn pink from my window and listening to the clear chirping of the birds grow steadily louder by the minute. It feels like a treat, especially because I have the luxury of no responsibilities today. No kids to look after, no work to go to, no agenda to keep, no place to be. I’m not sure I’ll get over the novelty of it all.

Daniel and I arrived on Monday afternoon and took the train into our Airbnb, which is located in the charming northern Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre. Despite varying degrees of extreme exhaustion, we cleaned up and headed out to explore the neighborhood. We walked up the some 300 steps to the top of Sacre Couer and were rewarded with expansive views Paris below, including the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We wound through the cobblestone streets of Montmartre, stopping to take photos of the quirky street art and graffiti that seem to be a hallmark of Paris. We dined at one of the lovely street-side cafes, sitting at a table on the sidewalk, a lovely place for taking in the posh balconies wound with wisteria and bougainvillea, with carefully tended flower boxes – perfect private oases within the city.

Tuesday I groggily woke, thinking it must be around 8AM, as I knew Daniel had already left for his conference. I got quite the shock when checking my phone and it was 12:30PM! I had slept for at least 15.5 hours, I suppose due to catching up on jet lag, no sleep on the flight, and over 3 years of child-induced sleep deprivation. I spent the rest of the day wandering the city, walking all the way from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower. On the way I stopped at the Musée Cernuschi, an Asian Art Museum. The Museum is housed in the former mansion of Henri Cernuschi, the founder. At some point in the mid 1800’s Cernuschi made an inaugural 18-month trip to Asia (from what I remember) spanning from China to Indonesia and he returned to France with some 5,000 pieces of art. The main exhibit when I visited was showcasing Lee Ungno, a Korean artist who ended up living in France. I quite enjoyed his works, especially the combination with the traditional Japanese calligraphy-style aesthetic mixed with more modern colors and shapes, and his use of texture and unique mixed media backgrounds.

I met Daniel at his conference venue, just past the Eiffel Tower, and we dined on savory and sweet crepes with new friends Alain and Carole, from Luxembourg. Alain works on WP-CLI with Daniel. Carole introduced me to Kir, a traditional French drink that is crème de cassis (black currant liquor) and sparkling white wine. Quite refreshing!

This is my second trip to Paris. The first was in December 2012. We found cheap-on-miles flights to Paris, but stayed for only four days. During that trip I was six months pregnant, had a terrible respiratory illness the entire time, and was extremely jet lagged and couldn’t take a sleeping pill due to said pregnancy. It was my first trip to Paris, and to Europe in general, and I was hell-bent to not spent the trip convalescing in our room, but that being said, it was extremely difficult for me. So, I’m thrilled to have a second chance at Paris – not pregnant and not sick (though I’m still jet lagged). The mid-summer light at this time of year makes Paris even more magical than I remembered. The glowing pink skies at dusk light up the regal beige exteriors of the apartment buildings and make the city come alive. 

Paris observations and impressions

  • A lot more people smoke cigarettes in Paris than the US (at least the parts that I inhabit/visit). Smoking in Paris seems to be pretty normal, for all ages. I see teens smoking, young people smoking, old people smoking. People smoking with friends, with spouses, with their kids (teen kids, that is). People smoke unselfconsciously. Part of it is because you can smoke anywhere, there aren’t so many designated “smoke free” areas like the US. My initial gut reaction when I see someone smoking is, “don’t they know that’s so bad for you?” That reaction is probably thanks to some very successful public health campaigns in the US over the years. I think Parisians do know smoking isn’t good for you (how can you not know when there are pictures of corpses on cigarette packets here?), but they seem to simply not care. The obsessive trend of “wellness” that is present in the US doesn’t seem to be present here. The juicing-working-out-staying-fit-staying-pure-additive-free-organic-yogapants-lifestyle doesn’t seem to have caught on here. 
  • Coffees are smaller but people take a lot longer to drink them. Also, I think I’ve seem approximately no one walking around with a to-go coffee. The coffee culture here is one of slowness and connection. People drink espresso coffees in tiny cups (probably one to two ounces in size), and they drink them sitting at a cafe with a friend. No one seems to rushed to get their caffeine dose in and continue on-the-go, as is true in the US. They drink their coffees and enjoy sitting and talking with their friends. Parisians must be absolutely horrified by the idea of a “venti”.
  • Paris is so multicultural! That was my first impression upon alighting at Charles de Gaulle, and the impression has held true throughout Paris. The variation of people here is astounding, and quite refreshing. Portland area, where I’m from is quite homogeneously white. I’m pretty much guaranteed that anywhere I go within my normal life’s activities, almost everyone will look like me, look like my kids, and look like my husband. There are many redeeming qualities of Portland-area, but diversity ain’t one of ‘em. In fact, Portland is the whitest city in America. So, it is so refreshing to be surrounded by a diversity of people. There are people speaking all different languages, of all skin colors, wearing all types of clothes from hijab, to saris, to colorful kaftans, to kofi caps. In some neighborhoods, I might even be in the minority. 
  • People’s personal space bubbles are smaller here. I keep noticing this: people talk to each other, but they talk very close. Two friends sitting on a park bench, but they talk so close it lends a feeling of intimacy that I’m just not used to seeing in the US. Tables at cafes are quite small, so you are always sitting very close to the person you are dining with, and close to the people dining around you.

