Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Exploration, Iron Death Grip, and Understanding Macarons

Baby Oil and I had a big first today - we took the bus without Mr. Oil.  And we even took the bus home again.  I had decided that I wanted to see the Jardin du Luxembourg.  Which it turns out is pretty far from where we live. 

The bus is completely fantastic for the stroller-wielding crowd.  There is even a special place reserved for a stroller - with a sign that says "This place is reserved for my stroller, thank you."  When we got on the bus, a gentleman sitting in the stroller area even got up without being asked to let the stroller take its rightful place.  

Then we arrived at the Jardin du Luxembourg. I don't know whether its because it was 9:30 in the morning, or because its August, but it did not feel like we were in a city of 11.8 million people and 29 gajillion tourists.  Calm and quiet, populated only by joggers, a few other strollers, and about 35 policemen, it was perfect.  I am getting spoiled by the plethora of gorgeous parks, since we live across the street from this:

And a 15 minute walk from this:

But there is something special and regal about the Jardin du Luxembourg. Perhaps because it was originally begun by a queen (Marie de Medici).  I love that there are chairs laid out all around the flower beds, because the French understand that you will want to sit and enjoy the beautiful, perfectly manicured flowers.

After strolling and relaxing in the garden, we went to explore the 6th arrondissement (where the Jardin is located). Of course when I say "we", I mean Baby Oil and me, which really is just me, but it makes it sounds less like I'm wandering around Paris by myself when you realize that in fact that I am changing diapers in the Jardin du Luxembourg and feeding the baby a bottle in Da Rosa epicerie. 

As I've mentioned, I have a goal of visiting at least some of the places mentioned in David Lebovitz's book, "The Sweet Life in Paris."  A number of them are not far from the Jardin though sadly the first two were closed - one for August vacation and the other because many small French stores seem to only be open at random times and days.  I did spy a really fantastic-looking candle store that even smelled fantastic.
The blocks of color you see inside are all candles.

We did make it to Da Rosa, which is actually a restaurant as well as a little store.  I spent more than I care to share buying the fancy jam and chocolate-covered almonds that David Lebovitz recommends.  Note - he did NOT mention that the almonds are spicy and not really that chocolate-y.  I like my chocolate to taste like chocolate, not like spicy almonds.  So XX euros later, I was a little disappointed (I'm X-ing out the amount because I really don't want Mr. Oil to know how much they cost!).  That expensive jam better be good.

However, the two best parts of my morning were yet to come.  The first was, after opening the euro faucet at Da Rosa, I decided "why not?" and ventured into my first Parisian chocolate store.  I know, we've been here over two weeks and we haven't had any chocolate.  Madness.  The store is Weiss and I don't think I could have made a better choice.  Everything looked amazing.  I purchased one chocolate bar - dark chocolate with coffee - which we just sampled after dinner with our new French friends Helene and Arnaud.  But the real winner was the macaron.

I've heard and read and even tried macarons.  I've never understood the fuss.  It's a cookie, right?  Sort of a fussy, girly, French cookie.  The few I've had have been very sweet - really too sweet - and I have a sweet tooth.  After today, though, I can say without hesitation that I finally understand macarons.  I just had one (listen, I'm doing a lot of eating, and I'm still pretending like I'm actually trying to lose the rest of my pregnancy weight) so I went with the dark chocolate orange flavor.  Oh my.  It was incredible.  The flavors were wonderful and just the right intensity without being too rich or too sweet.  I think I'm going to have try more.  I did ask the shop girl which flavor she would recommend, but since I don't know the word for recommend, I said which would she prefer.  To which she gave me a look that said, "you're an idiot" and replied that what she prefers might not be what I prefer so she can't answer.  I then asked which was the most popular, and judging by the length of time she spent talking (since I didn't actually understand), I'm guessing it was every flavor.

Second best part of the day was this:

If you can't tell from the poor-quality photo taken with my phone, it is a store that sells only umbrellas and what look like parasols.  The sign says it has been there since 1834.  Now, 1834 is a year in which I can imagine women would need or want to go to the umbrella store to pick up a new parasol for a carriage ride with a dashing suitor.  The fact that the store is still around - just one of the many things I'm finding to love about Paris.

Quick other notes:
  • You know you are in a good-looking country when even your cleaning lady is tall, thin, blond, and better-dressed than you. 
  • I finally made it to Androuet, the fromagerie up the street I have been wanting to try.  Arnaud (our French dinner guest) gave the brie I bought there the two thumbs up - I think he was actually surprised (dare I hope, impressed?) that an American would serve such a good cheese! When in doubt, go for the brie plus fort  (the stronger brie).
  • Iron Death Grip - I put it in the title and then almost forgot.  This is a total parenting aside, but Baby Oil has developed what Mr. Oil and I call the Iron Death Grip.  Not surprisingly, this is when he holds on to something so tightly that his little knuckles turn white with exertion and you really better hope that its not your hair, your jewelry, your nose, your ear, your skin, or anything else you care about.  Iron Death Grip is also often seen with his bottle, which he is learning to hold - mostly because he holds on so tightly I have no choice but to let him try.  See below: