10 souvenirs to buy from a French supermarket

(or the reason why I always go to France with an empty suitcase)

Let’s be honest. The end of the holidays always sucks.

You might be happy to go home and stuff, but the prospect of going back to the routine of everyday life? Not so much.

One thing that’s good about it though? Souvenirs shopping!

And when in France, there’s no better place for that than the supermarket! (unless of course you’re planning on decorating your flat with Eiffel Tower replicas of all sizes… in which case, enjoy!)

10 souvenirs to buy in a French supermarket | Cake + Whisky

Now, I will admit that I have a bit of a thing for foreign supermarkets, and in my opinion, nothing tops bringing back home the flavours you enjoyed during your holiday…

So if you want to keep the French Summer holiday vibes going, below are 10 brilliant things you should pick up at the local French supermarket!

10 souvenirs to buy in a French supermarket | Cake + Whisky

1. Milk chocolate with hazelnuts: A staple of French snacks, it’s proving surprisingly difficult to find in the UK. Most supermarkets will sell some under their own brand, or you can always splurge for some Milka or CĂŽte d’Or bars… When you’re at it, you might also want to pick up a few bars of NestlĂ© baking chocolate (the one wrapped with brown paper). You’ll never bake a chocolate cake with cocoa after that.

2. Speciality mustard: The French do love their mustard and, from the classic Dijon to more unusual blends, there’s a wide range to choose from. If you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend anything from family-owned, Burgundy-based mustard company Edmond Fallot.

3. Le Petit Marseillais Milk shower gel: My favourite shower gel in the entire world. Not only is it one of the most moisturising ones I’ve ever tried, but it’s also super cheap (about 2€ for 400ml) and it smells like my childhood.

4. Lotus speculoos: The one and only way to turn your coffee break into a proper Parisian experience. Also really good dunked in tea, crushed on top of baked fruit for an instant crumble, with yoghurt or instead of biscuits in a tiramisu… So you better get a few extra boxes, just to be safe (and maybe add a jar of speculoos spread as well…)!

5. Cornichons: NOT your usual pickles! The French cornichons are smaller in size and have a more ferm, crunchier texture, and the taste is somewhat more sharp. Perfect in sandwiches and with cold meat platters!

6. Levure Chimique “Alsacienne”: Now, that’s a rather weird one, especially since self-raising flour is so easy to come by in the UK. BUT despite my effort, I find that cakes simply don’t raise the same way when I don’t use the little pink bags, and taste weirdly chemical-ey when I add some British baking powder to my batters… or am I just doing something wrong?

7. Skincare from the parapharmacie: Parapharmacies are where all my money disappears the second I set food in France. Offering all sorts of skin care products, there are any beauty addict’s dream come true and very good value for brands such as La Roche Posay, AvĂšne, Caudalie etc.

8. CrĂšme de Marrons: Now, this is rather niche. Coming from the beautiful middle-of-nowhere region of ArdĂšche, this chestnut spread is simply divine. My favourite way to eat it is mixed in yoghurts, but it also has multiple uses in pastry (and I won’t rule out the idea of eating it by the spoonful…)

9. Wine: Because when in France… but put down that bottle of Chardonnay (nobody in France drinks that) and go less obvious labels. If you’re into white wine, I suggest you try a nutty CĂŽtes du Jura (excellent with hard cheese and stone fruit), or an easy-going Sancerre. As far as rosĂ© goes, you can’t really go wrong with a Bandol. And if red’s you thing, maybe a Bourgogne or a Saint Nicolas?

10. Herbes de Provence: This mix of dried herbs (usually marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano) simply tastes of Summer. It is a staple of southeast France cuisine and perfect on grilled meat and fish, as well as in Provencal stews such as ratatouille.

 

What sort of souvenir do you like to bring back from holiday?

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10 souvenirs to buy in a French supermarket | Cake + Whisky

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10 souvenirs to buy from a French supermarket

A taste of Africa at Comptoir GĂ©nĂ©ral, Paris

If by day, Paris is the city of love, by night, it’s really quite the spot to party!

