Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Paris on Foot: Chinatown to Pigalle
Beginning at Place d'Italie in the 13th, we wandered down avenue de Choisy to the neon-lit facade of Pho Banh Cuon 14. This Vietnamese institution is fiercely popular, and our day of indulgence began auspiciously with immediate seating. By the time we left, around 1 pm, a queue was snaking around the corner (but I am told that the line moves quickly, and should you arrive to such a scene, don't fret.) We had two huge bowls of steaming soup (chicken for me, beef for the mister) and a side order of deep-fried chicken nems - all served atop paper tablecloths by the ever-bustling waitstaff.
Bellies full, we headed down boulevard de l'Hopital, toward Gare d'Austerlitz, before detouring to the left and into the 5th arrondissement. We passed Les Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens), and as the minaret of La Grande Mosquée de Paris (The Grand Mosque of Paris) materialized Louis suggested a break for mint tea. After settling in the blue and white tiled courtyard, I ordered two small glasses of the sugary drink, which we sipped while sparrows flitted between the tables of the tearoom, hoping for a morsel of the traditional pastries also on offer.
I decided early on that our itinerary was to include a compulsory visit to Berthillon, so, refreshed and rested, we crossed the Seine onto Ile St. Louis. I savoured my scoops of rose & raspberry (my favourite) and salted caramel for as long as possible, and snuck bites of Louis' pear and chocolate when I could while, cones in hand, we walked along the riverbank toward Les Halles.
Our excursion concluded with a slow stroll up the rather unremarkable rue Faubourg-Montmartre (I would suggest a trip across rue Montorgueil for out-of-towners, but Faubourg-Montmarte is a more direct route to Pigalle and my momentum was on the wane at this stage.) Now back in familiar territory, we began our routine ascent of rue des Martyrs - an uphill stretch at the base of my neighborhood, lined with alluring pâtisseries, fromageries, and butcher shops. Much to my delight (and Louis' dismay, knowing my propensity for impulse bric-a-brac buys) the street was hosting a brocante, or flea market - which provided enough visual motivation ("Look, Lou, a vintage egg beater!" "Chinese soup spoons!") to reach the summit.
We finished our day with two expertly prepared flat whites and a thick slice of banana bread ("healthy" so I'm nourishing the baby, obviously) at KB Cafeshop, a charming Aussie-inspired cafe and near-daily destination for Louis and I.
Pho Banh Cuon 14
129 Avenue de Choisy, 75013 Paris
Les Jardin des Plantes
57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris
La Grande Mosquée de Paris
2bis Place du Puits de l'Ermite, 75005 Paris
53 Avenue Trudaine, 75009 Paris