the sweeter side of paris

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Food & Fitness44 Comments

Well, I am back home with Jeff and the boys.  I’m a little jet lagged and still a touch nauseous from the long flight and trying to eat when my stomach thinks it’s the middle of the night, but I’m still enjoying the high that comes from visiting beautiful places, experiencing new things, and making connections with people outside of my usual sphere.

There is still so much to share!  I have almost an entire journal filled with notes, observations, and details that I was afraid I would forget.  I also have over 2,000 photos to sift through and develop.  Of course, I won’t share them all with you or we’ll likely be ringing in the new year with the final pictures of my trip!  Instead of sharing a full narrative, I’m going to share the experiences that I deem entertaining or interesting, either to those who are taking a trip to these destinations in the future or who want to live vicariously through my account.

Today, I’m sharing about our patisserie tour.  Paris Perfect presented the idea to me, since I told them I was interested in a food-based experience and they also read on my blog that I love dark chocolate.  The tour was $100/person, which included a three hour walking tour and tastings at eight patisseries!  (For the sake of disclosure, some of my experiences were complementary of Paris Perfect, but my mom and I paid for this tour, so this isn’t a sponsored post.)

We met our guide, Philippe, at a street corner in front of a cafe.  We had a printout from Paris Perfect with specific directions, so it was clear where we needed to be, at what time, and how to find our guide.  (As a side note, we used the Citymapper app to get around and it was fantastic!)

MISS MUSTARD SEED TV

My mom and I weren’t sure what to expect from the patisserie tour, but we quickly learned there was a progression that would guide us through a variety of sweet offerings, telling us why they were traditional or award winning or a French favorite.  It was a bit of a lesson in history and culture as well as a pre-dinner dessert circuit.

We started with a Tarte Tropézienne, which is a custard brioche tart created in Saint-Tropez.

It was soft and sweet and reminded me of an airy yellow cake and butter cream that’s not too sugary.

A short stroll away, we ducked into a patisserie with a cheery pink and white striped awning and a window filled with dangling artificial flowers and towers clad in macarons (a preview of our next tasting.)

I selected a lemon macaron and my mom picked chocolate.  Interestingly enough, I never thought I liked macarons.  I also thought they were all the same flavor, despite being different colors.  Well, I misjudged macarons!  (I think I was confusing macarons with macaroons.)  The lemon macaron was delightful.  It was zesty and sweet with a little bit of a chew in the cookies and a soft interior.  I wish I bought a box to take home!

The third stop was at Pierre Marcolini’s patisserie, which at first glance looked like a jewelry shop.

The colorful square cakes were works of art and captured my attention, but we were there to taste a traditional dark chocolate.  The chocolates were displayed by their country of origin and our guide selected Madagascar chocolate for us, because he said it was the best.  We both savored our small squares and the richness of the chocolate made it seem darker than 72%, but it was still creamy and wasn’t bitter.  It was, quite possibly, some of the best chocolate I have ever had.

Right after the chocolate, we stopped for caramels that were available in just about every flavor you can imagine.  Who knew there were piña colada caramels?  I tried the traditional (and local favorite) salted butter and my mom tried pineapple.  I forgot to get a picture of this shop, but I loved that you could pop in and just buy one caramel.

After more strolling, we arrived at the picturesque patisserie, Meert.  We were there to try their famous thin waffles filled with Madagascar vanilla bean butter.  This was the sweetest dessert we had on the tour.  My mom put it well when she said, “This is what those cheap vanilla wafers in the US want to be, but they aren’t even close.”

I know the waffles are world famous, but I must say that the interior of the shop was even more delicious to me than the waffles.  With antique display cases, beautiful boxes of chocolates lining the shelves, and a ceiling painted with puffy clouds filling a blue sky, it was a charming interior.

We switched gears from the traditional, to the modern, award-winning chocolates of Patrick Roger.

First of all, this is the shop to stop in on a warm day in Paris.  The AC is cranked to keep the chocolates from melting and it felt amazing.

Second, the Pierre Marcolini chocolate was my favorite chocolate until I tried one by Patrick Roger.   Our guide had us taste a thick square without telling us the flavor, so we could guess.  I was just trusting that it wouldn’t be truffle flavored or filled with pâté.    I chewed the chocolate tentatively.  “It’s basil!”  The guide and the gentleman behind the counter congratulated me.  “And what else?”

I continued to chew and had to think for a minute.  My mom chimed in, “Lime.”

“Yes!  Well done!”

It was both the strangest and most wonderful chocolate ever.  The rich chocolate mingled with the fragrant basil and you only tasted the citrus in the back of your throat as it was going down.  It snuck up on you, leaving a hint of freshness at the end.

You could taste, in that tiny complex square, why Patrick Roger is such a celebrated chocolatier.  I would strongly suggest tasting one of his creations if you’re ever near a shop.

