Monday, 12 March 2007

10 days of solitude

For years I have been amassing print-outs and clippings detailing Paris' best eats. Despite making only one, brief trip to the City of Lights during this time, I revelled in the anticipation, assured that when circumstances allowed for a more leisurely visit, nothing that passed my lips would be less than extraordinary.

Throughout the fall and early winter, as a first interview turned into a second and then a third, something that I had never given any serious thought to--the possibility of actually moving to France--grew ever closer. On the last day of February, I boarded the Eurostar, carrying a suitcase of clothes, the address of my new office and a battered folder of culinary tips. My challenge over the next ten days was three-fold: to find an apartment, to begin to acclimate to a proper job and to eat as well as time and budget allowed.

In the first and second objectives, I proved reasonably successful. A rather stressful scouring of Paris's rental market yielded a small 1 bedroom apartment in an almost-fashionable area. As well as wood floors and an old cast iron fireplace, it also boasted an oven (surprisingly rare) and proximity to both street markets and small food shops. In the professional sphere, I was lucky as well, discovering my colleagues to be exceptionally friendly and helpful, and my work varied and substantive.

When it came to food, however, my ambitions were quickly bested. Despite, or perhaps because of, my lofty goals, I felt uninspired and overwhelmed. And while I've done most of my travelling solo, the prospect of dining alone was now unappealing. My thoughts about cooking (I was staying somewhere with adequate facilities) ran likewise. Everything seemed too much bother to do for one, particularly when the conversation-less meal was finished in twenty minutes.

So I found myself, more nights than not, assembling a peculiar, though not unsatisfying, triptych. Within ten minutes of my temporary apartment (located on the ritzy Ile St Louis) was a low-key wine bar cum book store. Even though I couldn't read any of the books, this proved a congenial spot for a quick glass. From there I took my place in the ever-present line for L'As du Felafel, whose assembly-men quickly welcomed me as a habitue. I've often made this my first stop when arriving in Paris, though in this case, the fantastic food was almost an afterthought. The final stop, just around the corner from the apartment, was another old favorite, Berthillon. The glace and sorbet here come with hefty price tags, but the intense flavors rival the best Italian gelato. And as for their salted caramel ice cream, which I'm hardly the first to have discovered, this will put a smile on even the most lonesome girl's face.

La Belle Hortense
31 rue Vielle due Temple, 4th (Hotel de Ville). Open daily 5-2

L'As du Felafel
34 rue de Rosiers, 4th (Hotel de Ville). Open long hours except Saturdays

Take-out from two eponymous shops, as well as numerous no-name vendors on the Ile St
Louis. Can usually be found from mid-morning to about 10 pm

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