Cinq Jours à Paris, or If You’ve Gotta Turn 30, You Might as Well Enjoy It

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For as long as I can remember, my dad and I have had a little joke running. Every year I pretend I can’t quite remember how old he’s going to be on his next birthday, and every year he replies the same thing when I ask him, "why, 29, of course!"

When I was a kid, it didn’t make any sense to me. Why would somebody want to remain 29 forever? Why not 17? Or 35? At that point 29 seemed like an adult age no different from any other, certainly older than anything I could fathom being myself someday. And it was also strange because as far as I could tell most other adults didn’t seem to care much about their age at all, with some going so far as to claim they’d forgotten the precise number entirely. Not my dad, though – he continued to turn 29, year in and year out.

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It’s taken me a few decades, but I think I finally understand. Having just said goodbye to that very age myself, I already find it assuming some kind of mystical quality in my memory. Ah yes, I find myself saying as I come across a six-month old photograph, that was taken when I was still twenty-nine. And that blog post was written when I was still twenty-nine. What is it about being twenty-something? I had no such reservations about leaving my awkward, confused teens behind, but my twenties are a different story. They were a decade bursting with such promise and potential. Any number of career paths and endless childbearing years stretched before me to the horizon. It was okay that I didn’t yet earn much money, still claimed my student discount at the cinema and drove around a car nearly as old as me. I wasn’t expected to own a house or have an answer to the question "what do you do for a living?" Things like joint pain and heartburn and which brand of pro-retinol alpha-hydroxy amino-peptide face cream combats wrinkles best weren’t even on my radar yet. Indeed who wouldn’t want those years to end?
 

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Alas, I haven’t yet figured out how to stop time, and so last week, the inevitable happened. I turned thirty, and rather than sit around and count grey hairs to celebrate, I decided to do what any sensible person trying to distract themselves from the unrelenting march of time might do: I ate. For five days straight. In Paris.

It’s too bad marathon eating isn’t a sport, for if it were we’d now be in the shape of our lives. In five short days we somehow managed all of the following, and more. Macarons in a rainbow of colors from Pierre Hermé. Every flavor of nutty financier Eric Kayser makes. Salted-caramel ice cream from Berthillon. Falafel from Chez Hanna (for the second time L’As was mysteriously closed for my visit). Pistachio and yogurt gelato at Pozzetto. A slice of Kouign Amann oozing salted caramel at Chez Michel. Rabbit braised in cider at Chez L’Ami Jean. Canneles, everywhere we could find them. Fork-tender venison in red wine at A la Biche au Bois. Baguettes stuffed with foie gras and a glass of sweet white wine on the steps of Sacre Coeur. More foie gras sandwiches with fresh spinach and onion jam from La Grande Epicerie. Croissants, fresh brioche, pain Poilane, Jean-Yves Bordier butter and Christine Ferber jams every morning for breakfast as we gazed out on the rooftops of Paris. Surprisingly good idlis and dosas at a dirt-cheap South Indian restaurant near the Gare du Nord. An afternoon filled with a large bottle of pastis and great friends*. A post-birthday shindig featuring spectacular food and even better company.

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Paris has been called many things: city of light, city of love, city of dreams. For me, however, it will henceforth be the city of distraction, where surrounded by food and friends I barely noticed the decade counter click silently forward from two to three. And if that serves as any kind of precedent for the coming years, I don’t think I have anything to fear.

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Addresses:
As a general rule, restaurant reservations are always a good idea. I recommend booking for popular bistros like the ones below at least 3-4 days in advance, or a week if you want to be sure. Note that all of the below have fixed-price menu options ranging from €25-32 for three/four courses, with supplements and à la carte options at an additional cost.

Chez Michel
Everything we ate from the thick lobster bouillon to the chunky pâté en croûte was stellar at this cozy Breton-inspred bistro, though it was the Kouign Amann that has set the standard for this luscious pastry forever. We ordered from the menu options, but if we’d felt a bit more flush we’d have splashed out on some of the game specials advertised on the chalkboard (all available at a €5-20 supplement to the menu price).
10 rue Belzunce 75010
Tel: +33 (0)144530620
Closed Sunday, Monday, all of August.