As we headed off for our next destination, I started to wonder if we would be eating desserts until it got dark!  We didn’t know in advance how many patisseries we’d be visiting, and it seemed endless.  (In a good way.)  At the next stop, we tried peach ice cream, which was really more of a sorbet.  It was icy and fresh and a nice choice to have after the caramels, chocolates, and waffle sandwiches.

Our guide was also catching onto the fact that I loved the architecture in Paris and the narrow streets in this part of the city.  He started taking small detours to show me streets and buildings I might like.  Philippe pointed out Le Procope, which is the oldest cafe in Paris (dating back to 1686!)  Benjamin Franklin frequented the place when he was in Paris, along with other notable people.  I took a minute to imagine the kind of conversations, writing, thinking, plotting, and planning that took place in that cafe over the centuries.

The final stop on our tour was at a small cafe with a view of Notre Dame. I didn’t realized we were close to it, so that was a nice surprise.  We sat at a small table and ate choux pastry with raspberry filling.  It tasted a bit like a thin, savory doughnut with a sweet raspberry filling that tasted like a room temperature sorbet.  The whole thing reminded me of a Berliner (a German jelly doughnut), but not as sweet.

(See Notre Dame through the trees?)

We also saw that we were right next to Shakespeare and Co, a famous book store mentioned in one of Earnest Hemingway’s books.  We were at the end of a tiring day, so we opted not to go inside, but I did take a minute to snap a picture.

Philippe took some extra time to walk us by Notre Dame and made sure we got back on the metro safely, going in the right direction.  He is also a guide at the Louvre, so he was very knowledgeable about art and architecture as well.  We had some great conversations and we learned a lot more about the city than we expected.

Here are some other pictures I snapped during our meandering…

I loved the older part of Paris with the narrow cobblestone streets lined with shops and apartments.  I never grew tired of it.

The patisserie tour ended up being one of my favorite outings while we were there.  It wasn’t so much about the sweets, but I loved learning about some of the treasures Paris has to offer from a local who clearly loves its history and culture.

Even if you’re not staying in a Paris Perfect rental, you can work with them to arrange outings, tours, and experiences that cater to a variety of interests and ages.

I’ll tell you about our other outings and tours in another post…

the sweeter side of paris

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44 Comments on “the sweeter side of paris”

  1. Oh my, I love the architecture! Someone should put together a tour of Europe just for folks who love to see old beautiful buildings and narrow cobblestone streets!

  2. This is a fantastic post, Marian! Thank you for sharing. I am so interested in reading all about your trip! These are dream destinations for me, and I am living vicariously through your experience!

    I do have a question: a friend of mine was an ex-pat and lived for years in Paris (sadly, I never got to visit). She adored the city, and thought it was one of the most beautiful in the entire world. One thing about it that she hated, though, was that people would let their dogs go potty on the street *and not clean up after them!* so she said she had to always walk around the most beautiful city in the world with her head down to avoid stepping in dog doo on the streets! And when it rained it got really ugly, of course. I’m wondering if Paris is still so lax about their street cleanliness? Your pictures appear to show clean streets, so I’m wondering if maybe they enacted laws forcing people to clean up after their pets? It always seemed crazy to me that this gorgeous city would allow itself to be inundated with dog doo!

    1. I did see any piles of dog poop in Paris. I did see more of that in Italy, but it mostly seemed to be from cats and maybe small dogs. I thought the streets looked very clean.

    2. We traveled in March and yes, you have to watch your step for dog poo. Most dogs are small because the apartments are small, so the piles aren’t too large. lol.

  3. Yum!!! I would have loved to have a tour of the pastry shops while I was in Paris, but the days just slipped away. We did stop in Ladurée and bought a box of macarons to take home.
    My granddaughter is an avid reader, and we visited the Shakespeare and Company bookstore while the girls were in the bookstore my daughter and I rested our feet at Le Petit Châtelet next door. We missed the Shakespeare bookstore cafe, but we could see the Notre-Dame de Paris and the bell towers. The history of Notre-Dame is fascinating reading. Yes, I could go on all day about the wonderful sights in Paris. Thank you for your insight and your narrative about the delicious sweets and the tours to take in Paris.

  4. Not sure I will be able to take a wonderful tour like this but I will look for some of these places on my trip there next summer. Only have two days but hope to go back again for longer. I look forward to much more of your travel adventures!

  5. I’ve been to Paris and Italy, and their streets are very clean – especially compared with my last trip to New Orleans, where we literally stepped over poop, pee and people lying all over the sidewalks.

