So I’m technically now in week 3, but my schedule has been cluttered with moving, finding a language school and all sorts of non-fooding activities. Will try to hurry up from here onwards…
Paris in Spring is not difficult to like, especially in the company of one’s newly-wed husband, who’s eager to show off the city to his fresh-off-the-boat half. We walked hours a day, he enjoying the sunshine that has reappeared after a gray winter, and me, the crisp, dry air so unlike the 99% humidity I had left in Singapore. We kept sightseeing to a minimal, since we were going to be residents this time, not merely tourists. Instead, we walked with the twin aims of getting to know the city, and to suss out potential meals.
Montparnasse: One of Montparnasse’s claims to guidebook fame is its 59th floor Tour Montparnasse, one of the few skyscrapers in vertically-challenged Paris, and the only one in its vicinity. The other piece of guidebook information much more useful for those looking for a bite is the concentration of traditional Breton creperies, as Gare Montparnasse was the train station the Bretons historically disembarked at when they reached Paris.
A crêpe and some cider did the Bretons of yore wonder, so why not jet-lagged me? So on my first Sunday in Paris, P brought me to uber-popular Crêperie Josselin, where we jammed ourselves into an old-fashioned wooden booth for two and tucked away 2 crêpes each. For mains, one can have crispy buckwheat galettes filled with ingredients of choice, though the ones oozing with cheese and topped with glistening bacon and fried, still runny eggs tend to be the tastiest, while the healthier sounding ones, not so great (FYI, aubergine was a fail). Desserts had to be sweet crêpes of course, the egg-and-flour wraps slightly doughier and more elastic compared to the buckwheat brethren, enveloping all kinds of sugary and buttery goodness. Service is extremely quick, and with a pitcher of cider between us and 30 minutes later, we tumbled out of the restaurant in a sugar and alcohol fuelled high, ready to return again.
Marais: We were in the Bastille area to turn in the papers at the Office of Foreigners (OFII). Things went much faster than we had anticipated, so with the unexpected free time at hand, we did our first bit of sightseeing at the Notre Dame and lunch at the Marais. I learnt the word “cheval” or “horse” on Rosetta Stone the day before, so when we walked pass “Un petit fer a cheval”, we quickly abandoned plans for falafels. All in the name of language study, no? Behind the horseshoe-shaped bar that gives the café its moniker, we entered the dining room hidden from sight, a narrow room filled haphazardly with all makes of wooden furniture, the unadulterated laughs and whispered murmurs bouncing off the tall walls and high ceiling. The food is uncomplicated but well-made, my steak tartare a rosy disk of minced beef with the seasonings set aside for some DIY work. P’s plat du jour was a veal steak so large the ends drooped off the plate, the gratin de courgette so creamy and savory there were hardly traces of the vegetal left. While the crowded room is hardly a place for a clandestine tête-à-tête, the concealed room is comfortable for an intimate lunch and has a weathered charm that is bound to win me some insider cache.
Rue Cler:With the husband’s workplace near Champ de Mars and our soon-to-be apartment at the neighboring 15th arrondisement, I see myself dropping by Rue Cler frequently for a spot of nibbles and people-watching. Rue Cler is a market street in the tiny 7th, the neat little street lined with market vendors and little eateries. The street is so well maintained it’s almost Disneyfied, and you hear English spoken as much as French, a good or bad thing depending on whom you ask. The lady from Penang and I parked ourselves on the alfresco terrace of Le Petit Cler one evening, sipping on cool glasses of rose while we wanted for the husband to join us. Dinner fare was simple but that was what we needed, with a salad of spinach and lentils to ease my stomach a few consecutive days of the heavy stuff. We ended on a sugar high of 3 desserts, P very satisfied with the crème brûlée he ordered, creamy, slightly eggy and packed with vanilla beans. W vouched for the croque madame, which regretfully was much bigger than any of us wanted to eat that day. Another day perhaps?
Besides these meals, we ate in the canteen, ambled through 2 of Paris’ 3 Chinatowns, shared sandwiches at the park, and were recipients of great hospitality by newly-made friends who opened up their homes and kitchens to us. On the non-meal front, I started language classes, conspired with a fellow army wife to eat ice cream behind our husbands’ backs, and saw some art, including a fashionable and fascinating exhibition on the House of Christian Dior. So how was week one you ask? Pas mal!
Creperie Josselin: 67 Rue du Montparnasse 75014 Paris
Au Petit Fer a Cheval: 30 Rue Vieille du Temple 75004 Paris
Le Petit Cler: 29 Rue Cler 75007 Paris