Of course, there are plenty of clubs in town, but what Paris truly excels at is the understated, intimate sort of party.

Rooftops & champagne bars, teeny-tiny wine bars, and everything in between, it has nothing in common with London’s sweaty clubs and their ‘are-you-kidding-me’ priced drinks.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

And the place to be to party the Parisian-way?

The holly hipster area between République and the Canal Saint Martin!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

At daytime, it’s home to loads of small clothes & home boutiques, with loads of street art and a handful of nice coffee shops and cafĂ©s…

But at night, it’s all about the underground, speakeasy-like bars!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Hidden behind a door that looks just like any other one, at the back of an absolutely ordinary courtyard, is my favourite of them all: Comptoir Général.

If it wasn’t for the bodyguards (and the constant flow of people), you’d never know it was there…

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

The rather grand entrance sets the tone in terms of decor.

Think colonial palace meets dirty-around-the-edge brothel, with a hint of flea market added in for good measure.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

It even gets quite random at times, with a full-sized tiki bar…

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

… and a full size pirate boat to match!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Which is all rather weird if you think about it, but Comptoir Général is really all about discovering & exploring obscure, marginal & under-estimated cultures from around the world.

And the thing is, the atmosphere you get from those seemingly juxtaposed bits is simply fantastic.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Authentic and relax, fun, very, very bo-bo (bourgeois-bohĂšme, Paris’ answer to our hipster culture!) and a little bit dirty around the edges…

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Trendy Parisians come in group, with their friends, their parents and even their dogs for a couple of cocktails, a bite to eat and the garantee of a great time.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

There’s a small but to-the-point cocktail list, with brilliant African-inspired drinks full of tropical flavours.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

The Draquecito: rum, lime, cane sugar & mint

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Basically a pimped-up mojito, and just as refreshing as you’d expect!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Punch Bimbo, a citrus-y take on the Caribbean classic.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

And a few too many glasses of the obligatory Planteur.

In hintsight, a few less of those would have been wiser, but the combination of rum, orange, pineapple, guava and mango was just too good to resist!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Starving and a little bit tipsy, we made our way to the next room in search of some nibbles to match.

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With that same flea-market-y feel that runs through the whole thing, super friendly staff & a short-and-sweet sort of menu, Comptoir GĂ©nĂ©ral’s restaurant is basically a piece of central Africa in the heart of Paris.

With food to match!

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

We started off with a double order of a Salt Cod puffs with ‘Chien‘ dipping sauce.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Delightfully light and subtle fish doughnuts, and not one dog in sight in the sauce!

Despite it’s name, the traditional dipping sauce from Martinique is actually made of herbs, garlic, chilli, lemon & oil.

Sour, fresh and rather pungent, its the perfect accompaniment to cut through the richness of the salt cod puffs!

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Corn hush puppies with fiery Chipotle mayo

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Followed by the Special of the day, an Indian-inspired burger.

A vibrant and tasty hommage to the flavours of India, that are becoming more and more popular in Africa.

A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

And an excellent Chicken Maffé (a traditional peanut-based stew from Sénégal), which took me back to a trip to Africa I did many years ago.

Down to Earth, homely food that tastes just like what an Africa Mamma would cook, good cocktails, some cracking music and a winning experience everytime, Comptoir Général is the perfect place to get a taste of Africa in the heart of Paris!

Go with friends, book a table and stay ’til late… It’s always a fun place to be!

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A Taste of Africa at Comptoir Général, Paris | Cake + Whisky

A taste of Africa at Comptoir GĂ©nĂ©ral, Paris

A walk about Paris + Lunch at Le Comptoir

On our last day in Paris, we had a bit of a late start (due to a few too many cocktails, fireworks and having to walk across all of Paris to go home afterwards).

The plan was originally to climb the towers of Notre Dame, but when we turned up, the queue was already winding up half of Ile St Louis, so we decided to pass.

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Instead, we explored Paris charming little flower market…

Before heading right across the street to one of my favourite Paris’ sight.