Days Three and Four in Paris

Day 3: 

Day 3 began, again, a little late, despite our best intentions because my head cold and coughing continued to rage on during the night, which meant I got very little sleep.

We had breakfast again at Les Deux Magots, which I was affectionately calling “The Two Maggots,” but we later figured out meant “The Two Chinese Figurines.” We snagged the perfect street side table, which was wonderful for Parisian people watching, my favorite activity. A couple coffees later we went on a city walk.

We spent the late afternoon and early evening at the Musée de l’Armé (The War Museum), which Daniel was keen on going to. We had just enough time to make it through the World War I and World War II exhibits before the place closed at 5pm. There was another interesting-looking exhibition about French Indochina, a place in time I am very interested in, but we didn’t have time to check it out.

We were going to go out for dinner, but I was feeling very under the weather, so we headed back to our hotel to relax. I spent the evening resting in bed and eventually Daniel suggested that he go out and get some dinner for us. He asked what I wanted and I said “soup,” and secretly wanted pho, but didn’t want to ask for that in case it was too much trouble to get. 45 minutes later Daniel returned with, lo and behold, pho for me! (And Indian for himself). Best husband ever! We downloaded the Woody Allen movie ‘Midnight in Paris’ and spent the evening watching it in bed.

Day 4: 

Another day with a late start. Once we headed out the door we made a quick pit stop at a patisserie and bakery called Paul right across the street from our hotel. Daniel got a ham and cheese baguette and I got a delightfully not sweet yogurt with raspberries.

We went for a nice city walk through some new areas and ended at the Musee d’Orsay. While, of course, the Louvre is fantastic and amazing, I actually preferred the Musee d’Orsay. I thought the exhibitions were more approachable, intimate and better put together. The audio guide was also easier to use compared to the Louvre. I really enjoyed the art works here as well. We saw all the masters from Monet to Gauguin.

After a few hours in the museum we headed back to our hotel to refresh for a few moments before heading on a food tour. Daniel and I are usually wary of organized tours, but, especially with the short time we would be in Paris, I thought a food tour would be a great way to learn more about the rich (literally) food culture.

We met our tour group at the St. Germaine Church. The group ended up being a total of 5 people (including us), plus the tour guide. The guide was an American woman named Alisa Morov who had lived in France for 12 years. She is a chef and baker who has written a number of cookbooks (mostly about baking-type things, like cupcakes and meringues). The tour was focused on food traditions of the French around Christmastime. Alisa was very knowledgeable and took us all around St. Germaine and the surrounding areas, explaining some of the French Christmastime traditions around food, like eating 12 desserts (in small portions). We had little bites as we went and by the end were pretty stuffed and sugar buzzed. Some of the highlights were marron glacé (candied chestnuts), foie-gras macaroon with chocolate and dusted with gold dust (can you say decadent!?!), smoked salmon on baguette, foie-gras on crackers and saffron chocolates. Both Daniel and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and would recommend it to anyone. (If you are interested, it was booked through Context Travel).

