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Most of the time I feel really self-conscious about whipping out my camera in the middle of a (mostly residential) street to take a picture of something that to most people couldn’t be less interesting. Today, however, I took one for Team Blogosphere and snapped some photographs for you. Mostly of chocolate.

I spent a little more time than usual in the area of the 11ème arrondissement where Anna, my lesson pianist, lives and coaches. It’s a cool little spot–hip and young, but not touristy at all. I decided to get there early to have some lunch, because there’s a sushi place a couple of blocks from Anna’s apartment that looked delightful. And it really was. (I didn’t take pictures because the place was full of trendy-looking French people and I was already reading an English book, so I decided not to give myself away too much more.) What was odd about it was that all of the people behind the counter were white and French. I guess they were hiding the sushi-makers in the back; there was a tiny high-up window so that you couldn’t actually see them but they could pass boxes of California rolls through to the front people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sushi restaurant that wasn’t run by Japanese people.

But the food wasn’t any worse for that. I had what amounted to a deconstructed salmon roll–avocat, saumon cru et riz vinaigré. Sliced avocado, raw salmon, scallions and vinegared rice (which was unbelievably delicious, almost sweet), all doused with soy sauce. Yum!

After I left Anna’s, armed with several new recordings, I decided that I deserved a little treat, so I went to Leonidas, which is actually a Belgian chocolate company (there is a Leonidas on every block in Brussels). One thing I love about French chocolateries (apart from the fact that they are EVERYWHERE) is that there are almost always customers in them buying one or two little goodies (Anna actually had a mendiant from Leonidas on her kitchen table–thanks to Joanne Harris and Chocolat, I know that that is a disk of dark or milk chocolate with nuts and dried fruit). Even if a chocolaterie is empty, I never feel the kind of shame or guilt that I feel when I emerge from Godiva, trying to hide the evidence of the $3 truffle I just bought. The French don’t deny themselves pleasure, whether that means a glass of wine at 11 AM (for real) or a visit to their neighborhood chocolaterie, or a pastry even though dinner is only a couple of hours away.

Anyway, here’s what I had at Leonidas.

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This was called the Ligot Lait, which was milk chocolate filled with what couldn’t possibly just be sweet salted butter, but had to have been pretty close. (Please excuse my dry, cracked, bitten fingers–I keep forgetting to buy hand cream!)

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I am pretty much obsessed with chestnut-flavored things, and so is much of Paris, it would seem. This is the Marron Lait, which was chestnut-flavored caramel covered in milk chocolate. It was delicious, but almost too sweet; I liked the flavor better when I was trying to get the remnants out of my teeth.

The pictures were taken while sitting on a bench in what has to be the ugliest park in Paris, on Rue Oberkampf (so ugly that I didn’t even want to take pictures of it!). It’s pretty much just a fenced in enclosure of concrete with a seriously vile sort of statue-modern art-fountain business on one side, and a ping pong table on the other. No grass, though there are sort of scrappy shrubs lining the fence. This is the kind of park that makes me wonder if Paris has some kind of ordinance that you have to build a certain number of “parks” per capita in the city. And not only is it ugly, but both times I’ve gone to sit there, I’ve been the only woman in the park. Both times, there was a little crowd of guys playing ping-pong, watching ping-pong and generally loitering. I felt the same way there as I do about the many tabacs, where you can get drinks, coffee, magazines, lotto tickets and cigarettes, but which to me have the exclusive feel of a no-girls-allowed clubhouse. I’ve never been comfortable going into a tabac, and I wasn’t particularly comfortable in that park. So as soon as I finished my chocolate, I vamoosed.

One cool thing about Paris food-wise is that because of their proximity to, well, the rest of Europe, they get stores selling specialties of all different regions and countries, like this one:

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Now I’m definitely intrigued by this, because I know precisely nothing about Balkan food. Maybe next time I have a coaching with Anna I’ll stop in there for a look-see.

I also found the circus.

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…and that’s all I have to say about that.

I also have to give a shoutout to this neighborhood because I managed to find travel-sized empty shampoo bottles and miniature tubes of toothpaste for my upcoming (read: tomorrow!) trip to Vienna. When I went to Italy I bought a 1 euro bottle of shampoo in the supermarket in Nettuno and left it there; I took the train to Brussels so nobody cared how big my toiletries were. I showed them to Anna because I was so excited to have stumbled upon them, and she said it’s pretty rare to see travel-sized anything around Paris. Yeah, I noticed.

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(The labels are just in case they search my bag at the airport. I never want to have somebody open my suitcase and be like, “What are these unmarked substances?”)

And that’s a wrap for today! I’ll be bringing my computer, camera and USB cord to Vienna with me, so I will most likely be blogging as I go on this trip…unless I have better things to do, which we can only hope.

Bisous,
Anne

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