day 8 :
monday, 4 may
We finally enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in as late as we wanted this Monday morning. We threw some clothes in the washer (it is so nice to have that kind of convenience when traveling), and walked a couple of blocks for our breakfast provisions: jus d'orange and jus de pamplemousse (grapefruit juice), yaourt (yogurt) from the corner fromagerie, and baguette monge, croissant, pain au chocolat, and fig bread from the renowned Eric Kayser Artisan Boulanger. We devoured all of this, plus a few cheeses we had brought from Le Perche. Having done a Seattle croissant taste-off a week before our trip to France, we compared each French croissant we ate this week against our taste memory. The Maison Kayser croissant tasted as buttery as our favorites in Seattle (Café Besalu and Bakery Nouveau), but the layers and structure inside were perfect, giving it the edge over our local offerings. The pain au chocolat was easily the best we've ever eaten – not only was the exterior crunch and interior chewiness amazing, but the chocolate inside was a rich, very high quality dark chocolate that practically made our eyes roll back into our heads. The baguette was divine, particularly when slathered with French butter and confitures, and the fig bread was amazingly good, still-warm and not needing anything spread on it. The gauntlet had been thrown, and Maison Kayser met the challenge handily today. We decided we would need to visit the bakery throughout the week, just to keep them on their toes.
We hadn't done a lot of trip planning before vacation, so we were relying on the fact that our apartment had Internet access. Unfortunately, our ancient laptop refused to connect to the wireless network. Eric guessed that we needed new hardware, and fortunately there was a small computer store around the corner that sold wireless network cards. But, as luck would have it, the computer wouldn't recognize the hardware without a driver, and our laptop didn't have a CD-ROM drive, so we couldn't install the driver. The corner computer store didn't have any cheap external CD-ROM drives, but after exchanging a bit of sign language and random French vocabulary with the shopkeeper (it turns out that computer terms are pretty universal), he directed Eric to the FNAC superstore down the street. For a little more than the price we'd pay visiting Internet cafés all week, we bought an external drive, and finally got everything working.
With the techie stuff straightened out, we went window shopping in the hip Marais neighborhood, in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements just north of the Seine river. With some encouragement from Dawn, Eric bought a trendy button-down shirt and silk tie at a very colorful boutique. A few doors down was a confectionary called Cacao et Chocolat, which our new acquaintance Charles had told us about last night. We snagged a few sweets to try later, and soon ran across two falafel shops directly across the street from each other: L'As du Falafel and Mi-Va-Mi. Depending on who you talk to, each place is either number one or two in the city when it comes to falafel, although L'As du Falafel is hands-down the more popular one. Our trusted friends Eric and Kye had raved about L'As du Falafel, so we figured we should try one of their sandwiches on our first visit. We ordered two falafels with everything and extra sauce piquante (hot sauce). We're no falafel experts; we both wanted more kick from the sauce, but nevertheless these were the best (and messiest) falafels we've ever tried, with layers of pickled veggies, tahini sauce, cabbage, and hot crispy chickpea fritters tucked into the warm pita. This is inexpensive street food, so we simply leaned against a wall, tucked into the pita, and somehow managed to avoid getting sauce all over our clothes.
One of the best finds of the day was La Vaissellerie, a kitchen store on rue Saint-Antoine (one of multiple locations throughout the city). The store itself was somewhat narrow and small, but they managed to pack in a huge variety of inexpensive Limoges white plates, bowls, and specialized dishes of every possible shape and size, unique utensils for prepping and eating you-name-it, serving trays, placemats, tea sets, coasters, etc. Dawn looked like a kid in a candy shop, ready to take home one of everything. She reluctantly departed with only salad tongs and some cookie cutters, wishing that we had a store just like this in Seattle.
Our feet needed a break, and we were carrying a bag of sweets from Cacao et Chocolat, so we could think of nothing better than going back to our apartment, putting our feet up, and trying some of our goodies. First up, three delicate macarons (little cookies with two meringue halves and a filling in between): salted butter caramel (Dawn's favorite), pistachio, and chocolate raspberry (Eric's favorite). Next was the chocolate éclair, with a rich dark crème filling, a layer of dark chocolate icing, and dusted with cacao. The previous night, Charles had praised Cacao and Chocolat's éclair as being the best he had ever eaten, and his assessment was spot-on. We wrapped up this sugar high with a lemon tart, and Dawn (being the lemon tart connoisseur between us) gave this one high marks for its milky-creamy filling.
For dinner, we grabbed ingredients to make a simple meal of one of Marcella Hazan's pasta sauces and a veggie. Many places are closed on Mondays, so we stopped by the Monoprix (an odd chain store, combining a clothing store upstairs and a huge grocery and wine store downstairs) for an inexpensive but decent bottle of Bordeaux, and voilà, dinner!