I love being in Paris solo. That’s not to say that I don’t have a wonderful time when I’m here with my family or friends, or guiding people around, but I think my absolute favorite experience is to have the city all to myself.
I’m staying at a lovely flat rented from Just France in the 7th Arrondissement, near the boulevard Raspail and the organic market that takes place on Sunday mornings. Waking up in the morning, when I want, and deciding what I want to do from moment to moment without consulting others is a guilty pleasure.
Today, for example, I took a leisurely wake-up, at about 8:30 a.m., and wandered over to the biologique (organic) market to sample fresh-squeezed orange juice, a potato galette with fromage and some yogi tea. I bought two bouquets of beautiful herbs with blue flowers—I’m not familiar with them but they were 2 euros, so I will also bring some to a friend tonight. I found a blueberry stand with plump fresh blueberries grown with care by producers Valérie and Martine Benoît from Ogeu les Bains. I also picked up some gorgeous pain aux céréales (a whole-grain bread with sesame) and a tartlet made with leeks and some yellow, red and dark red cherry tomatoes for my lunch.
Avoiding some work that I really had to do, I rented a Vélib’ bike for an hour or so and took a ride into the 5th Arrondissement to see if I couldn’t find a Middle Eastern rug that would suit my living room, because I noticed a sign that there was a sale near the rue des Ecoles. The bike ride over on a sunny Sunday at 11 a.m., with the streets nearly deserted, as tout le monde is on holiday here in France, produced a myriad of places I had to photograph so I could look them up and go back. I passed Hugo and Victor, which won the best pastry shop in Paris last year, and which I’d been hearing so much about from Adam, who writes the blog Paris Pâtisseries. Apparently the shop’s blueberry macaron is to die for. Adam also loves the crèmes, fondants and gâteaux, but being that it was Sunday, the place was closed, so I’ll have to sample them on Tuesday. I also passed by Mis en Demeure, which has high-end antique and new furniture and those old French clocks that everyone dies for. I must go back and see if I can afford one for my kitchen.
I had to stop at the fountain in front of St.-Sulpice, which was looking particularly lovely and refreshing today. The scaffolding is finally down on the church, but it appears they’ve only cleaned the left half . . . hmmm. I also drove by Marie Mercié, who makes the most charming, inventive hats, this summer out of straw, and winter out of wool. You’ll be prepared for a royal wedding or at least Ascot in one of her creations. Later I stopped my bike at Ceccaldi, a store selling handmade pottery and knives that I didn’t know about previously. The family is from Corsica, so the knives have a very rustic look and are simply beautiful, with horn or wood handles. The store carries knives for utilitarian use in the kitchen, personal pocketknives and steak knives. The French take their knives very seriously; I guess it comes with being focused on food 24-7. The store also had some delicate, white, handmade pottery that looked intriguing and affordable. Then I rode by Bouillon Racine, which reminded me that I must go there. Having tried the other famous Bouillon joint, Chartier, in the 9th Arrondissement, it was time to go to Racine. Both supply the Parisian and traveler alike with a simple, affordable meal in antique, Art Nouveau, turn-of-the-century interiors. They were originally soup kitchens for workers of Les Halles, often serving just one dish each day. Racine dates back to 1906 and is most definitely Art Nouveau and Cartier a bit early, from 1896. Neither will give you a gourmet meal, but both will place you back in time and feed you well and authentically for 25–35 euros per person.
But for now, I must return my bike and get back to work. Not bad for a morning out via Vélib’, avoiding mes devoirs. If I had the kids in tow, I might not have been able to stop so often, take as many photos and enjoy discovering the Paris that I know so well but who continues to surprise me with one delicious find after another.