In August last year, amidst the madness and nerves that constituted our final weeks and days in London, two of my dearest friends and I agreed that upon our return to France, whenever that may be, they would come to meet me in Paris. This far-away promise of reuniting with two people I ached to leave set my heart and mind at ease a bit, and I have to say that for the entire time we were in the Philippines, I looked forward with great anticipation to this trip.
It would cover so many bases for me: I’ve never been on a “city break,” mostly because I find it abhorrent to try and take in a city in a matter of two or three days. But I’ve been to Paris, and I didn’t have that pressure I associate with a new place – that need to sort of immerse myself culturally. I missed my friends terribly while I was away, but I also missed just being with girls I could be with…for lack of a better explanation, I could fart in front of these two without blushing. That’s comfort. While food isn’t usually the easiest thing for a vegan in France, it’s not a whole lot easier in the Philippines, and I was prepared to quite happily eat salads, bread and wine without a peep of resistance. But I also needed the chance to re-introduce myself to Paris. Paris and I have not had the best of experiences in the past.
Sadly, one of my friends couldn’t make it…life gets in the way. But M was there, and I have to say that it truly came together brilliantly. I won’t go into all the details of our visit – obviously we didn’t stop talking for more than the time it took to chew and/or swallow in the entire time we spent together. But I did want to shine the spotlight on where we stayed and what we ate.
Before I ever had the chance to develop a dysfunctional relationship with Paris, I had actually fallen deeply in love with the city by way of a number of films. the Three Colors trilogy, Before Sunset (an inferior-but-still-good sequel to Before Sunrise), and my predictable favorite, Amelie (which annoyingly came out like two months after Chris left the U.S. the first time). So I was really keen to find us a place near Montmatre.
With a lot of searching and a little luck I found Hotel Sofia, located on the rue of the same name. The place had been refurbished recently, and it looked like they were just putting the finishing touches on, but it was really lovely. Just one star – but remember, mes amis Americaines, the stars have to do with the services available, not the quality of the place – and all our needs were met. Two incredibly comfy beds, very clean, chic and simple decor, an excellent shower to boot. No elevator/lift that I could see, though, so that’s a bummer. We were not more than 15 minutes’ walk from Montmatre, and overall, I was really happy.
Next on the agenda: food. As previously mentioned, France can be a bit unfriendly to vegans:
Me (of course in my most impeccable French, but translated here for your convenience): “I’ll have the salade niçoise, with no fish or egg, please.”
Garçon: “But then what will you eat?”
Me: “Erm…the salad.”
Funnily enough, on our search for lunch near Montmatre one afternoon with Chris, the only place I could find anything was advertising “salade vegetarienne,” which I found hilarious. And delicious, I might add.
So I had done a bit of research to find places where M and I could eat in comfort, without having to explain my dietary requirements to the maitre d’. This was, of course, before I found this excellent resource, which is comprehensive, well-written, and pretty spot-on.
I did, however, find two places for our two nights. The first, Le Grenier de Notre-Dame, was located really close to the famous church of the same name, so M and I could amble about the streets along the river, poking into the myriad shops selling all sorts of things we didn’t need before we ate. The food was good, but it didn’t blow me away. Flavors could have been less bland, but no doubt it was healthy fixings. The second night we ate at Au Grain de Folie. The setting was super intimate – I’ve read that it feels a bit like someone’s home, and I think that’s about it, except that there are four tables. The owner was a little bit odd, and as she was on her own with a full house (which is, I think, the norm), service was pretty slow. Having said all that, the food was really tasty – much better than that of the previous evening – and really well-priced. I think if I lived nearby, I’d find it in my heart to deal with the moody owner once in a while.
So to summarize: I met M at the train station on the Wednesday morning…we traipesed over to Maoz (yummy falafel chain – in London and U.S., too) to eat with Chris, then strolled lackadaisically through shops near Notre-Dame, had coffee, strolled some more, had wine and cocktails, ate dinner, slept. Day two, we wandered about the little streets leading to Sacre Coeur in Mont Matre, met Chris for lunch, wandered about some more, stopped for tea, bought some goodies, had wine, went for dinner, and slept. We talked, we laughed, and I did indeed see a bit of progress in my relationship with that beautiful, if slightly arrogant, city…I wouldn’t call us the best of friends, but we’re getting there.