If you fall in love with Paris as much as I have, you may find the suggestion to go anywhere outside the city during your stay preposterous. Really, why leave? The answer is the Loire Valley, a region about two hours drive from Paris peppered with châteaux dating back to the Middle Ages. I’ve been a history geek – always have, always will be – which makes the Loire paradise. My parents gamely endured my excitable outbursts including “Catherine de Medici really slept here, that witch!” and “Shh! I’m basking in Voltaire and Rousseau’s creative energy!” And see that chapel in the background of the first picture? Leonardo Da Vinci is buried there – you can’t help but feel inspired. On a side note, its steeple also sports deer antlers, an homage to the patron saint of the hunt.
I’ve never been one for immoderation. But maybe it was the grandeur, the fairytale luxury of the châteaux (Amboise
was my favorite and far less crowded than Chenonceau
) that made me err on the side of decadence upon my return to Paris. So here are two of my favorite places to eat all things carb-filled, buttery, and chocolatey.It may be redundant to gush about Le Grenier à Pain
– it won Paris’ 17th Grand Prix
for the best traditionally-made baguette – but I will do it anyway. Before visiting France, I thought that all baguettes were created equal. But oh, what a silly misconception! I can’t quite put my finger on it; maybe it’s that perfectly crispy but not tough exterior, the melt-in-your mouth interior (la mie
), or this unplaceable woody hint in the taste. Whatever it is, Le Grenier à Pain’s baguette de tradition
is fabulous. It would be lovely to begin your day with one of these beauties, paired with a little jam. Otherwise, stop by for a very reasonable prix fixe lunch for about 7.50 euros. Dessert included, of course!
After a walk in the Louvre, be sure to take a stroll along Rue de Rivoli. While it is heavily populated by tourists, you would be surprised what you might stumble upon. The first is Galignani, a massive bookstore with both English and French selections. You can find everything from the Ladurée cookbook to scans of Lewis Carroll’s handwritten Through the Looking Glass. I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of short stories by my favorite author, G.K. Chesterton, for only 3.45 euros.
Right next door is a treasure trove of sweets and delights. It is a heaven of tarts, cakes, and macarons, and it goes by the name of Angelina.
It’s an adorable place, a wonderful choice for brunch or dessert. If you are a fan of thick hot chocolates – and when I say thick, I mean melted chocolate bar thick – this will be your haven. I found it a bit too coating for my taste, but the chocolate itself is made in-house and absolutely fantastic! So indulge a little; we may be past the era of battling dukes and kings, but there is no reason we can’t still feel like royalty every once in a while.
Le Grenier à Pain
52, Avenue d’Italie (13th)
224, Rue de Rivoli (1st)
226, Rue de Rivoli (1st)