Sometimes the best way to discover a new place is to, quite literally, lose yourself in it.
Today, I went on a journey of exploration to Le Bon Marche (above), the famed department store and food market in St. Germain-des-Pres, to which all wealthy and foreign Parisians flock. It was marvelous. I walked through slowly, gawking at the little sections of couture that tempted me with each fold of cloth and invited me in with their dark colors and soft textures. I received more than just a few odd glances as I walked through dressed head to toe in J.Crew, a store that Parisians know nothing about: I wore my favorite polka-dotted dress with a short-sleeved navy sweater, belted at the waist and finished off with gold sandals. Not only is this a style completely foreign to Parisians, but also a color palette they would never experiment with. White? Gold? Gasp! Nevertheless, it was a picture-perfect tour through French fashion, and ended with the most amazing gastronomical experience I have had thus far.
I ended my tour of la mode francaise at La Grand Epicerie de Paris, the supermarket associated with Le Bon Marche.
Oh My God.
It was unbelievable. They have a whole section devoted to all things American and Canadian: Peanut butter, Fluff, Newman’s Own salsa, spray salad dressing, Snyder’s pretzels, maple syrup….the list goes on.
I was in heaven. I immediately inspected the jar of Fluff (my generous aunt who lives in Versailles had blessed me with a jar of PB already), and upon realizing that it would cost me a whopping 4 Euro (for a small jar, the glass one with the fudge recipe on it, not the big plastic tub that you can buy for $2 in the states), I thought carefully about how badly I wanted a PB&F sandwich, and conducted a quick cost/benefit analysis. I soon deemed it a worthy purchase, and walked away clutching it like it was made of 14 karat gold.
I then discovered their ready-to-take-out food (pret-a-porter for food…I love this idea). You can buy Chinese/Indian/Greek/Italian food by the pound (kilo…excuse me), or buy a ready-to-eat salad or sandwich for about 5 Euro. Considering the quality of the food, it’s pretty reasonable. Five euro is pretty standard for a sandwich or salad, and I picked up a pesto Caprese salad for later (5,70 Euro) and an organic drink that was absolutely delicious. But the epic journey of cuisine was not over when I purchased my salads, fluff and drink. No, not at all.
….Outside, to the left of the sortie of La Grand Epicerie, there is a small stand that is hardly noticeable upon first glance. What drew me to it was the wall of leaves that seemed to be enclosing a restaurant-like area or terrace, so I investigated. And then I discovered my favorite place to eat in all of Paris. I got in line for a sandwich, and rather than purchasing the “formule” (sandwich, drink, pastry), I opted for just the sandwich to add to the salad that I had already bought inside. At 4,90 Euro, it was reasonably priced, and the whole formule was about 9 Euro (considering the quality of the pastries, this is very affordable). The sandwich was the best one I have had outside of Blue Wind, the to-die-for sandwich shop in Lexington Park, MD that I frequent during the school year. It was chicken, some kind of incredible cheese, and ratatouille on the most delicious bread I have ever eaten. It was worth every penny.
I sat behind a lovely wall of leaves that overlooked the chic area of St. Germain-des-Pres, and watched as fashionable people walked by, looking hungry. And I ate my delicious lunch. It was beautiful. I will be going back, needless to say.
Last night, I tried to convince myself that the only way to stay skinny in Paris is to avoid all pastries and sweets and bread and
cheese and eat nothing but lettuce and vegetables, and drink water. How quickly that idea went out the window. While I do think that I need to cut back on the bread, cheese, and general intake of sugar and fats, I will not be foregoing such gastronomical delights as this just to keep a couple of pounds off. I am a driven, energetic and generally healthy person who is always active – no need to not enjoy a pastry here and there.