By Irene Fogarty
Every month I find myself writing about all the great things going on here and why you should come. But since it’s Spring and the weather has been glorious here since mid April, I feel there’s no need to entice you. Plus, the volcanic ash is gone. So instead I thought I’d help you become a connoisseur in having the perfect picnic in Paris this May. No culinary abilities required. All you need are the basics: baguette, wine and cheese. And the savoir faire to the best spots to lay your picnic rug.
French stick. Baguette. Bread. Whatever you call it, it’s the best here. Look around and you’ll see Parisians with one stuck under their arm as they ride their bikes, or others nibbling the tops before they make it home. Few things to know. For just $1.80 you can buy a fresh baguette. In general, baguettes have a shelf life of only four hours. But since bakeries offer fresh warm loaves throughout the day, you can easily find them. The best baguette is the ‘baguette de tradition’. Made from wheat flour, water, yeast, and common salt and no additives, the tradition baguette is a little more expensive. Once you taste it you’ll know why. And if you’re not sure what to put on it just try salted butter, camembert or jam. To show how serious Parisians are about their baguette, each year since 1993 at the Grand Prix de le Meilleure Baguette de Paris, (I kid you not) they award a bakery with the best ‘baguette de tradition.’ In addition to a cash prize of $5,400 (â‚¬4,000), the baker has a contract and the honour of supplying Sarko with their award-winning dough throughout the coming year. (If Carla lets him eat it that is!). And so the 2010 winner is? Le Greniera Pain in MonteMartre. Delish! Le Greniera a Pain Abbesses, 38 rue des Abbesses, 18th arr. (Métro stop: Abbesses, No. 12) or Blanche (No. 2). Open 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday to Monday; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Nitpick about picnicking?
Just in case you’re not one to “rough it” and think picnicing is not for you, let me try to change your mind. First of all picnics in Paris are the perfect chance to enjoy the long evenings on beautiful bridges or in the numerous parks here. Parisians skip restaurants to sip wine, eat baguette and cheese, play the guitar, watch the sun go down see and La Tour Eiffel light up and sparkle on the the top. It’s the best way to take in the city without feeling like a tourist. And not only is it a cheaper alternative, but a more pleasant one too. If you want more comfort bring cushions along with your picnic rug, real wine glasses, a bread knife and a cheese knife, plastic plates and cotton napkins if you really want a cordon bleu picnic experience. Why not!
Park or bridge?
Best of all, unlike the parks in New York, drinking is legal. Even on my favorite picnic Pont des Arts bridge, (above the Seine near the Louvre), where drinking alcohol between 4 p.m.-7 a.m. is prohibited between May 1st and October 31st, you still find people discretely sipping from their covered bottles. Forgot a corkscrew? Pas de problème. Ask in the wine shop will be happy to open your bottle and to replace the cork. Just say “avez-vous un tire-bouchon, s’il vous plaà®t?” Sante!
A few picnic spots I recommend:
Pont des Arts (1st and 6th arrondissement): Views in all directions show off Paris’ sightseeing highlights. Here, you are perfectly poised to enjoy views of most every major Paris monument. Don’t forget the champagne!
Jardin du Palais Royal (1st arrondissement): A real surprise! Serene, calm, magnifique ! Check out the historic buildings surrounding the square. Simply breathtaking.
The quais on Sunday (1st and 4th arrondissement): On Sundays, Paris’ river quais are closed to traffic and open to strollers, bikers, roller bladers-and picnickers! Super!
Ile Saint-Louis (4th arrondissement): The banks of Ile Saint-Louis are not only one of Paris’ most romantic spots, but the perfect setting for an evening apéritif. Sip champagne as the Bateaux Mouches pass by and the sun sinks behind the Seine.
Square Jean XXIII behind Notre Dame (1st arrondissement): Avoid the tourists in this lovely garden behind the famous cathedral.
Square Tino Rossi (5th arrondissement): From Quai Saint Bernard there’s a pedestrian path that runs down to the river just after Pont de Sully. Here you’ll not only find one of Paris’ prettiest Seine views, but a charming park that offers lively evening outdoor music and tango lessons!
Here’s one New Yorkers will enjoy. In French, to “have the blues” is ‘avoir le cafard’ which literally means, “to have the cockroach,” So that must mean there’s a lot of blue New Yorkers, especially in 223 East 10th St!