    Marian, I get a kick out of your comment you wish you’d bought a box of macrons to bring home. Seriously, do you think if you’d had a box in Paris, they would have lasted through Italy and the plane ride home? Don’t think so. 🙂

  6. I cant wait to see all your pics (edited down of course…ha). The trip looked amazing and I was wondering even though you were on more customized tours if you found the French people to be rude in general? I have heard that the French don’t care for Americans and wondered if you saw any evidence of this in your group.

    Also, glad to hear the streets weren’t littered or dirty. I agree with the above commenter, that New Orleans is one of the dirtiest cities I have been to. God know what you will walk over on the streets there. I have been twice and that’s enough for me. Fantastic food and music but the seedy side of it turns me off.

    1. I have heard that generalization of French people and that was not my experience at all! Everyone, even those who weren’t guiding our tours were just as friendly as any other nationality. I found tourists to be more rude than anyone, although usually it was because they were on a mission and not very observant to what was around them, so I’m sure I was guilty of that, too. Also, you heard English spoken everywhere, so there was always someone to ask for assistance. We felt very comfortable and welcomed by Paris and her people.

      1. I agree entirely, both times we were in Paris the French citizens were warm, friendly and very helpful. I even asked a tour guide on one trip (we were alone on the bus waiting for others and she had struck up a friendly conversation with me) if it was true that the French generally dislike Americans, assuring her I would not be offended as I had seen some pretty rude American tourists that day, and she said “no, that was just not true”. Then she mentioned another nationality that they found to be the rudest tourists. Sure enough a family of that particular nation boarded and they were the most obnoxious, loud mouth, uncouth people. The tour guide just looked at me and winked. Even though they were so rude and I would love to have tossed them off the bus myself, she treated them with grace and dignity. I think you get as good as you give, if you treat others with a smile and respect you will be treated the same. They especially love it when you try to speak French with them and totally botch it. 🙂

  7. I know different strokes and all that, but I can’t imagine being too tired for Shakespeare and Co.

    I too found the French to be very very nice. A few times I was standing on a corner with a map, my pack and a hand over my eyes looking like the quintessential lost tourist. French people in their beautiful accent asked “do you need help…are you lost…where are you going?” and then set me right. I have found the BEST travel accessory is good manners. A please and a thank you will open doors.

    I can’t wait to see the rest of your pics and hear your tales.

  8. When I visited Paris I noted that every morning a crew came down the streets washing down the sidewalks and curbs.

    Also the French people were very nice and kind to me. I think in general if you treat people nicely they will respond in kind.

  9. Those are amazing pictures!! I’m in love with Paris with it’s cobblestone streets & the so many shops!! The buildings & history you are teaching us has this person in awe!!

  10. Oh my My mouth is watering,,,need some chocolate.

    I loved loved loved the photos! Some time could you post your photo technique…..camera..lens….? thanks from a newbie photographer.

    I am on my way to Dublin and Wexford Ireland for a Three month sabbatical. Would love to take a photo like yours….sadly I will not find a French Chocolate shop.

  11. I am so happy you shared the resource, Paris Perfect. I have two daughters graduating next June (one from college, the other from high school) and we are planning a very special family trip. I may contact Paris Perfect because it also appears they have other countries in their portfolio.

    I love Paris and it has been too long since I have been there. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos.

  12. I am so loving living vicariously though you and your visit to Europe. I had the pleasure of visiting 40 years ago and can only pray that one day I will be able to visit again. It draws you in with it’s rich history, charming streets and wonderful people. Thank you so much Marian for sharing all of this with us. I would be happy to look at each and every picture!

  13. Cats do NOT poop on the sidewalks! Dogs do.
    As mentioned in earlier comment there are workers with trucks that clean up after the dogs every day.

  14. I was literally just listening to the podcast you did with Taylor Bradford from the Boss Girl Creative again yesterday and it was so cool because she asked you if you could visit anywhere in the world where would you go and you said France! It’s been so much fun following along. I can’t wait to see more. Hugs and welcome home, CoCo

  15. Dear Marion,

    Love your blog and everything you talk about!! Been reading it for years!!

    My daughter will be in Paris next week. Who would she contact about the patisserie tasting tour? Sounds like fun – I would like to get her the information. Thank you in advance.

    Debbie

    1. You can schedule it through Paris Perfect. If you visit the link, you can select events and go from there. Let me know if you get stuck and I can give you a direct e-mail to one of their events coordinators. They’ll take good care of your daughter!

  16. Dear Marion, love, love, love your blog! Thanks for the wonderful description of your adventure in Paris, I also love to wonder the streets and admire the architecture. We have used Paris Perfect and found them to be “Perfect Paris” !

  17. Marion, what a gorgeous post, an absolute feast for the eyes. It sure got my sweet tooth going though. Thank you so much for sharing the city with us!

