One of the quintessential Parisian experiences is a picnic in the park. Freshly baked breads, and smelly cheeses, and maybe a seasonal fruit or two. In the morning the students, along with Ray and Rob, headed to the Catacombs with them. Due to the fact that I am not a fan of being trapped underground in small enclosed spaces, I decided to opt out and pick up a picnic lunch instead (along with Meg’s help). The area that we were staying in is south of the Seine, known as Montparnasse. I really love this arondissment – it’s full of local charm and just far enough away to feel like you aren’t as touristy as you really are. It’s the perfect place to begin your quest for the perfect Parisian picnic.
Step 1: Head to Rue Raymond Lossard – there is everything you need to stock up for a picnic. A boulangerie, to pick up fresh bread – my new favourite being Baguette Viennoise – a baguette with chocolate baked into it (like chocolate chips, not a chocolate centre). Then to the fromagerie, for some French standards – Pont l’Eveque, Roquefort, Brie, Chèvre. Next to the boucherie to buy a French delicacy – Fois Gras (I won’t get into the debate of animal cruelty vs. preserving French culture here…though the internet has much to say about both). Then the produce stand (cantaloupe and kumquats), and Monoprix for crackers, deli meats and butter. Lastly, the patisserie, for 4 boxes of fresh made tarts (assorted flavours).
Step 2: Immediately regret not bringing a rolling cart for all your newfound culinary treats.
Step 3: load your purchases as you go into reusable cloth bags. Better for the environment and easier to carry. Also, makes it more convincing that you are a local.
Step 4: Walk 4 blocks to the nearest metro station. Attempt to get your ticket out of your pocked while holding all the groceries, now bruising your arms. Lift them up high to try and get through the gates and turnstile, all while not dropping things. The real locals will roll their eyes are you while you struggle, because no one in Paris would look this stupid.
Step 5: Walk down 6 flights of stairs to the actual metro. Because escalators are only found in the HUGE stations, not the small local ones off the tourist path.
Step 6: Wait for the train. Rest your bags against the ground, and count down the long 3 minutes it takes for the next train to arrive. Get into the car, only to realize that there isn’t a practice place to sit while holding 4 boxes of pastries, and end up leaning against a wall. Space your feet hip width apart to balance yourself and give you some stability, because you don’t have hands to hold on to anything – this is going to be some core exercise.
Step 7: Try to distract yourself while counting down the 20 minute ride. Move awkwardly at each stop as people get on and off and have to move around you and your boxes and bags. Oh – and of course keep an eye out for pick pockets.
Step 8: Arrive! Almost there, right? No. Gotta walk back up those 6 flights of stairs to the street level. Stop and find a map to figure out which of the 6 exits will take you to the park. Take the wrong exit anyway.
Step 9: Walk for 10 minutes to find a bench. Put everything down. Ensure that no birds are around to eat your food. Gather as many chairs as you can.
Step 10: Use plastic butter knives to carve up a cantaloupe. Avoid swarm of bees. They also like cantaloupe.
Step 11: Wait for 26 teenagers to arrive and feast – Parisian style. Forget about the hassle – it was 100% worth it.
Step 12: Following lunch, pull up a chair along side the fountain, and soak in the sun. Try to savour every sound, smell and sight. Repeat to yourself, quietly, “I can’t believe I’m in Paris,” or “This is amazing,” or “It doesn’t get better than this.” If you’d like, alternate all three. Conversation with friends is welcome. Silence is also an excellent choice. Just soak it all in.
Congratulations – you have mastered the picnic.