THERE IS SO MUCH I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT TODAY THAT I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN!
Let’s start with an overview of the schedule (navigate to specific events by clicking the links!)
- 9:00AM – 9:45AM: Breakfast at a cute cafe
- 10:00AM – 12:50PM: Sandeman walking tour
- 1:00PM – 1:30PM: Laduree Macarons
- 1:30PM – 2:30PM: Return to hostel to grab ticket
- 2:30PM – 3:30PM: The Catacombs
- 3:30PM – 4:45PM: Catacombs -> Wine and Cheese Night (I took a wrong turn…)
- 4:45PM – 7:15PM: Wine and Cheese class (which actually began at 4:30)
- 7:45PM – 9:15PM – Musee d’Orsay
Breakfast at a Cute Cafe
I started out super on schedule, 9:00AM out the door hoping to find a cute cafe to chill at before my walking tour. I’m halfway down to city center when I realize I’ve forgotten my ticket for the tour and for the Catacombs! Luckily I can go on the tour without a printed ticket, but the Catacombs pose a problem to be resolved for later. I decided to have breakfast near city center, in case I’m running late for the tour but I realize upon getting there, that the cute cafes in the center of the city are super expensive because tourists… should have eaten closer to the hostel.
I walked around for a couple minutes along the same street, trying to decide where to eat and how frugal I can be, and end up in a small pastry shop that also does coffee. (Something I noticed! the bakeries (la boulangerie) here sometimes only do bread unlike bakeries in America or the UK that usually also double as a coffee shop)
Before I walk in, I spend quite a bit of time staring at the menu in front of me, trying to remember enough French to be able to speak to the women in the store with some amount of decency…. when I think I’ve got it, I walk in. The woman behind the counter says something to me, and forget promptly everything I was planning to say (oops). It’s only until the women behind the counter suggests “café?” that i say: “oui, un café au lait et un pain du chocolat” – or at least, that’s what I was trying to say. Pretty sure, I butchered the pronunciation pretty badly; I think I mixed up un and une (which is pronounced like the spanish un), I probably pronounced the T at the end of chocolat, I think i said “si” instead of “oui” or maybe I said “yes” (old habits die hard ya’ll), au is actually pronounced “oh…” BUT she gave me what I asked for which definitely means something was communicated 😂.
For being such a small, out of the way bakery, the food was great! The coffee was very nutty, which I like, and not super smokey which I think American coffee tends towards. While eating breakfast, I simultaneously read a book on my phone and watched other people order at the counter. Couple things I observed:
- Everyone greets the lady behind the counter when entering the store and before they order, whereas in the US, if we’re ordering something at the counter we tend to just say what we want
- Real French seems to be much more mumbly than the French I was learning (the instructors probably overemphasized sounds to help new learners distinguish them)
Before leaving I had one more thing to ask – this time another lady was at the counter… “toilette ici?” I asked (bathroom here?) and she responded in French, (which I understood) then again in English in case I didn’t understand (an added bonus). For someone with no previous experience speaking French – not bad for first day!
Sandeman Walking Tour
Next comes the walking tour with Sandeman New Europe Tours. We started off at Fontaine St-Michel.
We hit the Latin Quarter (just a touch!), the Notre Dame De Paris, Palais de Justice de Paris before Pont Neuf. I jotted down some notes of interesting things I learned along the way which you can see on this document (might be too much for a blog post).
Ponte Neuf: In a twist of irony the oldest bridge in Paris is called the “New Bridge.” Back then it was the newest and first stone bridge constructed in Paris and has lasted all the way until now. Behind that was the Pont des Arts which used to be the “Locks of Love bridge” before it got too heavy and posed a safety hazard. The new locks are now near the bridge but on the banks. Also there are definitely some combination locks which is an interesting take on the tradition.
Louvre: We walked from the Palace of the Louvre to the actual Louvre (with the Pyramid). The museum just kind of opens up to you. Some people think the glass entrance to the Louvre is out of place as it doesn’t fit the typical Haussmann style, but I think it’s absolutely perfect. It provides the contrast needed to find the entrance, but also, how better to enhance features of a building than to put something as equally impressive yet opposing next to it?
Jardin de Tulleries:
This is the place for French Macarons. They’re rumored to be the best in Paris and I was so excited when we passed by a store on our tour, I knew Taylor and I had to go back to try some. Ladurée is SO CUTE. Ugh I loved it from the minute I walked in; all the pastel colors and beautiful packaging.
Both of us got two small macarons each. Taylor got Raspberry-Lemon and the Vanilla and I got Chocolate-Earl Gray and Rose. They had a ton more flavor combinations, some unique and some standard, and it was hard to choose between all of them!! Between my two, I really liked my Rose, and Taylor’s Vanilla was pretty incredible for being Vanilla. My Chocolate-Earl Gray, while I definitely like the flavors separate, not sure if I’m a fan of them together, but props for getting both flavors balanced.
Ideally I would have gone directly to the Catacombs after Laduree but I forgot my ticket back at the hostel. When I finally arrived at the Catacombs (it took one hour to go to and from my hostel), I jumped a 100 person line with my pre-paid ticket (the ticket also costs about twice as waiting in line). Because I arrived 30 minutes after my ticket time, but still within the bounds of my entry time, I went in alone… which was kind of creepy. Luckily I found some people to tail else I might have psyched myself out.