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Hidden behind the golden doors of Palais de la CitĂ© (the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century, now used as Paris’ Court of Justice), the Sainte Chapelle is an absolute gem of Gothic style.

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Built in only seven years, the Sainte Chapelle was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis.

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Besides the stunning white stone portal is the lower chapel, which served as parish church for all the inhabitants of the palace, which was the seat of government.

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With low ceilings, richly coloured and decorated walls, the lower chapel is an excellent reminder of the religious and political influence coming with the possession of the sacred relics.

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Up a flight of stairs, you’ll enter the upper chapel, adorned with the same fleur-de-lys ceiling and coloured patterned walls.

But nobody will blame you for not spotting them…

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Indeed, the Sainte Chapelle most feature is its stunning stained glass windows, for whose benefit the stone wall surface is reduced to little more than a delicate framework.

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Arranged across 15 windows, each 15 metres high, the stained glass panes depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments recounting the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris in August 1239.

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The level of detail in each window is absolutely astonishing, and I could have spent the day admiring each one in awe.

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But my grumbly stomach had other plans…

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So after one last look at the Sainte Chapelle’s stunning stained glass windows, we crossed the river in search of lunch.

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Eventually settling at Le Comptoir, ‘bistronomy‘ (bistro-gastronomy) chef Yves Camdeborde acclaimed restaurant.

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With its retro look and its sunny terrace, it’s not hard to see why it’s become a locals’ favourite…

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The excellent selection of wine (including a stunning Bandol rosĂ©) and delightful crusty bread probably didn’t hurt either…

But refrain from nibbling to much of it while you place your order, as the food itself is absolutely glorious.

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Melt-in the mouth Daube de boeuf, with carrots and pasta.

Rich and indulgent, it had been cooked for hours, and was so soft a spoon could cut through it.

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

A bit of a Greek twist of the classic Steak tartare.

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Served with aubergine purée, anchovy paste and grated feta alongside the traditonal capers and shallot, it was super fresh and the perfect dish to have on a sunny day!

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And a little side salad, because greens never hurt!

Especially if you’re planning some rather indulgent dessert action afterwards!

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Baba au rhum with Chantilly cream and praline.

The French classic, litteraly drenched in rum (much to the horror of the American couple having lunch next to us!)

But the cherry on top of this fabulous bistro meal?

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This stunning Coffee CrÚme Brûlée!

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Topped with a wafer-thin layer of crispy caramel, hiding a silky-smooth, intensely coffee-y set cream.

Lunch at Le Comptoir, Paris | Cake + Whisky

Everything a good brûlée should be, and then some more, much like the rest of the dishes at Le Comptoir.

Simple, to-the-point bistro food, celebrating the variety and seasonality of French cuisine.

‘Bistronomy” at its very best!

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And just enough fuel to reach nearby Jardins du Luxembourg for a stroll around the breath-taking SĂ©nat (the French equivalent to the UK’s House of Lords) building and a bit of a snooze on one of the park’s deck loungers…

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A walk about Paris | Cake + Whisky

A walk about Paris + Lunch at Le Comptoir

Breakfast in Paris

If there’s one thing you simply must do on a trip to Paris, it’s pop out in the morning for fresh bread and croissants.

There are boulangeries on every corner, selling all the classics.

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Baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolat


Breakfast in Paris at Boulangerie Bo | Cake + Whisky

Along with every other treat you could hope for!

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Including speciality bread…

Breakfast in Paris at Boulangerie Bo | Cake + Whisky

Pizza…

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And never-ending rows of beautiful cakes!

Pick up all your favourites (we couldn’t pass up Boulangerie Bo‘s beautiful cakes…), then take your haul to the closest sunny spot you can find.

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If you’re lucky, your local boulangerie might even have a built-in spot for impromptu breakfast picnics…

Breakfast in Paris at Boulangerie Bo | Cake + Whisky

Then, all you have to do is get stuck in!

