La Première Semaine

My first week in Paris is coming to a close and I must say the days vanished.

One view from the tower of Notre Dame de Paris
The activities of week 1 were varied and relaxed.  At this point, exploration is my main focus during down-time.  I want to familiarize myself with Houilles, Paris and anywhere else I might find myself on a regular basis.  Paris is relatively easy to explore without feeling lost as a landmark can always orient you.  So, as of yet there has been no real anxiety on my part about being lost or feeling unsafe.

One of the nicest Parisian pastimes is window shopping.  Not only fancy department stores put real effort into their displays; chocolatiers, shoe shops, and stationary stores all have impressive or pleasing arrangements.  

Murciano shop window in Le Marais 
Patrick Roger chocolate showpiece in the window

One would, however, be remiss in just looking. Sometimes, it's necessary to head on in and try. Especially where food is concerned.  

So far, I have eaten some pretty delicious food. It's a treat to be in a new place and try all there is to offer.  I think it might take me the full seven months to even scratch the surface of Paris' food scene.

Strudel au Pavot
One of the most memorable delicacies I have tasted this week was "strudel au pavot" from Murciano.  A soft, sweet, pastry dough sandwiches a moist filling of poppy seeds and dates.  It was also certainly filling, so worth the 3€. 

There is a Crêperie everywhere you go.  I have had two this week.  One sweet - chocolat noir avec amandes -  and one savory - complet.  The savory variety is made with buckwheat flour, so it's vaguely healthier and slightly darker in appearance.  In my case, "complet" was filled with egg, ham and cheese and finished with butter.  It can be mesmerizing to watch the sellers whip up your meal to order.

admittedly an unattractive photograph of my crepe chocolat noir avec amandes
The most posh morsel I've eaten thus far was a pistache et abricot macaron from Pierre Hermé.  I went to the small storefront on Avenue de l'Opéra with elegant automatic doors, dark luxurious interiors and absurdly helpful employees who spoke to me in English even when I tried French.  For the record, I continued speaking my meager French.

maracons arabesque
Before the Villages de Noël closed for the season, I did have the chance to browse and try a warm dish from the French Alps called tartiflette.  It's a heavy meal consisting of potatoes, cheese, meat, and seasoning.  PSA: if you get this, share it with a friend.  

Today, I went to the local market in Houilles with my host mom.  The market is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.  There are vendors of all sorts, yarn, shoes, jewelry, and lots and lots of food.  My host mom likes one grocer in particular, so we bought lots vegetables and fruits from his stall inside the covered portion of the market.  He was exceptionally friendly and spoke no English, but told me that he has family in New York.  Truly, he was so kind and gave us extra haricots verts and a container of lychees just for me.  The point was to prove that French markets are better than American ones, though he conceded that in the US we have better organic markets.  In terms of friendliness and generosity, he certainly proved his point.  My host parents joked that now if they want to go to the market they have to take me so that they can get a little extra for free.  I can't wait to go back next week.

gratuit lychees

Of course there is much more to share: experiences, anecdotes, foods and happenings, but for now...

à bientôt


Bonjour à tous : Henrianna in France

In a few days, I will find myself outside of my comfort zone.  Christmas Eve will find me in an airport en route to Paris, France.

I know it will be strange to find my feet on the ground at Charles de Gaulle on Christmas morning and not on the familiar Persian carpets at my family home.

It will be odd to know that I won't see the Virginia trails for at least 7 months, that I won't see my nieces and nephew.  Much will be different.

Isn't it interesting how in this realm of "firsts" I am so very aware of "lasts" as well?  Knitted into life are yarns of contrasting colors.  Black and white, firsts and lasts.

So reader, I hope you will join me for this new adventure.  There is sure to be excitement, photographs of food, snippets of life, and thoughts galore.  Give me your wisdom, your suggestions, your requests.

 À bientôt