This weekend, I had friends come to stay for the first time since moving to my new place and it was wonderful.
The couple in question are fellow foodies (the best kind of friends) and accordingly, much of the weekend was spent savouring Paris/France’s many culinary delights. This meant kicking the weekend off with a homemade fondue Savoyarde: how better to say “welcome to France” than with a meal consisting exclusively of garlic, almost a kilo of cheese and the better part of a bottle of wine? Oh and baguette. Lots of baguette. This was accompanied with – bien sûr – more wine (to go in our glasses, rather than the cheese), and a steady flow of vinyl and conversation. My kind of Friday night.
On Saturday morning, (after a breakfast of croissants fresh from my new-found local boulangerie), we explored Le Marais, a medieval aristocratic neighbourhood encompassing parts of both the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. It’s a beautiful area, perfectly picturesque with its sprawl of winding, cobbled streets and elegant boutiques specializing in everything from luxury tea to leather shoes. One such shop allowed the purveyor to create their own perfume from the vast range of scents lining the walls in small glass bottles. Another quite literally had olive oil on tap(s), for you to pick your preferred variety and fill a phial yourself. (Stoppers were sold separately, which seemed a little sneaky, as short of knocking the lot back on your way out of the shop (not likely), there is no way you would get anywhere with a stopperless bottle of olive oil. Imagine the mess in your handbag.)
Having discovered somewhere new (nope, like many famous spots in Paris, I’d never been to Le Marais before), we paid a visit to somewhere a little more familiar (to me) in the afternoon: the Arc de Triomphe. Somehow, as of this weekend, I have now climbed the 284 steps of this monument four times. That’s right. Four. And yet – somehow – I have never yet ascended even half way up the Eiffel Tower. Go figure. Anyway, it was bloody freezing up the top with those delightful Siberian winds whipping around our faces, but the views were, as ever, magnificent.
There’s this fantastic contrast, between the absolute chaos that is the roundabout on which the Arc de Triomphe is situated (and it really is chaos, I don’t know how there aren’t twelve collisions daily), evident from the ground; and the symmetrical logic with which Place de L’Etoile and its 12 protruding arms have been designed, appreciable only from an elevated vantage point such as the Arc. With the obvious exception of the Champs Elysees, the roads comprising the 12-point ‘star’ are largely calm and quiet, too: peaceful boulevards lined with elegant Parisian apartment buildings and carefully-coiffed trees.
After a short break back at the apartment for restorative hot beverages and biscuits, 7:45pm saw us heading back out into the bitter cold for a reservation at ‘L’Accord Parfait’, a fabulous little cave (wine shop) I discovered a few weeks back, where the shop floor is scattered with chairs, tables and stools and patrons can sample the wine accompanied by an assortment of meats, cheeses and varies other deli-esque wares. In addition to the standard planche (cheese & meat), we sampled two jars of house tapenade – one made with black olives and figs, the other with green olives and sundried tomatoes – and the topic of which was better was a recurring subject throughout the meal, as both were so different and so completely delicious that no one could decide. There was also a Magical Replenishing Basket of Bread, by which I mean that almost as soon as the last crumbs of soft, fresh baguette and rosemary-seasoned breadsticks disappeared, they were replaced in a flash, several times over.
We would quite likely have lingered on into the night (the wine is so good and so affordable, and the music – vinyl, largely – is chosen with impeccable taste) but there was a party occupying the majority of the shop/restaurant and so it was a little louder than is preferable for easy conversation.
So, once the wine was drunk and the last vestiges of tapenade had been scraped from the glass jars, we departed and made our way on foot to the Eiffel Tower, arriving onto the Champs de Mars with minutes to spare before the tower erupted into sparkling white lights.
Not a bad end to an evening, really.
P.S. Okay. Fine. The actual end to the evening was our little group trying, with increasing desperation, to locate an open supermarket from which to procure dessert. Alas, as it was after 9pm, we did not succeed. Mild disappointment all round, but thank goodness for The Chocolate Shelf (in my apartment, in case you didn’t get that). The tower makes for a more romantic close, no?