Food. / Good Times / Tourism / Travel

Suddenly, Sunshine! (Picnics, spring, and a British birthday.)

One week, it was anywhere from chilly to flat out cold with winds, clouds on and off, and occasionally some rain. Then suddenly with no warning, sunshine. Sunshine and warmth and SPRING swept into Paris in early March like a whirlwind, and I am happy to say that so far there are few signs of regression or letting up. About two weeks ago we started hitting the mid 60’s-70’s temperature-wise every day, generally with clear skies, and Paris has responded beautifully. Trees and flowers are starting to bloom everywhere, but not nearly as much as the people. It appears that once the sun comes out to play, so do Parisians, and on any given day the parks, streets, and cafés of Paris are at LEAST five times more crowded than I usually see them.

The glory of this springtime bliss has not been lost on me, and I’ve been doing my best to practically INVENT reasons to be outside more (hence a lack of posting) and enjoying the total change in atmosphere that has settled in to the city. In fact, the FIRST weekend with lots of sun I sat outside in the Luxembourg Gardens reading for a few hours–with literally HUNDREDS of other people, so many that every surface (I’m not kidding, EVERY SURFACE) was covered with people sitting down from chairs to railings to benches to tiny fences around gardens. It was insane, I’d never seen so many people there before–not even close!

View from where we parked it on the hill at Buttes-Chaumont for a picnic.

View from where we parked it on the hill at Buttes-Chaumont for a picnic.

Naturally I wanted some company for this glorious time, so the next day two of my friends and I made my second trip to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont where we, and about half of Paris I believe, had a picnic on one of the more scenic hills and then spent a couple of hours walking around the massive park. It was a really lovely day, and kind of hilarious to see the different methods of picnic-ing…we saw everything from made-on-the-spot sandwiches to a group that had brought a straight up professional picnic spread including table, wine glasses and fancy dishes, bottles of wine, fancy cheeses…I mean you really couldn’t get any more French if you tried.

I...seriously? How can SO MANY PEOPLE fit onto one hill for picnics?! Insanity.

I…seriously? How can SO MANY PEOPLE fit onto one hill for picnics?! Insanity.

Last weekend there was determination amongst all my friends to continue exploiting the weather, and to add to the hype we were also celebrating a birthday, and it was quickly becoming a massive event! Although my friend is already legal to drink in his home country of England, he was turning 21, so to me it seemed perfectly appropriate to have a big bash. A good five or so of his friends from school back home drove down to visit (because, you know, Europe. Just drive to France. NBD.) and so chaos and fun reigned the entire weekend. I, naturally, chose to focus on the food, and set out to make an epic cake for him of his choosing. He requested the infamous Portal Cake (just google “The Cake is a Lie” if you don’t get that immediately) which happens to be his favorite kind of cake–Black Forest. Except he hates whipped cream frosting (thankfully, because so do I) so we substituted with chocolate frosting. I did my best to procure some high quality ingredients and two of my friends were SUPER kind and let me take over/make a huge mess in their apartment to bake there since I have no oven. AND on top of that they even brought the cake to the party the next day (they had to transport it without a proper cake caddy/carrier/whateveryoucallit on Paris metros…talk about an act of heroism.)

The masterpiece in all its glory. Come to think of it, should have pulled up a picture of the real portal cake on the laptop behind!

The masterpiece in all its glory. Come to think of it, should have pulled up a picture of the real portal cake on the laptop behind!

I have to say…I combined a few recipes and extra ingredients here and there and didn’t get to make my own frosting,  AND THEN I accidentally broke a layer because I’m a moron and then proceeded to not properly trim a layer so everything was domed and cracking all over the place and gravity definitely started pulling off gobs of frosting…HOWEVER… it was one of the best tasting cakes I believe I’ve made to date. Super, super, SUPER chocolatey with a nice cherry kick in the middle. We absolutely devoured it. Like…three of us ladies were even picking at it at the end to try and eat more. We left about a slice which the birthday boy preserved for later, but during the entirety of the party full of all kinds of good conversation and laughs I was definitely eyeballing the thing and just dying to eat the rest of it.

Destroyed the thing. Pretty much literally.

Destroyed the thing. Pretty much literally.