Chez L’Ami Jean
Can you forgive me if I tell you I can barely remember what I ordered here? I just remember a fabulous cream-laden soup with nuggets of sweet chestnuts, and a loin of cider-braised rabbit so tender I could cut it with a spoon. Those in the know around us seemed to be ordering the charcuterie spread, which included an all-you-can-eat cornucopia of house-made terrine and various saucisson secs, chewy wood-fired bread and a slab of Bordier demi-sel butter.
27 Rue Malar 75007
Tel: +33 (0)147058689
Closed Sunday, Monday, all of August.
 
A La Biche au Bois
I’m not sure whether it was smart or stupid that we saved this sweet little restaurant for our last night in Paris. If we’d gone on our first night we might not have had the appetite to sustain us for the rest of our trip, but going on the last night meant we had to reluctantly send mounds of food back to the kitchen uneaten. For less than 25 euros, you get enough food to feed an army, including game options i
n season and some of the best value foie gras in Paris.
45, avenue Ledru Rollin 75012
Tel: +33 (0)143433438
Closed Saturday, Sunday, Monday lunch.

Chez Hanna
The length of the line here at four o’clock in the afternoon attests to the quality of the food. Pay first at the counter inside, then join the throng of people on the street waiting to get their hands on an enormous, eggplant-crowned falafel spécial. Don’t forget the extra napkins.
54 Rue des Rosiers 75004
Open daily until late.

*That means you too, Alisa!

 

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51 thoughts on “Cinq Jours à Paris, or If You’ve Gotta Turn 30, You Might as Well Enjoy It

  1. I applaud you completely! There is no better way to face something mildly unappealing than to do exactly what you want the way you want.Although this is NO WAY compares – I’m turning 26 next week, and I’m feeling some minor pangs at leaving my ‘early twenties’ behind. Although this is often stopped short when I hang out with my 22 year old cousin and her friends… but I’ve moved into a different box on paper! Its confusing!BHand to Mouth

  2. Happy Birthday! And welcome to what a friend of mine called "the age where they finally start to take you seriously." Perhaps you should make it an annual tradition to turn 30 in Paris every year from now on… There are so many other places you need to eat at in our lovely city…

  3. Happy Birthday!!!!! I turned 50 several years ago with a trip to Germany for the Christmas holidays. Best place to be for Christmas with the Weinachtmarkt (hope that’s how you spell it, my husband is the fluent one)I’m already planning my 60th trip.

  4. Happy Birthday! I hit 30 five months ago and I’m thrilled! I wish I had been 30 ten years ago! As far as I’m concerned, things just always get better–and I’m sure they will for you, too!Cheers.

  5. Melissa,Congrats. When I turned 50 I threw a party for myself, invited friends from all over the country to come, and then cooked for five days straight.

  6. Birthday greetings, Melissa!!!!…have always wanted to go to Europe…maybe in a year or two…Thank you for sharing with us those restaurants that I might try one day

  7. Happy Birthday! You know, with increasing age, your already outstanding photographs will become even better, because of your enlightened experience!

  8. Don’t worry, Melissa. All my friends who turned thirty years ago say that it’s the best decade of their lives. You may not own your house, drive a nice, new car, or have 2.5 children, but you get something better: you stop caring about those things and start rejoicing in your own choices. I must say: I’ve been thirty for a couple months now, and I can’t see that I’ve noticed any change, but I’m sure it will start, any day now.

  9. Oh my, you hit the feeling on the head so perfectly! It just feels like you have to be more SENSIBLE all of a sudden! I turn 30 next Thursday so I’m heading off to New York this week for edible distraction.Glad you had a fab celebration in Paris :) A veryyyy happy birthday to you!

  10. happy birthday! having turned 30 myself this year (with a somewhat similar celebration and food marathon in Rome …) all i can say is: 30’s rock!

  11. your pics show how much beautiful Paris is! i love this city, and i’m lucky to live near..it’s always a pleasure to read people who like too!