We bid adieu to our tour group and headed back to the hotel where we rested for a bit before heading out to our last dinner in Paris – cheese fondue.

IMG_0203 IMG_0206  IMG_2759 The heads and limbs of fowl are often left on at the butcher. We learned that this is to show how fresh the bird is because the head and extremities are often the first to go bad. IMG_2760 Legs of pork. This pork is only fed a diet of acorns, so apparently the meat is extra succulent and melts in your mouth. IMG_2763 Evening street few.IMG_2764 Each fancy chocolatier in town does a signature thing during Christmas. This one, Pierre Marcolini, sold these little chocolate statuettes. IMG_2765 Chocolates to choose from. They remind me of eyeshadows at the makeup counter. IMG_2767 Daniel’s happy face. Lots of chocolate!  IMG_2769 Buche de Noel (Fancy Christmas log cakes). IMG_2770  IMG_2772 A chocolate chimp! The specialty of the chocolate maker at this store was that he makes a new chocolate statue every Christmas. IMG_2773 Christmas shops. IMG_2777 IMG_2778

Day Two in Paris

On Day 2, we started our adventures a bit later than Day 1. This is mainly because there are metal grates that lower over our window at night and totally block the light out. This was ok with me, because, though we followed Daniel’s Jet-Lag Protocol, it didn’t seem to quite work as well for me. I was up at 3am for 3 hours, but luckily was able to fall back asleep until about 10am or so.

We headed to a sidewalk cafe called Les Deux Magots for breakfast and coffee. The ambiance was exceptional and the location perfect for people watching. It feels very traditional French, including waiters wearing tuxedos and suspenders who serve meals on a silver platter. After a leisurely breakfast/people watching session we went on a long walk in search of a market. It seems that most of the neighborhood food markets close around 2:30pm, so we were cutting it a little close. We ended up stumbling upon a market that we didn’t mean to go to called Marche Raspail. Although it wasn’t our intended target location, we spent some time roaming up and down the market stalls. Walking through local food markets is one of my favorite things to do while traveling, so I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the cheeses, meat selection (including what seemed like a lot of fresh killed baby chickens w/ heads still on?), olives, fresh produce and foie gras. We chuckled because there were several lunch food carts (as you might see in Portland) and the most popular one, swarmed with Parisians, was serving Baja-style tacos.

After Marche Raspail we continued to head to the other market, which ended up being a very long walk. By the time we arrived all the vendors were already tearing down the stalls. By this point, I was feeling extremely downtrodden so we took the RER back to St. Germaine for a stop at our hotel. I’ve developed a rather nasty head cold over the last few days so, unfortunately, my stamina hasn’t been as it usually is, though I’ve been trying my best and Daniel’s been doing great helping me recover.

For the day’s main event (well, it was early evening by this time) we walked from Hotel de Buci to the Louvre to take in the art scene. We have heard several recommendations to go during the night or evening. Even though it was Friday evening, the Louvre was still humming. We decided to get the digital audio tour guide, which I highly recommend, since all the signs are just in French. We spent several hours roaming around the collections, probably spending the most time in the Egypt collection. I was hoping to see the Asian art collection, but it ended up being closed. My favorite piece was The Raft of the Medusa, painted in 1818 by Géricault. Of course, we also saw the Mona Lisa. As expected, the Mona Lisa was literally swarmed with people taking selfies and posting Instagram photos, which detracted a bit from the scene. I was surprised how small the Mona Lisa actually is in real life. I was also surprised that out of all the most amazing, spectacular paintings in the Louvre, the Mona Lisa is the most famous. I know there is some intrigue surrounding the Mona Lisa, but I thought the story of The Raft of the Medusa, and many of the other paintings were much more interesting.

After the Louvre trip, we were ready for dinner. We had in mind to go to Cafe Breizh, a creperie that my grandparents highly recommended. We showed up ready for crepes (well, after a scamming taxi driver took us the very, very long way), but were swiftly informed that the place was full until 10:30pm. We should have known! So we walked the neighborhood and found another lovely place called Suzette Creperie. It was a lovely dinner with much cheaper prices than we had been paying for meals around St. Germaine. I got a crepe filled with egg, cheese, ham and mushrooms, and Daniel got one filled with chicken, pesto, cheese and fresh creme. For dessert (had to) I got one covered with house made caramel (decadent) and Daniel got chocolate-banana. Le nom nom nom!

