Image

La Grande Mosquée de Paris

The Grande Mosquée de Paris in the Latin Quarter was built from 1922 to 1926, initially to honor the 100 000 muslims from the French colonial empire who fell fighting for France in World War I. Constructed in the Hispano-Moorish style after the el-Qaraouiyyin mosque in Fez (one of the most ancient in the world) it is dominated by a spectacular 33m high square minaret – inspired by the Zitouna mosque in Tunisia – and is set around a beautiful central patio that is also reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada. It serves as both a place of religious worship, a centre of Islamic culture and as a place of learning – it is home to a historic library and an Islamic school, and is an important symbol of Franco-Arab friendship.

It is the oldest mosque in France, and you can visit it with or without a guide (entry is 3€). It has been built and since restored by craftsmen from North Africa, and the traditional workmanship, particularly in the tiling and woodwork is extraordinarily beautiful. Note that entrance to the prayer rooms is restricted to Muslim visitors only.

From the rue Geoffrey St Hilaire you can enter two beautiful courtyards, where you can order a sweet pastry or a lokoum (Turkish delight) and then sit under the shade of a tree and wait for the waiters to pass by with trays of delicious hot mint tea. Sipping the sweet tea, smelling the jasmine blossoms on the trees and listening to the birds singing, you are a world away from the bustle of the city outside.

There is also a women only hammam and a restaurant serving typical North African food.

Café Grande Mosquée de Paris

  • Grande Mosquée de Paris, 2 Place Puits de l’Ermite, 75005. metro: Place Monge or Censier Daubenton

Mosque: open daily except Fridays, 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00

Tea room and restaurant: open daily 12:00 – midnight

Image

The prettiest squares in Paris – Place Furstenberg & La Maison du Chou

If you want to catch a glimpse of the St Germain des Près of days gone by, you should head for Place Furstenberg. Loved by filmmakers (remember the final scene in Scorsese’s Age of Innocence?) this charming little square is hidden just off the Boulevard St Germain. It’s worlds away from the designer boutiques and crowds on the boulevard, and if you didn’t go looking for it you would never know it was there.

It is, in my opinion, the prettiest square in Paris, at least it’s my favourite and always has been. It’s certainly the most discreet, perhaps the most elegant, and probably one of the quietest. The painter Delacroix had his studio here (now a small museum) and Claude Monet later had a studio above it. Now it’s home to 4 beautiful paulownia trees and a few small shops.

Another excellent reason to visit Place Furstenberg is La Maison du Chou. This tiny boutique sells melt-in-your-mouth choux pastries that are filled for you on the spot with your choice of fresh creamy fillings. Take away or eat in, there are a few small tables at the back of the shop where you can enjoy the cream puffs in the quiet with a cup of tea or coffee.

Slightly tangy and not too sweet (the filling is made with fromage blanc), delicate and delicious, they are a perfect match for the elegant beauty of their surroundings.

  • Place Furstenberg, 75006 Paris.  metro: St Germain des Près
  • La Maison du Chou. 7 rue de Furstenberg, 75006. Open Mon-Sun 11:00 – 19:00
Image

Lunch in the Marais: the Swedish Institute café

The Marais is a beautiful part of the city to spend a day. One of the few areas that was not destroyed and rebuilt under Haussmann’s redesign of the city in the mid-19th century, it still retains the charm and history of the narrow streets of old Paris.

There are plenty of wonderful places to eat. I recently discovered one that is perfect for a sandwich and a cake, and is also extremely good value – something that can’t be said for many places in the area. The Café Suedois is housed in the Swedish Institute, and boasts a tiny café sitting in a beautiful cobblestone courtyard typical of the ‘hotel particuliers’, or grand old mansions of the Marais. The sandwiches are open faced Swedish style, which makes a very welcome change from a baguette now and again, the cakes and typical Swedish baked goods are homemade and delicious. Throw in some free wifi, and I could happily spend hours here.

