Maria Goretti’s first rendezvous with Paris was in 2011, which tragically lasted only a day. She was in the middle of a culinary course in London, from where she took a train to Paris, and skipping class was simply not an option.
In June, the former VJ, actress and TV show host made up for that rushed visit by staying in the city for six weeks while pursuing an intensive patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu. As its name suggests, the course was all-consuming. Goretti only had Sundays off but she enjoyed school and the novelty of living like a local in the heart of Paris. Here, she talks about her brief Paris sojourn, eating and cooking French food and sauntering about the city, its cafes and farmer’s markets.
How would you sum up your stay in Paris?
It was a great experience—I lived in my own apartment, cooked my own food, I blended in with the city. It felt great to sit by the Seine and do nothing. I visited the Sacré-Cœur, where I climbed the 300 steps to reach the top. I am a history buff and love art and architecture, so I went to the Palace of Versailles and the Picasso museum, where I just sat and soaked in the atmosphere. My friend Archana wanted to visit Jim Morrison’s tomb at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, and there we saw Oscar Wilde’s tomb as well, which was cordoned off with a glass wall covered in kisses. I stayed in Passy at the 16th arrondissement so I loved walking on the Bir-Hakeim Bridge every day to and from class. I could see the Eiffel Tower every day, and it looked different at different times of the day—a sight which has continued to stay with me.
What about the food? Did you have a standout experience?
It was nice to sit at Le Café Marly, next to the Louvre, and bite into Boeuf Tartare—a classic French dish served by nearly every restaurant, but which the restaurant made especially well—and escargot (cooked land snails). In school, I made a Charlotte, a popular French dessert made from meringue, cream, almonds and fresh fruit jelly. I found that Paris is full of tiny patisseries selling a variety of delightful desserts—even my local grocery store sold high-quality pastries. Every Sunday, on my way to the local farmer’s market, I would buy a croissant because it was just that fresh and delicious.
My favourite food experience, however, was visiting an Ethiopian restaurant called Lac Tana, where I ate a thali of sorts. The base, called injera, resembled a big fluffy roti and is fermented, similar to the dosa. A variety of dishes and flavoursome meat-based curries and stews such as dorowat, gored gored and kitfo were served on top of the injera.
Your favourite Parisian café?
I love Angelina, in the 1st arrondissement, and Carette, in Chaillot—both are really wonderful, old and charming.
Any tips for travellers planning to visit Paris?
Don’t stay in a hotel. I got my own apartment and it made a huge difference. There are many amazing farmer’s markets in Paris, so try to eat local. Ask locals for recommendations about where to eat. Sit at a bar. Or at a café which faces the road, where you can have a glass of wine and nibble on salad as you watch life in Paris pass you by.
Anu Prabhakar is an astronomy nerd and die-hard Agatha Christie fan who, someday, hopes to solve a crime mystery à la Hercule Poirot before shooting off to the moon. Until then, she is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.