Paris was amazing, but alas, it’s time to move on.
Paris was amazing, but alas, it’s time to move on.
Seeing as how I’m a reasonable person who spent some time in Paris, I ate a lot of croissants. Do you want to hear about them? Every single one? No? Okay, here they are.
Des Gateaux et du Pain
This was a solid croissant — maybe a little bit too aggressively crispy, but otherwise quite good. Still, it worried me a bit; it was good, but very comparable to the better croissants I’ve had back home. Were Paris croissants not going to be as amazing as I had hoped? The next one I ate answered that question pretty conclusively.
And there it is — the croissant perfection I had hoped for. The contrast between the perfectly crispy exterior and the soft, buttery interior was pure joy in pastry form. It was actually kind of insane how buttery this was. I held onto it with the paper bag as I ate it, and by the time I was done that bag was practically transparent. And yet it didn’t taste greasy at all — just pleasantly buttery in all the best ways.
This actually wasn’t on my list of places to check out — apparently most bakeries in Paris are closed on Mondays, so after striking out a couple of times, I wound up at this place completely at random. And the croissant was pretty good, with a lightly crispy exterior and a mild buttery flavour. But the texture of the interior was weirdly tough; it was still a pretty good croissant, but this is Paris, so pretty good is actually kind of awful.
Easily the daintiest croissant I’ve had, this had an ultra-light, almost ethereal outer layer of crispiness, and a super fluffy interior. It was also a little bit sweeter than the other croissants I’ve had so far. Not mind-blowing, but quite tasty!
I actually wasn’t crazy about this one. Though it was mostly okay — nice crackly exterior, fluffy interior — it was the greasiest croissant I’ve ever had. It left my mouth and lips unpleasantly grease-slicked, like I just took a swig of oil. And yet it didn’t have a particularly pronounced buttery flavour.
Well, that was extremely middle-of-the-road. It was mostly pretty good — nice and buttery, good interior texture — but it was lacking the exterior crispiness that you’ve gotta have in a great croissant.
Quite good, but extremely untraditional — aside from the fact that it’s lightly glazed in some kind of syrup, the interior is sprinkled with a small amount of cocoa (I think — there was very little of it, but there did seem to be a mild chocolaty flavour). It’s actually really tasty for what it is, but come on, man. Don’t mess with the croissant. Also: at two Euros, this was the most expensive croissant I’ve had by far.
I actually had to stand in a pretty long line for this one, so I had high hopes that it would be something special. And though it was one of the better croissants that I had in Paris, the exterior crispiness wasn’t quite there.
All in all, it might seem like I’m pretty negative on a lot of these croissants. I was being tough on them, being in Paris and all, but I’d be happy to eat any one of them back home. I did peak early though — the best croissant was easily the one from Stohrer.
It might seem weird to go to Disneyland by yourself, but you know what? It’s the happiest place on Earth. You know what’s weird? Not going to Disneyland by yourself. Yeah, that’s right, I turned it around on you.
Disneyland Paris actually consists of two connected parks — Walt Disney Studios Park and Disneyland Park.
Walt Disney Studios Park is the smaller of the two, and could probably use some updating (there’s a studio tour ride that references new and hip films like Pearl Harbor and Reign of Fire — yes, Reign of Fire, that fifteen-year-old Matthew McConaughey movie that you forgot existed, features very prominently in the ride).
But! It had my favourite ride of the day, a Ratatouille-themed ride that used some pretty mind-blowing technology to make you feel like you’re running around with Remy.
That park also had my least favourite ride of the day, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which actually would have been pretty fun if it didn’t make me feel like I was going to throw up and/or pass out (or both — both seemed like a very distinct possibility).
Disneyland Park is the main event, and there’s so much to see there that you could probably be entertained just walking around without doing any rides.
Some other thoughts:
It’s a Small World is still as insanely catchy as ever.
Disney owns Star Wars, which is something they won’t let you forget; it’s everywhere in the park.
I feel like they need to take another shot at a Haunted Mansion movie, because that ride is kind of nuts; it starts out like a pretty standard haunted house, and gets pretty insane by the end. I feel like a movie version of that, done well, would be fun.
They don’t sell churros in the park like a bunch of jerks (isn’t that a Disneyland standard?? ) but this cookie, which has a bunch of Nutella in the middle, was quite tasty.
