Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pandas in Paris!

On our 2nd day in Paris, we were out early.

We walked down Rue Beaubourg on our way to Notre Dame and we came across the Hotel de Ville.

Yes, we thought it was a hotel as well when we were there, & I only got to know that it wasn't one when I was doing a bit of research for this post a few nights ago.

The reason for our ignorance was because it was never on our list of places to go. We just happened to pass by en route to Notre Dame & thought that it was a nice place to sit down & eat our baguettes. Oh, this is French trash. I meant the green bag on the right. I don't know, I thought the French would have been more finicky about the aesthetics of it. It definitely wasn't pleasing to the eyes, & it wasn't arty in any way.

Furthermore, we've been seeing it on our maps & Hotel de Ville is also one of the more convenient underground train stops around which allowed us to change to other lines. So we thought it would be nice to drop by to see what it was all about.

Apparently, Hotel de Ville meant City Hall & it houses the administration of the City of Paris as well as the Mayor. It also has a large square in front where certain events like workers' strikes (more recent) & public executions (in the past) were held.

Oh, we weren't sure whether this was a public execution or a general strike, but the pandas do look a bit lost & preoccupied.

It turned out that there were 1600 of them & it was some kind of exhibition about WWF conservation.

The poster was pretty obvious even though it was in French. Both of us actually stood there & read it word for word. We realised that with some effort, it was possible to second guess & form our very own wild interpretations. We could only manage the first paragraph:

In 1960, China gave a panda to the London zoo. The Panda is a symbol of biodiversity & the logo of WWF, an organisation for the protection of the environment since 1961.

When we came down to the second paragraph, it got a bit crazy, & everything was like Tamil to us. I think it was talking about how Paulo worked with the Thai artists to make the Pandas out of paper maches etc. with the involvement of the villagers to encourage social responsibility.

There're only two outcomes from this:
1) either we're right on the bat
2) or we were wildly imaginative

To all readers out there, if you know French, please amuse us.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Paris: The Binging Has Begun (Edited)

Food has always been, & will always be the main priority in our trips. When we were in Hong Kong, we had the benefit of having a food guide book (thanks to Jo) which made our trip more orderly & well planned. It meant that we knew exactly where & what we were having for every single meal. This was the example of ultimate kiasu-ness.

However, unlike Hong Kong, our food adventure in Paris was the total opposite. It was like a hit & run. It was like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. We never knew what we were gonna get.

And on the first night of our stay in Paris, we had to bear the circumstances. We decided to dine at a cafe somewhere along Rue St. Martin (opposite the Centre Pompidou). The food there sucked so badly that I don't even have pictures of them. It was so miserable Nee wanted to cry.

NEE: So it's possible to have a disaster in the city of fine dining. We had some tripe sausages(which we felt was not even washed clean at all), then there was veal chop which tasted like cardboard. Both entre and dessert were not too bad but really not too great either.

But the next morning, we had to the tables were turned. We were still on the what we see, we get kinda mode, & we saw this.

At first sight, Nee immediately recognised what this was. At first sight, I kept thinking lingerie. The word passion just added to the confusion.

But despite that, I knew that it must be some kind of shop selling some kind of food.

NEE: Boulangeries are a very common sight in Paris. For every row of shops, we were almost guaranteed to bump into one.

Well, boulangerie is basically just a bread shop. There were all kinds, with different fancy French names to make them look more than just ordinary bread.

A bread shop in France is not just a shop that sells everything in the bread, cake and pastry universe, like Mita or Taka here. Bread shops there are called Boulangerie, while pastry shops are called Pattiserie. So, if you're looking for baguettes in a Pattiserie, you ain't gona find one.

The French are known to be very particular & exact about their food. Baguette is French national food, their daily bread, something like rice to the Chinese.

NEE: The French is very exact about their baguettes. It must weigh 250 to 300gm and measuring about 70cm in length and 6 cm in diameter. Those in the picture were cut into sandwich loafs. Euro 1.10 (RM 5.80)

Pain chocolat is croissant wrapped with chocolate.

NEE: And how can we leave France without their famous croissants. There is just something about French butter, which creates delectable croissants. We've had croissants many times before at hotel breakfasts & on the cruise & everywhere else, but these were just out of the world. You can taste the super light texture & smell the fragrance of the butter with every bite. They're definitely not like ours which is either too oily or tasteless with a waxy aftertaste. Well, the French are definitely good at these.

Greg: (Whisper) Technically speaking, deep down inside, they're all just plain bread... A roti is a roti, even if you call it rotiserrie or rotissant.

This was what we got from the boulangerie. It fed the two of us.

We ate it as breakfast, but when it got down into our tummy, it also became lunch. That is how filling it was.

NEE: This one that we got was definitely crusty on the outside, crackling as we bit into it and the inside was light and slightly chewy. Subtly doughy and salty. Definitely a Baguette!

French Croissants ~ this was the real deal, as originally French as it could get.

Now, I'm not usually big on quiches. They're usually so so & I wouldn't miss a thing if I don't have them. Usually my face is expressionless when I bite into them. But, but, but, this... QUICHE... WAS... SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO... GOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!! There were at least 10 expressions on my face.

NEE: They actually used rough puff pastry so beautifully and delicately done (not actually the mille feuille, which is the actual puff pastry with distinctive layer. This layering is not so distinct until you bite into it) and together with the egg mix, they just melted in my mouth.

All three items cost us less than 10 Euros (about RM50 thereabouts). Excuse me while I go mop my saliva off the floor.

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