This past week my husband and I were lucky enough to have been the lecturers for a Paris tour for Amherst College alums and friends. The themes of this early summer trip were art, history, and food.
Highlights included a tour of the Paris (Garnier) Opera house with a rare backstage visit, trips to the Louvre, the Jacquemart-André, the Nissim de Camondo, and the Rodin Museums, and a walk through the Invalides where Napoleon rests. Another day we took a stroll through the Marais on Paris’ Right Bank, stopping at the gorgeous La Place des Vosges.
Naturally we managed to spend plenty of time enjoying la cuisine française. Our group had a fabulous wine-tasting dinner at the Left Bank Il Vino restaurant, and spent a day traveling to Reims in Champagne where we indulged in a delectable midday feast at the Michelin-starred Le Millénaire, followed by a Champagne tasting at a nearby vineyard. At the Jacquemart-André Museum we even lunched under a Tiepolo ceiling. We also had a cooking class at the Cordon Bleu!
In between all of these activities, many of us found time to sample sweet treats at Left Bank patisseries. My two favorite pastry shops were short walks from our hotel. Pierre Hermé is located on rue Bonaparte right near the famous Eglise St. Sulpice and La Pâtisserie des Rêves is on the rue du Bac.
Pierre Hermé has been called the “Picasso of pastry,” and it’s not hard to understand why. His pastries, cakes, and macaroons are truly works of art. Currently, I am hooked on his Tarte Infiniment Vanille (a sweet pastry crust, topped with white chocolate ganache, finished with vanilla-scented mascarpone) made with three types of vanilla. There are countless other confections to tempt the gourmand. The unbelievable choice of macaroons—salted caramel, rose, and pistachio, for example--are all colorful and addictive.
At La Pâtisserie des Rêves, Philippe Conticini displays his extraordinary creations under glass domes (“sous cloche” as the French say). His inventions are so special they should be displayed like jewels. He is a genius at transforming classic French pastries into new creations. His “éclairs au chocolat” are wrapped in a paper-thin coating of dark chocolate. His St. Honoré is brilliantly presented on a base of puff pastry topped with caramel-glazed “chou” pastry puffs and mounds of ethereally light whipped cream. And, for something really different and delicious, there is the “pain gourmand à la vanille—a light airy roll scented perfectly with vanilla.
I’m including the addresses of these pastry shops for those of you who might be thinking of a future visit to Paris. Our trip was organized by the incredible team at Academic Arrangements Abroad so I’ll add their contact information as well.
And, stay tuned to my blog as I’ll be posting more on my stay in Paris in the days ahead! Bon appétit from the City of Light!
72, rue Bonaparte
Metro- St Sulpice
La Pâtisserie des Rêves
93, rue du Bac
Academic Arrangements Abroad
1040 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10018-3721