When Sarah asked me “Are you interested in doing a Chocolate and Pastry Tour with me in Paris?”, I had to wonder if she’d suffered a sudden concussion and forgotten who I was. “Hell, yes!!” was my immediate response, and so weeks later we found ourselves waiting outside a closed Chocolate Shop in the heart of the Left Bank.
Luckily, our typically French guide, Yves, still arrived to lead us into temptation! Our first stop was Poilane bakery, a Paris institution. Not your typical French baguette here, Poilane specialises in sourdough loaves, and what a specialty! I must confess to being disappointed at first as I hadn’t really considered a humble loaf to be top of my hit list on a Chocolate and Pastry Tour, but it was incredible to hear the history of the company from their humble beginnings in the 30’s, and their passion for producing top quality loaves with the best ingredients.
But bread will only cut it so far when our taste buds had a hankering for the promised chocolate and pastry! After a lovely stroll through the charming streets of St Germaine, we arrived at Catherine Deneuve’s apartment overlooking the church of St Sulpice. Aside from being the permanent view of said actress,St Sulpice’s more recent claim to fame is thanks to Dan Brown and “The Da Vinci Code” where a certain albino monk pays a visit to uncover the “Rose Line” – hotly denied by the church authorities should you care to pay a visit inside.
Best-sellers aside, our real purpose for visiting the area was the delectable Pierre Herme, arguably Paris’ best known purveyor of macarons. And there my love affair began. Our intrepid guide Yves muscled his way into the small shop through hordes of Macaron fans and bought a selection of macarons for us to enjoy. We could select 2 each and my first was excellent but absolutely nothing can touch the pure joy that was Salted Caramel. My eyes may actually have crossed. It was so good, we actually went back the next day for another!
What followed was a shameful excess of handmade chocolates, macarons, exquisite pastries, macarons, incredible chocolate dipped herbs, macarons, a stroll down Paris’ answer to Diagon Alley, macarons, and a one tonne chocolate gorilla. Absolutely everything put in front of me was enjoyed with relish, although the one tonne chocolate gorilla was out of my league.
Although it was undoubtedly the lure of chocolate and pastry that had me at “hello”, the tour itself was a fascinating behind the scenes look at Paris and a chance to stroll the streets with a local intent on sharing his passion not just for the subject of our tour, but of his city and its diverse appeal. A very worthwhile couple of hours!