Thursday 9 April 2015

The French Food Adventure - Day 1

Day 1 - Destination Paris

It had seemed a long time since our last holiday in Japan back in September last year but finally the day had arrived to head to Paris for Easter. Having already visited Paris twice before we didn't really feel the need to revisit the Lourve or go back up the Eiffel tower again. We had a few places in mind we hadn't yet explored and my mind was fixed firmly on the many food opportunities we would encounter during our time here. This wasn't about eating in fancy restaurants or trying to find a full English breakfast, we just wanted good affordable food that the average visitor to Paris or local resident might encounter and enjoy. Halfway through our time here we would be heading slightly west of Paris to the Psychobilly Stomp festival in Vernouillet..

 Before boarding the 8.30 train from Norwich to London we dashed into Subway, although not generally a big fan of chains Subway seems the best choice out of those close by to Norwich train station. £2.60 bought me the mega melt deal with a cappuccino, in an attempt to be slightly healthy I asked for salad, I'm not sure the cookies were such a healthy choice but at 3 for £1 it was just too difficult to resist.

With so many delays on the Greater Anglia service to London recently we were relieved to arrive on time. Outside St Pancras station we discovered there really was such thing as a free lunch, Uncle Bens seemed to want to feed passers by.

We were given 4 bags containing bolognaise with pasta and sweet and sour rice. Nice we thought until we realised it needed a few minutes in a microwave. With no microwave in our luggage we handed the freebies back and headed to the Eurostar departure lounge.

This was more like it, Godiva were handing out free mini chocolate eggs. We made a point of passing the lady who was handing them out twice, she was on to us but reluctantly handed us another two, great chocolate!

My wife is terrified of flying so she was delighted to be using Eurostar to get to Paris. Although it was the busy Easter weekend by planning ahead and booking well in advance we secured a return trip for just £69 each. All the security checks are done before you board the train meaning when you arrive at your destination you can step off the train and be on the street within a few minutes.

As well as looking stunning on the outside the grade 1 listed St Pancras station looks pretty impressive inside too. 

As I tried to beat level 156 of Papa Pear Saga my wife was getting far more creative.

The choices available in the Eurostar buffet car are not particularly exciting, as we were heading to France though we decided some wine was in order.

I wasn't expecting the Eurostar toilets to look like this inside!

Once off the Eurostar we spent a long time queueing up for metro tickets. To avoid doing this again anytime soon we bought 10 tickets for €14.10, a small saving is made as an individual ticket would cost €1.80. Each ticket is valid for transfers within 1 hour and 30 minutes of first use, so plan your journey well and you can get a fair distance on just one ticket. 

We struggled to find an affordable hotel in central Paris and ended up booking a room at Hotel Stanislas close to Jardin Du Luxembourg. The reviews on trip advisor did cast a shadow of doubt about staying here but we took a gamble and it payed off. At €60 per night for a double room we were greeted with a smile and given a room on the fourth floor, each room had its own name but with no lift it was quite a trek up the stairs with our cases. The old chap that runs the place looked very moody and seemed to speak no English, thankfully the other staff did though and he was more than happy for us to leave our luggage at reception on our last day.

The room had a large window looking out onto the roof, a comfortable bed, free wifi and an en-suite bathroom. For the price it seemed perfectly acceptable and we really enjoyed our stay here. Breakfast was available at €6 but we decided to eat elsewhere as we had the option to do so.

We headed outside and within a few minutes these cakes stopped us in our tracks, they looked amazing but 3 tarte framboise for €80 seemed like a ridiculous price! It took a minute or two but the penny finally dropped and I realised they cost just €3.80 each.

Nearly every week in Norwich we call into Macarons & more, definitely partial to the odd macaron! These ones looked amazing and were so big, we decided to share one.

Costing just under €3 we dithered briefly before finally choosing pistachio.

The crisp outer edge covered in pistachios revealed a bright green chewy centre as we broke it in half. A layer of cream through the centre made for a nicely balanced flavour and incredibly delicious macaron, I was starting to wish we had bought one each.

 I wasn't sure whether it would feel like Easter in Paris but plenty of shop window displays confirmed that it certainly did.

We were heading towards the Seine but with so many people relaxing with a coffee on the street we decided to join them. An espresso cost about €3 and tasted excellent every time, this place also served it with water, sadly not served with a smile though.

