Well, the weekend did not disappoint weather-wise, continuing on exactly as Friday had given Paris reason to hope it might. Saturday dawned optimistically bright and developed into the most gloriously sunny afternoon. It was cold, but fresh, with the tangible promise of spring in the scent of the air and the quality of the light, warm and buttery on the yellow-brick facades of the Haussmann buildings.
It would have been a sin to have missed the opportunity to explore on such a beautiful day (easily the nicest on a weekend since pre-Christmas) so it was up and out as early as possible – and straight to the boulangerie, bien sûr.
I don’t believe I told you, by the way – I have, at last, established my boulangerie. This is big news. I have dreamed of it for years: I, Jodie, have a local boulangerie. In Paris. Je suis contente.
It’s certainly not the closest to my apartment; at a distance of a good 5-7 minutes’ walk, there must be at least 4 or 5 closer (such is the boulangerie density in Paris). However, a little Google investigating as to “the best croissants in Paris” brought this place to my attention so, last weekend, I gave it a go.
Now, I cannot comment on whether or not La Maison Pichard does indeed offer, as promised, the best croissants in Paris. I have sampled but a tiny proportion of the croissants that the boulangeries of Paris have to offer and I would be loathe to make such a sweeping statement in ignorance.
However. I can quite confidently say that La Maison Pichard certainly does offer the best croissants I personally have ever sampled in my life. Good grief, they are wonderful. Certainly, the numerous awards and accolades the place has won have been bestowed with excellent reason. Crisp on the outside with a soft, light centre, and flaky but not unmanageably so, it is apparent in every mouthful that these pastries have been made with liberal quantities of finest-quality French butter – and believe me when I say that is an excellent trait in a croissant.
So, this Saturday morning saw a return trip, this time to test the pain au chocolat – which was, incidentally, the best pain au chocolat I have ever tried. I also picked up a fougasse aux olives (the twisted Provençal bread I mentioned before, this one perfectly rosemary-ed) for lunch although, as it was still warm from the oven, it had almost entirely disappeared from the brown paper bag, one little torn off mouthful at a time, long before midday. There’s something about warm bread which demands it be eaten there and then; it seems horribly wasteful to leave it to cool and – heaven forbid – harden.
The remainder was eaten from a bench in front of Saint-Sulpice, the second-largest church in Paris. We happened across it quite by accident: my other half and I had decided to explore the area by essentially getting lost, and several random turns down attractive or interesting-looking streets from the starting point of Rue de Rennes found us standing in front of this rather imposing 17th century building. The most interesting feature of the church’s exterior is, in my opinion, the double colonnade – the two ‘towers’ either side of the façade are remarkable enough in conjunction with the tiers of columns below, but what particularly stands out is that one ‘tower’ is in perfect condition (or so it appears from the ground) and in fact the side of the building that it’s on generally appears to have been cleaned and restored at some relatively recent point, whilst the other half (including the other ‘tower’) seems to have been left to the whims of nature, the stone dirty and distinctly less decorated than its counterpart. I need to research the reason for this, as I’m sure there is one, but it made for interesting viewing even without knowing the backstory.
It’s so typical of Paris that neither I nor my other half knew anything of Saint-Sulpice, though. In any other city, it would undoubtedly have been one of the major tourist hotspots for its age and architectural impressiveness. But in Paris, the beautiful and/or historically significant buildings and monuments are so numerous that almost every time I venture out into a new part of the city, I stumble across something astonishing that I’ve never even heard of before. Not through particular ignorance on my part, but because their existence simply isn’t publicised; a city can only have so many celebrated landmarks, after all. How else could tourists ‘do’ a city in a weekend?*
It’s a strange feature of Paris, but I really do love it. Four months in and I have barely scratched the surface. There is just SO much to discover here.
*In case you missed the mild sarcasm there… it was there.