The following morning, we walked further up the rue du Cherche-Midi and stumbled upon this nondescript boulangerie. It was none other than Poilâne, the famous bakery was opened in 1932 by Pierre Poilâne making bread using stone-ground flour and natural yeast and baking them in a wood-fired oven. In the seventies, his son Lionel took over the company and continued the traditions that his father had started but made sure the bread became well-known. The crusty brown sourdough bread eventually became known as pain Poilâne and is indicated as such when listed in menus of cafés and restaurants not just in France but in the rest of the world. When we lived in Montreal, we used to go to the café at the Holt Renfrew department store on Sherbrooke to have a tartine pain Poilâne.
We stopped by to have a few of their buttery croissants while walking towards boulevard St. Germain, the left bank’s epicenter. There are two famous cafés in the area – Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore and you either preferred one or the other, never both, We went directly to the Flore for our much-neede café crème. There is no better way to understand the Parisian café obssesion than sitting here at the Flore and indulging in a pricey coffee, reading the paper and watching the world go by.
When we had our fill of Parisian street life, we headed over to next-door Librairie La Hune to see what new titles were out. Right by the entrance is a magazine kiosk that has a fantastic selection of both French and English magazines and newspapers. On the other side of the Flore is the other bookstore L’ecume des Pages which also has a paper store, La Papeterie de l’Ecume des Pages down the side street rue St. benoit. In the paper store, we browsed and ended up purchasing paper and a few more Moleskines to add to my growing collection.
On the rue St. Benoit are a few more interesting addresses – L’Entrecôte (for steak-frites and the special sauce), Hotel Bel-Ami (my favorite Paris design hotel), Yen (a stylish modern Japanese restaurant) and the back entrance of the Louis Vuitton boutique which we entered to purchase 2008 agenda refills.
We did more window shopping which sound so much more appropriate in French leche-vitrine, literally translates as “window-licking”. We stopped across the street at Arthur et Fox, my all-time favorite for tailored mens shirts. They also carry a few items for women on the 2nd floor. I ended up buying my husband some shirts and skipped the women’s section for fear of buying more shirts for myself. I also went to Gerard Darel to buy my winter bag – the St. Germain sac “24-heures” in dark grey.
Retail therapy always works up an appetite so we paused for lunch at Orient-Extrême. Fortified by raw sushi and miso soup, we continued on towards Le Bon Marché where I needed to purchase a few bits and bobs plus three bottles of Hermès Rocabar for my father-in-law. Then, it was back to the hotel to put our feet up before dinner.