The Pont Des Arts not only offers some of the best views across the Seine it is also covered with love locks. Visitors buy a padlock (often getting their names engraved on it first), attach it to the bridge and then throw the key into the river. The number of love locks had easily doubled since our last visit in 2010. Some wooden boards were attached on the main part of the bridge to prevent any more being added, the local authorities are worried some sections could eventually collapse under the weight.

Notre Dame Cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, it's certainly very impressive. We decided to head inside to take a closer look.

Inside there was a service going on with large screens showing people's feet being washed and smaller screens being held up by a steady trickle of curious tourists including myself.

As we admired the stunning buildings that line every street our thoughts turned to food.

Rue De La Huchette is often considered an area to avoid eating in, it's lined with restaurants serving a vast selection of set menus for between €10 and €20. Each restaurant has somebody outside trying to lure you in, trying to convince you that they are the best one and because you are special you will also get a free drink. I have eaten along here on every trip to Paris and despite the guide books advice not to have never been disappointed. If you are on a budget then I think it is definitely worth a look, you can eat really cheaply but expect no end of rose sellers that hassle you along this street!

The chap outside Au Bon Couscous was trying so hard to convince me that cous cous would be my best option, hmm.. I think not. The restaurants along here are nearly all Greek but it is possible to find French food here too.

 I so wanted one of these but also wanted a three course meal and wondered if I could fit it all in. The chap outside this restaurant showed my wife a decent vegetarian set menu and convinced me with a French set menu, both at just €14 each. Of course we were both very special and would also get a free drink each!

The free drink didn't make us feel particularly special, it reminded us of wine flavoured squash! The bread that arrived was excellent though and we both resisted the urge to eat too much of it, we had three course ahead of us yet.

My wife had ordered a Greek salad for her starter, initially we thought this was it but it turned out this feta and olive dish was given to us to nibble on before the starters arrived. 

Having knocked back the awful free drink we ordered some French white wine, after much dithering the waiter returned to tell us they only had a Greek white wine. Although sceptical at first it was quite a nice drop, the bottle cost us €18.

 My wife was delighted with her Greek salad starter which arrived on a large dinner plate, "a meal in itself" she told me.

For my starter I ordered frogs legs, I'd never tried them before and was keen to find out what they tasted like. The waiter seemed quite flustered when I ordered them, one of the chefs made a rapid exit and returned a bit later with a carrier bag. I can only imagine he popped out to the shop or another nearby restaurant to fetch some! 

They were served in a very nice sauce with tomatoes and onions, the texture and taste was just like chicken. I thoroughly enjoyed them and another basket of bread arrived at the table just in time to mop up that tasty sauce they came served in.

My wife's main course was stuffed aubergine served with French beans, a huge jacket potato and salad. The waiter bought it over swirling it below his nose saying how delicious it was. He wasn't wrong, it tasted really nice but the jacket potato didn't get a look in, my wife was saving space for dessert.

My main course was steak with a peppercorn sauce, chips and salad. It was cooked nicely, tasted great  and considering the price of the meal I was quite impressed with it.

We decided to get two different desserts and share them, first up a fairly nice creme brulee.

We finished off with a fairly standard but tasty apple pie with cream. 

Whilst waiting for the bill to arrive we ordered an espresso. During the meal we went outside to smoke (an ecig for me) and the waiter insisted we did so inside as nobody would mind. We found this to be very odd and insisted we were more comfortable to go outside, very strange!

I spotted these in a window, they are very sugary and on my last trip to Paris prevented me from being able to sleep. I really love them but resisted the urge and walked away.

We really wanted a cocktail but had just missed happy hour at all the bars (usually till 9pm) when all cocktails were just €6 each. We ordered some at full price and watched a chap pull wheelies up and down the street whilst waiting for them to arrive.

Costing €10 each they were certainly a great pair of cocktails, a mojito for my wife and a pina colada for me topped with a selection of squidgy sweets. After these we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel.

Click here for day 2 
A visit to Montmarte and the Aardman exhibition


  1. What an excellent blog!

  2. They certainly know how to feed you in France! I tried frogs legs once - just as you describe, like chicken but juicier. Even if I still ate meat I'd never have them again, since learning that they are very often cut off live frogs which are then just thrown aside to die. Enjoy your meal...