I went to Paris for my birthday last week. I had a wonderful time, but I always have a wonderful time in Paris. The sky was gloriously blue for two days. Then on the third it poured. I went back to my hotel. The weather had defeated me. The rain was a better man than I. On Sunday, my last day, it was grey and drizzly. My train was leaving at five. How should I spend the day?
First, I admired the insides on the outsides of the Pompidou Centre. Then I walked around the twentieth century art collection on the fourth and fifth floors. The Pompidou has to be my favourite collection of modern art in the world. So much of it was made in Paris, too. Here’s something I found, and loved, on Sunday, (may not be Parisian, though).
Across the Rue Beaubourg, just a few metres away, is the Rue Rambuteau. Almost every shop on it sells food. My arms were empty at the start and full by the time I’d got to the end. I bought tapenade and some courgette fritters from the Greek traiteur. Butter, both unsalted and demi-sel, cheese and eggs from the fromagerie. I resisted, but I’m sorry I did, the €35 tart de foie gras at Pain de Sucre. I couldn’t pass the mirabelles at one of the two greengrocers without buying a kilo. I bought two tiny cakes, one chocolate, one lime and basil, from Les Fées Pâtissières, I added some sausages from one of the butchers. I didn’t want to carry fresh fish around for hours so I passed both fishmongers.
I walked a few hundred metres to Camille in the Rue des Francs Bourgeois. It was after one by now, and, as the French are prompt about when they eat lunch, it was full. This is one of the places in Paris I prefer to eat inside, enjoying the theatre of the restaurant. On Sunday I enjoyed the theatre of the street, instead, too hot from the outdoor heaters. I had a terrific lunch of blanquette de veau and a slice of apricot tart. The dessert was refreshingly… err… tart, after the richness of the stew, the coffee bracingly bitter. It was the definition of a typical French meal. €28.50, including a glass of Provençal rosé.
I walked to the Place des Vosges, because even in the drizzle it’s somewhere that makes me swoon with pleasure, then wandered the streets of the Marais, picking up virtually my own body-weight in chocolate olives from de Neuville. Another coffee at L’Eoile Manquante on Rue du Vielle du Temple, then some pâtés des fruits at the beautiful, bijou Edwart, which wasn’t there a year ago. I had another rosé at the Little Bar on my favourite corner of Paris on the Rue du Roi de Sicile. The sun had come out by now, so in a city that’s a monument to dappled light I had some more in my last minutes in the Marais. I bought a baguette at the boulangerie opposite and hailed a cab with it to take me to the Gare du Nord. Three hours later I was making supper at home with my French swag, sad not to be in Paris any more, but happy that I had been, of course.