All photos by Maggie Battista, except where noted
The volcanic eruption in Iceland has changed my (and likely your) travel plans pretty dramatically. I was supposed to be back with the husband in cold and rainy New England but am instead stranded in bright and sunny Paris. Despite feeling pretty helpless, as you may imagine, I am not getting much sympathy from friends and family. Taking the bull by the horns, I have decided to make the most of every extra moment in this perfect city. I’m sharing my five-step plan with you, with the hopes that it may help those of you also stranded in Paris or anywhere in Europe.
1. Revisit your favorite restaurant and hope for a sweet homecoming. I’ve visited some fabulous restaurants during my stay in Paris, only to be warmly welcomed (most of the time) upon my second visit. The staff at Le Miroir, Glou and, especially, Le Pure Café have been attentive, sweet and delighted by my return visits. However, I only just discovered my favorite restaurant in Paris a few days ago. La Laiterie Sainte Clotilde (64 Rue de Bellechasse 75007 Paris, Tel: 01 45 51 74 61) is a little neighborhood joint, only four blocks from my flat, run by an unlikely duo – she’s an experienced grandmother-like host, he’s a young, cool bartender/server. Together, they run an efficient, candle-lit, warm diner that whips up nine seasonal comfort dishes (three entrees, three plats, three desserts) and easy, affordable wine. I felt so at home here, so much so that I’m hoping a return trip will ease my travel plan pain. If it doesn’t, I’m pretty certain a return trip to my favorite Paris wine bar, Le Baron Rouge, will do the trick. Wine cures all ills, right?
2. Take a second look at your immediate neighborhood. I’ve lived in one of the most glorious Haven in Paris flats on the Left Bank. The neighborhood is lovely and studded with cafés, patisseries, shops and boucheries. Alas, I’ve spent most of my days running all over Paris, practically ignoring some very special places right on my block. One place I plan to explore is Deyrolle (46 Rue du Bac 75007 Paris, Tel: 01 42 22 30 07), a taxidermy shop that’s been delighting nature lovers and science aficionados since 1831. Originally a spot that “attracted hunters eager to immortalize their trophies and games,” Deyrolle is a museum-like venue perfect for little and big kids. Big kids like… my husband. He missed it when he visited last month, but now I don’t have to. (By the way, we wrote a great post about Deyrolle last year.)
3. Try out a new café, a new vantage point from which to scheme up exactly what you’d do if the volcano keeps spewing and you have to live here long-term. I’ve been exceptionally busy viewing the entire roster of Haven in Paris flats, getting to know Paris and entertaining various guests who have been eager to visit their Paris-based friend. With all this, I’ve had no time to simply sit at a café and take it all in. I finally hit a very old spot that was brand new to me called La Palette (43 Rue de Seine 75006 Paris, Tel: 01 43 29 09 42). Once frequented by both Cézanne and Braque, this café features artwork and artist palettes all over the walls and very well heeled locals in each of the seats. The sun was shining, the rose was chilled and I felt quite at home. I didn’t devise any profound solutions to the volcano crisis, but I did think one thing: Year-round, this wouldn’t suck.
Photo courtesy of Little Brown Pen
4. Indulge in those souvenirs that may not last the week. I’ve spent my time in Paris hording foodie souvenirs for my friends, family and even brief acquaintances. I’ve hit every typical venue and am armed with macarons from Pierre Hermé, chocolate-covered orange rind from A La Mere de Famille, and Basque-accented chocolate truffles from L’Atelier du Chocolat. But with flights delayed for possibly days, I’m worried about keeping these items fresh long-term. Who am I kidding? Some of these little pieces of sweetness will keep a week or two, but I think I’ll fall to pieces if I don’t finally indulge. Yesterday, I popped open a bottle of champagne along with my bag of mango passion fruit caramels from Jacques Genin’s Marais-based shop (133 Rue de Turenne 75003 Paris, Tél: 01 45 77 29 01). I swear that the silky caramel texture almost made me forget about the volcano, and reminded me that I needed more caramels, stat! (Here’s a great post on Jacques’ chocolate and caramels.)
5. Pick up a special souvenir for yourself. Upon further inspection of my suitcases when packing for my canceled flight, I felt sad seeing that I was returning without much for myself. Thanks to that volcano, I may have missed my flight but I haven’t missed out on the chance to pick up a truly great souvenir just for me. I’ve decided to cave and buy a handmade sac at Brontibay (6 Rue de Sévigné, 75004 Paris, Tel: 01 42 76 90 42), one of my favorite handbag boutiques. When I finally do leave Paris, I’ll be doing so sans regret, without feeling like I missed out on my only shot to pick up one of these sweet handbags directly from the source. Longchamp (21 Rue du Vieux Colombier 75006 Paris, Tel: 01 42 22 74 75) is fine, but Brontibay is way better.
Regardless of how you make the most of your extended stay in Paris, I wish all of you the best and hope we all get home soon, with bags of caramels still in hand.