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Posts tagged ‘Algeria’

No. 221: Pâtisserie Algérienne

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Another one of the things I love about France is the very different and interesting culture that the Algerian immigrants and citizens bring to this country. The North Africans bring so much color, flavor, and vibrancy to the forever black and often mild palette of Paris.

I was recently reminded of this wonderful Algerian influence when I was exploring the 11éme arrondissement and came across yet another La Bague de Kenza Pâtisserie. The name, “The Ring of Kenza”, as all good names do, has a story attached to it. It has to do with one of the owners losing (and then finding) one of his daughter’s precious rings. I’m not sure why the father had her ring to begin with, but I like to imagine him panicked in the street of Paris, asking every one he came across if they had seen “Kenza’s ring”.

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It is fitting that bague means ring, because La Bague de Kenza is filled to bursting with sparkling, pastry jewels, the pâtisseries orientales. Everything behind the glass counter is yummy, but as I am nutty for pistachios, I always go straight for the pochette pistache, chopped pistachio and honey paste tucked into a light pouch of heavenly dough. The marzipan shaped fruit aren’t just delightfully whimsical, they are also every bit as delicious as German marzipan.

As you can imagine these pastry chefs bake with many different incarnations of almonds and dates, and pine nuts make a star appearance in several of my favorites, as do walnuts and coconut. La Bague’s pastries are a nice change of pace from French pastries and perfect as a delicate, and different dessert at your next dinner party. Mildly sweet and exquisitely crafted, it is worth stopping by just for the photo opportunity. And if sweets aren’t your thing, they do a mean tangine and fruity couscous, and don’t forget your mint-leaf tea.

 

106 rue Saint-Maur, Paris 75011 (Belleville)

 

No. 30: Marseille

IMG_8137When Superman first decided we were going to Marseille for un p’tit week-end, I was a bit skeptical. But since he was planning and paying, I decided to just go with it…come what may. After all, my only experience with Marseille was a 4-day homestay in high school when my shockingly mature and impossibly gorgeous chain smoking host sister talked me in to cutting off most of my hair and buying a very expensive pair of pink and black striped pirate pants.

But during the month leading up to our visit, whenever I told my friends (both French and foreign) we were headed to Marseille, most of them asked, “Why?” and several told me, “Ce n’est pas une belle ville. C’est dangereux!” They wondered if I knew about all the crime in the city and was a prepared to fend off the pickpockets.

Feeling a bit discouraged I decided to checked my two “go-to” France guidebooks: Rick Steves’ FRANCE 2009 and Fedor’s FRANCE 2014. Turns out Rick doesn’t even mention Marseille, France’s second largest city, at all (at least in the 2009 version), and Fedor’s 800+ page book only gives the city seven pages, three of which list hotels and restaurants. What the heck??

So I went with very low expectations this past weekend and sadly, upon arrival the city seemed to match those expectations. On first appearance Marseille was gritty, dirty, poor, crowded, and loud, very, very loud. It reminded me of some cities we have visited in Egypt or Israel. Vibrant, but a little sketchy, dingy and rundown.

But within a day, the city began to grow on me because, frankly, Marseille is the real deal, not the cleaned up and polished deal, you find in Paris.

As a port city Marseille was heavily bombed during WWII and then rebuilt in the 1950, serving as an entrance for millions of immigrants during the ‘50s and ’60. There are French citizens from many different cultures, particularly North Africans, mostly Algerians. Refreshingly the people of Marseille come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. There was a lot of smiling going on, while at the same time wizened looks of lives intensely lived. The population looked genuine. No living in a bubble going on there. It seemed to me like hardship combined with ease, the residents taking life in stride.

I absolutely loved the colors of Marseille, from the clothing and cars, to the hair and jewelry and the shoes and the skin. The beautiful Mediterranean backdrop compliments it all.

It’s an active city with lots of runners, cyclists, volleyball clubs and, of course, sailors. The beaches aren’t filled with tourist, but rather local families playing silly games with their children in the surf. People say, “Excuse me,” when they collide. Even the waiters were friendly and kind (always a bonus in France).

I’m so very glad we went.

Bravo Superman and listen up all you travel writers: Marseille is guidebook worthy. Give it another go!

Vocabulaire

Ce n’est pas une belle ville. C’est dangereux! It’s not a nice city. It’s dangerous.

un p’tit week-end: a long weekend get-away