Sunday, July 19, 2015

Before leaving on our river cruise, a bit of a food tour! Day 2, Paris - 6/20/15

After our longest day ever, first day in Paris, you may think we would have slept in on our second day right?  No, we were up early and ready to see what the day had waiting for us! Today was a pretty exciting day! We would be embarking on our river cruise! Sailing on Avalon Waterways, Paris to Normandy, and then back to Paris. Neither Carol nor I had ever been on a river cruise, so this would be new territory for us. We were really looking forward to this new experience!

But the cruise didn't depart until much later this afternoon, so we planned a walking food tour for the morning. What sounded like a better way to start the day than a tour called "From Baguettes to Bistros, Culinary Traditions of Paris"? We got up, checked out, left our luggage with the bellman and got directions to our meeting point off we went! We decided to take a taxi, and we were dropped off right in front of the cafe that was our designated starting spot, in the Saint Germain area...and this was the corner of the street where we waited.

Once our group arrived, and we were introduced to our guide, Preston, we began our walk. This wouldn't be just an ordinary walk to taste food.  Preston was here to teach us about the French staples and teach us he did!  He was amazing!  Our first stop, a Boulangerie.

We learned about the baguette, which may sound simple, but to the French, it's a very serious topic!  There are rules, laws even as to how it can be made. There are bread laws. And it's a good thing, because that bread is amazing.

Throughout the tour, we didn't just stop at the "everyday" shop, but at true Artisan stores. These shops were owned and run by craftsman. Everything we tasted, everything we saw was like opening and tasting a gift, artwork.  

Preston picked up some baguettes for us that we'd be eating later, as well as some other breads, but also some croissants.  I mean, you can't really be in France without a croissant can you?  Although, the croissant isn't originally from France, did you know that? Much to Carol's shock, as she learned this story, and got to taste a fresh, French version of the croissant...yum, breakfast!

Of course, after our bread stop, the next logical thing to learn about would be cheese. Preston took us to not any cheese shop, but a true Fromagerie where they age the cheeses on site.

We learned about the differences in cheeses in France as compared to the US, and even the differences in French imported cheese in the US. We learned about so many cheeses and boy they have a lot of cheeses.  Our whole group looked to be in a cheese coma!  We were just jaw dropped, giddy with a glow that said - let's try some of this amazing cheese!

So, Preston recommended we pick out 3 cheeses I believe. A goat cheese, a hard cheese and a brie if I recall. We gazed and we oohed and aaahhed and I have pictures of each one that we picked. We went outside and he set up a little table, and placed them on a tray, with our baguettes and a loaf of fresh fig bread and really, could it be any better this morning?  I don't think so!

But wait, isn't there a fourth cheese there?  No, that really, really yellow bit that looks like cheese, that's butter.  Oh MY Goodness!  That's butter.  From what we were told, the butter we have here, in the US would not even be considered butter in France because it doesn't have enough fat in it.  This however was butter.  And it was truly the most heavenly butter in the world. 

We ate our cheese and baguettes and bread, and butter and then it was time for our next stop.  What comes after cheese?  Well, chocolate of course!  And that's right, not just any Chocolatier, but one who gets the beans from various parts of the worlds, and then actually makes his own chocolates, right there.  Only the best.

As with the other shops we've visited, everything was presented as if it was a gift.  Everything was beautiful.  It was artwork. Stunning.

All of the chocolate was labeled with where the beans were sourced.  So unique!

And then there were the macarons! 

Here we all and a couple of pieces of chocolate, and Preston knew Carol was allergic to chocolate so he got a bar of special White Chocolate - not the super sweet white chocolate we're used to, but one with a mixed blend.  Carol can have white chocolate because it has no cocoa in it. She had that. Then we all had a macaron.  Heavenly!

Moving along, our next stop was to a shop that made and sold Armagnac.  Armagnac is a brandy.  We had a tasting session of the different types, blends as compared to vintages. It was quite interesting! Definitely something I never would have tried otherwise!

And then our final stop, a Patisserie.  This one was so very unique!  We browsed around for a bit, while Preston put an order in for us.  

We walked for a bit to a lovely park, and had a little picnic with our pastries!

Preston picked up boxes of mini treats of all of the regular sized pastries we had seen.  Each of us got to try 3 or 4 of the minis.  All in all there were about 8 of us in the group I think?  This was perfect!

That's where our tour ended.  It was pretty much perfect! Preston gave everyone directions on how to get back to our hotels, or where we could go for shopping our lunches if we were actually hungry at that point.  We said our goodbyes and thanked him for a fantastic tour!

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