I had two places to be today, in very different parts of the city that are both far from my apartment. The latter appointment was anxiety-provoking, and I decided that instead of heading back to my house for a few hours of work in between meetings, I would take the day off and enjoy some exploration and indulgence.
My ultimate destination was the Pantheon, but I ended up adding so many interstitial stops to my route that by the time I got there, I didn’t have enough time to go inside. That’s okay, though – I’ll head back another time, and I did lots of fun stuff instead.
I started at Madeleine in the 8th arrondissement, where my first meeting was. After visiting the stunning church (which I will share photos of in another post dedicated exclusively to the churches and cathedrals of Paris and environs), I stopped in to Fauchon next door. I have seen this spot listed again and again as an iconic gourmet destination.
The interior reminded me of Victoria’s Secret or Sephora – very shiny, very hot pink, very 90s.
But when I looked past the interiors to the sweets on display, I was more impressed.
Sometimes I am glad to be gluten-intolerant. Otherwise I would have eaten one of each of those croissants.
I bought a chai tea macaron, which was delicious.
Then I hopped on the metro for Saint-Germaine, which is probably my favorite neighborhood in Paris because it is drop-dead gorgeous and very, very old (also very, very expensive). I got out at Rue du Bac and headed for Hugo & Victor, again in search of macarons. I had read about their additive-free, organic macarons in a New York Times guide to Paris’s best macarons that I am just now noticing also features Fauchon’s tea-flavored ones.
I tried the grapefruit macaron and it was somehow both subtle and punchy. (I highly recommend it.)
At this point I decided that I would try macarons all day in my own personal taste test.
But by the time I got to the Grande Epicerie of Paris, which is part of Bon Marché, the oldest department store in the world, I remembered the ill-fated night of the five macarons and decided to quit while I was ahead.
So I switched to chocolate. David Lebovitz posted a picture of chestnut-shaped chocolates filled with chestnut mousse when he visited the master chocolatier Jean-Charles Rochoux a few weeks ago, and I immediately added this to my Paris to-do list. The store was only a seven-minute walk from Le Bon Marché, so I had to stop in.
There was a moment or two of sticker shock when I saw that each chocolate was €7.10, but it was my day of treating myself so I said, “fuck it” and bought it anyway.
Oh, I almost forgot that between Hugo & Victor and the Grande Marché, I happened to pass the most adorable fromagerie I’ve seen in Paris.
I had to take a peek inside… and then I had to sample a 3 year aged comté… and then I had to buy said comté. The woman who sold it to me told me that the cheese shop is 150 years old, one of the oldest in Paris.
The proprietor has owned it for 46 years, and the one before her owned it for 50. So that explains why it has remained frozen in time. (Side note: I continue to question whether cheesemonger is my true life’s calling despite being kind of lactose intolerant.)
After loading up on sugar and dairy, it was clearly time for lunch. I headed to Boulevard Saint-Germaine. I have already been to the two most iconic institutions on that street, Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, but today I was interested in Brasserie Lipp, which has been around since 1880. The inside was beautiful and evocative of the Belle Époque, but it was also packed and after spending all my lunch money on junk food, I thought perhaps it would be better to eat at one of the other, cheaper establishments on my list. I’ll head back there some day when I haven’t already splurged on bonbons. I ducked back out and walked another seven minutes away to La Palette.
It’s a 100 year-old haunt of artists, writers, and movie stars.
I ate my Paris bistro usual – salad with emmental, ham, and egg – on the heated terrasse, while eavesdropping on the conversations of my neighbors.
Then I walked yet another seven minutes away, to the first café in the world, Le Procope, founded in 1686.
I drank an espresso in a room that had a plaque about Thomas Jefferson’s presence there.
I’m very belatedly reading “A People’s History of the United States” nearly 25 years after having been assigned to read it for my high school history class and failing to do so. (Side note 2: it wouldn’t have meant much to me back then but it is so powerful to be reading it now, given the current zeitgeist.) I’m only just finishing the section about the Revolution and post-Revolutionary period, and Thomas Jefferson keeps popping in and out. His travels to Paris are mentioned several times. This weird synchronicity made me somehow feel more deeply connected to late 1700’s America through a café in Paris.
After Le Procope, I realized I had twenty minutes both to get to the Pantheon and to visit it, but I wasn’t ready to abort my mission just yet. I jumped on the metro and traveled two stops to where Saint-Germaine meets Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, one of the oldest streets in Paris.
I walked down this picturesque road straight to the Pantheon, stopping for a four-minute peek inside a church just to the side of it.
Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is pretty spectacular, but I will show the interior to you in the aforementioned churches post.
Here’s the Pantheon – one day soon I will go inside. For today, I circled the exterior and headed down another narrow, pretty road to get to the metro.
A lovely 3 hours on the Left Bank. My wallet was not happy, but my stomach and my heart thanked me for it.