I left the party before it was over to avoid having to taxi to someone else’s place for the night, but rejoined the next day in the Bois de Boulogne for another picnic, which turned into a multi-hour affair filled with frisbee, good food, various ridiculous games, some tree-climbing, and even some football of the American sort. (Have a grass stain in my jeans now from rescuing the damn thing from becoming a lake decoration.) The Bois de Boulogne is absolutely HUGE and we did not even begin to cover most of it in our walking…

Pretty picturesque, you really don't feel like you're in Paris at all!

Pretty picturesque, you really don’t feel like you’re in Paris at all!

So peaceful. Boats are not tooo terribly expensive to rent, just a few Euros for an hour. Hilarious to watch people fail at rowing for free if you don't want to pay though!

So peaceful. Boats are not tooo terribly expensive to rent, just a few Euros for an hour. Hilarious to watch people fail at rowing for free if you don’t want to pay though!

However, we did have our picnic on a pretty little island you can ferry over to, and walked around a bit to take in the lake views and flowers. We fully intended to rent some boats but waited too long, unfortunately, so we’ll have to return for that. In general it was just a really lovely afternoon and a perfect actual birthday-day gathering.

Leave it to the French to put up a statue of that sort. Pretty, though.

Leave it to the French to put up a statue of that sort. Pretty, though.

Although most had to pop out that evening early due to teaching the next day, I hung around with the visiting friends and the birthday boy for one more late-night excursion to a (somewhat pricey, I’ll warn you now) famous restaurant called Au Pied de Cochon–The Pig’s Foot. The restaurant is known for being open 24/7. Literally. Never shuts. Literally. It’s got a very cool art-deco vibe, classily dressed staff (and bathrooms, may I add) and a very fancy (equally priced) menu including lots of seafood, steaks, and…pig’s foot.

You know, in the USA this used to be considered a "poor man's food"...clearly this restaurant was unaware of that.

You know, in the USA this used to be considered a “poor man’s food”…clearly the price-creator at this restaurant was unaware of that.

Little piggy meringues delivered free after your meal. Kind of adorable. Glad they stuck with a theme!

Little piggy meringues delivered free after your meal. Kind of adorable. Glad they stuck with a theme!

Which I did not order. Nope. I mean I’ll try anything, but it was a bit expensive for an experiment. Luckily for me, the birthday boy DID (as his dinner was sponsored by his friends) and I got to try a bit. The words “gelatinous” and “boney” are simultaneously what come to mind here–there is not actually a lot of meat on a pig’s foot. It’s pretty much pure fat. While the béarnaise sauce to eat alongside was  really quite delicious, the foot itself…well, what I got from it wasn’t necessarily bad, tasted quite…buttery? I guess? Anyway, it was just so fatty there’s really no way I could have eaten much of it. It wasn’t disgusting, but just really not a thing that should be eaten, other than for the novelty of trying it. The birthday boy seemed to agree. Luckily, we followed that (and a pretty damn spectacular bacon/chèvre salad that I had) up with desserts. I got a rich molten chocolate cake with a side of tangy passionfruit ice cream and the birthday boy ordered a platter of mini  desserts ranging from crème brûlée to chocolate mousse to a financier. The desserts are definitely worth a visit, even if you’re not interested in a 60 Euro main dish of seafood or what have you.

Bacon: The CORRECT part of the pig to eat. This salad was absolutely amazing and reasonably priced, for Paris.

Bacon: The CORRECT part of the pig to eat. This salad was absolutely amazing and reasonably priced, for Paris.

Mini-dessert platter...I was pretty taken with the chocolate mousse!

Mini-dessert platter…I was pretty taken with the chocolate mousse!

My molten chocolate cake and tangy passionfruit ice cream with some sort of caramel-y lace-y decoration that was also delicious. I gotta hand it to the French when it comes to dessert.

My molten chocolate cake and tangy passionfruit ice cream with some sort of caramel-y lace-y decoration that was also delicious. I gotta hand it to the French when it comes to dessert.

I took my leave after dinner, having class the next morning at 9 AM, and thus ended another weekend in Paris, one of the most eventful yet. But there are more birthdays on the near horizon, so perhaps I’ll be able to regale you all with another tale soon!

A bientôt mes amis!

-B

2 thoughts on “Suddenly, Sunshine! (Picnics, spring, and a British birthday.)

  1. Grrrr………….. first a wonderful weather report, unless you are stuck in Indiana with more snow projected for next week and then a tremendous food report with excellent photos viewed while I munch on ……well, never mind (it was midwest fare). Thanks, I think, for the post. 😉

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