Thursday, 8 August 2013

It's good to be back+ plant-based finds in Paris.

Bonjour, mes chers amis! 

I'm finally back from the bustling but beautiful city of light, love, and stairs: Paris. Being the art and architecture oriented person that I am, it's no surprise to anyone that I spent most of that time visiting as many museums as I possibly could. That, and snapping photos of awesome buildings along the way.

Since I flew from Manila, I only had to endure a 3-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur before flying again to Paris for another 10 hours or so. I can't say the same for my mum and two younger brothers though. Their 11-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur connected straight through to the 10-hour Paris flight. Ouch. Gotta love living in NZ, amirite?

At least it was this view that greeted us upon our arrival at Suresnes, about 40 minutes away from the city centre. The lovely French couple who owned the property showed us around their neighbourhood, and I was delighted to find a marché (market) selling fresh fruit and some vegetables. Hooray, I won't starve! Kidding, Paris is actually quite veg friendly.  Their summer weather was perfect too; sunny but with a bit of a breeze.

Our first day was spent wandering around La Defense and Bastille, trying to get used to the way their metro works. The monstrous white building that looks like an arch is La Grande Arche in La Defense, the business district of Paris. From there we rode the metro to Bastille, the site of a former fortress where the 14 July 1789 storming during the French Revolution occurred. I also got to visit Victor Hugo's house nearby, the author of Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris. The literature lover in me is still in awe!

That evening I also found this amaaaaaazing place called Monop' (its actually a convenience store easily found throughout Paris) that carries packed salads, sandwiches, and noodles. AND they had veg options! I got myself some tabouleh and carrot sticks, plus a big box of organic green lentils and cherry tomatoes to have for breakfast the following day. I swear, France has the juiciest, sweetest, most plump cherry tomatoes and grapes, EVER. Ever.

The second day was reserved for a relaxing day at the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Pantheon, plus a stroll along Rue Mouffetard, famous for its market. On the very same road also happens to be Vegan Folie's, a cute boutique that sells sandwiches, cookies, cupcakes and cheesecakes. I went for the citron bergamot cheesecake pictured below. Although it wasn't exactly melt in your mouth creamy like most cheesecakes are, I really enjoyed it's elegant flavours.

Earlier that day, I also had a salad with falafels from Maoz Vegetarian to fuel me up for all the walking we were about to do. They basically give you a container you can fill up with as many vegetables as you can possibly fit, then top it off with 3 falafels. 

We finished off the day at a restaurant near the Châtelet metro, and I was delighted to find out that they actually knew what I meant by végétalien. The place was called Victoria Cross, located on Avenue Victoria. Since I wasn't too famished, I happily enjoyed the salad filled with greens, carrots, tomatoes and the likes that the server presented me with. 

 The following day started with the realisation that the huge lot of plants by the tram station was actually a community garden. Naw, look at those pretty little vegetables...

 ... And now look at those pretty grotesque gargoyles. Although the wait to visit the Notre Dame towers took almost an hour, it was worth it because I got to see a spectacular view of Paris and meet these awesome little creatures.  

 Just a couple of minutes away was La Grenier de Notre Dame located on rue de la Bucherie. They serve a variety of food including salads, couscous, rice meals, and macrobiotic dishes. From memory the dish above was called L'assiette Berbere; it included some brown rice, herbed tofu, seitan strips, ratatouille, and a cabbage salad with figs.

Day four was the big day when my family and I visited the Tour Eiffel, originally designed as a temporary structure for the 1889 Exposition in Paris. Such sublime views from the top. Of course, when in Paris one cannot miss out on rue Saint-Honore and all the exquisite pastries on display. Ah, one day I dream of having my own plant-based pâtisserrie. 

That day also marked the beginning of the epic journey through Paris Museums, with the first one being the Centre Georges Pompidou that houses modern art. Just a couple of steps away is a Naturalia store, an all organic store that has locations throughout Paris. Their tabouleh and carrot salad were pretty dandy for 1.99 Euros each, so I'd definitely recommend this to those who don't wish to splurge on food. The same store had uh-mazing vanilla soy-based yoghurt called Soja Brasse, which tastes exactly like the ones I used to have. It doesn't have nasty preservatives or additives either, so double great. 

The fifth day started early for us to be able to make the most of Versailles. Even though we arrived relatively early and had a pre purchased Paris Museum Pass (I highly recommend getting it if you want to save time by not having to queue for tickets), the wait for the Chateau was still about an hour. We headed straight for the gardens instead, which to be honest I was more thrilled about. 

