Ten days in Paris.

It’s not a movie, not a song- it’s the first step of a honeymoon. Now that we’re safely south we can look back on it with some perspective.

There were some wins, some absolute must dos and some things that I probably only needed to do once- Friday night at the Louvre where everyone under 26 gets in free might be one of those. I’ve never seen so many slack jawed study-abroad students crammed in one place, with a camera held aloft because “Mom said I had to come here -can we go get a beer now…?”

Here’s a shortlist of some of our picks of Paris and our pilgrimages;

Altitude 95.

Sure you’ve got to go to the Eiffel tower. You’ve got to wait in line, you’ve got to get to at least one level and you’re probably going to get hungry at some point because it’s cold up there and you get hungrier when it’s cold. if you’re made of human flesh and not dipped in gold you won’t be able to bring yourself to pay 90 euro for a main course, despite how tempting it might be to skip the queues and go to the dedicated Jules Verne elevator- even if Alain Ducasse has just taken the restaurant over and if it’s where Tom proposed to his kitten.

Altitude 95 is the restaurant on the first level It’s interior design isn’t anything to write home about, more Dr Strangelove than anything and while it’s pretty hard to get a table at the window you can still see all the way to Sacre Couer and beyond. The plat du jour lunch isn’t bad for one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. For 29 euro you get a choice of entrée and main or main and dessert. If you’re us, you get one of each and have an ad hoc three courses. Pinching yourself that you’re there and to recover from the cold outside you can cocoon with Mont st Michel oysters with lemon and an acrid red wine and shallot vinegar dribble, beef burgundy with mash potatoes and chocolate fondant pudding with crème angais all swilled about with a glass of Loire rose and a Beaujolais. You then get to relax and look at the view- and the view of those looking at the view.

Seriously, are they ever going to watch those videos they’re all making again..?

Flora

There’s plenty of flora to be seen in the gardens of Paris. The Tuilleries are lovely. So are the Luxembourg gardens. But this is the one that I’d recommend everyone make their way to.

Flora Mikula used to work for Alain Passard and now she’s set up her own place in the Eighth, on Ave George V.

Flora (the restaurant)is playful, sweet and the food is seriously good- if like the Hungry One you’re confident enough in your masculinity to over come the candy pink room and fake bird cage nestling in the corner. The menu de jour is again great value at lunch- from memory it was around 38 euro for three courses, with an amuse bouche and petit fours if you opt for cafe.

I’d go again just for the Lord of the Rings style Two Towers of marrow bones stuffed with a tomato based braise of spicy chorizo, escargots and tiny dice of carrot and onion the Hungry One ordered and I poached.

When you keep digging down you’ll also discover inside a treasure trove of semolina gnocchi. Hot brioche, boozy with butter and busting about with olives makes the perfect thing to mop your plate with. If you’re game enough to take on the towers and move the marrow bones about all the best bits are hiding at the bottom. An honorary mention has to be made of the petit fours- the lollypop stick of chocolate came studded with little crunchy looking malt nuggets. You can’t help but blurt out giggling as they snap crackle and pop all over your mouth.

Flora has rolled them in Moon Rocks. Love it

O Chateau French wine tasting

To get a better handle on telling our Beaujolais from our Burgundy from our Bordeaux- we turned to O-Chateaux. Part of the Hungry One’s wedding present it was a two hour tasting with O-Chateau’s founder, the friendly French sommelier Olivier at his loft in Oberkamfp. There’s something about Olivier that smacks of a French, wine soaked Jamie Oliver- but in a great way. Whether he’d hate that reference or find it mildly flattering, who’s to know.

He’s charming, funny, relaxed about the finer details, dismissive of pretence but definite in him aim to impart an appreciation and curiosity for French wines so you can then go and discover more yourself. His reaction to the young American part of our tasting who said “I like wine, but only if I can get it for about a euro. Otherwise, what’s the point?” was priceless.

If we were actively auditioning for new friends I’d be tempted to try and coax him to the top of the list.

We did the evening tasting of 7 wines- a champagne, three whites and three reds all in various strengths from various regions. There were around 20 in a group and the people it attracted were English speakers from all over the world. He had some great recommendations about where we should go in Burgundy and had a generous hand when he poured. We liked him alot.

Laduree

Oh macarons, where have you been all our lives ? Crunchy yet squishy- they’re a textural paradise for the Hungry One- and he’s ALL about the texture- just ask our bemused wedding florist, who inherited “ I’d just like there to be lots of textures” as her brief- Btw- she did incredibly well.

We tried a couple of macarons on our first days in their mother country of France but then had to go to the source. After trying Laduree we then had no choice but to say to imposters we encountered “That’s not my macaron, it’s biscuit is too squishy!” “That’s not my macaron, it’s centre is too gooey” “That’s not my macaron, it’s flavor is too timid!”

Oh Laduree- you’re such a cruel cruel place- its beautiful boxes come in a sensible size that fits 15 macarons- but they make 18 flavours. We had to leave behind the licorice, choc mint and the lime. It was only after demolishing the chocolate cherry, milk flavoured, lemon, hazelnut, vanilla rose, raspberry, lavender and dark chocolate that we started to feel ok about our choices. We were even ok about getting lost trying to find our way there and having to stand in the rain to find our way to the front of the queue.