Post-dinner, the rain had subsided (started raining when we were leaving the Louvre), so we walked home, taking in the twinkling Friday night scenes, sights and smells of Paris.

IMG_2749 Breakfast at Les Deux Magots. IMG_0177 Pastries and breads. IMG_2752Cheeses for sale at the Marche Raspail.IMG_0178 We’ve been noticing that everyone walks around with bagettes (I swear!), so we decided to do the same thing and got a baguette sandwich for a snack before heading to the Louvre.IMG_0182 I tried to look chic while eating my baguette. I failed. Notice chic man on bicycle behind me gracefully eating his baguette! IMG_0192 We made a trip to the Louvre and also celebrated the official first day of the third trimester. Baby is officially 2/3 of the way baked… That sounds bad, it’s because we’re surrounded by so much bread, sorry! Happy negative three month birthday, baby daughter!IMG_0196 The Louvre pyramid by night. IMG_0198 Crepes for dinner. IMG_0200

Day One in Paris

I’m currently writing this post from Day 2 in Paris, which means we survived Day 1. We have been following the Daniel Bachhuber Jet Lag Avoidance Protocol (DBJLAP), which means I wasn’t sure if we (or, I, specifically) would survive… but we did, and Paris is just lovely! The DBJLAP calls for as long a nap as possible on the airplane ride to your far-off location, and then powering through the entire arrival day with minimal or no sleep until a suitable local bed-time. The night before we left Portland I slept quite bad, perhaps because of the anxiety of wondering if we would miss the plane. Then on the plane I slept maybe 1 hour at most, so when we arrived in Paris on Thursday morning, local time 8:00am, I wasn’t sure if I would make it through the day. I was dragging.

But, being off the plane and emerging from the subway line onto the Parisian streets was exhilarating. This is my first time to Europe (!), so I was/am excited to soak it all in. Our first day ended up being totally action packed and for me, shockingly, mostly caffeine-free (well, I had several black teas throughout the day). We headed to our hotel (Hotel de Buci), located in the neighborhood St. Germaine, and dropped off our bags. We were immediately off, without even tidying up, because our rooms would not be ready until 2pm. We walked a few blocks and found a suitable place for breakfast – crepes and omlettes. After, we were off on a massive walk.

We walked about a mile to the Louvre, walked around in the main courtyard area and Daniel showed me the famous glass pyramid. Then we headed along the Seine River and saw the Paris Ferris Wheel ahead. We figured, why not?, so bought 2 tickets and settled into our little cabin and enjoyed what three rounds, and the magnificent views of the city, the Seine and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

After we were kicked off the Ferris Wheel it was off for more walking. We strolled the entire length of the Champs Elysees and took in the sights, mostly it was great people watching. I quickly realized how, at that moment, I could never, ever fit in as a Parisian. Why? I was wearing running shoes and Nike yoga pants (it was my plane outfit because, remember, we hadn’t had the chance to change yet). I looked and looked and looked and literally never once saw a Parisian wearing running shoes on the street (still haven’t at the end of Day 2). Eventually we did spot a couple who was wearing running shoes. They turned out to be American.

At the end of the Champs Elysees we gazed at the Arch de Triumph and took a short rest on a bench, where I considered taking a nap. We thought about walking the 3 miles back to the hotel, but I reckoned I would die of exhaustion, so we took a cab back. Although not part of the DBJLAP, we decided to take an hour nap, which accidentally turned in to two hours. Although it was very difficult, we peeled ourselves off the bed and headed back out on the town. Destination: Eiffel Tower.

By the time we arrived, it was long past sunset and the Eiffel Tower was lit up and sparkling. I must say, it is just as majestic as it is in the movies. We wanted to go to the top but I needed food so I didn’t crash before we summited. Several blocks away we found a charming little cafe (Paris is literally swarming with charming little cafes, so this was not difficult!) and enjoyed dinner (me: a salad, Daniel: duck confit, a little wine and a raspberry tart for dessert) and some good conversation. Then we headed back to the Eiffel Tower, bought tickets and headed up. One tip I have for people visiting Paris is to take the elevator up to the top at night instead of during the day. The line was probably 10-15 minutes in total. I can imagine that during the peak of the day hours, the wait is probably 1+ hours.

