Thursday, 2 February 2012

Paris vs Berlin

I have friends in all the right places; namely, Paris and Berlin, where I can escape for weekends and indulge in late nights, food and wine. The past two weekends I spent in Paris, and then Berlin.

Paris I have been to many times, and written about. Paris was drizzly and mild, and we spent a long day, three of us, wandering the streets, sneaking into the Notre Dame, and window shopping, until we found ourselves on the Île Saint-Louis, and nipped into a crêperie. Crêpe en l’Isle, on Rue des Deux Ponts, is tiny, quaint, warm and cheap. I had Crêpe la Strasbourgeoise; crisp thin crêpe filled with egg, sausage, cheese, tomato and potato, €7.50. This was perfect - while I politely avoided the spongy pale pink sausage, the warm and wintery combination of everything else was fabulous in a filling-but-cheap way. Washed down with a pitcher of traditional dry cider.



By the time we got back to the St Germain area where we were staying with our lovely host, it was time for afternoon tea at Ladurée. I visit this patisserie specialising in macarons most times I am in Paris. This time I ordered an Ispahan cake: rose macaron, filled with perfect fresh raspberries and lychee cream, worth all of the €9.90. Along with tea, hot chocolate and eight mini macarons to share, this came to just shy of €40. But totally worth saving your pennies for. 

Saturday night we ventured out late to our frequented Vietnamese cafe in the South, Song Huong, 129 av de Choisy, for Pho Bo (beef noodle soup served with fresh herbs), before attending a party in the North, near the canal. Parisians do things late. I was ready for bed by around 3am and had to leave them to it. 




Berlin is like the opposite of Paris; grungy, heavily graffitied, Soviet architecture, large open grassy spaces where there were probably buildings prior to the second world war. It was cold; negative temperatures during the day, which meant that we could only last so long before we had to stop for beer, cake, coffee, whatever to get out of the cold and warm our hands. 
We managed to last to lunch time until we bundled ourselves into Goodies on Warschauer Straße for organic carrot cake with divine real marzipan icing, and fudgy chocolate brownie. While the carrot cake was a little on the doughy side, the brownie was perfect. With two flat whites that looked better than they actually were, €8.50. It was so cold that the temperature change going inside made the camera lens fog up!

That night, in Berlin style, it began to snow. This caused much excitement as it was the first snow of the winter for Berliners and Londoners alike. We ventured out with our favourite Kiwi-German duo into the snowy evening for German food, which is harder to find in Berlin than you might think. The city seems to be filled with Lebanese, Vietnamese, Thai and 'Asian' cheap eateries. 

At Spätzle & Knödel, on Wühlischstraße, we had wonderful mains of various forms of dumpling, potato, cabbage, meat and sauce, which was as perfect for cold weather as Parisian crêpes. This was followed up by Apple Strudel with vanilla custard and Kaiserschmarrn  - Austrian pancakes - served with stewed plum sauce. The Germans know how to do winter food.

We slipped and slid and shuffled our way home, stopping briefly at Cafe Stadler (see a picture of the barman here) for a quick shot of Jagermeister to warm up - the first of many Jagermeister shots that evening. 

The next day, after a sleep-in, we met an old friend from New Zealand for lunch. We wandered around Friedrichshain until we could no longer feel our toes and eventually stumbled upon a Korean restaurant called Manna, on Niederbarnimstraße. Here we had possibly the best bibimbap ever - rice, vegetables, soya beans, kimchi and optional meat, served in a fire-hot stone bowl with an egg and pepper sauce. 

Our friend suggested we go to the market at Boxhagener Platz, where they had beautiful deco ware, fabulous vintage shoes and boots, piping hot Gluhwein for €2 a cup, and winter woolies. The brave proprietors were somehow withstanding the chill; we only lasted around half an hour before our extremities began to ache with cold. Alas, we had to find the nearest bar and warm up with beer.
Paris I love to visit, for the food, the patisseries, the beauty of the city; but Berlin, well, it felt kind of like home. 


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