They have a really interesting exhibit at the Art Ludique Museum in Paris that’s DC-Comics-themed. There’s a bunch of original art from various DC comics, not to mention costumes from pretty much all of the DC films from the last few decades.
There’s something pretty fascinating about seeing the original comic book artwork — it’s all done in a computer now, but it’s interesting to see the way they had to physically paste the titles onto the page.
It’s also pretty neat to see all of the original costumes — they have all of the Batmans (Batmen?), from Michael Keaton to Ben Affleck. They even have the infamous George Clooney batsuit, nipples and all.
Though maybe I’m being a cheapo, but this thing cost about the same as the Louvre (it’s fifty cents cheaper), and I mean, come on. It took me like twenty minutes to see everything. Get out of here with those prices.
I was trying to go to a bistro called Le Comptoir du Relais; it was completely full (it almost never occurs to me to make reservations, so this actually happens a lot). They do, however, have a small take-out window with sandwiches and pastries. I figured this was a pretty good opportunity to try a ham and butter sandwich, which is supposedly the second most popular sandwich in France.
(The first? Burgers. Everyone loves burgers.)
It was so good. The crispy (but not overly crunchy) exterior of the baguette combined with the pleasantly chewy interior makes this the perfect bread for a sandwich like this. Combined with the really good quality ham, a very generous slathering of salted butter, and a few slightly sweet cornichons to add some crunch and balance out the rich butter and the fatty ham, it was close to sandwich perfection. It was maybe the best ham sandwich I’ve ever had.
For dessert? The butter theme continued with a beurre-sucre crepe (butter and sugar). This is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a crepe, brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar. It doesn’t sound like much, but the slightly buttery flavour combined with the slight crunch you get from the sugar works shockingly well on the freshly-made crepe.
Holy crap, the Louvre is impressive. I know — that’s kind of like saying “the Beatles are a pretty good band” or “hey, you know Citizen Kane? It’s worth watching!” Everyone knows this already.
But it’s still worth repeating: if you find yourself in Paris, you should probably go to the Louvre, even if you’re not a big museum person.
For one thing, the sheer volume of great art on display is almost exhausting. There’s so much to see. I wasn’t lingering all that much, and I might have missed parts of the gallery (the way the museum is laid out is super confusing), and I was still there for almost three hours.
Plus, I had assumed it was mostly paintings, but there’s also an impressive amount of sculptures and other art on display. I was there for over an hour before I even saw my first painting.
The museum itself is something to behold; there’s one room in particular that’s absolutely breathtaking.
I should note, however, that the way they’re exhibiting their most famous painting (and probably the most famous painting in the world), the Mona Lisa, is exceptionally dumb.
Aside from the fact that it’s behind plexiglass, there’s a big wooden barrier that would theoretically keep everyone about five or six feet away, and then another barrier (because apparently the one barrier isn’t good enough?) that ensures that no one can get within about ten feet of the painting. It’s absurd.
You’ve probably heard that the Mona Lisa is surprisingly small — between the size, the glass barrier, and the sheer distance you have to squint at it from, it’s completely impossible to actually appreciate the painting. The way they have it set up basically just gives you the right to say that you saw the Mona Lisa, and… that’s about it.
It kinda sucks, but then let’s face it — the Mona Lisa isn’t the nicest painting in the Louvre by a long shot, and it’s the only one with the absurd security measures.
But it’s obvious what everyone’s there to see. The room with the Mona Lisa, and the rooms surrounding it, are a complete madhouse. But everything else is only slightly crowded. The floor above the Mona Lisa — which has some amazing, very well known paintings — is practically deserted. Everyone’s pretty much like “is it the Mona Lisa? Is it Mona Lisa adjacent? No? NOT INTERESTED.”
There are some fun paintings too, like this internet famous one.
Or this one of a woman and her baby both giving some pretty serious side-eye.
The first time I saw L’As du Fallafel on a list of the best places to eat in Paris, my reaction was basically “falafel in Paris?? Get the hell out of here.”
The second time, I was like “did you not hear me? I said get the hell out of here.”
The third and fourth time, I decided to start paying attention.
