It did not seem possible, but it has happened: the shoebox I live in has become smaller still. Here is my Paris kitchen:
Yes, that is indeed all of it. And that blue and white in the lower lefthand corner is my bed. I sleep in the kitchen, next to the front door. If I take three large steps from my bed, I hit the wall at the far rear of the room. Ah, Paris and your insane housing prices.
Still, I feel happy to be here. It has been three weeks, one of which I have had possession of the keys of my tiny chambre de bonne. The other two I spent at the boss’s place, which is about twenty steps away from La Grande Epicerie. I explored her neighbourhood a bit, and became a fan of the The Conran Shop and its “well considered product range” (their words). I managed, however, to not buy a single thing from La Grande Epicerie. Not as big a feat as it may seem, considering they have no qualms charging 15 Euro for a box of tea. A v. pretty box of tea, but still just leaves to flavour a cup of hot water. Prices for other foodstuffs are not far behind (3,50 Euro for a mango, anyone?).
A fair bit of money has left my purse since arriving in Paris, though. Some of it went to unglamorous things like cleaning supplies (oh my word, the chambre de bonne was dusty when I got here) and bus tickets, but a large chunk went to food (related) purchases. Yellow bowls and oversized drinking glasses from the well considered product range, several dried sausages, rather large quantities of cheese, a surprising number of radishes (radishes with hummus make a nice lunch), a de-li-ci-ous chicken sandwich from Instants de Saveurs on Rue Lecourbe, a leek and chevre quiche from Lallement on the same street, and lots of crusty bread. There are apparently people who will traverse Paris to get to their favourite bread, but I am not one of them (yet). So far, every bakery I tried had bread I liked, ranging from “good” to “wow, I wish bigamy were allowed because then I would propose to this baguette de tradition”.
This afternoon I felt very in-the-know when I went to the bakery around the corner and purchased a demi-baguette even though it wasn’t advertised. I asked, and out from under the counter came a baguette chopped in half. I am sure the tourists behind me were v. impressed by my bread buying savoir faire. Or would have been, had they not been salivating over the giant multi-coloured macarons on display.
The bread has been uniformly pleasing, but the croissants have been less so. I have instituted croissant Thursday to investigate what my environs have on offer in this department, and I have not been bowled over. The two I tried from neighbourhood bakeries were nice, but I have had better and the Eric Kayser croissant I tried was downright disappointing. He is a big name in baking (or so my guide book tells me), but his croissant was neither flaky nor buttery and it tasted like it had been in the shop for a while. At eight in the morning, that is just silly. The bakeries in my new neighbourhood are up next.
A notable purchase (before I end this litany of “look where my money has gone”- please excuse me while I get used to Paris prices) came today after a visit to the Pantheon. Thoroughly cold from shuffling past the tombs of lots of French people I didn’t know (and a few I did: Marie Curie being the notable one because she was the first woman in the Pantheon in 1995), I trekked across the snow-covered Jardin de Luxembourg to get to Christian Constant on Rue d’Assas (recommended in Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris).
The fountain at the Jardin de Luxembourg was frozen, it was that cold, so a hot chocolate seemed like just the thing. And it was. Or at least this hot chocolate was. Described as the house specialty “with a touch of bitterness”, it was thick, intense and oh-so-good. My 6,50 Euro bought me a pot for two small cups, and they were worth every cent. It is just a good thing this shop isn’t around the corner, or I would have to institute hot chocolate Sunday. And then how would I finance all that lovely bread?