I went to Paris and all I got was a macaron (tattoo)

Except for the pain (right, I’d managed to forget the mad pain that comes with a tattoo) my macaron tattoo was a perfect Paris experience.

I only wanted to get the tattoo, on this, my 10th trip to Paris, if the artist Sailor Roman, who describes himself this way:

My project is to devellope a modern/traditionnal european sailors tattoo spirit based on my childhood taste for adventures stories. My tattoos are made for travelers, Sailors, wanderlust seekers, adventure junkies and hedonistics dudes.

could see me. And though it’s usually quite a wait to get in to see him in his apartment, in the magical way that trips to Paris have, he could see me the following week, when I’d be in town.

My friends and I lunched for hours beforehand where I fortified myself with a little champagne, a little white wine, a little red wine, and lots of bread. I was stone cold sober at my first tattoo, and I wasn’t going to repeat that.

Running late we had to pedal our bikes furiously up Blvd. Voltaire to get to the apartment. Fittingly, Romain (his real name, not his tattoo name) was on the top floor, where his windows overlooked heartbreaking views of Paris rooftops.

painWith early Serge Gainsbourg playing, a cold glass of Orangina at my side in case I got woozy, and my good friend Tracy letting me hold (read: crush) her hand while Julie kept me distracted with running commentary and questions, Romain worked with a sure hand and light touch. At various times I counted in French, insisted he tell me jokes, took breaks to sip my drink, and bit my other hand to keep from letting the threatening tears slip.

At last it was over and all was well. My forever reminder of Paris had me beaming even before Romain, who told us he comes from a pirate family, poured me a celebratory shot of spiced rum.

I found a macaron shop just a couple doors down from his building. I was just out of cash. This is what friends do: Julie unstrapped her purse from her bike after she’d spent several minutes securing it for the ride, so she could give me some euros for a box of macarons. I stood on the street, fresh macaron on my tummy, and macarons all around to share.

In all the excitement I forgot to check to see if the macaron is life-sized. Luckily I picked up some Laduree macarons at the airport, so I had a way to measure. And of course it is perfect.

P.S. Here’s the story behind the beginning of my macaron obsession (excerpted from my column in Food & Dining magazine from my days there as editor).

It was a travesty that I’d never tasted a French macaron, despite my yearly trips to France. In my defense, I’ve never considered myself a dessert person. I’d take cheese after a meal over a cloyingly sweet confection any day. And the colorful array of pastries in Parisian windows were candy to my camera, not to my tastebuds – or so I thought. I loved taking pictures of the little jewels, but thought they were a frivolous nibble for the Marie-Antoinettes of the world, nothing for a foodie to take seriously.

But as a winter twilight fell on Paris one February day last winter, I made a pilgrimage to one of the foodie nirvana places I keep on a mental list – Pierre Hermé. France’s youngest Pastry Chef of the Year, Hermé is celebrated for his magnificent confections. I strolled from my hotel near the Eiffel Tower to Saint Germain des Prés, chilled through by the time I arrived an hour later at the small, glowing shop more reminiscent of a jewelry store than a pastry shop. Inside the bright, warm store people queued up to select their precious treats. Precious indeed – I chose the macarons because they were the only thing in the shop that wouldn’t cost more than I’d budgeted for dinner.

The clerk waited patiently for me as I carefully considered my options, pointing “la, et la, et la … et la,” selecting rose, wasabi, salted caramel, and balsamic vinegar flavors. He carefully wrapped my treasures and took my euros – the four small macarons cost about €7 – more than $10. I left the store and perched on a nearby bench by the cathedral St. Sulpice and bit into my first macaron.

I exclaimed out loud. How could something this amazing be of this planet? As I bit down the thin shell shattered into a cloud of intense flavor that melted, cloaking my taste-buds in sheer joy. I was in love. It took three bites to reach heaven. I meant to only eat one so as not to ruin my appetite for dinner but I couldn’t help it. I reached in the bag and plucked one more – this time I knew what to expect and closed my eyes the better to savor the rapture. I saved the other two for dessert which I partook of like a religious ceremony back in my room that night, each one three bites of bliss.

I obsessed over macarons the rest of my time in Paris. I had to bring some home to my husband – how could I know that joy like this existed and not share it? The epicerie inside Publicis drugstore on the Champs-Elysées boasted a Pierre Hermé counter. On my last afternoon in Paris I chose a box of seven to take home. After the clerk packaged them up and rang me up my resolve failed. “Et une autre, pour moi. Un petit cadeau” (And another for me. A small gift) I said, smiling already with anticipation. And in this chic shop on one of the grandest avenues of Paris, the young man grinned and handed it to me. No charge. Paris, je t’aime!

I didn’t even have the decency to make it back to my hotel room. I stood outside the store in the late afternoon sun and slowly savored my last three bites of heaven in Paris.

The macarons I hand-carried home didn’t even last 24 hours. Bereft in a gray, macaron-less world since, I’ve dreamed of those bites, only very occasionally able to find macarons in Louisville.

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