The bones part of the Catacombs doesn’t start until about halfway through the tour – it’s all history before then. In a few sentences, the history of the Catacombs:
A long time ago some geological conditions lined up and formed limestone in present day Paris. This limestone was used to build most of the buildings in Paris; and the Catacombs actually started out as a limestone quarry. Fast forward X00 years, Paris is overflowing with dead bodies, where can we put them? Oh the Catacombs – and boom, one of the world’s largest Ossuaries.
Some interesting stories about the Catacombs. There’s a fountain since called the Fountain of the Good Samaritan and just cause (or because they suspected that the fountain had special properties) a scientist put a couple goldfish in the fountain to see what would happen. This is all I could find out about the fish online:
From Picture of Paris, being a complete guide to all the public buildings and curiosities in that metropolis, to which is added an almanach of the pleasures of Paris… accompanied with six descriptive routes from the coast to Paris… by Louis Tronchet. 4th edition (could the title be any longer?)
Would I recommend buying the ticket early/visiting the Catacombs at all? If you really want to see the Catacombs, then yes but it’s not essential to experiencing Paris. With regards to buying tickets, they only allow 200 people (without a ticket) in each hour, so if you don’t make the first hour, you’ll have to wait in line for the next hour.
Wine and cheese night at Paroles de Fromagers
I stumbled into the cheese cellar with my half eaten sandwich – yes definitely late. My tour guide for this Wine and Cheese night, Caroline, is going over the aging process in chess, but she quickly runs through the first half of the process again for me (milk, curdling, molding, then aging). TBH I’m super distracted by the fact that I was standing in a small cheese cellar (hmmm maybe 2/3 the size of a dorm room at UT), which smelled very damp and a bit like mold (no duh!).
We browsed the various cheeses they had in stock and noted the different shapes, sizes, textures of the cheese. Some of them looked like traditional wheels, some in cylinders, some in trapezoids (fromage, the french word for cheese, comes from the root word of “form” or shape, because making cheese is the art of giving milk a shape) some with a hard rind, some with a flour-y type rind, some with herbs others with leaves (to infuse the cheese).
Note Paroles de Fromagers only stores cheese, they don’t make any here in Paris because a lot of the way cheese tastes depends on, well… basically everything and every step of the process. Similar to wines, cheeses depend on the climate (soil, air, surrounding biolife) hence only cheese from the Normandy region is officially Camembert and will say so on the seal, others are just made in the style of Camembert. It also depends on the cow, the type of milk (raw or pasteurized), the season the milk comes from (because of the type of grass that grows), how the cheese is made, how long it’s allowed to age, the shape, the post processing of the cheese… everything!!
Once we finished our overview, we moved onto tasting cheeses and then the wines with them. Quick rule of thumb, you always taste from lightest to heaviest cheese, so that meant starting with the goat cheese.
The Process of Wine and Cheese Tasting: First we start with the cheese. We looked at the cheese, poked the cheese and noticed it’s texture, smelled the cheese… and then we took a bite, letting the taste and smell of the cheese fill your mouth and nose. The next step is to try it with the wine. We looked at the wine’s color (by placing a white surface behind it), smelled the wine, and swirled the wine. We never tried the wines alone in this wine and cheese tasting session (I mean we could, but I think the point was to focus on the pairing together). So we once we were ready, we took a relatively large bit of the cheese, got to the zen-cheese state, then took an equally large sip of wine. I think it’s up to personal preference whether you swallow the cheese and then drink the wine, or have them together, but I like to have them together because the paired flavor comes through stronger. However really good cheeses have flavor that lingers, so doing it separate should still allow the flavor to come through I think.
The first thing that struck me when I had the wine with the cheese was the alcohol but after a bit I started noticing a second flavor. While I couldn’t identify the second flavor, I did notice how well the goat cheese and wine balanced each other out. I couldn’t taste more of one that the other and I think this is the first goal of a good pairing, finding wines that balance out with cheeses.
I hope Paroles de Fromagers doesn’t mind me sharing, but these were the cheese and wines we tried:
I think my favorite pairing was the Roquefort Carles with Sainte Croix du Mont. Chateau La Rame, 2014. The Roquefort Carles is not a cheese to be taken lightly. It’s a bleu but an exceptionally strong and salty one. My mouth stung a little from all the flavor. Sainte Croix du Mont is a very sweet wine (definitely too strong and sweet to drink alone). Separate their flavors are intense, but together… a dynamic flavor experience. The wine and the cheese created duel flavor sensation that makes “sweet and sour chicken” seem laughable. I told Caroline after trying a couple bites that I probably could only do one serving of this pairing; any more would be overwhelming, and she nodded in agreement “this would probably be more of a dessert type pairing at the end of the meal.” Seriously amazing. This pairing and the pairing of Bleu d’Auvergne with the Crillon des Vosgas (rhubarb wine) has converted me into an official bleu cheese supporter.
There’s so much more I could say about this experience – definitely the highlight of my trip to Paris, but I didn’t want this to turn into a food essay XD. Next time I come to Paris, definitely doing another class with Paroles de Fromagers.
Last stop of the day was the Musee d’Orsay, which is an old train station turned into an Art Museum. The museum was closing in the next hour and a half so I kind of aimlessly wandered around the Impressionist art section and the sculptures on the ground. I definitely didn’t do this museum justice and would probably go back with the Audio Guide.
And that’s a wrap! My second day in Paris was so full of action and amazingly unforgettable experiences. I’m seriously in love with this city. @Friends back home, if you ever want to go to Paris, I’m down.