It was the Christmas of 2016. I’d heard many stories about European summers but the cheaper winter fares, fewer tourists and fantastic hotel deals prompted me to book a last-minute trip to Paris. I realised I couldn’t wait to try the best culinary gems it had to offer.
Love at First Sight…
The majestic beauty of Paris hits you like the crisp winter air that one finally gets used to.. .the cobbled streets, the intricate architecture and the gorgeous cafes around every corner – are all very distinctly Parisian.
Nothing to “rue” on Rue Cler
We stayed at a quaint little street called Rue Cler – centrally located to most tourist spots and yet happily removed from the busy traffic. We left our bags at the hotel and took a stroll down the beautifully decorated Christmas market, which boasted of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry pudding and the choicest of fresh cheese and berries. We bought extra berries, baby tomatoes, a bottle of balsamic and wine to stow away in our room – which actually came in rather handy on the colder evenings when we’d retire early to our room!
Mull over the day gone by while sipping mulled wine…
The first two days were all about typical touristy activities, save for the fact that there is nothing “typical” about Paris in winter. The lines are shorter, the tourists fewer and watching the Eiffel Tower lit up in all its glory, is a treat one cannot miss – especially the fantastic view of the city it offers. After a tiring trip to the tower, we found solace in the warm mulled wine and cookies we bought at the little Christmas market below – there was even a little ice-rink for those who wanted to ski. We finished the day with scoops of creamy pistachio gelato from Amerinos, a gelato shop seen across the city.
An Artsy Fartsy Affair…
After we’d had our fill of ‘tourist spots’ – including (I thought) the somewhat overhyped Mona Lisa at the Louvre, which pales in comparison to some of their other paintings – we decided to visit the famous Angelina. The high-tea menu with delicately buttered croissants, flaky scones and the-best-hot-chocolate-you-will-ever-taste, is nothing short of spectacular. One sip of that silky smooth chocolatey goodness and you’ll rest assured that that long line outside was totally worth it. That hot chocolate, my friend? Will change your life.
Another place you absolutely cannot miss is Monte Marte. The little hill with the church on top and the many little cafes, the old man playing the violin and artists painting portraits is like a picture perfect postcard. Monte Marte has one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen and after a long walk around, we tucked into a welcoming bowl of French onion soup. The wholesome beef stock that peppered the soup ever so generously set my bowl apart from its cousins back in India.
A foodie’s dream come true
We signed up for a food tour at Monte Marte to get a taste of the best treats they had to offer. Our guide, an enthusiastic young man, left no stone unturned to provide us with the choicest samples of French bread, the most decadent chocolates, delicious cheese and rich wine – all spread over a two-hour walk around the area. The tour ended with an unexpected feast in a wine cellar where he sat all of us down and served us more wine and an array of meat and cheese which he’d been slyly packing at the stores we visited! We were, beyond the shadow of a doubt, far more stuffed than I could recall us ever being.
Souvenirs of old books – and a Christmas parade
A visit to Shakespeare and Co., an old bookstore in Paris, is a delight for any bibliophile with its aesthetically designed store and wide array of books. (Make sure you get your copies marked with their official stamp to make for a timeless souvenir.)
Our trip ended with a visit to Disneyland. The latter is located a little way outside the city, but is totally worth the trip if you want to catch a snow-laden Christmas parade ridden by your favourite Disney characters. We did this on Christmas since most of Paris remains shut that day with people choosing to stay home with their families.
We left Paris with bottles of delicious French wine, boxes of baby tomatoes and (at least) a year’s supply of chocolate and cheese. Paris is a city that one can visit again and again – and it will offer something new even as it comforts you with its familiar sights, sounds and all things savoury and sweet.
(Salona Bains Joshi is a creative producer by profession and foodie by passion. Working on movies and commercials takes her to different parts of the world allowing her to pique her curiosity in new stories and cuisines. She can be reached @nonabains)