One of the biggest challenges I face when travelling is deciding whether or not to spend my time seeing iconic landmarks and tourist spots or going off the beaten path and discovering new ,lesser known amazing sites, sounds and smells that are most likely more indicative of the place’s actual culture. To be fair I am not recommending skipping the landmarks etc… they are often awe inspiring and iconic for a reason. However they are most likely surrounded by restaurants and shops that cater to more generic tastes and as a result,these restaurants and shops often disappointing.
The very first trip to Paris, we got lost and it was the best thing that ever happened. @ben8tor had been reading up and was bound and determined we find this particular square in the Marais a guide book had recommended. For some reason, despite me being the actual geographer, Ben decided he would read the map and take us to this popular square. It became apparent early on that we were lost. Apparent to me that is but we kept going even though I was insisting we were lost and the area was getting more and more residential.I was getting more and more hangry (hungry and angry). Finally in order to appease me we passed the L’absinthe Cafe and Ben agreed to go in, giving up on his quest for now.
It was the perfect introduction to Paris. A small local cafe that yes specializes in absinthe, we had the kindest server. Despite me being in full melt down mode and completely forgetting all my French, she translated the menu for me, patted my back and brought me a glass of the house wine that was indeed cheaper than water and considerably tastier. We ordered and the menu reads standard cafe fare but tastes unlike any cafe fare I had had before. I had the charcuterie, the meats were sweeter, saltier and tastier. the pickles were crisp and perfectly balanced and the bread like everywhere in France was out of this world. I don’t remember what Ben ate, just that it was delicious too. We spent a good chunk of the night at the L’absinthe watching the locals come and go, the street life, and people going about their everyday business and I fell in love with Paris.
Since that first visit, I have been back to Paris and I always try to seek out a place off the beaten path or at least frequented by locals. I have had great service and an amazing tomato pistou followed by an even more amazing Cote du Rhone red at Bistrot Marguerite by the Hotel de Ville. http://www.bistrotmarguerite.com/
Inattentive service but the best sandwich in the world at a small cafe rue St Honore. How can egg, ham. tomato, and cheese taste that good? I am still awestruck over a not so everyday sandwich after all. Le Carousel across from the Louvre’s more popular and posh restaurants proved a fabulous place to watch the world cup with other Parisians, eat some lovely pasta and enjoy beer and wine. The server was the polar opposite of every French stereotype in existence. Effusive, warm and really rather hilarious, he brought bucket loads of beer and wine and kept patting my head. In fact in my experience Paris has been beautiful, warm and welcoming and the people among the friendliest I have ever encountered.Getting lost in Paris and tasting truly local specialties will stay with me far longer then any other memory. Paris, je t’aime.