The hunt for the choux pastry nuns

I have two videos to include today so I’m going to start with one and end with the second. So, without any explanation whatsoever, here is a woman on a horse.

More about that later…

It seems that the not-so-humble la religieuse has gone out of fashion. This is very sad because it’s Mirinda’s favourite French treat. Whenever we go to France, be it Brittany or Paris or Normandy or anywhere, Mirinda loves having one as a treat. Today we passed at least 350 patisseries but not one had them. It was very odd.

Not that that was all we did. No, we had quite the exciting day. Well, after the extended sleep-in and the leisurely start to proceedings which seems to be such a big part of our holidays. And why not? That’s what our holidays are; one big extended sleep-in.

After sleeping in, however, we woke to rain. A soft, gentle rain it’s true but enough to make people wet. It didn’t dampen our spirits (though had we been at home we’d have stayed indoors all day) and we soon headed out regardless.

Our first stop after leaving the hotel was the wonderful Cafe de le Poste. This came highly recommended by TripAdvisor and was very busy. At first we were by the door and subjected to cold wind and rain but then Mirinda stole a table from a few hunting Americans and we were cosily sat quite close to the bar.

We settled in for a number of coffees and a largely egg based brunch each before settling up and heading out again. That makes it sound like we weren’t there for very long but we actually spent almost two hours over our brunch. That seems very civilised to me.

After brunch we wandered around looking in more patisseries for a possible clerical sighting when we happened upon the smallest covered market in Paris. And what a lovely little market it is.

The very popular fish

The Marché des Enfants Rouges also happens to be the oldest market in Paris and is wonderful. If we lived in the Marais I reckon this is where I’d shop. The cheese alone would keep me there for long periods of extended drooling. Needless to say, had a lovely wander.

It was then back out into the rain and off to the wonderfully eclectic collection of Ernest Cognacq. (I have to admit that at first I thought we were going to visit a museum of very good brandy but as soon as I saw the sign I stood corrected.) Ernest was a collector of everything. He devoted his life to collecting all manner of things after he’d made enough money to actually collect stuff that is. He had art dealers choosing stuff that they thought he’d like. Mostly they were correct.

His collection was originally housed in the department store he created but eventually found a home in a stately palace called Hotel Donon. This was originally built in the late sixteenth century and had fallen into various states of disrepair. Eventually it was purchased by the City of Paris and, having been extensively renovated in the 1970’s, was chosen to house the amazing Cognacq-Jay collection of artworks purchased from all over the place in all sorts of styles. (Jay was the surname of Louise, his wife.)

We wandered all over the three floors available (according to a sign, a ‘lake’ of volunteers prevented the opening of one floor) marvelling at the multitude of works, particularly of and about and by women. I thoroughly enjoyed it being a bit of an eclectic chap myself.

The Boucher room

We managed to wile away quite a while in his house, admiring his taste in just about everything. But, like all things, our visit came to an end and, following a route lined with as many patisseries as possible, we wound up in Le Voltigeur, a cafe where we squeezed into a table next to a couple of very chic Parisians.

The place was full to bursting. people were so keen to visit that they were happy to sit outside. In the rain and cold. It was that kind of place. We just timed it perfectly because there never was a lull all the time we were there.

I’m not sure what the name of the meal we had was (lunch, brunch, linner, dinner, tea?) but I had an amazing chicken salad that I thought would be a peck-worthy meal rather than the full on dinner type of thing it was. Still, we managed to sit there for a fair while and I eventually made my way through the food.

There was lots of argy bargy as we sat there. For instance, a couple of women managed to convince a waiter to move cakes off a small table right in the doorway so she and her friend could sit there. Having done so, they perched uncomfortably on their little yellow chairs, shivering and getting struck about the head, every time someone walked through the door. Suddenly a table for three came vacant and they both picked up their coffee and stuff and headed to grab it.

Just as they sat down an American came in and asked the waiter if he had a table for three. The waiter nodded and began to gesture towards the recently vacant table for three and almost did a double take at the two women who were now firmly ensconced there. He pulled a cross patch face and went over to them, convincing them that they didn’t want to sit at a table for three when they were only two (one of the two women was frantically looking around for an invisible third to join them). Eventually they collected themselves and their stuff together and headed off for a table for two, leaving the three chairs for the American and his chums who joined him…eventually.

It was a bit like that, people coming, people going, people getting wet, people drying off. We were there a very goodly while before heading off into the rain ourselves.

Mirinda plotted us another trip which passed the maximum amount of patisseries but still not finding a single la religieuse. We wound up back a the hotel for a cup of tea and small rest before heading back out…for the circus.

Yesterday, while out exploring, we passed a large, permanent winter venue circus not far from our hotel. It advertised a show that was currently performing. As soon as I had an Internet connection, I bought us a couple of ringside seats.

What an absolute genius idea. What an amazing two hours we spent, being entertained by the company at Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione. It was extraordinary. From the guy who had a lot of trained rats (and two coypu, one of which actually managed to run a dog weave) to the amazing Robin Valencia who we saw shot out of a cannon (REALLY!) it was one of the most entertaining nights of live theatre I think I’ve ever seen.

And to top it all off, Mirinda kissed a clown. And it wasn’t me. His name was Ron Torres and he was very, very funny. He managed to finagle a couple of kisses out of Mirinda while pretending he had hurt himself. That’s what happens when you buy seats right up against the edge of the circus ring. You really have to be prepared to be included in the fun and games.

Mirinda’s new boyfriend

The circus had everything, lions, a tiger, horses, dancers, acrobats, a clown, just everything. It was non-stop entertainment for two hours. And it wasn’t just fun. Near the end of the show, there was the amazing Les Navas, two chaps who spun around on a giant contraption that span them around and around and up and down. One of them even stood on the outside and skipped as it went around. It was frightening and incredible.

This contraption was terrifying

I felt like a kid. The circus does that to me. By the gods, I loved it!

Afterwards we found a restaurant for dinner and had some Alsace Lorraine food, something we’ve not had before. I decided to order something I didn’t know. I had a flammekueche, which they are renowned for. Mirinda is always telling me I am unadventurous in my choice of food so I just chose something which I couldn’t possibly know and to hell with the consequences.

It turns out that flammekueche is a sort of German pizza. I mean, seriously, how amazingly lucky is that? Mirinda was equally amazed at my good fortune.

I also indulged in a creme brulee which, surprisingly, was very good (I’ve added my crit about it to my creme brulee page).

Our terribly exciting day ended with us walking back to the hotel and to a most welcome bed. Brilliant but very tiring.

I love Paris so much right now!

The woman above was exquisite.

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2 Responses to The hunt for the choux pastry nuns

  1. mum cook says:

    The whole holiday was exciting you both did lots of different and exciting things like kissing the clowns Mirinda lucky you xxx

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