  12. I did exactly the same for my 40th, I ran away from home and headed straight to PARIS, did a cooking course in the Dordogne and had the time of my life, bring on 50 I say, a repeat performance is soooooo needed… Vida x

  13. Melissa,Happy 30th! It’s been a decade since I’ve seen that age and I really haven’t looked back. It’s so exciting that you were in Paris to celebrate. I managed a little over 10 hours in Paris a couple of months back (took the train over from London for the day) and I really wish that I could have stayed longer.I missed out on Berthillon, Pierre Hermé and Sadaharu Aoki…oh well, there’s always next time!Congrats again and thanks for sharing those wonderful photos of yours. :)

  14. Happy Birthday Melissa! Sounds like you picked the best way to celebrate, rather than crying in a darkened room, which is what I wanted to do!

  15. Happy birthday Melissa! And welcome to the 30s club – I joined last month. Didn’t quite make it to Paris this year, but had a lovely self-indulgent, leisurely day.

  16. Happy birthday, Melissa! It’s a great decade, being thirty- I loved it to bits. The one after that was considerably harder for me, due to some serious personal misfortune, but apart from those, it had some excellent features as well. Now, I’m looking at a truly scary calendar roll in the not too distant future- 2years and 4 months until I’ll be 60! I figure I need extra time to prepare for that one.I would not mind at all celebrating it in the manner of your 30th. Maybe I’ll just plan to do that very thing.

  17. augurissimi! buon compleanno!wonderful photos, and lots of addresses. I’m here trying to decide where to go on the beginning of december… any suggestion for lovely, small a nd romantic hotels in paris?

  18. Happy Birthday, my dear! What a lovely way to celebrate. That photo of the falafel nearly made me get teary-eyed with nostagia and hunger.Speaking from the other side of thirty–heading into my second half of that decade, even–I’ll say that I find my thirties much more enjoyable than my twenties (which I had loved at the time). The 3-0 birthday was a big pill to swallow, but things have been better and brighter and more at ease. I think my thirty-something friends would all say the same. So welcome–you’re going to have some great times this side of 29:-)

  19. Happy birthday! I also had a pre-30-depression (and what to think about the 31 birthday, when you realise you´re IN your thirties), but once you´ve had all that,you will realise that things are not that bad at all. Less insecurities, more realism (so I´m not good at this. who cares. I like it), more money to spend on the good things of life, curricula that are starting to look good, bosses who start to take you seriously (they should have done that all the time, but they just didn´t)… Aaah, what a lovely age it is… :-)

  20. Long time reader, first time commenter — Happy Birthday! I’m about 6 months away from that date myself and will say goodbye to my 30s. Upon reading your post, I firmly decided that what I want to do for my birthday is eat, eat, and eat some more in Paris!! It all sounded so dreamy and delicious!

  21. Happy Birthday!Can you tell us a bit about how you make such incredible photos? What kind of camera/lens are you using? How do you achieve that vingetting (SP?)?THe photos are a m a z i n g! Thank you!

  22. Happy Birthday! I did the EXACT same thing for my 40th at about the same time at a lot of the same places. We probably crossed paths. Fantastic and I absolutely recommend it to everybody.

  23. Happy belated birthday! I am ejoying my 30s (now 32) a lot more than my 20s. Same, slightly better even, energy and I think little wiser…Ah L’Ami Jean…best fromage blanc and sour cherries I have had!

  24. Belated happy 30th! I JUST celebrated mine! Wicked photos of Paris, and the food trail makes me want to go retrace some of your steps.

  25. A belated thank-you to everyone for your sweet, sweet birthday wishes! I am happy to report that I’m nearly a month into 30 and neither has the sky come crashing down nor have all my joints spontaneously stopped working. My mental acuity seems none the worse for wear either, though actually that depends on who you ask… :)

  26. Belated Happy Birthday, Melissa! What a joy to be able to read this post and see the gorgeous pictures I’ve always loved viewing. (I’m in Hong Kong for the day and took this chance to check out Travelerslunchbox as your photos seem to be blocked whenever I check out this site in Shanghai, where I’m currently based.)I turned 30 a couple (OK, fine, more than a couple) months before you and I felt the same restlessness and "can’t-put-my-finger-to-it-but-I-feel-weird"-ness. Reading this article definitely made my day. Thanks, Melissa!

  27. I too am turning 30 this year. But I did go to Paris when I was 29. And to A la biche au bois i did go. Good lord. We went on our first night and it spoilt us.

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