A guest post by Monica Shaw
One of my big “achievements” of 2014 was #monthofbirthday. Most of us, including myself until last year, very humbly choose to celebrate our birthdays on one particular day, and if we’re feeling extravagant, maybe for a weekend. But I decided that I would make July all about doing as much as possible to celebrate being alive. And what better place for feeling alive than Paris? And who better to help me make the most of it than my dear friend Mardi Michels.
I know Mardi through our Gascony connections, and when I found out she’d be in Paris for the summer, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay a visit and experience Paris through the life of someone who’s a total expert on the city. Through Mardi I was able to experience Paris as the locals do, from the regular life stuff of food shopping and cooking in tiny kitchens, to indulgences at some of the best foodie haunts in the city. Here are some highlights…
It’s not where you are but who you’re with, and thanks to Mardi my Paris trip further widened the circle of rad peeps I know via France. This includes, Kathy, aka Stresscake, who not only hails from my hometown Chicago but is also a pastry chef and a seriously fun person to have along on a walking tour through Paris. I also met Jennifer of Chez Loulou, Normandy expert, fan of guacamole and an all around lovely person to cook and share dinner with. She also has the serious 4-1-1 on cheese (and baguettes) which brings me to my next point…
Jennifer rocked our world with the cheese she brought to our little fiesta (see below), my favourite being Beaufort d’ete, made from raw cow’s milk, and this sheep’s cheese wasn’t bad either (I wish I could remember the name).
Allegedly the best falafel in Paris, L’as du Fallafel did not disappoint.
What’s not to love about French markets? Always a treasure trove of beautiful veg but also delicate antiquities, particularly the Marché d’Aligre.
The best tea ever? I dunno, but the stuff I picked up from Kusmi Tea – particularly the “Detox Tea” and the almond-infused Green Tea – simply rocked my world. Beautiful branding, too.
Some people bemoan grocery shopping but I absolutely love it, and French markets and greengrocers beat Waitrose hands down. Maybe it’s the plastic props?
A trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a little pastry, and in this respect, Mardi didn’t mess around. Top spots had to be Stohrer, if only for its history (it is the oldest patisserie in Paris). Tops for taste go to Blé Sucré, which allegedly has the best Madeleines in Paris, though I was more impressed by tarte tatin and rhubarb tart. Breakfast of champions.
The list of things I miss about living in a proper city includes cool coffee bars, and Cafe Aouba is the perfect specimen. Tucked away in the Marché d’Aligre, the roaster dominates the room and the irresistible aroma of coffee permeates the air.
Animatronic art meets water feature right outside the Pompidou Centre, adjacent to tasty lunch spots from which you can admire it.
No photos! That’s how cool Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse is. Purveyor of fine – very fine – chocolate, including Mendiant chocolate bars studded with fruit and nuts. I walked away with the muesli edition, of course.
Perhaps an odd one to include in this list but all the more memorable for it,
Julien Aurouze and Co. is a pest control shop, open since 1872, with a window display worth cruising by. Taxidermy rats, need I say more? (Yes, they sell postcards, the perfect surprise mailer for your friend who writes #Taximag magazine).
The perfect gift, from one productivity-obsessed writer to another. Thank you, Mardi.
Back to my whole point about cool people and rad peeps… for me, the most high quality form of social entertaining is cooking and eating with good friends. And so Mexican night with Mardi and Chez Loulou Jennifer did not disappoint. Mardi flexed her French know-how by making a ratatouille-inspired veggie chili. Aubergine in chill: it not only works, but it’s amazing. I was on guacamole duty, and for various reasons had smoked salt with me that I used to kick the guar up a notch. It was all good, especially with Jennifer’s exceptional baguette. I love fusion. Especially the fusion of amazing wonderful people!
With great thanks to Mardi for showing me such an exceptional time, truly one of the hallmarks of #monthofbirthday. You can find more photos from my Paris visit with Mardi on Flickr. And more antics from France, England and beyond on my blog, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Want to experience Paris differently? Join Mardi Michels with AYA Life for a trip to Paris like no other – “like a local”. July 2015! Details here.