Pleasantly surprising was the restaurant within the gardens that offered a salad of pure vegetables. I wasn't quite so organised and ended up having to get that, which I then topped with some leftover carrot salad from the day before. I wasn't a huge fan of their salad which I'm pretty sure had canned, not fresh, green beans, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. If you visit Versailles, at least there's an option; but, it would probably be more enjoyable to bring your own food and have a picnic while enjoying the magnificent grounds.

For a very late dinner (10pm, eek!) my very hungry family headed for the nearest restaurant, which happened to be Firmin. They serve the usual Italian fare of pasta, pizza, and salads. I was so hungry and tired that I almost finished one entire pizza on my own. It doesn't help that the said pizza had artichokes, capsicums, and tomatoes on them. Mm. It is located just a couple of blocks away from the Tour Eiffel, which we stopped at on the way home from Versailles.

 Alas, museum day has arrived, although it did begin with a trip to the Sacre Coeur and the Moulin Rouge. Both are located in Montmarte, infamous for its red light district. Painters were scattered in a lot of the places nearby, but were pretty steep in price- think 40 Euros for one eeny meeny painting. 

I had another Monoprix meal (same owners as Monop'), along with Vietnamese springs rolls. They had an interesting system where food was weighed and costs were calculated per 100g. It seems that this is fairly typical in Paris, especially with Asian cuisine. I remember seeing vegetable stir fry and noodles too, for around 1 Euro per 100g. 

The final day was my favourite because it was entirely my itinerary; meanwhile, the young ones were in Disneyland. I got to visit Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye in Poissy, which in my opinion is one of the most influential pieces of Modern architecture.

A much needed trip to the Gentle Gourmet Cafe followed next, which lies along the fairly central Bd. de la Bastille. Mum had their salad and their glace for the day (melon sorbet), and was rather impressed. Not that I wasn't too; the melon sorbet was one of the best frozen treats I've ever had. 

I myself had seitan version of bourguignon and white chocolate mousse, plus a croissant and pain au chocolat for takeaway. The seitan was a good but a bit heavy for me, as the vegetables it comes with are mostly potatoes. I need my greens! The white chocolate mousse, however, was spectacular. I'd eat it every week if I could. 

 Although the pain au chocolat and croissant are not exactly healthy, uhm... You only live once, right? And come on, you're in the land of pastries! If you're craving dessert, Gentle Gourmet is THE place to get it from. 

I also made a side trip to Un Monde Vegan, located near the Strasbourg St. Denis or Republique metro. I picked up some raw vanoffe chocolate from England-based the raw chocolate company, herbed cheese from UK-based Vegusto, and some organic apricot jam from France. Oh, I got some açai blueberry smoothie too which seems to have a mind of its own:

Sure carton, suuuure. 

 Finally, I paid tribute to one of the best authors at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery: Oscar Wilde (RIP). My personal favourite is The Picture of Dorian Gray. 

Upon my return to Paris from Lourdes, I also stopped by Le Potager du Marais by the Centre Georges Pompidou. Although the place is small, the staff is very accommodating and the food is delicious. If you want classic French food turned 100% plant-based, then this is the place to go to. They offer bourguignon, gratin, French onion soup, savoury mille feuilles, tarte tatin, crème brûlée, champagne... Need I say more?

I myself had French onion soup, smoked tofu salad with raw vegetables, crème brûlée, a glass of champagne, and a tarte tatin for takeaway. I've never had French onion soup before, and I feel that it might be too heavy for me; the salad would've been juuuust right. It was a treat having the gingery crème brûlée and the tarte tatin, although a little bit of chantilly cream would've made the tarte tatin even better. 

On the final day, I had a baguette and a raspberry tart from Gentle Gourmet, and a galette from Naturalia that I filled with leftover salad and tofu. I've been seeing lots and lots of baguettes with different fillings throughout boulangeries in Paris, and thought I'd have to leave without one. Same goes for the cream and fruit filled tart and galette. 

It isn't so bad being in Paris now, is it? As long as you're equipped with sufficient research, a nearby supermarket, a camera (or two, or three...), a handy water bottle, a map, and a good pair of walking shoes (trust me, you are going to need them), then you, my friend, are ready to tackle the streets of Paris. To help you out, I've also attached a PDF file with addresses, opening hours, and directions from major landmarks. That way, you can take your little guide with you on your phone, iPod, iPad, or whatever it is you use. And, it's free! Just click here.

Au revoir for now, for I still have to sort out the remainder of the bazillion photographs my family took on the trip. I'll be posting things I discovered in Barcelona and Lourdes soon too. 



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad I could help :)

  2. this is perfect since we will be there for the first time in a few weeks !

    1. Ohh I hope you enjoy your stay in Paris! So many things to see, do and of course, eat! ;)