When in Paris or Quand à Paris in french. Early June, the husband and me flew to the City of Love, hearts heavy with desire to bring to life the titillating words that I had absorbed from a plethora of books , to bask in the romance of a French summer and attempt to satiate my ravenous longing for sugar in its many avatars. A week’s worth of vacation to make up for a decade’s worth of dreams. I attempt to share and narrate the magic that this darling city sprinkled on us, I hope you love it as much as we did.
-The day begins at the crack of dawn. I wake up in pleasant disbelief, realizing that I’m breathing the same air as La Tour Eiffel. However, tranquil moments are few and what quickly follows is shock because the appartement is still devoid of water. Water or not, we hurriedly bustle through our suitcase-strew space to put ourselves in order and head out the door at 6 am. We are dressed to the nines: the husband in jeans & a navy linen shirt with a mandarin collar and me in a white lace fit & flare cocktail dress. Not your typical sartorial choice for a morning walk but we are in Paris and more importantly we are on our way to be captured in camera by Karina, our photographer.
-I never take for granted the sorcery of early mornings. It is not just the quietude but the presence of a quietude that is optimistic; a happy hush; one that is completely devoid of fears that murmur in the dark of the night.
Like any other city, dawn in Paris radiates the same encouraging magic except the picture is painted a little differently: sidewalks are scattered with the quintessential rattan cafe chairs and baristas are preparing for the day ahead; a handful of people are marching to work, uttering a quick Bonjour to their fellow early risers; buttery wafts emerge from cafes and catch one unguarded, thereby inciting sudden hungers.
After a beautiful 20 minutes, we are at le Jardin du Trocadero, a lively garden across the Siene from the Eiffel Tower. The sky is streaked with blues and the La Tour Eiffel punctuates the massive canvas thus providing the perfect backdrop for a multitude of tourists and their photographers. Our photo-shoot goes by quickly and without a hitch but those rich butter-laden aromas have made us ravenous and we need our Petit Dejuner, stat.
-I first discovered Angelina when I read Amy Thomas’ ‘Paris, my Sweet’ in which she eats her way around the city, devouring dessert after dessert.
The restaurant’s interiors ooze opulence with their pristine white tablecloths, gilded fixtures and ornate sconces; food arrives in a tiered tea tray complete with mini croissants, confitures and pastries; by far an elegant affair. However, the piéce de rèsistance is their chocolat chaud . This hot chocolate is luscious & velvety; not demure like the chai, but, bold and seductive, like the most delicious kiss.
As if this wasn’t enough sugar rampage for the day, we also hoarded a Montblanc, and Eclair, Saint Honore and a Millefeulle for later. Paris is not cloyingly sweet, she is perfectly sweet.
-We promenade through the labyrinthine cobbled streets pausing to explore old bookstores and libraries. Every now and then, a flower shop materialises, its wares exploding like a fragrant firework. Pots of delicate lavender, bouquets of peonies and large clusters of hydrangea interrupt our walk. And if it’s not the flowers, then we stop to stare at the historic architecture. After many such halts, we finally make it to Galeries Lafayette.
Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is a splendidly done shopping mall. I’m awestruck to the extent that it causes me to ignore the dresses à la mode that would normally make me weak in the knees. Instead, my eyes are looking far up toward the dome and the drama it exudes; the massive stained glass cupola spraying light in warm hues on the the entire premises.
A little walk up the stairs leads to a large terrace, offering spectacular views of the city. This afternoon, Paris is soaking under the blazing sun and a dramatic sky. Every time my mind tells me to run indoors away from the wrath of the heat, my heart implores me to stay and admire the city unfurling its beauty, flaunting acres of zinc rooftops and cascading streets. I did the latter. Of course. Never mind the sun burns and exhaustion, this is Paris and this is where magic happens.
If one stands in the center of the oval room in Musee d’ lOrangerie, the person is unfailingly subjected to an effusion of blues, greens, a dash of pink and perhaps speckles of white. The reason: Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’. Monet’s masterpieces , to which he dedicated close to 30 years of his life are draped on wide, convex walls and they swathe the entirety of two oval rooms that the painter also designed. I’m no expert on art or its history but it doesn’t take one to appreciate the sheer beauty and heart that went into the making of these paintings.
My stash from the farmer’s market is begging to become dinner and although my legs are falling off, the desire to cook in ma petite cuisne parisienne gives me all the strength I need. Fortunately, we had the sense to pick to baguettes from a boulangerie and a bunch of peonies to deck up the glass top table by the windowsill. A quick meal ensues: radishes sauteed in olive oil is first which is then followed by a pan of pasta slathered in a rich tomato & basil sauce. Of course that’s not all because it seems I HAVE to bake in the miniscule kitchen and I’m grateful that I tossed in my mini baking tray and parchment paper amid the clothes in our suitcase.
To start, I cut in cold but high fat & cushy French beurre into flour, chilling the resulting dough in the refrigerator for 30 min. Then I roll the dough and gently place juicy plums and strawberries, folding in the excess pastry. A quick brush with some milk and in it goes to the oven for 35 minutes. A flaky, golden galette emerges which we squirrel away in the last minute for the next morning’s breakfast. But dessert in not ignored because right by the peonies there is a large box of shimmering macarons which we devour whilst putting our legs up and resting them on the window. The Paris metro is chugging by, the streets are devoid of any noise save for intermittent fast-moving footsteps, my nose is buried in a book and suddenly, with no hint or warning, it is 12am.
To be continued…..