February 9, 2010
My first week in Paris has been hard. I don’t know the language and my French classes aren’t making me a master anytime soon. I don’t know the city at all, and the Metro system has felt nothing like the subway systems of New York or Boston, probably due to all those darn French words I just don’t understand. My neighborhood in the 18th is fine and my apartment is sweet, but they just don’t feel like home.
(I know, I know. I’m super lucky to be spending three glorious months in the City of Light, but sympathize with me for a few more paragraphs, okay?)
Yesterday, I wanted to pack it in, give in to this beautiful but totally foreign city. I was about to shut myself away in my little apartment and venture out only when I had to finally get to French ecole (school) on Monday morning. Working against the little voice inside my tête (head), I forced myself out into the city. And with sore feet from all these vicious hills and rough pavement, I found myself completely lost.
Then, my phone rang.
One of my dearest girlfriends from home, a woman married to a French man, walked me through getting to the Galeries Lafayette (where I needed to scout out some real, but chic walking shoes). Her surprise call and the corresponding little triumph (comfy shoes found!), came at the most perfect moment. It boosted my confidence, and gave me the will to venture out again today.
Today, I found Le Marais. Or rather, ten years after I first traversed its narrow streets, Le Marais found me. Every street felt familiar. Each building made me remember. The neighborhood reminded me of Boston’s South End and New York City’s Nolita all at once, but better, sweeter, far lovelier. And as I wandered off the main boulevards, I finally felt at home.
I got a little lost here and there, walking up and down side streets searching out a little restaurant, recommended by Erica Berman of Haven in Paris, for my birthday lunch. (Yes, happy birthday to me! I’m old. Don’t ask.) But I didn’t mind feeling lost there. And the moment I was about to pull out my map to figure out the locale of Glou, my phone rang. The husband called to say a quick hello, to ensure I was making the most of my birthday. As I hung up, I looked up and voila! There was Glou.
Glou is a parfait (perfect) little spot for a special meal. It’s chic and sparse enough to feel like your own modern gastro-pub, but friendly enough to cater to my silly American questions. They had an English version of their menu, which made ordering a breeze. Of course, I already knew the French word for Champagne. (Um, it’s Champagne, folks.) And while I do believe that on some level I could survive on Champagne alone, I opted to order a few plates.
The Utah Beach huîtres (oysters) were the best oysters of my life, and I promise that’s not because I ate them in Paris. These oysters are special. Utah Beach (in Normandy) is the spot to farm oysters in France. The taste of these delightful specimens was certainly salty, but also uplifting, bright and citrusy. The oysters were served with a big pat of butter with which to spread over the brown bread in my basket. I suspected it was Breton butter, the best in France. (Butter elates me almost as much as Champagne. Almost.) In Brittany, they serve their seafood with bread and butter, something I learned from Anthony Bourdain recently. (Check out the preview to his Brittany episode on YouTube.)
I rounded out my meal with a bowl of pumpkin soup that warmed me from the inside. It was pure pumpkin and radiantly orange, with bits of fresh herbs on top. As I slurped sweetly (of course!), I gabbed with my fellow sole diner, a kind girl from Brazil, about the pure pumpkin flavor. We sipped espressos together and then went on our ways.
So not only did the divine intervene and lead me to Glou – my husband is going to love that I associated him with ‘the divine’ – but the divine once again gave me a dining partner and a delicious birthday lunch. I stepped back out into Paris and wandered down every little street confidently.
I couldn’t find this fabulous little wine shop, Julien Caviste, that a food friend recommended, but slowly (and surely) parts of Paris will begin to feel like home to me and I will venture out once again to find that wine shop.
Because I need more Champagne. This half-bottle of brut rose is disappearing fast.
101 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003
Métro: Saint-Sébastien – Froissart
Open: Mon – Sun
This post originally appeared on Eat Boutique.
Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.
Written by Maggie Battista
Passionate about fine dining and old-fashioned hospitality, Maggie is focused on finding hidden, authentic food gems and is absolutely in love with the creamy, salty butter sold all over Paris. She also runs an online magazine and market called Eat Boutique, where she discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers. Maggie’s based in Boston, with frequent trips to Paris, Brooklyn, Maine, and northern California.
Website: Maggie Battista, blogger