"I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles", run the lyrics of the Cole Porter song, and we agree with him wholeheartedly. A walk along the Seine under a brilliant blue summer sky is enough to remind us why Paris is as close to perfection as any city can get.
The sights of Paris, such as the Eiffel tower or Notre Dame cathedral, are so iconic that even people who have never visited France are familiar with them. And yet, every time you see them they still take the breath away. In Paris recently for just a few days, we managed to pack in all the highlights and marvel anew at our favourite sights.
The grand boulevards of Paris, lined with magnificent buildings, are designed to awe visitors. No matter where you are you can always have a vantage point that offers a sweeping vista from which to appreciate the beauty of the city.
In spite of the monumental scale of the city, the true charms of Paris have to be appreciated at a much smaller scale. From the narrow cobbled streets echoing with history, to stores that sell kitchen equipment whose design does not appear to have changed in centuries, there is enough to keep you occupied for a lifetime of browsing.
One of my favourite stops is E. Dehillerin. Featured in one of Anthony Bourdain's TV shows, it is also where Julia Child used to shop. Oh, how easy it is to lose yourself for hours in the narrow aisles stuffed with every imaginable cookware you could possibly desire!
Paris food markets are like no other in the world, overflowing with an astonishing range of produce, cheeses, baked goods and meats. We made our way to Rue Mouffetard early on a Sunday morning for some breakfast and shopping.
Not only is there a buzzing flea market happening on this long, winding and lively street, there are also produce stalls, fresh seafood, baked goods and many, many varieties of cheese. Wind your way around groups of chatty locals, admire street performers, soak in the ambiance and grab some foodie souvenirs to bring back home!
Paris was where café culture was invented, and it is still where much of the life of the city still unfolds. Books were written, philosophies discussed, conspiracies hatched and revolutions planned on these café tables. Just sipping a cup of coffee at one of these tables will give you a thrill of connection with famous personalities gone by!
The food we ate in Paris was always spectacular. Trying out traditional French dishes such as Pâté en Croûte, Terrine and Croque-Monsieur, while sitting at a table outside and watching the world go by, just made it so much more memorable!
The ultimate French bistro food, Croque-Monsieur is easy to make, perfect for brunch and loved by everybody!
For another classic Paris bistro dish, try French Onion Soup!
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup warm milk
1-1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp each: ground black pepper, herbes de Provence, smoked paprika, ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp prepared grainy or Dijon mustard
8 slices country style bread, about 1/2 inch thick each
8 slices ham
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking tray with parchment.
Melt butter in skillet set over medium heat. Add flour, stir until incorporated, about 30-45 sec. Add milk, whisking until smooth and slightly thickened, about 30-45 sec. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese and stir until melted and smooth, another 30 sec.
Remove skillet from heat and mix in salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, paprika, nutmeg and mustard. Set aside. béchamel cheese sauce will thicken further as it cools.
Toast bread lightly. Place 4 slices of toasted bread on work surface. Spread 1 heaping tbsp of the béchamel cheese sauce evenly over each slice. Layer 2 of the ham slices over top of each slice of bread. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese evenly over ham on all the slices. Top with remaining 4 slices of toasted bread. Press down gently to hold filling.
Spread another 1 heaping tbsp of the béchamel cheese sauce evenly over bread, then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese over each slice.
Carefully place sandwiches on parchment lined baking tray. Bake for 10 min or until cheese is melted and tops are lightly browned. If desired, brown tops under broiler for 1 min.
Slice sandwiches in half and serve warm.