Thursday, August 31, 2006

Le Petit Plaisir

My dear French friend, Audrey, taught me the joy of the petit plaisir- that is, the small luxury that all French people allow themselves from time to time. The idea of the petit plaisir is that we should treat ourselves to a mini-extravagance once in a while. Here then are five little luxuries to savor in Paris.

Hot Chocolate at Angelina
Audrey introduced me to the legendary Angelina tea salon on Rue de Rivoli where Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, and Marcel Proust were frequent customers. It’s a lavish affair with Belle-Epoque mirrors and gilded moldings. The hot chocolate appears in a pitcher, with enough thick, decadent potion for at least three cups, finished off with dollops of homemade whipped cream from a silver pot. Bon appetit!

Angelina, 225 Rue de Rivoli, 8th arrondissement. Metro: Tuileries.

La Sainte-Chapelle
La Sainte-Chapelle is a jewel box of a cathedral. It has two tiers, the lower chapel at ground level is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the upper chapel has radiant tall windows, as well as a small balcony. From the website: Sainte-Chapelle was built during the second half of 13th Century by Louis IX, the future Saint Louis, to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. Adorned with a unique collection of fifteen glass panels and a large rose window forming a veritable wall of light, Sainte-Chapelle is a gem of French gothic architecture.

La Sainte Chapelle, 4 boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris Tél: 43 73 78 41, Metro: Cité

Posh Picnic
A picnic is that oh-so-Parisian way to enjoy an afternoon in the sun. Luxembourg Gardens offer long, tree-lined pathways for strolling down, the sumptuous Baroque Medici Fountain (pictured above), a merry-go-round, a puppet theater, and short but thrilling pony rides for kids. Stop at any local boulangerie or patisserie for a baguette and adorable petits-fours (miniature cakes, tarts, and eclairs). Then find some creamy cheese and a bottle of wine and you have an instant feast!

Luxembourg Gardens is located in the Latin Quarter and bordered on the east by the boulevard Saint Michel and on the north side by rue Vaugirard and the Odeon Theatre, 6th arrondissement. Metro: Odéon

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges is Paris’s oldest square. Located in le Marais on the right bank, it’s truly one of my favorite neighborhoods. An arcade extends around the entire square including Victor Hugo’s former home. You can also shop along Rue des Francs- Bourgeois with its many restaurants and art galleries that now make their home in what were private residences in another century.

The Place des Vosges is located in le Marais, and is part of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.

Ice cream at Berthillon
Berthillon is a long-time French institution on the Île Saint-Louis, a small island in the center of the city. They are known for their fresh ingredients and superb flavors like Grand-Marnier, Honey Nougat, and Coffee with whiskey. I recommend a homemade boule of vanilla or chocolate served with a little wafer.

Glacier Berthillon, 29-31 rue Saint Louis en l'ile, 75004 Paris, Tél: 01 43 54 31 61 Open: Wednesday through Sunday- 10am to 8pm


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