  18. Thanks for this beautifully photographed tour. Please post any and all photos from Paris! I love this vicarious tour and all of the details you notice. It sounds like you really did your homework on your trip (a full journal!), and i wish i would be so disciplined while on vacation.
    In particular, i wonder if you photographed the interior of any French bistros? I’m remodeling my kitchen and i am going for a French bistro feel. Or what I believe to be a French bistro feel! ☺️

  19. Yum Marian, sweet treats as well as eye candy!

    I also love vintage shop interiors like Meert, I found one online in Philadelphia when googling antique candy scales that claims to be the America’s oldest candy store – Shane Confectionery – the interior is amazing. Have you been there? Their website is shanecandies dot com – scroll down to see the shop interior – looks amazing on a wide screen.

    I also found the French people to be in general helpful on my visits to France, especially if you made the effort to speak just a few words of french to start – by asking in french “do you speak English”, they seemed to respond well & my obvious poor quality French probably made them brave enough to try their usually much better quality English on me!

  20. In addition to my comment mentioning Shane Confectionery, I took another visit to their website and on their Press page discovered a very appropriate video for this post about the french influence on Philadelphia food culture called – ‘When America Spoke French- it focuses on Shane Confectionary’s traditional methods of creating products – really interesting!

    Wish I was over there to visit, it looks so good though I’m thinking the 20.5 hour flight from Sydney would be worth it!

  21. I can only imagine through your pictures how lovely the city must be! I am still holding out hope for a trip next year! Yes, New Orleans is one of the nastiest cities along with San Francisco with its piles of human waste problem now! So sad.

  22. Having just returned from Paris as part of our European tour, I can answer the question about cleanliness in Paris. We found the city to be very clean! We noticed every morning that water was running down the curbs of most if not all streets. Our guide shared that Paris had previously had a problem with sanitation and had addressed it by installing a system of streaming water that washes the curbs of dirt and debris. The store owners/residents are asked to sweep their sidewalks and any extra dirt that isn’t picked up can be swept into the streets where it is washed away. I can add that we found Paris to be very friendly very different from their reputation. Glad you had a wonderful trip. Rest up. It has taken us nearly a week to get our sleep/awake pattern returned to American time. Louise (the other Louise)

  23. Hi Marian! Your photos are amazing! Now I don’t have to spend all that money to go. You took me through the area for free and it was fabulous!!!

  24. Marian, I’ve got to know….what are the shiny green spheres in the chocolate boxes at Roger’s shop? I’m sure you took the photos to edit out traffic, but it looks as though most streets are very people friendly. Not quite what I expected at all ! I’m glad you are back home safely.

  25. Marian, your story & photos are such a great reminder of our time in Paris. You had me walking right along with you on the tour, tasting every delightful morsel, breathing in the sites. You can never have too much of Paris.
    We found the French people absolutely delightful. Our experiences there were that if you were respectful & try to communicate in their language in their country, they will be more than helpful, no matter how poor your attempts. We like others, have always found Paris to be squeaky clean too. .
    Thanks for taking me right back there Marion. I’ve had a wonderful trip back but without the jet lag. ( I hope you’re over that quickly btw)
    Can’t wait to hear more about your trip. I’m so pleased that the trip was a wonderful experience & that you & your mum are home safe & sound. 💐 Kathie B

  26. On a 12 hours layover in Paris, we stopped at Shakespeare & Co. It was raining. The line was out the door. My dear husband waited for me outside in the rain while I got a moment to explore the shop. It was wonderful. Upstairs are the old books, the ones you can sit and read with a cup of tea, but not buy. I stood there smelling them while the bells of Notre Dame rang. It was a magical moment that brought me to tears. I’ll never forget Paris.

  27. Gorgeous pictures. The tour sounds delightful, and the guide was obviously one of the best. Thanks for sharing this day with us.

  28. I am enjoying the posts of your trip so much! While you were traveling, I have to admit I checked your stories first thing in the morning to see what you were doing that day 😂. I’m so glad you are breaking everything out in multiple blogs – I don’t want to miss a thing! Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us.

  29. I love this post! For fellow travelers I wanted to say that when we visit a new city we often do a food tour on the first day. Our first was in the Village in New York. Besides amazing food, the real draw for us is to get a feel for the soul of the city and the best tours to me talk about the history and the architecture the entire three hours that you are walking.

  30. What a marvelous excursion you had! My sweet tooth has envy but it’s also the beauty and presentation of such sweets. Years ago when I went to Paris with my small – 5yo? – son, I walked through the Marais and had my own little food tour getting a small item in each shop and having my own little meal in the park . What a delight! I think in travel, as in life, we all tend to get what we expect. Your post makes me want a trip to Paris again and with that Paris Perfect tour. btw, I’d watch a slide show (on line!) of all 2k photos any time!

  31. Wow! The beauty of these small shops show the pride they have for their products! You can almost taste how good everything is going to be based on the exquisite presentation!

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