The Swedish Institute also hosts many art shows and concerts, as well as offering Swedish lessons. Check out their website for upcoming events (it’s only in French or Swedish though I’m afraid!).

  • Le Café Suédois (in thé Institut Suédois), 11 rue Payenne, 75003 Paris. metro: St Paul or Chemin Vert

Open Tues-Sun, midday to 6PM

Japan meets Paris – Sadaharu Aoki

Imagine a tiny shop, filled with jewel coloured cakes, each more beautiful than the last. Then imagine the best of French patisserie, infused with Japanese flavours – green tea, yuzu, wasabi or sesame. To me it’s a match made in heaven.

Sadaharu Aoki has been living and working in Paris for the past 20 years. He has 3 shops (the one at Port Royal is also a tea room) and a stand at Lafayette Gourmet, as well as supplying many of the couture houses during fashion week.

I’m a die hard fan of Pierre Hermé macaroons, but I have to admit that Sadaharu Aoki’s are amazingly delicious too. I love the flavours he uses, particularly the wasabi, earl grey and thé matcha. Slightly firmer than Pierre Hermé’s, the flavours are intense and beautiful.

Drop into one of his shops if you get a chance, they are a visual feast and a wonderful treat for your taste buds!

  • Sadaharu Aoki, 35 rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris / 56 Bd de Port Royal, 75005 Paris     25 rue Pérignon, 75015 Paris / Lafayette Gourmet, Bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris

Where to find Sadaharu Aoki in Paris

Eclairs in the Marais

Who can resist an eclair in Paris? Or anywhere else for that matter. I certainly can’t…

As we know, when it comes to food, the French take things to a different level, and eclairs of course are no exception. If you find yourself in the Marais, make a detour to the rue Pavée and a tiny shop called l’Eclair de Génie. You won’t regret it.

eclair-de-genie-paris-marais

The eclairs are absolutely beautiful, they look almost too good to eat. There is a wide array of delicious flavours and they change regularly so you can go back often and always find new ones.

I’ve been twice recently, the first time I chose raspberry, this time lemon and yuzu. Both were delicious! Get one and take it to the nearby Place des Vosges to enjoy on a bench. That way you get a double treat – eat an amazing French pastry in one of the most beautiful squares in the city.

  • l’Eclair de Génie, 14 rue Pavée, 75004 Paris.   metro: St Paul

Eclair de Genie website

Image

Tea time at Angelina

Angelina is a Parisian institution that has been around since 1903.

A beautiful Belle Epoque tea room, Angelina was opened by a confectioner and named after his daughter in law. The decoration inside the tea room has not changed to this day. It quickly became the fashionable place to be seen. Coco Chanel was a regular, she always sat at table number 10 by the mirror and legend has it she came every day for the hot chocolate. Marcel Proust was also often to be seen here, as were many of the great French couturiers.

It is not to be missed by anybody who takes their cakes and pastries seriously.

However my favourite thing at Angelina, and one of the things that has made it most famous, is the hot chocolate, known as l’Africain. It’s so thick you almost need a spoon to drink it, it’s beautifully rich and comes with a pot of whipped cream for even more indulgence. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, as is that of it’s other iconic treat, the Mont Blanc, a ball of meringue covered in cream and chestnut purée.

Be prepared to stand in line for the tea room on busy days, however it’s well worth the wait. There is also a beautiful shop selling all of their cakes to go, as well as bottles of the famous hot chocolate. Otherwise, you can skip the line and go straight into the shop, buy a cup of the hot chocolate and take it into the Tuileries just over the road to enjoy on a chair in the sunshine.

  • Angelina, 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris

Angelina

Angelina can also be found in the Louvre, the Palace and Petit Trianon at Versailles, and the Luxembourg Gardens.

Berthillon on the Ile St Louis

Summer in Paris wouldn’t be the same without Berthillon ice cream. A family run establishment that has been situated on the Ile St Louis for 60 years, they are generally acknowledged to be the best in the city.

