Written by Maggie Battista
My first week in Paris has been hard. I don’t know the language and my French classes aren’t making me a master anytime soon. I don’t know the city at all, and the Metro system has felt nothing like the subway systems of New York or Boston, probably due to all those darn French words I just don’t understand. My neighborhood in the 18th is fine and my apartment is sweet, but they just don’t feel like home.
(I know, I know. I’m super lucky to be spending three glorious months in the City of Light, but sympathize with me for a few more paragraphs, okay?)
Yesterday, I wanted to pack it in, give in to this beautiful but totally foreign city. I was about to shut myself away in my little apartment and venture out only when I had to finally get to French ecole (school) on Monday morning. Working against the little voice inside my tÃªte (head), I forced myself out into the city. And with sore feet from all these vicious hills and rough pavement, I found myself completely lost.
Then, my phone rang.
One of my dearest girlfriends from home, a woman married to a French man, walked me through getting to the Galleries Lafayette (where I needed to scout out some real, but chic walking shoes). Her surprise call and the corresponding little triumph (comfy shoes found!), came at the most perfect moment. It boosted my confidence, and gave me the will to venture out again today.
Today, I found Le Marais. Or rather, ten years after I first traversed it’s narrow streets, Le Marais found me. Every street felt familiar. Each building made me remember. The neighborhood reminded me of Boston’s South End and New York City’s Nolita all at once, but better, sweeter, far lovelier. And as I wandered off the main boulevards, I finally felt at home.
I got a little lost here and there, walking up and down side streets searching out a little restaurant for my birthday lunch. (Yes, happy birthday to me! I’m old. Don’t ask.) But I didn’t mind feeling lost there. And the moment I was about to pull out my map to figure out the locale of Glou, my phone rang. The husband called to say a quick hello, to ensure I was making the most of my birthday. As I hung up, I looked up and voila! There was Glou.
Glou is a parfait (perfect) little spot for a special meal. It’s chic and sparse enough to feel like your own modern gastro-pub, but friendly enough to cater to my silly American questions. They had an English version of their menu, which made ordering a breeze. Of course, I already knew the French word for Champagne. (Um, it’s Champagne, folks.) And while I do believe that on some level I could survive on Champagne alone, I opted to order a few plates.
The Utah Beach huÃ®tres (oysters) were the best oysters of my life, and I promise that’s not because I ate them in Paris. These oysters are special. Utah Beach (in Normandy) is the spot to farm oysters in France. The taste of these delightful specimens was certainly salty, but also uplifting, bright and citrusy. The oysters were served with a big pat of butter with which to spread over the brown bread in my basket. I suspected it was Breton butter, the best in France. (Butter elates me almost as much as Champagne. Almost.) In Brittany, they serve their seafood with bread and butter, something I learned from Anthony Bourdain recently. (Check out the preview to his Brittany episode on YouTube.)
I rounded out my meal with a bowl of pumpkin soup that warmed me from the inside. It was pure pumpkin and radiantly orange, with bits of fresh herbs on top. As I slurped sweetly (of course!), I gabbed with my fellow sole diner, a kind girl from Brazil, about the pure pumpkin flavor. We sipped espressos together and then went on our ways.
So not only did the divine intervene and lead me to Glou – my husband is going to love that I associated him with ‘the divine’ – but the divine once again gave me a dining partner and a delicious birthday lunch. I stepped back out into Paris and wandered down every little street confidently.
I couldn’t find this fabulous little wine shop, Julien Cavieste, that a food friend recommended, but slowly (and surely) parts of Paris will begin to feel like home to me and I will venture out once again to find that wine shop.
Because I need more Champagne. This half-bottle of brut rose is disappearing fast.
Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is now supporting entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses in service, food, & retail through Eat Boutique Studio. Follow Maggie Battista on Instagram.