It’s a pretty clear consensus: L’As du Fallafel is one of the must-eat restaurants in Paris, so yeah, of course I checked it out. It didn’t quite blow me away, but I’d say its reputation is deserved — if I had a top ten list of the best falafel I’ve ever had, it’d be on there somewhere.
They do a couple of things that I think elevate this place from good to great. The first is that the size of the actual falafel balls is probably about half of what you’re used to; this allows you to get more of them, which ups the sandwich’s crisp-factor.
They also construct the sandwich by adding the falafel balls, toppings, and sauce, and then repeating this process several times so that you get multiple layers of everything. This is actually pretty brilliant, because you wind up with the perfect amount of all of the components in every bite.
Otherwise it’s a fairly standard falafel sandwich, though the addition of roasted eggplant is quite inspired.
Also: holy crap this thing is a mess. I made the mistake of trying to eat it while walking, and of course I wound up with some on my pants, because how could I not?
I’m a tourist. I’m in Paris. So obviously I visited the Eiffel tower. I’m not a maniac.
I had sort of figured that the Eiffel tower would be looming over the city wherever you go; nope. Unless you’re in the vicinity, you can’t see it. So it was actually several days into my stay here before I even saw it for the first time.
And yeah, it’s impressive. It’s one of those things that’s so iconic that actually being in its presence feels kind of special.
I thought about not actually going up the tower (the lines were pretty intense), but there are some things you just have to do.
You can either take the elevator or the steps — I figured taking the steps would be a bit more memorable, so that’s what I did (it helps that it costs four Euros less, and the line is considerably shorter).
It’s a lot of steps. You can’t actually take the stairs all the way to the very top, but you get high enough to get a pretty spectacular view (and I mean, it’s 669 steps. I think that’s enough).
There’s a spot at the top where you can stand on glass and you feel like you’re suspended in mid-air. The picture does a pretty terrible job of showing you what this was like, because it was terrifying. I’m only moderately afraid of heights, but I’ll admit I couldn’t stand on this for longer than about five seconds before a voice in my head was like “holy crap, get off get off getoffgetoffgetoff.”
Le Relais de l’Entrecote is so admirably single-minded about its dedication to steak frites that there’s literally no menu. The only questions from the waitress are what you want to drink, and how you want your steak cooked. That’s it. If you want to eat something other than steak frites? Get the hell out.
The meal starts with a salad dressed with a very simple (but very delicious) vinaigrette. Again, this isn’t a choice: you just get it, whether you want it or not.
Given that there’s only one thing on the menu, the rest of the food comes pretty quickly. I requested my steak rare, and it came cooked to an absolutely perfect rare. It’s topped with a herby, mustardy sauce, and served with a generous pile of perfectly golden fries.
I’m not normally a sauce on steak kind of guy — I feel like steak tastes pretty great on its own, plus if you’re not getting it well done (and please don’t get it well done), the added moisture is completely unnecessary. But rules are meant to be broken, and when the sauce is this good? Yeah man, pour it on. More, please.
The sauce works perfectly with the fries, too, and then when you’re done, you can mop up what’s left with a piece of French bread. It’s so good.
When you finish all that food, they come around and give you a few more slices of steak, another pile of fries, and more of that delicious sauce. I was pretty full at this point, so I kinda wanted to say no, but do I have the willpower to say no to delicious steak and fries, no matter how full I am?
No; the answer is a resounding no.
At 26 Euros (about 40 bucks Canadian), even with the second helping, it’s hard to call this place a bargain. But sometimes you’ve just gotta say “screw it” and spend the money, especially when it’s this good.
Despite having maybe the best food of anywhere I’ve visited so far, McDonald’s France has a surprisingly boring menu. It’s pretty much just the classics (and yes, the Quarter Pounder really is called the Royale with Cheese, so it’s got that going for it at least).
They do, however, serve something called Le P’tit Hot Dog, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a standard hot dog — maybe slightly smokier than usual — that’s topped with ketchup, mustard, and crispy fried onions. It’s extremely average.
I ordered a side of “Deluxe Potatoes,” which are just potato wedges. Like the hot dog, they’re pretty standard. If you’ve ever had wedges from the supermarket or from a cafeteria, then you know exactly what to expect.
And that’s about it. Even the dessert menu was just the usual stuff.
Also: there’s something vaguely off-putting about being told “bon appetit!” when being handed a tray of McDonald’s food.