The delicious hidden nooks & crannies of Paris avec ma belle amie

The delicious hidden nooks & crannies of Paris avec ma belle amie

Fast food Parisian style! Pomme de Terre au Gratin for a petit déjeuner on the go!

Loulabelle's FrancoFiles Episode 22

Karen Grooby

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My gorgeous friend Karen Grooby has travelled with me in France a number of times.

In LFF episode 4 we chatted about one weekend we shared where we worked through a list Karen made of all the places to drink champagne in Paris! Karen is quite brilliant with her research and I have benefitted from it a bunch of times. She also has some general tips for travelers to Paris, about how to find some more tucked away nooks and crannies to excite us FrancoFilers.

Karen likes to stay in hotels in Paris and many travelers would likely also do so to take up the bed and breakfast options. Karen’s advice is however, that unless it is the middle of winter don’t bother with the hotel petit déjeuner! Most hotels in Paris have lovely breakfast rooms but they’re sometimes underground, so you don’t see anything! Not even the sky!  If you are lucky enough to have a balcony then Karen thinks room service is a wonderful idea.

I prefer Airbnb most of the time so I feel like I’m living like the locals! But on a trip when I’ve returned from regional France to fly home from Paris, I have always booked a hotel for my last night. My preference is a late flight so I don’t lose a day of sightseeing in Paris, but with an Airbnb there’s no where to leave baggage for the day, whereas with a hotel they usually have secure storage for your luggage and you just go back and collect when on the way to the airport. But I agree with Karen about the brekkie. I’d rather go and grab breakfast from a café than sit in an underground or closed in breakfast room of a hotel!

Paris is for people watching.  Nearly every corner of Paris has a café where you can get a coffee, croissant, juice or a pain au chocolat.

Karen’s favourite is the Café de Flore in the 6th arr.  It is one of the oldest in Paris and inside the décor is still very art deco with red seating.  Picasso frequented there and even today celebrities can be spotted.  It’s lovely on an early Sunday morning when the local Parisians are chatting and catching up on their news with each other, loudly talking en français. At other times of the day it is very touristy but well worth a visit.

My fave for petit déjeuner on one trip was a little boulangerie on the Île Saint-Louis where I got a Pomme de Terre au Gratin which from this café was a beautiful version with potato, leek and bacon layering with a cream and cheese sauce and was sold warm in a little take away wooden box. It had a gorgeous glob of goat’s curd on top and set me up for a day of sight seeing.

Paris is full of lots of less frequented museums. Once you have seen the main tourist hot spots, there are a number of others worth exploring.

1. Karen recommends one treasure of Paris, the Nissim de Camondo in the 8th arrondissement. This old house allows you to see how a wealthy Parisian family lived in the early 1900s.  It has been left just as if time stood still.  It belonged to a banker, the Comte Moise de Camondo and he had it built in 1911 to show off his 18th century French furniture and art.  It was inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles.  The house has a tragic history which only serves to make the visitor feel a deeper connection to the museum. The Comte bequeathed the property to Les Arts Décoratifs after his son was killed in World War 1.  More tragedy followed as his daughter and her family died at Auschwitz.  But we can visit the rooms that are decorated as they were and even the kitchen table is set ready for the servants next meal.  It is truly a treasure of Paris and well worth a visit.

2. Karen and I together once visited the Musée Picasso in the Marais. The building alone is magnificent with a beautiful wrought iron decorative staircase. There are over 5000 works of art from all the different stages of Picasso’s life including paintings, sculptures and etchings. We gained a new understanding of the artist and his incredible talent as well as just appreciating the beauty of the building that we were wandering through.

3. Right nearby in the 3rd arr. was another museum Musée Cognacq-Jay which had beautiful art work and furniture.  It was founded by Ernest Cognacq and his wife Louise Jay who founded La Samaritaine department store in Paris.

4. One of my fave museums is the Musée de Moyen Age, sometimes also called the Musée de Cluny. It is right near the Jardin de Luxembourg and the Sorbonne and has the most beautiful tapestries and other items from the Middle Ages. I recall one stained glass window there made in the 11th century where the finger print of the person who made the window can be seen still imprinted in the glass. I love having that connection to something or someone in the past whilst just standing there in the middle of Paris.

A trip to Paris sometimes becomes more special when you manage to find the perfect souvenir.  On one visit Karen was after a hat and had found out about La Cerise sur le Chapeau in the 6th arr.  She choose a hat to wear to a wedding on her return home which was made especially with the grosgrain ribbon of her choice.  A beautiful souvenir and a lovely story to share about purchasing in Paris.

I found souvenirs quite by accident and sometimes the best keepsakes are not that expensive. I asked for a table mat from Café de Flore, a round piece of paper with a divine little sketch on it of the St Germain de Pres area, and also some table mats from other cafes. I brought them home and had them framed and now they hang on my walls and remind me of the beautiful times I spent there with my nearest and dearest.

I am unfortunately afflicted with a passion for brocante! Usually when I squeal with joy about a find it is far too large to pack into my suitcase, but it doesn’t stop Karen! One Paris visit she was looking for vintage bedside tables! She got the metro to Marche aux Puces de Clignancourt which is only about 20minutes from the centre of the city, just outside the peripherique.  It is an amazing place to visit filled with antique shops as well as stalls. There are also lovely stalls to order food such as a galette, a buckwheat crepe for lunch.  Unfortunately Karen never found her side tables but it was still a wonderful day out!

Whilst I couldn’t travel in 2020, I connected with a terrific online business called Villa Maison. I bought some vintage bouchons which are the antique style champagne stoppers, and they were delivered right to my door. Elly from Villa Maison searches lots of vintage markets across southern France and then we can go brocante shopping online and choose from her finds!

Karen and I often chat about planning for trips to Paris and France in the future. We can’t see everything when we visit there, so I like to start with the things I might want to see that are in the Paris Pass and I place those things on consecutive days. The Paris Pass has all the major museums and galleries as part of the deal, but also loads of the more obscure little gems that are dotted all over Paris.  I then look at other things on my list and group them geographically to the various arrondissements of Paris. And lastly I ensure that I don’t have too many things on the list for each day as I think it’s important to leave plenty of time for spontaneous stuff that pops up, as those events are sometimes the things that really enrich a visit.


Chocolate Tart

This version is a fabulous recipe by David Lebovitz. Karen also like her Tarte au Chocolat served with champagne and raspberries!


25 ans by Ben Mazué

When I’m chatting in French some French friends have described the way I talk as Franglais, or even Frenglish, as I tend to pop words from each language into the conversation!

This song reminds me of that as it has a combo of French and English. It is by brilliant French music artist Ben Mazué, with the title 25 ans translating as 25 years.

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