Bread, and therefore bakers, bakeries and bread shops, have for centuries been a major factor and concern in daily life throughout Europe. But in France and Paris in particular, this concern, tradition and part of everyday existence – le pain quotidien or daily bread – symbolized perhaps by the baguette, are to this day deeply ingrained in the culture.
Evidence of this is the beauty of many of Paris’s boulangeries/patisseries, inside and out, frequently decorated with exquisite tile work, chandeliers, frosted glass and lovely typography which raise the neighborhood boulangerie to the level of shrine as well as architectural and design masterpiece.
The details portraying wheat, bakers, ovens, farming or just simple floral decorations show the pride and affection in which the entire process of making, baking, selling and buying bread is held and the love and regard for the final product.
The interiors of many of the boulangeries are themselves works of art.
Perhaps the contents are the most crucial part of the boulangerie story. After all, the boulangerie/patisserie is there to fill a need – to serve a purpose.
First there is, of course, the bread. Lots of bread. A bewildering array of different kinds of bread. Delicious bread!
There are several types of baguette, farm bread, loaves of bread, regional bread, an assortment of croissants, pain au chocolat... This is not intended to be a primer on French bread although the subject is very interesting and is well documented in books and online. But you get the idea from the photos.
Since most boulangeries (bakeries) are also patisseries (pastry shops) there is usually a wide variety of pastries (savory and sweet), delicious, freshly made sandwiches in a baguette, as well as all kinds of cakes, petits fours, tarts, eclairs, macarons.... The aromas are to die for.
There is plenty to stand in line for. And stand in line they do. Some say, the longer the line, the better the bread. In the early morning the neighborhood boulangerie/patisserie is a very busy place. The line moves fast. Know what you want. Order it quickly and with certainty. No time to dither. Pay promptly. Exact change if possible. Then move on and let the next in line go through the routine. The atmosphere is one of polite, eager, restrained impatience. It is always worthwhile.
Bringing home the baguette.
Evidence of the successful boulangerie excursion can be seen everywhere in the streets. The baguettes are the most obvious. It's hard to hide a full baguette. They are tucked carefully under the arm, or carried in the hand in a paper bag which only half envelops them, often carried in a bicycle basket. The bearer is careful not to prod any unwary passerby with the bread.
As far as who makes the best croissant or baguette, which type of bread you should try, the best boulangerie in this arrondissement or that arrondissement...these arguments are pointless. You simply try as many varieties from as many boulangeries/patisseries as you can fit in and decide for yourself.
If you live in Paris you already know all this. If you are planning a trip, make sure
to allocate a good chunk of time to this unique aspect of the Paris story.
In any case we hope you enjoy the photos and this brief introduction
to the boulangeries/patisseries of Paris.
Leave us a comment. We always like to hear from you.
Some of the images in this post are already available for purchase as prints or canvases in our shop.
If you see something you think would look good on your kitchen or dining room wall
(or anywhere else) and don't find it in the shop, drop us a line and we can list it specially for you.