Those of you who follow this blog will know that one of my favourite things to do when I visit another country (even one I know really well) is to take walking tours, especially those centred around food. I like the fact that on a tour, you can share your desires to do/ see/ eat everything with other like-minded folks which makes it feel a little less indulgent – you know, sharing the love a little! This year before I came to Paris, I spent a fair bit of time on the Context website – after the fabulous Chocolate Walk last summer, I booked myself on the “Bobo Palate: New Trends in Parisian Cuisine” tour and was honoured when the good folks of Context invited me to check out the “Baguette to Bistro: Culinary Traditions of Paris” tour (€75 per person) as well.
According to the tour description, “Paris is synonymous for gastronomic refinement and elegance firmly built on its traditions. From les grands restaurants to the thousands of exquisite specialty shops to the neighborhood boulangerie, Parisians make food an art. On this 2.5-hour walk we will delve into the fascinating and delectable world of Parisian culinary traditions in the company of a true food expert.”
Well ok then!
The walk takes place on the Left Bank and focuses on visiting fine food shops. Our docent, Parisian resident for the past 15 years and a baker herself, Laurel Sanderson, taught us about some of the basic concepts of French cuisine, starting with that staple in any French diet: la baguette. Though they may look similar, all baguettes are not equal. Laurel gave us the lowdown on how to choose, what to ask for and where to buy. We also stopped into a new-to-me bakery, Josephine Bakery.
Yes, we collected little samples of various foods along the way as this tour includes a tasting (with wine!) at the end (tip: don’t make lunch plans – you won’t need them!).
We checked out some spectacular chocolates and caramels at Henri Le Roux…
And what’s a food tour of Paris without a macaron sampling? On this tour we sampled from Ladurée.
What to choose, what to choose?
The packaging at Ladurée is just as good as what’s inside!
Along the way, we passed by some quintessential Parisian scenes – like this one. Le Café.
Laurel shared a lot of information on French food/ eating habits and the French philosophy of eating along the way too. She talked us through a trip to the butchers, which, for the uninitiated, can be a little intimidating. Her lesson on just what is on offer at the butchers (not just meat) and how you can not just order your meat tailored exactly to how you want it but also discuss with the butcher the best way to cook, and with which ingredients was one I wished I had known about when I first moved to France, back in the mid 1990s when the intimidation factor of the whole butcher shop experience (“What’s the word for XYZ again?” “What’s the protocol and etiquette in this store?) nearly drove me to complete vegetarianism!
Towards the end of the tour, we made a stop in the Marché St Germain where we learned about market etiquette…
Right before the “sampling” part of the tour, we stopped in at a quaint wine store/ bar to pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy with our goodies…
Let the feasting begin!
I’m actually sad to admit that I barely tasted any of these goodies as I was hit by a migraine right before the tour ended but hey, all the more reason to go back and visit the stores from the tour and recreate my own “sample platter”, right? Laurel gave a lot of information about the ingredients as the group was tasting them – how to eat certain foods, what to drink with them etc…. So very informative for the French food novice (and even for those of us who are, shall we say, a little more knowledgeable, there’s always something to learn/about).
From what I understand, this tour does not follow a set itinerary or visit the exact same stores each time. Where you go will depend on a lot of factors (especially in the summer when opening hours can be a little erratic) so take the itinerary that I followed here as an example of the type of experience you will be having.
All in all, a tasty, informative tour of an area I am starting to learn more about thanks to all the tours I have taken! Along the way, Laurel pointed out many places to add to our “to do/ see/ eat” list – for this trip or another one. Sigh, that neverending list doesn’t look like it’s getting shorter anytime soon! It’s one of the reasons I love these tours so much – they give you a taste (literally and figuratively) of an area that you can go back on your own to explore.
This tour? Like the Chocolate Walk and the “Bobo Paris” tours, HIGHLY recommended.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Context Paris on the “Baguette to Bistro” tour. I was not asked to write about this, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions are 100% my own.
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I’m in France right now!