In the 11th arrondissement, hidden behind creamy white neoclassical apartment blocks oozing with class from when Paris was run by kings sits the best breakfast spot in town. Is it a classic French patisserie or luxurious five-star hotel within ear shot of Notre Dame? No, it’s a grocery store.
It’s a Carrefour to be exact; light green signage and narrow aisles stacked high with French cheese, French chips and French chocolate. Little French ladies in heavy wool overcoats tottered past us with carts filled nonchalantly with too much wine. We found “our” Carrefour on the first day of a week long-trip in Paris, though it wasn’t hard to spot due to its location: just outside the front door of our rented apartment. Jane and I have often trundled nearly across town to see the hippest new spot about which Lonely Planet just raves. And they are good, but the effort required limits the benefits. Location is key. Do you go all the way across town every Saturday for brunch? Of course not. You find a great place nearby. And this little French market had location and local charm in spades.
It also had pain au chocolat. Made fresh, every morning in the store, warm steam drifting gently off buttery pastry and fogging the two-pack containers. The chocolate inside these little delights reached out to grab our taste buds as we chewed through layer after layer of perfect pastry. It didn’t matter that they came from a grocery store that never made it into a travel guide. What mattered was that they were amazing. Sure, we indulged in a fancy patisserie or two, and you should you too, but don’t overlook the wonderful opportunities right outside your front door.
Slipping back into my cozy apartment, Paris’ winter chill sliding off my shoulders with my coat, and sitting down to have one, perhaps two, freshly made pain au chocolats is the best breakfast in Paris. Because finding the best breakfast, or any meal, isn’t about finding the one with five stars on Yelp, it’s about finding your place. You won’t have to look too far, it will be right outside your front door.