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09 June 2005

Sore feet, sunny Paris

Talk about wearing out shoe leather.  Having spent yesterday from 8am until 8pm trudging around Paris my feet were and still are killing me.  I accept I may not have chosen the right footwear, but somehow I felt that wearing a pair of trainers wouldn't quite cut the mustard.  The payoff for not looking like a tourist from Louisiana was that I was in agony from lunchtime onwards.

My trip to Paris was primarily to get hold of some decent charcuterie, which I'm pleased to say I did and managed to smuggle it back into the UK without getting caught or going to prison.  I also managed to eat and drink my way through the City and as such returned home fully sated.

I got a flight in time for breakfast and my first stop was at Maison Kayser just off bvd St Germain.  Following a café au lait, a brioche aux raisins et noix, and a pain au raisin I was back on the streets.  I must say that although the brioche and pain au raisin were excellent somehow neither managed to hit the spot.  I was hoping for something a bit more buttery (I should have gone for a croissant) and with a bit more depth that I felt these lacked.  That's not to say they weren't delicious, it was just that I was looking for that little bit more.

Suitably fortified I headed back out to brave the tourists when the urge for a toilet meant that all other plans were put on hold.  I don't want this post to end up in the gutter but it is worth noting that it is hard to find a clean loo in Paris.  Anyway, I snuck into quite a nice hotel by the Louvre and made full use of their facilities.  Somewhat more comfortable, I was able to undertake the main task of the day and headed to the Marais. 

The Marais is an unusual place because not only is it historically the old Jewish area, but it has become the gay quarter as well.  You therefore get the rather odd sight of Hassidic Jews walking down the same streets as skimpily dressed young men holding hands.  I'm not sure whether it's a consequence of this combination but it is an exceptionally vibrant part of Paris.  The Jewish part of the Marais now only takes up a few streets centred around the rue des Rosiers.  Along des Rosiers there are several Jewish book shops, bakers and restaurants.  Having scoped out a few of the butchers I chose to buy my meat from Rene Panzer.  The deciding factor being the large keg of cucumbers that were being pickled by the front door.  Seeing it, reminded me of stories my grandmother used to tell me of her family pickling their own vegetables, and for that memory I felt the boucherie to be worthy of my custom.  It also helped that they let me try virtually everything in the shop before I bought.

CharcuterieI ended up buying a terrine of foie gras; chorizo; goose fat sausage; duck paté and a few slices of a beef saucissons.  I haven't yet tasted the foie gras but have eaten all of the others.  The chorizo is good, with a thick meaty consistency and a lingering but by no means overpowering spiciness.  The paté is sublime, thoroughly creamy and takes me back to the days before I kept kosher when it was easy buying decent paté.  I have no idea how they make kosher stuff taste this good, but I intend to find out.  The quality and selection in France only reinforces my utter confusion as to why in the UK the kosher shopper puts up with such limited and poor quality.  Oh, and of course I had to have one of the pickled cucumbers.

Despite having been fed by the nice lady in the boucherie I decided it would be rude not to have some lunch, so I had a lamb kebab at Mivami, a schwarma place on des Rosiers.  It was nothing spectacular, but was good and filled a rapidly diminishing hole.

After lunch, in a nod to culture, rather than food, I visited an exhibition at the Hôtel de Ville about the Jews in the Marais.  Although it was all in French, the old photos were fascinating and one didn't need a translator to understand about the impact of the Vichy government, who were eager and willing agents of the Gestapo.  That once again Jews are afraid to walk in the street in Paris is a sad indictment and shows how short memories can be.

It seems trite to say it but by this stage my feet were causing me real discomfort so after lunch I decided to sit down and watch Paris go by me so I in the course of three hours I spent the afternoon sipping an espresso in the Marais, having a beer in the 1er and drinking a cup of Ceylon a few doors down from Poilâne.  This was all in preparation for my dinner at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.  I'll save the stories of that for another post but suffice to say it ended off a day of gluttony perfectly.

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