It's cold, cold, cold this time of year in London and Paris-in fact, it snowed while we were in Paris, which was a new sight for me. Sitting in Laduree (the orginal pastry shop/tea salon on the Rue Royale) behind pyramids of rose-pink macaroons, eating a fabulously girly fluffy pink cake with cherries and creme fraiche (called a Pava or something like that), sipping hot smoky lapsong suchong tea and watching the snow fall--my favorite Paris-winter memory so far! If you can stand the smoke (yep, macaroons and cigarettes seem to go together), sit in the lovely main-floor room--the non-smoking room upstairs is crowded, less pretty, and smells like cooked food--not what you want with your pastry. Even with the cold, we had to go to Berthillon--divine chocolate ice cream, very velvety and fudgy, great vanilla and a sublime caramel with bits of burnt sugar in it. Mr. Dixie not being of the 'hound persuasion (and a vegetarian), we didn't really do any blowout dinners (wanted to try Violon d'Ingres, but alas, 40 euro entrees too pricey on my own tab). Went back to my fave, 35 Rue Jacob, for more of their awesome creamy pumpkin soup and chicken-lemon-date tagine. Went to Palaquin (vietnamese) on recc. from Patricia Wells book, but was very unimpressed--service was cold, the room is rather dank, and the food was quite bland--my chicken-rice-mushroom hot pot had barely a whisper of the promised ginger and tasted like invalid food. But the croissants everywhere were divine. And the falafels--from L'As du Falafel, esp. --rocked. Of course, all the falafel joints in the Marais (the old Jewish quarter) are closed on Friday/Sat. afternoons, for Shabbat. But on Sundays, when the rest of Paris is shut up tight, the whole neighborhood is jammed with people eating, strolling and shopping--really fun.
We stayed at the Hotel Muguet (95 euros/night for a double) which was really comfortable and really clean, with a very pleasant staff--felt like a more expensive place, for sure. We could see the Eiffel Tower from our bedroom window! In a rather quiet, not very exciting neighborhood (in the 7th near the Invalides), but if you don't mind doing some walking to get to St. Germain and the like, I'd certainly recommend it. There are some good bakeries (esp. Poujauron, which makes great breads--seemed to be the inspiration for the Bay Bread chain in San Francisco) on nearby Rue St. Dominique.