Part of experiencing any culture is tasting every possible culinary delight, and as someone who has grown up being surrounded by warmth and delicious Italian food, I like to think of it as my special mission to try as many gastronomical pleasures as I possibly can. This, of course, included getting falafel from Lenny Kravitz’s recommended vendor, L’As du Falafel, on Rue de Rosiers in Le Marais.
After four hours of French history on Wednesday, two of my friends and I decided to make the trip by foot from St. Germain-des-Pres to Le Marais, which is on the other side of the river and about 15 minutes north of our school. It was so worth it. Rue de Rosiers is a lovely little cobblestone street with about 6 different falafel stands, and we, of course, chose L’As du Falafel. David had conducted a very scientific experiment in order to find out which vendor truly had the best falafel, and had come to the conclusion that Lenny Kravitz had it right. It was interesting experience: we went up to the door, and instead of going inside, the man at the door asked what we wanted, took our order (3 regular falafels, 1 drink for me), gave the cook our order, and had us wait outside the “a emporter” (to-g0) window while he made them. It was absolutely delicious!
I have never really had a true falafel sandwich before, and my world has been turned upside down. The subtle spiciness, the combination of textures and flavors, and the delicious falafel and pita bread made me forget that dull French cuisine ever existed. Though difficult to eat on the go (I would have preferred to sit down, but it cost more to eat inside), the mess was completely justified. Needless to say, I’ll be heading back there when the funds have been replenished.
Next up on the list was Merce and the Muse, a coffee shop near Place de la Republique (1 Rue Dupuis, Paris) owned by an American (gasp!). I read about this little gem on the New York Times, and was instantly intrigued. They sell American drip-coffee (your normal, American coffee that I drink every morning), and homemade food and baked goods. The menu is very simple, written on a chalkboard on the wall, and they carry your basic caffeine-fueled needs: cappuccino, latte, espresso, Americano, drip-coffee and perhaps one more that I’m forgetting. The store itself looks like it could be my grandmother’s kitchen, and instantly smells like home upon walking in.
The service was friendly and bilingual (as much as I need to practice my French, it’s nice to speak English here and there), and my cappuccino was hands-down the best I’ve ever had. Though the seating is limited – there are some cozy benches with pillows, a few chairs, a window seat, and a big, communal wood table – it is a friendly atmosphere that maintains a down-to-earth feel while serving high-quality coffee and food. Even my peanut-butter cup was the best I’ve ever tasted – and tasted even more magical considering the lack of peanut-butter goods here in France.
The best part, however, proves that the world is becoming smaller and smaller, and even in a huge city like Paris, you can’t avoid running into someone to whom you are linked. The owner of this lovely little shop, Merce, happened to be there when we were ordering our drinks, since they were about to close, and I started talking to her (I thought she would like to know that I read about her shop on the New York Times, it’s kind of a big deal), and it
turns out that not only is she from Chevy Chase, MD (a hop, skip and a jump away from St. Mary’s), but her dad designed the new boat house at our school, as well as one of the building complexes on campus that I lived in last year. What are the odds? I love that I am constantly reminded of home here in this foreign city, and even when I feel a million miles away, there are signs of familiarity everywhere.
While I have been exploring these little pleasures, I’m a little more than disappointed that I haven’t done more in the past week. I’ve let my homesickness get the best of me, and I’m determined to compensate this week by exploring the city as much as possible. Tomorrow I think I’ll head to the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature (The Hunting Museum), recommended by Courtney, and perhaps make some more culinary discoveries. Aah, the joys of being in Paris!