When choosing somewhere to eat in Paris you often have to make a choice: quality or location. If it’s that quintessential riverside setting you’re after, or a view of the Eiffel Tower, more often than not you’ll have to compromise on quality.
Nestled in the arcades of the beautiful Place des Vosges, Carette is an exception to that rule. I’m not sure what I can say about this place that hasn’t been said a thousand times before, but I can’t think of a better way to start the day in Paris than on the sunny terrace of this beautiful café.
Carette has three locations in Paris. The original is at Trocadero, close to the Eiffel Tower. It opened its doors in 1927 when Jean and Madeleine Carette gave their name to a place that would become known for its friendly, welcoming atmosphere and elegant pastries, just as it is today.
In the morning, the sun shines under the archways and onto the terrace of Carette in Place des Vosges. You’ll typically find business men and women on their way to work, a scattering of tourists and a steady stream of regulars, including us, getting ready for the day ahead. It’s a great people-watching spot with quite a few glamorous patrons. I wasn’t even surprised when I saw Woody Allen sitting in the window one morning. In fact, I was more surprised when I realised that it was actually a rather grand-looking (female) doppelganger.
The breakfasts here aren’t cheap but you get your money’s worth. The café au lait and the chocolat chaud are poured, piping hot, from silver pots and you get at least two cups out of each one. If you order the tartine—often half of half a baguette—you get a whole small baguette, straight from under the grill. The butter comes prettily displayed on little plates, hand-rolled into the shape of a snail’s shell, along with your chosen jam or honey. The croissants are light and airy. I haven’t tried any of the sumptuous-seeming cakes or pastries. Whenever I’m in Paris I’m always too full from hearty lunches and breakfasts to feel like cakes or afternoon tea. One day, I’ll turn up hungry and finally sample one of the rosy raspberry tarts or glistening coffee eclairs.
Mr A Little Piece of Paris is a big fan of hot chocolate and has made the French custom of dunking croissants into a cup of steaming coco his own. While many Paris cafés produce the watery, sugary variety, at Carette the chocolat chaud is authentic—made with cream, dark, bitter chocolate and just the right amount of sugar.
Back in Oslo I typically start my day by walking to work. My route takes me up past the botanic gardens, through a newly-built residential area, past a football pitch and then into the industrial park where my office is. Every now and then, depending on which way the wind blows, the smell of freshly baked bread reaches my nose just as I’m crossing the bridge over the motorway. When it does, I close my eyes and imagine myself, not on my way to the office, but on my way to breakfast in Carette in the ever-lovely Place des Vosges.