My two adult children are often aggravated with me because I am an over planner. I believe half the fun of a vacation is researching and booking your time well before hand. My daughter was very surprised when we got to Paris and didn’t have every minute of the trip planned out. I knew we would see the big sites, but to be honest Paris overwhelmed me a bit. I had been apprehensive about the Parisian’s brusque reputation . From the minute we got off the train however, things felt really wonderful. We got lost walking to our hotel and a lovely French woman led us all the way to it. This was the first of some great surprises. The Parisians were so warm and welcoming!
I asked my daughter what she wanted to do and she decided she would love to tour a French bakery. I didn’t think I would be able to make this happen without reservations weeks in advance, but started researching on the internet just in case. There were a number of companies that offered bakery tours or special tastings, but they were very expensive and already booked up. Then I found Meeting the French. This company offers special experiences like tours of bakeries, flower markets and vintage shopping excursions with a Parisian guide to give a behind the scenes experience. After some discussion, we decided to book a baking lesson at a French bakery for the next day.
The bakery was tucked away on a quiet street, but we had no trouble finding it. We met our guide and the one other participant inside and were taken to the back room for introductions and an overview of the morning’s activities. Our guide was amazing! She graciously translated the French of the baker to Japanese for the other guest and English for us. She never missed a beat and was able to make the complicated process of making baguettes understandable to each of us.
We headed down into the basement of the small, family-owned bakery, where our baker charmed us with humorous anecdotes and inside stories about life as a Parisian baker. He gave us an overview of the types of flour and other ingredients used to bake traditional Parisian baguettes. He explained the difference between boulangeries (bread bakeries) and patisseries (pastry bakeries.) Baguettes are created using a very specific set of rules: #55 flour, Parisian water, hot steam ovens and careful shaping techniques. Once we had the rules down, we started baking. He guided us through each step until we had created a variety of breads and croissants. When we got our loaves into the oven we headed back upstairs for a mini pastry baking lesson. It was fun to see all of the fillings for the elaborate pastries.
Two hours later we left the bakery loaded with toasty, fresh baguettes, croissants and a deep affection for the French. We would heartily recommend this tour. Our tour cost 113 euros each and lasted over 2 hours. Our guide and baker were warm, friendly and knowledgeable. We definitely loved “Meeting the French!”
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