in lieu of flying we took the chunnel train - so incredibly convenient when you're already in london! in a short 2 1/2 hours we had arrived au gare du nord. it was really quite easy to find our apartment for our stay. this was the first time we'd used airbnb and i lamented for days over which apartment to choose. in the end i had chosen a bit of an "artsy" place. very cool, but sadly not very child friendly (even though i was assured by the host it would be okay for our 10 month old). so unfortunatley it meant that our what should have been quiet, down time relaxing at the flat became a game of keeping woodrow from breaking all said cool "artsy" things. sigh... lesson learned.
so given that it was a challenge to hang out in our digs, we did our best to be out and about for most of the day. we did a lot of walking, as per usual to check out the many neighbourhoods and arrondissments.
without all that much time to explore on our arrival day but squeezed in a walk, picked up some fresh bread, and did a quick shop to stock our kitchen with ingredients for a couple dinners, snacks and breakfasts. we spent way more than we had intended on, but that was due to the fact that right around the corner from our place was un monde vegan - an all vegan grocery store! in paris! huzzah! we picked up cheeses, seitan, tempeh, chocolate... the works!
the next day we were up and at 'em early and wandered our way through the latin quarter and st. germain des pres, landing at the doorstep of vegan folie's just in time for lunch. we shared a baguette sandwich of lettuce, vegan mayo & vegan ham. it was nothing to write home about, but after all that wasn't why we were there - we were there for the cakes! we settled on sharing their daily special of vanilla cake, custard filling and chocolate rice milk ganache frosting. yum! we also took one of their big chocolate chip cookies for the road - nice and crispy and perfect for fueling more footsteps.
the pompidou where woodrow got to crawl around for a few hours and we got to take in a little modern art. it's also a great spot to get up high and catch a view!
and since we had had only a light lunch we stopped for some killer falafels too on our way home.
our next day we started things off at the cathedral notre dame for a quiet mosey around before the hoards of tourists arrived. one of the benefits of having a babe wake you early!
from there we walked along the river to the docks-cité de la mode et du design destined for paris vegan day! what were the chances we'd be in the city for their one-day vegan festival? upon arriving just before it opened at 10am we found there were already many people in line eager to get in. we almost didn't wait around because they were so late to open the doors... it was almost 11am by the time they opened up! we were happy to have waited if only to get first crack at a whole table croissants and pains au chocolat. mon dieu, they were incredible! the gentle gourmet is amazing and we were happy to have the chance to sample their goods as the restaurant was closed for the duration of our holiday in preparation for this event.
we did a spin around pretty quickly and visited the vendors - it was a little disapointing actually to see how few were in attendance. but i suppose i have pretty high standards being used to the toronto vegetarian association's annual veg fest. one table i was happy to see though was a shared set up from brave gentle man, the discerning brute's joshua katcher & leanne of vaute couture. it was so lovely to meet them, and i only wish i had more loose change in order to have splurged on some of their awesome vegan gear. there were also a lot of cooking demo's supposedly taking place and speakers too (i was really hoping to catch fran costigan's and hear melanie joy again), but it really seemed there was a lack of organization and communication and with no schedules posted anywhere it was hard to find any clear information. with a babe in tow we had only a short time anyways, so after an hour we were off.
although we didn't seek out that many restaurant meals while in paris (lunches were often on the go so it was more difficult to plan and time our stops) i really wanted to try soya after reading many positive reviews so we stopped in during an off-peak time. they are apparently very busy in the evenings so this was a great tip i picked up in the happycow reviews. the good news is that we had the place almost entirely to ourselves, but the bad news is that there were multiple menu items that were not available because they hadn't yet been prepped. fresh juices? non. smoothies? désolés. savoury tart, fresh fruit crumble... you get the idea. however, we did share a small plate of dips and veggies that hit the spot. still wanting something sweet we then shared a trio of fresh sorbets: lemon, strawberry & blackcurrant - all incredible. this is a place i would love to visit again for a true meal someday.
our last day was spent exploring monmartre. it started with a few transfers along the metro. the transit system in paris is no match for the tube in london... it's showing many more signs of wear and is quite dingy, but for every dirty, smelly station we came across there were also beautiful moments too (usually when above ground away from the smells mind you), and i really loved some of the structural framing of the stations.
upon arriving we stumbled around looking for something nourishing and i was overjoyed to find a smoothie joint! smooth in the city was i think the first (and only) we happened upon so i took it upon myself to order the biggest sized concoction i could. i had the josephine and it was full of fresh-pressed carrot and orange juice and thickened with several ripe mangoes. it was delicious!
mark was on the hunt for something fresh from the oven and so our next stop was this organic bakery for and amazing baguette.
then onward to see the cathedral sacre-coeur. although it is possible to climb all the way up, i had woodrow on my back and was still gulping down my smoothie, so we opted for the quick cable car climb instead. we almost forgot it was sunday morning, but clued in with the huge crowds. our walk through the cathedral was quite special because it was during the morning mass and we lucked out hearing the choir sing a hymn.
after a quick little coffee on a busy patio we carried on walking and window shopping. by noon the streets had really come to life with tourists and parisians alike, some sort of poetry festival and we took in the buzz along with the graffiti.
it was a little chilly that day though with the clear skies and so for lunch we stopped at a restaurant with an outdoor seating area that had heaters. it was toasty warm and we shared a massive and delicious salad - the best salad of the trip i think! fresh leaf lettuce (about a full head of it!) topped with corn, fresh tomatoes, half-dried tomatoes, roasted aubergine and courgette & marinated artichoke hearts. it was amazing.
we enjoyed our last night in paris with some organic wine, vegan cheese and fresh figs we picked up at naturalia an amazing natural grocery store chain. then after one final french slumber we returned to england, ever so briefly, before it was time to return home. thank goodness for a baby who once again was a champ on his transatlantic flight.
and who was good at making friends with the flight staff.
what a wonderful trip.