A quick jaunt on the Eurostar, 2 hours 15 minutes later we were alighting at Gare du Nord. Our hotel, just a few stops away, and near my favourite spot Le Marais, saw us briefly, we had lots of Paris to see and to do.
We were in Paris to do some Christmas shopping.
An old friend and I took the trip. Both food obsessed and fond of a glass of wine or a cocktail, we had marked out our maps with places we wanted to visit. We hadn’t much time but we were ambitious. Paris is home to fantastic cookware shops, fromageries, wine shops, patisseries and so many great chocolate shops. So many things that would put the sparkle in any day and especially Christmas.
To start, we hit Le Marais. Le Marché des Enfants Rouges to be precise. A 10 minute walk and we were at the gorgeous bustling market. The market itself is rammed with cosy and delicious places to eat. Lots to buy too. Greengrocers are selling clementines (check: in the bag for confiting), cheesemongers were selling fantastic cheese (some gruyere, comte, brebis and nutty orange vieux gouda for me), lots selling wine wine (Beaujolais, St Jospeh and Bordeaux would see us through). Outside the market there are shops dedicated to olive oil, salmon, chocolate and patisserie.
This market seems to have everything. Almost everything. But it doesn’t have that many copper moulds.
So, we’re off again to E Dehillerin, a wonderful Parisian cookware shop. Intense and at times, intimidating, you muscle your way through the crowd, find what you want (it is glorious – they have everything) and queue to pay for it.
Wait, no! You queue to give it to a guy who gives you an invoice. Then you put your name and address on it (!) and queue to pay for it. They type it up, if your name is awkward like mine they question you, you shout it out because you are starting to get a little stressed by now. They then take your money and then you go back to the first guy, with your printed invoice, and collect your canelé moulds. Or whatever gorgeousness was worth that. And, it is.
The bags are getting heavy now so back to the hotel. A quick pause for some wine. We have been working hard after all. Beaujolais Nouveau is everywhere so we indulge. Then to the Christmas Market at the Champs Elysées.
The streets are lined with saucisson and cheese which you can buy to take home, roasted chestnuts, vin chaud (mulled wine: both red and white), tartiflette, giant pans of it, lots of gifts, some good some bad, but the atmosphere is great and we have fun.
The next day, we need downtime. We have shopped out hearts out and we want to indulge. So we hit the Mandarin Oriental, pausing to ogle beautiful dresses in glamorous windows as we do.
We dine in Camelia, a restaurant from Thierry Marx who spent several years in Japan. This is French food but with a strong influence from Japan. Sea bream with clear broth and kombu seaweed (€36) was light and rich and one of the best things that I have eaten in a while. The desserts are terrific, there is even a cake shop as you walk in. We nabbed some canelés as we left for the train home. One of the chefs is from Bordeaux, and I can’t leave those behind.
As we leave, I discover the bar manager at the Mandarin Oriental is also Irish, so we pop in to say hi. And have a drink, and maybe another one. My friend has wanted cocktails so she is very happy, and once I taste them, I am too. I love cocktails but too many are too sweet. These are high end, and expensive, but what a treat they are.
We float out, but it is time to consider home. Back to the Eurostar we go. We are sad to leave but our journey home contains wine and canéles and cheese. So we are happy. And we have lots of goodies for Christmas too.
Merry Christmas! Silly season has started.
(most of the cheese didn’t survive the week but – HEY – it was too delicious to keep it)
E Dehillerin, 18-20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris, France
Closed on Sunday
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France
Christmas Market on the Champs-Elysées, from Friday, November 16 2012 to Sunday, January 6 2013
Camelia at the Mandarin Oriental, 251 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris, France
I travelled as a guest of Superbreak who organise great value Christmas shopping packages to Paris including return Eurostar travel and one night at 4* Crowne Plaza Republique with full breakfast and a river cruise from £159pp. Book on www.superbreak.com or call 0871 700 4384.