Tuesday, August 22, 2006

En Cherchant du Pain, Finding a Parisian Bakery in August

La Boulangerie Littré

When I arrived to live in Paris in November 2004, it was a few weeks before I found a good bakery, or boulangerie. At the Boulangerie Littré, t
he two older women were always together and greeted customers very politely, cheerfully and they were accepting of my developing but heavily American-accented French. They were open all week including Sunday mornings. The baguettes were excellent, crusty and fresh; the croissants were flakey and tasted of butter.
- Bonjour Monsieur, que desirez-vous ?
- Bonjour Madame. une baguette s'il vous plait.
- Oui, Monsieur. Voilà, Monsieur. Avec ceci ?
- C'est tout, merci madame.
- Quatre vingt centimes, s'il vous plait.
- Voilà, Madame.
- Merci Monsieur. Bonne journée.
- Merci Madame. Bonne après-midi.

I had little need to go elsewhere for my bread and it was great practice for French being so simple and polite.

Open in August ?

The first summer I was in Paris, La Boulangerie Littré announced on a black-board placard in front of their door, written in chalk, that it was proudly open for the entire month of August. Never mind that they were closed for three weeks in July.

Change of Ownership

La Boulangerie Littré re-opened in August 2005 with new management and I no longer saw the two women. The first several days presented very poor baguettes and the new young woman at the counter was curt and obviously not interested in her customers. I soon stopped visiting the bakery.

I then noticed they were closed (again for 3 weeks !) for installation of new ovens during December 2005. I tried the new baguettes shortly after the reopening and found them almost as delicious as the originals made by the two women. I returned to buying my baguettes and croisants there. That is to say, when the bakery was open.

I have the impression that the baker at La Boulangerie Littré has this little shop as a hobby. The hours are a fraction of what they were; they are no longer open on Sundays nor in August and they are frequently closed for long weekends.

Les Boulangeries en Août

Last weekend being mid/end of August, finding a good bakery was difficult.

Closed were:
  • La Boulangerie Littré, 13 rue Littré 75006,
  • La Boulangeris Robin Pascal, 19 Rue Odessa, 75014, in my opinion, the very best boulangerie in Montparnasse,
  • The boulangerie on rue de Montparnasse that I do not know the name but serves OK baguettes, 75014.
  • The boulangerie at the Metro Duroc, 75007.
  • The boulangerie at rue de Sévres and rue Mayel, 75007
Hmm. All closed.

A baguette at the national chain Pomme de Pain is baked elsewhere in some huge factory, it tastes "industrial" and is a poor substitue for a real baguette. In the end, it had to suffice that Sunday morning.

Boulangerie Closure Protocol

There is a protocol for boulangerie closures in August. The boulangeries post signs on the closed doors noting the dates of closing and return, plus alternative open boulangeries in the same neighborhood. The notices are much like pharmacies that note the contact information of a pharmacist and addresses of alternate pharmacies when the neighborhood pharmacy is closed.
Les Boulongeries are that important !

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