-I spent the first week of October in Paris and Rome, and while I had a very nice time indeed, very little of it was about food. I love food and cooking, but when traveling I'm not the sort of foodie who goes out of her way for purportedly great food . Abroad, I'm all about walking, sightseeing, people-watching...adventurous eating goes on the (ahem) back burner. Sure, I had compiled a list of great bakeries and restaurants to visit in both cities, but when I was hungry, I'd pop into the nearest boulangerie or pizzeria for a baguette sandwich or a slice. I go to Europe for the culture, man. Oh, and my budget was really tight.
(Below: View from the second floor of the Louvre.)-Paris gave me some emotional ups and downs. I had been there twice before, and the pleasure of revisiting the city was great. I loved the people-watching: the man in the metro with a pet rat on his shoulder, stylish girls in scarves, skinny jeans and over-the-knee boots (all the rage right now).
-On the other hand: knowing that I was yet another tourist trekking from one attraction to the other. Knowing that I will never, ever, speak French without an accent. Plus, it’s hard to come up with a new perspective on Paris; it’s all been done before, mostly by Americans with bohemian bourgeoisie aspirations.
--Food: I was winging this trip on the cheap, so there were a lot of street crepes and baguette sandwiches, all acceptable. When I was craving a place to relax with a pot of tea, we went to the Creperie de Cluny in the Latin Quarter. Some think this place is a tourist trap, but I had perfectly good crepes here (in the evening, many patrons were locals, or at least French speakers). Below: Crepe with ham, cheese and potatoes, topped with an over-easy egg.
-I did go to the famous Laduree bakery to try the famous macaron cookies (below). The line stretched out the door and the five staffers made a big show of being busy but not doing much. My chocolate macaron, eaten on a park bench in the Tuileries and washed down with tea, was pretty good; the unnaturally green pistachio macaron was cloying. I think Laduree is all about the experience of sitting in its fancy dining room or eating the pastries somewhere in the heart of Paris. Back in my hotel in the 20th arrondissement, my third macaron tasted like a store-bought chocolate cookie. -Ice cream: I bypassed the famous, but, I think, overrated Berthillon ice cream for the excellent Amorino, a gelato chain with several locations.
-The gourmet market at Galeries Lafayette, the huge department store, was more fun to browse than most museums, not least for the exorbitant prices surely set to shock tourists.
-Rome: I liked the food here better. It seemed more colorful, fresher, brighter, like Rome itself. Two carabiniere recommended L'Insalata Ricca, a popular local chain, for lunch. Huge salads seem to be the most popular offering. The patio where we sat was packed with locals. The bread served here was the best I had on the trip. Below: Trevi Fountain.
-The weather was in the 80s and I spotted peaches blooming on trees. Score one for Rome. Below: The Spanish Steps at night.
-Gelato: It was all pretty good, but the best I had was San Crispino, a minute’s walk away from the Trevi Fountain. This is the thinking man’s gelato: muted colors, natural ingredients and sophisticated flavors like honey and Borolo wine.
-Street pizza: This was more like flatbread with toppings! I am surely a horrible gourmet for preferring American pizza.