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Paris to Lisbon

After finishing up at the Pompidou, D. and I walked back towards the 10th Arrondissment and our hotel figuring we’d stop by for dinner on the way. We walked up the Rue La Fayette towards Gare du Nord. This is where I really differ from a lot of other people who’ve written about the 10th. There are a few people who have mentioned that they felt uncomfortable at night or that the neighborhood didn’t seem safe. In reality, the neighborhood is home to a lot of immigrants from France’s former African colonies, and that really seems to be shorthand for “there weren’t a lot of other white people around so it must be a really bad area”. I didn’t feel at all unsafe, the streets were busy with people getting ready for Friday night… lots and lots of hair shops and manicurists (apparently this is one of the best places to get braids done, and the hair salons were packed with women getting styled.) The few times that anyone even noticed we were walking by, they were friendly and smiling – not at all hostile, threatening or even that concerned with our presence at all.

Whether this area continues to be home to large numbers of immigrants is up for debate. The 10th is starting to gentrify and there are a number of well-reviewed and highly recommended restaurants moving in to the area along with some galleries, and usually that means that hotel renovations and condos aren’t far behind. It’s kinda sad – areas like that are a big part of what give a city it’s own unique character (what would New York be without Little Italy or San Fransisco without Chinatown?) but those areas are often the first to be plowed over in to a bobo paradise. It was a nice, albut brisk walk, and we soon started to get in to an area that had sit-down restaurants (as opposed to the take-out or quick-stop places up and down La Fayette).

Despite the fact that a lot of Parisians were comfortable sitting outside, D and I wanted someplace that had inside seating because we were cold and tired. We initially walked by P’tite Bougnate because the patio was full, and thinking like Americans we assumed that if the patio was full when it was that cold, the inside would be packed. However, we didn’t see anything else that looked as good in the area so we walked back to see how long the wait would be. There was no wait. Despite the big crowd on the patio, the inside was practically empty… except for another table of Americans who didn’t want to brave the cold, either.

We got the menu and decided on a mid-priced (about 20 euro) bottle of wine, an appetizer of goose rilettes, a rural-style sausage plate and duck. The sausage and duck were very good… the rilettes were out of this world. The meat was perfectly shredded in to pieces just large enough to have some bite but still small enough to get very tender and soft , just garlicky enough and creamy enough to have to be served in a little tureen. We finished the meal with a plate of cheeses (a blue d’Auvergne, a soft goat cheese and a very tasty camembert).

After dinner, it was back to the hotel to finally sleep. We had a 7:20 flight from Paris to Lisbon and that meant getting up at around 5 to catch the first train to the airport…. Except the first train (the 4:45) didn’t come. It was on the web schedule and it was on the printed schedule and several other people were there with us waiting for it. Not catching that train meant waiting for the 5:15, which we were afraid was cutting it really, really close for a 7:20 flight, but by that point there wasn’t much we could do. Taxing to the airport takes about 45 minutes (it’s actually longer than the train ride, which takes ~25 minutes) and is spendy. We figured that if we were going to miss the flight, we were going to miss the flight for the train tickets we already paid for, rather than spend a bunch more money and miss the flight anyway. Fortunately, the 5:15 was on time and got us to the airport in more than enough time. French airport security was pretty efficient, and the airport was quite empty at that time of the morning, so we easily made it to the gate.

The Air France flight in Europe was like old-school American flying. We got breakfast and drinks for free, which made the flight much more pleasant, especially since we didn’t get a chance to eat anything other than stale airport kiosk food because of the rush and train drama. And even more of a bonus, even though we passed through 3 airports and had 23 hours between the second and third flights, Delta/Air France did not lose our bags. They were, in fact, among the first to come off the carousel in Lisbon.

Once we got our bags, getting through customs and out to the buses was pretty simple and there is an airport bus that dropped us off in what would have been a very convenient location to the hotel (as in practically right outside the hotel’s door) if I didn’t get us lost requiring a 10 minute walk with luggage down and up a hill.

Once we got back to the America Diamond’s hotel, our room wasn’t ready (we were very early) so we put the luggage in their left luggage room and wandered up the street to Torio Pasteleria, which we’d been too last year and have been thinking about ever since… unfortunately Torio is on a holiday break and is closed from Christmas through January so it was back down to Marques de Pombal square towards Restauradores looking for lunch. We stumbled upon the Baiana Pasteleria on Avenida Liberdade between the Avenida and Restauradores metro stops. Lunch was simple, but very tasty and they were very, very friendly. The interior is very typically Portugese with some really pretty azuljo insets in the walls and a very overwhelmingly Portugese clientel. Despite the fact that this is purely a local’s joint, the server spoke decent English and brought samples of the cheeses out of the kitchen when his English and our worse Portugese wasn’t working to get the information across. Lunch at these places is probably one of the best deals on Earth: about 12 euro including wine and an order of cheese.

After lunch, we really wanted to have a chance to shower and recoup after being up so early that morning and getting back on a plane, so it was back to the hotel to get in to the room, make reservations for dinner at the fado place and then rest and relax.

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