Breakfast in Paris at Boulangerie Bo | Cake + Whisky

Coconut & wild strawberry tartlet, fresh & light as a (coconut foam) cloud

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Decadent Raspberry & pistachio tartlet, bursting with pistachio flavour and tart raspberry jam.

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Last but not least, the signature Vanilla tartlet.

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A delicate almond & vanilla wonder, with layers of vanilla whipped cream, almond marzipan & almond biscuit.

An absolute triumph.

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High on sugar we decided to walk it off at the nearby Coulée Verte.

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A unique space in Paris (but not disimilar to New York’s Highline), La CoulĂ©e Verte is a 3mi green belt built on top of the obsolete Vincennes railway line.

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Beginning just east of the Opéra Bastille with the elevated Viaduc des Arts, it goes all the way down to the boulevard Périphérique beltway.

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From the elevated gardens, you get a new perspective of the city.

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…and a little bit of a nosy into people’s flats along the way!

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Cake, nature & architectural wonders
 The perfect start to any day of Parisian adventures!

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Breakfast in Paris at Boulangerie Bo | Cake + Whisky

Breakfast in Paris

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris

There’s something quite fascinating about bar dining.

Watching the chefs do their thing, grating this, chopping that, tasting it all, fixing the seasoning, dressing the plates, seeing your dishes being made in front of your very eyes… it never fails to make me want to order the whole menu!

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Which is pretty much what happened at Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, a tiny but perfectly formed wine bar located Rue du Nil, in Paris’ trendy 2nd arrondissement.

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

Having just missed the last table on the 7 PM sitting, things didn’t seem to be going so well at first as we were told it’d take about an hour and a half to get seated.

But it simply looked too good to miss out on, and I had a good feeling about the place. So we settled in with a glass of wine. The time passed and soon enough, we were led to our table.

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

But not just any table. The best in the house, with direct views into Frenchie’s amazing kitchen.

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Mesmerised by the chefs’ movements, distracted by the beautiful smells and dishes coming from the kitchen, it took us a while to order.

 

We started things off with a few more glasses of wine…

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

A rich, complex Bourgogne for him and an incredibly nutty CÎtes du Jura for me.

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

Followed by one of everything on the menu that night (almost).

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Homemade country style terrine and piccalilli

A generous serving of bacon-wrapped, super meaty pork terrine, perfectly complemented by the sharpness of the pickle-y piccalilli, prooving once again that classics done well are difficult to beat!

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Burrata with pea shoots, Amalfi lemon and fresh almonds

A delicate flavour combination, creamy, fresh, interesting… and quite simply perfect!

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Sweet & sour cauliflower fritters with seeds

Earthy cauliflower, sweet and sour Thai dressing, lime and seeds… an unlikely combination for sure, but it turned out to be one of those dishes you just want to keep on eating.

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Rabbit pappardelle with black olives and confit lemon

A refreshing, zingy twist on the classic.

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

Heirloom tomato panzanella with goat’s curd.

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Gorgeous Ricotta ravioli with fresh peas, clover and mushroom jus.

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Clean, complex and inspired, it only took one bite for it to take the lead as the best vegetarian dish I’ve eaten sofar this year.

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Octopus carpaccio with sun-dried tomatoes and sea trout roe.

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

Chicken with veal jus & broad bean risotto.

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris 2nd | Cake + Whisky

And the most beautiful Apricot tart with herb ice cream to top it all off.

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With apricot jam, puree, roasted apricots and the dreamiest of pastries (soooo buttery and crumbly!), topped by a generous quenelle of fragrant thyme-flavoured ice cream, it was a wonder of taste and texture.

The kind you’d only share with your very favourite people in the world.

Which is just as well considering the intimate setting of Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins. It’s not big, and it sure is popular, but it is well worth the wait.

Just make sure you make the most of your table when you get one.

Over-ordering absolutely compulsory!

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, 5-6 rue du Nil, 75002 Paris

Frenchie Bar Ă  Vins, Paris

On top of Paris

There isn’t one angle Paris doesn’t look majestic from.

But it’s especially beautiful from the top.

