Monday, April 20, 2009

a tale of two hotels: part II - Hotel du Vieux Marais

DAY 2 of a week in Paris - Monday

La Louvre et Champs-Elysées

  • BREAKFAST: la patisserie below the apartment
  • La Louvre
  • LUNCH: Angelina tea salon. 226 Rue de Rivoli (between Rues d'Alger and de Castiglione)
  • Tuilleries
  • Madeleine Church & Place de la Concorde
  • Place Vendome
  • Arc de Triomphe - view Paris (daily 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
  • Champs-Elysées
  • DINNER: La Boutique à Sandwiches. 12 Rue du Colisée (between Rue de Ponethieu and Ave des Champs-Elysées)
  • Buddha Bar (8 rue Boissy d'Anglais, near Place de la Concorde)
After spending our first of two weeks in the Hotel Saint-Roch, the shabby not-so-chic hotel I'd found online for us (last post) until Nancy's friend's apartment was available, we threw our things into our suitcases, hopped into a taxi and headed for rue du Platre in the Marais. There is a lot of history and buzz around Le Marais district of Paris, and it's a highly desirable area of residence. My sister's friend who owns the apartment is an opera singer in NYC, and she was lucky to get a prized apartment in this building that also houses the Hotel du Vieux Marais.

As I mentioned in the last post, there are always certain things you expect that don't happen on a trip like this, and things you don't expect that do. When those unexpected things turn out to be life-long loves, they are good indeed.

One of the unexpected things that wasn't so lovely was that this apartment in the Marais was a 4th floor walk-up. We had spared nothing packing our suitcases for two weeks in Paris. We must have been pretending we were Ms. & Ms. Gotrocks, taking dresses and as many shoes as we wanted. So we had BIG suitcases. But since we weren't Ms. and Ms. Gotrocks, we had to carry those suitcases up four flights by ourselves. But once we were up there, it was great, complete with floor length balcony windows (ours is the top floor in the photo above, just hidden under the hotel card, my sister in her own room and me on a futon in the living room with those tall windows.

So I'm getting to my life-long love discovery. Our first morning waking up in the apartment we decided to try out the patisserie in the ground floor of the apartment building. I went for a café crème and a Danish-looking pastry. We sat outside under an umbrella in the spring sun, watching local residents hurry by on their way to work. This is not a tourist district.

We met pretty Ellen, another American from Boston, who was staying in the hotel. We invited her up for some wine and cheese later in the week, another nice reason to stay in an apartment if you can - they cost no more than a hotel per night, and you have a kitchen, washing machine and lots of room. In the photo above I'm not talking to myself, I'm talking to Ellen. In the photo below, Ellen and Nancy are there looking pretty at our table.

All right, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. My life-long discovery. That Danish-looking pastry was called pain aux raisins (bread with raisins). Although I tried to find its equal at many patisseries in Paris, I never found one as phenomenally delicious as at this little patisserie in the Marais. The secret is that within the spiral of dough and raisins is custard. Yes custard. The delicate brioche dough, combined with custard, is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. The little woman who bakes them is not terribly friendly and doesn't seem to know a word of English, but the woman knows how to bake.

The afternoon before we left Paris after our two week stay, I ordered 18 of these to pick up in the morning, on our way to the airport. I had brought Ziploc bags for who knows what reason. I packaged up my treasures, snuggled them into the suitcase, and took them - a little flatter - to the office two days after arriving home. I shared them with my colleagues, and they declared that even two-three days old, these were the best tasting things they'd ever eaten.

Now, when I return to Paris, I always try to find an apartment in the Marais - not only for the desirable neighborhood, but for this little patisserie and its pain aux raisins.

I found this photo online at a Flickr page. Hope they don't mind.


Dakota Bear said...

Never thought about staying in an apartment, but you have made me consider that the next time I go. I have stayed at the Hotel du Louvre twice and last year I stayed at the Hotel Chateau Frontenac. my favorite pastry is Pain du Chocolat. When in Paris it is all good.

Mrs. M. said...

When Aunt Nancy was here for a working visit recently, we actually talked about this trip you two took--and her found memories of time with each other.

As for me....some day :)

Peter said...

I guess that the "pain aux raisins" must be number three on the top list for breakfast, preceded by the "croissant" and the "pain au chocolat"! This is also what I personally prefer! But I didn't know about this specific bakery (the address?)! Of course at its best when it's still a bit warm!

Susan said...

If I ever get to visit Paris, I know I will gain at least 20 pounds! I LOVE pastries, especially buttery, rich, decadent pastries. You are killing me here!

Ruth said...

Dakota Bear, there are some helpful website/agents, very easy to use. It's true also that everything in Paris tastes good, even from a gas station mart.

Ruth said...

Mrs. M., wouldn't that be fun!!!

Ruth said...

Peter, as I emailed you, it's rue du Platre at rue des Archives.

Ruth said...

No you won't, Susie, because you will be walking off those nummies!!

dutchbaby said...

I am so impressed with the meticulous journal you kept!

Because we often travel with my sister and brother-in-law, it usually is more economical to rent an apartment. I also love it for all the reasons you stated and because one of my favorite ways to get to know the local flavors is to go to the grocery stores and fruit stands.

You make me hungry for that custard-filled snail. Yummmm!

CottageGirl said...

Yummy!!! My mouth is watering! A custard and brioche! Those French know how to live!

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, yes, another good reason is the local food stands. I like to eat one or two meals in the apartment.

I never heard these pastries called "snails" - of course!

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, they know how to eat, that's for sure, and they tend to just eat when they're eating, not do something else. Like they don't eat at their desk at work, at least that's my impression.

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