Hostess With The Mostest – Or Trying Anyway (Part 2/2)

So, to pick up where I left off (Part 1 here) with regards to the previous weekend, Sunday last dawned bright and sunny, another beautifully-blue-skied-but-bitterly-cold sort of day.

Our little party headed out with the intention of picking up breakfast as we went, but alas, the queue for ‘my’ boulangerie was the longest I’d seen yet – snaking out of the shop and quite literally half way down the street. After a few minutes of bobbing up and down on the spot and rubbing our hands together whilst we waited in misguided optimism for the line to diminish, we made the executive decision to cut our losses and seek croissants elsewhere.

This seemed to be a perfectly sensible idea, as we were making our way towards Boulevard Saint-Germain, and there are plenty of boulangeries/patisseries along the route. Any other day, and we’d have been showering the pavement with buttery flakes of pastry within minutes.

Unfortunately, it was not any other day. It was Sunday. And therefore, passing up an open boulangerie was not a perfectly sensible idea after all. Au contraire, it turned out to be the death of all breakfast prospects.

When I started writing this post the other day, I ended up on such a lengthy digression about Sundays and shop opening in Paris that it actually mutated into a post of its own. As such, I won’t repeat myself here; suffice to say that the situation with Sunday opening hours here is a distinctly ‘hit and miss’ scenario. Some places open all day on a Sunday. Some don’t open at all. Some like to mix it up by opening – and closing – whenever they so feel like it. It’s a bit confusing, to say the least.

I had been pretty sure that the odds were in favour of us finding at least a few open boulangeries, but, as you’ve probably guessed, this was not the case. We did not pass one, in the whole of our thirty-to-forty minute walk. Probably the first time in history that this has ever happened to anyone in Paris. 

Anyway, long story short(ish), we eventually gave up on the Quest For Croissants and all but pounced, ravenous, on a crêpe vendor we happened across upon arriving on Boulevard Saint-Germain. I wasn’t quite sure what sort of standard to expect – the van décor was a little on the tacky side (not that we cared by that point) – but, like almost every other culinary experience I have had in this city, I was not disappointed. I was practically eating my gloves by the time the vendor had finished making all four crêpes (watching someone prepare your meal in front of you is like a sort of drumroll for the food, really builds the anticipation – not to mention the hunger) but my goodness, it was worth the wait. Eaten steaming hot straight out of the paper in the biting cold and the bright sunshine, a simple crêpe jambon-fromage has never tasted so good.

It didn’t do much for our frozen faces and numb feet though, so our next stop was ‘Les Deux Magots’, the wonderful 19th century salon du thé I wrote about at length a few weeks back. Getting a table was a bit of a fiasco: it being lunchtime, the place was rammed, so we had a fair wait (huddled in a thoroughly inadequate space between an occupied table and the door) before being shown to a table, then asked, whilst we installed ourselves at said table, whether we were eating, and THEN whisked back to the aforementioned inadequate space to wait once more when we explained that we were only ordering drinks. Not what you’d call top quality customer service – the waiter who’d shown us to/shooed us back from the table treated us with nothing short of irritation, obviously annoyed that we had the cheek to get all the way to the table before announcing our true intentions.

Needless to say, had we been asked about those intentions on entry, we would have made them perfectly clear, but this waiter seemed to think we’d tried to pull a fast one and trick our way to a table. Or so his attitude suggested. (I’d also like to make it clear that it is a very normal and commonly-done thing to just have a coffee or a glass of wine or whatever at this place).

Eventually, though, we were seated, and thankfully, my guests thought it was well worth the hassle when we got what we’d come for: the house hot chocolate. You’ll have to read my previous post on the subject for an in-depth description, but suffice to say the stuff is so thick, it’s almost closer to a solid than a liquid. Practically ganache in a cup, the chocolat chaud at ‘Les Deux Magots’ is by far the best I have ever tasted and surely every chocolate-lover’s dearest dream.

Equally enjoyable was the conversation: my friends and I sat and put the world to rights, dissecting all manner of topics political, historical and cultural, until the last drops of pure, unadulterated chocolate heaven had been scraped from our cups and jugs – and then for a little while longer. It was more than a little satisfying to remember, as we thanked the waiters and wound our way through the tiny tables on our way out, that such an impressive litany of literary, philosophical and intellectual ‘greats’ – including Sartre, Camus, Hemingway and Brecht, to name but a few – had once sat having similar debates and discussions in this very same place.

The remainder of the afternoon saw us taking a self-guided tour of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area (so worth exploring if you want somewhere quintessentially ‘Paris’ and a little off the beaten track), which included a stop at my ‘magic’ bookshop, and then on to the Latin Quarter, where I introduced my friends to the fabled Shakespeare & Co. The day ended with dinner at a little restaurant just up the road from my apartment, which I’ve liked the look of for a while – though I wasn’t prepared for it to be quite as lovely as it turned out to be! The place managed to be cool, quirky and cute all at once; and with one of the most reasonably-priced menus I’ve encountered since my arrival in this beautiful-but-cripplingly-expensive city, I can definitely see myself becoming a regular… Overall, a perfect note on which to end a perfect weekend. When can we do it again?

P.S. The ‘featured image’ is a fabulous display we passed in the window of a Ladurée in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. Pretty, isn’t it?

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