One of the audience questions that resonated with me most at Ann Mah and Lisa Pasold's talk on travel writing at the American Library of Paris last week was one that I've often asked myself. As a travel writer, do they struggle with sharing their finds with the world versus keeping some of them secret to retain exclusivity?
When I stumble upon a charming restaurant or café that hasn't yet been packaged and sold to eager tourists in major publications or websites, a part of me feels as though I shouldn't tell a soul. That I should keep it to myself and a small group of blog-less friends to prevent the eventuality of it becoming too trendy. Too packed, too been-there-done-that, too predictable.
But then the better half of me, the part that enjoys sharing with you and suggesting places that could mean the difference between a mediocre Paris trip and an exceptional one, trumps all selfishness. Both Ann Mah and Lisa Pasold felt the same - after all, what they really want is for their treasured spot to stay in business so spreading the word is key.
I actually credit my friend Emily for introducing me to Pain et Chocolat, an adorable salon de thé in the 7th run by a lovely older couple. She took me there for lunch 3 years ago shortly after they opened it has remained one of my go-to spots, morning or noon, ever since. As if the owners weren't cute enough, they leave fleece blankets on the backs of their terrace café chairs for some of the brisker outdoor meals.
Desserts and pastries are made in-house in a tiny kitchen where the whippet thin couple can barely fit side by side together. But if all it takes is a diminutive space to churn out stellar scones, whole grain breads and luscious lemon tartes, then their setup is suiting them just fine.
Despite being situated on a calm end of tourist holy land, only a quick walk from the Eiffel Tower, there are always locals of all ages mingling over coffee and croissants. You won't be hurried from the table or meet disapproving glances due to non-French parlance. Lingering is encouraged and once you see the impressive display of sweets you'll feel obligated to stay and nibble.
Tip: engage the owners if you can - it might just foster that interaction with the French your trip was missing.
Pain et Chocolat
16 avenue la Motte Picquet
Métro: Ecole Militaire