Paris. It is the City of Love. It is iconic – a raft of idyllic images spring to mind when little ol’ Paree is mentioned. The Eiffel Tower, croissants, cobblestones, lovers, crepes, the Arc de Triomph, escargot, wine and Moulin Rouge – just to name a few.
Sadly, the tragic events a few weeks ago have temporarily marred these images and put Paris in the forefront of the public consciousness for reasons beyond comprehension.
But Paris is so much more. It is joy and culture and food.
I got the chance to attend the annual Paris to Provence festival last week. One week after the devastating events that left the world grieving for the City of Love, the Melbournians turned out for a festival celebrating Paris in all its beauty. It was the perfect way to rejoice the spirit of France.
What began as a drizzly, cold Melbourne day (I have been in Melbourne for 10 months now and I simply cannot come to terms with the wildly unpredictable and temperamental nature of this city!) transformed into brilliant sunshine almost as soon as we stepped off the tram and into the leafy streets of Toorak.
The festival was hosted at Como House, a beautifully historic mansion in one of Melbourne’s most affluent suburbs. The gardens were packed with market stalls and people meandering in the sunshine. I didn’t know where to start; cheese, wine, pastries, baguettes – all of the best things in life!
I opted for Nutella crepes (is that even a choice?) and they were an oozy, delicious mess of Nutella with a sprinkling of strawberries to break it up. Just the way I like it.
Unfortunately we missed the morning fashion event; the French Bulldogs Dressup Party. We did see one or two dressed up pups though, and let me just say, cuteness overload. Is there anything more amusing than dogs wearing people clothes? (aside from French dogs wearing French people clothes!) I think not.
Now something I should probably confess; I’m a sucker for challenges, and also super competitive. Food challenges are my favourite type of challenge – combining my love of food and my desire to crush the competition. While I unfortunately missed the Escargot Eating Race event, I was not going to miss the Croissant Throwing Contest. I don’t know if this is actually a thing in France, but it basically involved throwing a croissant as close to the marker as possible – much like a civilized game of bocce. Possibly more civilized, because it was French.
Unfortunately, I am as uncoordinated as they come, and did not crush the croissant toss.
The lawn was dotted with brightly coloured bean bags and deck chairs, for those needing a rest from the crowds. I indulged in a cone of saucisson and breadsticks from La Bastide – the French do savory just as well as sweet. Saucisson is a type of cured sausage not unlike salami. It was the perfect snack to chew on while I tried to soak up the sun but avoid burning my pasty skin to a crisp.
No French experience would be complete without a baguette, and we also picked up some pretty peonies for good measure.
I fully intended to buy a box of macarons, as one should do at any French event, but I could not go past one giant macaron.
And I’m glad I didn’t – despite its decadent size and appearance, it was super light and tasty, with tangy raspberries to counteract the sugar. Bon Appetit!
Paris to Provence Festival ran 20-22 November. See the full program at www.paristoprovence.com.au
Cnr Williams Rd & Lechlade Ave, South Yarra VIC