The list of flavours of ice creams and sorbets is incredibly long, and they are made with all natural ingredients, no preservatives or artificial sweeteners here. In a year they will produce over 60 different flavours, depending on the season. Their main shop is situated on the rue St Louis en l’Ile but they are sold by other shops on the island, we bought ours at one just around the corner to avoid the long lines.

Be careful, their main shop closes for the whole month of August! They are also closed Monday and Tuesday. The others retailers remain open though.

Make sure you don’t miss it – I can of course vouch for the fact that they are extremely delicious! Even friends who are not crazy about ice cream and who I insist try one end up agreeing they are wonderful.

  • Maison Berthillon, 31 rue St Louis en l’Ile, 75004 Paris. Metro: Pont Marie

Ice cream at Pierre Hermé

We’ve been back to Pierre Hermé, it’s hard to stay away…!
As the weather is so beautiful we decided to try the ice cream – I’ve been wanting to for a while, especially as it has such a fantastic name. Miss Gla Gla: ice cream in French is ‘glace’, and ‘gla gla’ is what tiny French children (or cartoon characters!) say when they are cold.

I chose Ispahan, which was originally the macaroon flavour which contributed to making him famous: rose, litchi and raspberry.

What can I say?

P1060557Heaven…

It’s sandwiched between 2 thin layers of macaroon and needless to say is amazingly delicious. Sitting on a shady bench on the square by St Sulpice Church on a Saturday afternoon and eating this was a real treat.

Miss Gla Gla is available all summer and there are several fantastic flavours to choose from, so don’t miss out!

P1060561

Pierre Hermé

  • 72 rue Bonparte, 75006 Paris. Metro: St Sulpice
  • 4 rue Cambon, 75001 Paris. Metro: Concorde
  • 39 avenue de l’Opera, 75002 Paris. Metro: Pyramides or Opera

 

Cocktail party by Le Notre

The French have this wonderful thing called a ‘cocktail dinatoire’, which is drinks – usually champagne – accompanied by lots of little snacks, enough so that you don’t need to have a dinner. And in France food not only sometimes becomes an art form, but is always more than delicious.

The other evening I went to one catered by Le Notre. The food was so beautiful it almost seemed a pity to eat it.

Then I realised it would be impolite to not to try some, so I made sure I had one of each, at least.

They have several shops dotted around Paris. Maybe a good place to pick up a picnic! Or at least some good ideas…

Le Notre

The best macaroons in Paris?

As far as I am concerned, Pierre Hermé is the king of macaroons, and believe me I have tried many…

P1050965

His shops are like tiny jewel boxes, filled with a mouth watering array of beautiful coloured gems, especially the one on the rue Bonaparte. He also makes the most beautiful and delicious cakes and chocolates, but the macaroons are what most people go for. Flavours change regularly with the seasons, so you can go often and never get bored. The thing that amazes me the most is how you can taste each flavour separately within often quite a complex mix, and yet they all harmonize together perfectly.

If you buy them in the shop on rue Cambon it’s just across from the Tuileries gardens, a perfect place to find a seat and enjoy them. If you’re at rue Bonaparte, the square outside St Sulpice church just opposite is lovely, and the café staff don’t seem to mind people having a coffee and eating them in there or on their terrace.

And this year I have discovered something even better, if you are a regular visitor to Paris, each month he brings out a new flavour in a series called ‘Les Jardins’. These are all based on fruit and flowers, and each time you buy one you get a card with it’s picture on. It’s a nice way to be encouraged to try new flavours, some strange sounding ones that I may have otherwise hesitated over turned out to be surprising discoveries!

Pierre Hermé

  • 72 rue Bonparte, 75006 Paris.  Metro: St Sulpice
  • 4 rue Cambon, 75001 Paris.  Metro: Concorde
  • 39 avenue de l’Opera, 75002 Paris.  Metro: Pyramides or Opera

Where to buy Pierre Hermé macarons