The views from the top were spectacular (and it was very cold!). I hypothesized that the Eiffel Tower must be the #1 place to get proposed to in the world. Of course, at the top there was a raving girl calling everyone she knew because her boyfriend had just proposed. Finally, we headed down and hitched a cab ride home. Daniel’s anti-jetlag method mostly worked (I did wake up once for 3 hours at 3am), but managed to fall back asleep at 6:30am or so.

Overall, Paris is just so charming. It lives up to its reputation in many ways: it is a pleasure to walk through the streets and observe the old buildings and architecture, it has a very romantic feel, the sidewalks are teeming with cafes with tiny tables squished together where friends and couples huddle and smoke cigarettes, it feels full of history and everyone seems very classy and chic. Oh, and yes, and people everywhere actually do walk around carrying baguettes.

Paris Observations: 

*One of my first observations was that Paris is a much more diverse city than I expected. Obviously I know it is a big cosmopolitan city, but I was surprised at how many ethnicities can be seen on the streets. There seems to be an especially strong north and east African contingent.

*As I mentioned above pertaining to running shoes, everyone dresses chic. It is not necessarily like everyone looks straight off the red carpet, but everyone looks put together. Their clothes seem high quality. They do not wear running shoes and yoga pants, ever. People mostly wear black and neutrals. Definitely no one ever, ever wears sweat pants.

*A LOT of people smoke cigarettes. This is one thing I have been quite surprised about. A huge portion of the population seems to smoke: young, old, men, women, everyone. One of the main Parisian past times seems to be sitting at a sidewalk cafe, at one of the outdoor tables, with all your friends, drinking small coffees and smoking cigarettes.

*There seems to be a lot of similarities to me between Japanese and French culture. After making this observation, I’ve noticed more and more sushi restaurants, more sushi restaurants than any other “international” cuisine. It makes me wonder how many French move to Japan, or vice versa. Both countries have deep cultural traditions surrounding food and socializing. French around coffee, Japanese around tea, both around food. Both have ritualistic traditions around each one.

*There seems to be a strong culture of spending time with other people, especially at cafes, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. It seems like people actually take the time to be with each other, rather than just having a “power lunch” and heading back to the office. There is more a feeling of enjoyment and relaxation, rather than “go, go, go,” as in America.

*Food is delicious, yet simple. Meals are often made up of only a few ingredients, but very good ingredients. They are more enjoyable because you don’t get “too much” and eat until you are stuffed, which often happens at restaurants in America.

IMG_00884 hours of sleep over 48 hours, just off the plane and RER Paris subway, looking for our hotel and surprised how FRIGID Paris is. IMG_0090 Typical little market in St. Germaine. IMG_0096 Everything is just cuter, isn’t it? Even this bike next to a sign is charming. IMG_0098 Macaroons and pastries everywhere. IMG_0099 Sidewalk cafe – this is in the morning so no one was there, but in the afternoon and night the outdoor seats fill up. IMG_0100 Little market. IMG_0102 We walked over a bridge to the Louvre and it was covered with locks. Please write _____ loves ______ and the date on the lock, usually. IMG_0103 So many locks! IMG_0107 Daniel with the locks. IMG_0115 Checking out the Seine River. IMG_0119 Perfect place for people watching. IMG_0123 Views from the Ferris Wheel. First glimpses of the Eiffel Tower. IMG_0152 Our attempt at a selfie on the Ferris Wheel.IMG_0158 Spot the American! Don’t be fooled because this outfit is all black, it also is made up of, *gasp*, running shoes and yoga pants. I am a lousy Parisian. IMG_0164 First close-up glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.IMG_2730 Night scenes on the way to dinner. IMG_2731 Eiffel.IMG_2735 Us (three!) in front of the Eiffel. IMG_2738 Summit views. IMG_2745More views from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

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