So on our first day in the French capital, we took it upon ourselves to brave the masses of tourists at Galeries Lafayette and climb to the very top…

On top of Paris + L'Eclair de GĂ©nie | Cake + Whisky

Where we were rewarded with this view.

From the Eiffel Tower, to the golden dome of the Invalides and everything in between, the whole of Paris of Paris is at your feet.

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There is a brilliant view of the majestic Opera building too.

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And if you’ve done your research, there will be many a monument you’ll recognize…

On top of Paris + L'Eclair de GĂ©nie | Cake + Whisky

As you’re about to head back downstairs, make sure you get a good look at Montmartre’s stunning SacrĂ© Coeur church.

An intricate architectural wonder dominating Paris’ highest mound, it’s well worth it if you ask me!

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You might also want to take a moment to ‘Oooh’ and ‘Aaah’ at the Galeries Lafayette’s resident wonder…

Before going right across the street to one of Paris’ newest, yet most succesful stores.

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After having worked at Le Gavroche, then with the Roux family and French patisserie superstars Christophe Felder and Pierre HermĂ©, Christophe Adam opened L’Eclair de GĂ©nie in 2012.

There, he focuses on his favourite patisserie classic, the traditional éclair, which gets re-invented in a variety of exclusive and creative flavours.

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Taking the city by storm and leaving all Parisians (and myself) feeling like kids in a candy store.

On top of Paris + L'Eclair de GĂ©nie | Cake + Whisky

In the window, nothing but rows and rows of jewel-like Ă©clairs.

Spinning head, beating heart and sweaty palms, far too uickly, it’s time to make a choice.

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Will you go for the meringue & cookie adorned yuzu-lemon Ă©clair? The classic strawberry & raspberry Ă©clair? Or maybe the temptalising vanilla & pecan nut one?

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Maybe you’ll succumb to the exotic charms of the above passion & mango Ă©clair.

Or will the limited edition ‘Paris’ one catch your eye?

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Needless to say, choosing just one is a real challenge.

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Once you do, you’ll want to take your precious haul outside and take advantage of one of the city’s quiet little parcs.

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Settle on a bench in the sun and take your paper treasure chest out of its multicoloured bag.

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Take one last look at those Ă©clair beauties (and maybe a few Insta-worthy pics), before digging in!

On top of Paris + L'Eclair de GĂ©nie | Cake + Whisky

Not only are L’Eclair de GĂ©nie the prettiest Ă©clairs around, but they’re also the best I’ve ever had (and trust me, I’ve had a few in my French days).

Vibrant, perfectly balanced and with cleverly picked topping that bring that little textural plus, they’re truly a work of art.

So good in fact they deserve a little déclairation of love!

So make sure you pick a box up next time you’re in Paris (find all the stores on L’Eclair de GĂ©nie’s website). In the meantime, I’ll have my fingers crossed that they’ll soon come to this side of the Channel…

On top of Paris

Postcard from Paris – Bleu, Blanc, Rouge

(Just a quick ‘postcard from Paris’-type post today while I unpack my bags & go through my pictures, but expect a lot more of French-flavoured content coming to Cake + Whisky very soon!)

Bleu. Blanc. Rouge.

Blue for honour, white for purity, red for passion. Blue for the king, white for light, red for blood.

And of course, blue skies, white cheese and red wine!

Bleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + WhiskyBleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + WhiskyBleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + Whisky

As it happens, blue and red are also the time-honored colors of Paris, while white is the color of the Royal House of Bourbon (including Louis XIV, XV & XVI, whose reigns have fundamentaly marked the French capital).

Bleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + WhiskyBleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + WhiskyBleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + Whisky

No wonder then that blue, white and red are everywhere in Paris… especially on Bastille Day!

Bleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + WhiskyBleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + WhiskyBleu, Blanc, Rouge in Paris | Cake + Whisky

France may have lost the Euros, and we may have had the saddest of Bastille Day, but the tricolore colours still shine high and proud. Love will prevail.

Together with blue skies, white cheese & red wine, of course!

Postcard from Paris – Bleu, Blanc, Rouge