Café Gourmand

Our go-to dessert in French restaurants is the Café Gourmand: an espresso served together with a selection of typically three miniature desserts – tiny pots of mousse au chocolat or crème brûlée, a madeleine or mini gateau, a macaron, or a few slices of fresh fruit. When ordering, you don’t know what’s going to arrive, and restaurants might change it frequently. It is a nice way to try different desserts that a place has on offer.

Over the years we must have had Café Gourmand in dozens of places. To remember which ones are good, we’ve written reviews on tripadvisor for some of them. But it’s about time to do this in a more systematic way!

So here is our own rating scheme ‘fait maison’ for Café Gourmand:
A standard Café Gourmand should have three desserts from two different categories for variety. Categories could be cake, fruit, creamy desserts, etc. The standard rating is 2.5 stars. Stars are added or subtracted for quality, number of desserts, variety, presentation, and other, as shown here:

Default rating ★★½
Quality +/- ★ (or more)
Number: 3 desserts +/- x +/-
Variety: 2 categories +/- x +/- ½
Quality of coffee +/- ½
Presentation +/- ½
Price +/- ½

For example, a Café Gourmand with 3 desserts that are very yummy and come in 3 categories but poor presentation would get 3.5 stars, ★★½ + ★ + ½ – ½ = ★★★½.

Let’s present our first place: Pizza del Navona on avenue des Gobelins. They actually have two Café Gourmand, one with 3 and one (more pricy) with 4 desserts. They were both really good (+ ★½ for quality), but all creemy (- ½ for variety). Also they only came with one spoon (typical is two – one to eat the desserts, one for the coffee, but I’m not going to subtract anything here). So there we go:

Café Gourmand 3 desserts:   ★★★½
4 desserts:   ★★★★½

More ratings:

Place Rating Date Comments
Le Renard Café ★★★½ 19/12/2016 Variety 3, quality +½


Léon ist von drei oder mehr Sprachen in seinem Alltag umgeben. Aus seiner Sicht ist es jedoch vermutlich so, dass für ihn verschiedene Leute einfach verschiedene Wörter für die gleichen Dinge haben. Wir haben ihm bis jetzt noch nichts von Deutsch, Englisch oder Französisch erzählt. Wir sagen stattdessen oft so etwas wie zum Beispiel: “Papa sagt Löffel, und Mama sagt spoon. Und was sagt Francine (oder eine andere Betreuerin aus der Crèche)? Cuillère.”

Über Ostern hat er wieder einige Zeit bei Oma und Opa verbracht, und sein Deutsch hat ein paar Sprünge gemacht. Oma und Opa verwenden mit Léon einige Babysprach-Begriffe, die er bei vorherigen Besuchen sagte, inzwischen aber ersetzt hat. Aus Gewohnheit, weil sie vielleicht denken, Léon versteht sie so besser, oder weil es einfach lustige Wörter sind. Interessanterweise hat er einige dieser Wörter (wieder) aufgenommen. Er kann sich meiner Meinung nach nicht an die Baby-Wörter erinneren, aber für ihn ist es einfach das Wort, das Oma und Opa benutzt.

So sagt Léon”Lego-Tschu-Tschu”, wenn er bei den Großeltern ist, oder über dessen (mein altes) Spielzeug redet, obwohl er mit mir “Zug” und “Eisenbahn” benutzt. Und Omas Begriff für Schlafen ist “Hush”, vielleicht kommt das vom Geräusch, das er und wir machten, wenn wir so tuen, als ob wir schlafen, oder vom “Hush”, das die alte Frau in “Good Night, Moon” sagt. Jedenfalls kann Léon seit langem “schlafen” sagen, in Ulm benutzt er aber manchmal “hush”. Das dritte Beispiel, das mir noch einfällt, ist Opas Lautmalerei “Bim-Bam” für die Kirchturmglocke, die Léon zu dem schönen Satz veranlasst hat: “Die Bim-Bam macht ding-dong.”

On the slow boat to China: Our love for the Little Asia of Paris


At the Chinese New Year parade

We rarely leave the Rive Gauche, being parents of a toddler, but it’s also because we love our quartier. It’s not too touristy, but has lots of flavor and liveliness. And yet at the same time where we live – a quick 30-second walk from Place d’Italie – is quiet.  The arrondissement has so much to offer that we’re discovering new treasures constantly.  For when we do venture into other areas, there’s access to metro lines 5, 6, and 7, complemented by loads of bus lines to connect us to the rest of Paris. But for the most part you’ll find us on any given day of the year somewhere in the 13ème.


How did we get here?

DSC02535 On a languid August afternoon in 2013, not 6 weeks after our son was born we moved into our apartment in the 13ème. Before that, we were a two-domicile couple, with me living in Clermont-Ferrand and Martin living in the 5ème. Once we learned we were expecting, and that we would move our domicile permanently to Paris, Martin submitted a request through his institute to Dossier Familial to let us know what might be available. While we waited to hear from them (we were provided with one apartment we ended up not getting), we targeted areas that would be easily accessible for Martin to get to work out in Saclay, searching the 11ème, 12 ème, 13ème, 14ème, and 15ème arrondissements. We did this in January of 2013, and looked at apartments within each of these neighborhoods, each time refining our application packet more and more until our dossier was accepted for our current place in April. So it’s fair to say we didn’t choose the 13ème, it chose us.

A brief geography and history of the 13ème
The 13ème, or quartier asiatique is huge, extending from the Seine to the Périphérique.  It is comprised of smaller neighborhoods, with us living in the one known as Croulebarbe. As a history enthusiast, I’m very proud of the rich history of our particular neighborhood, and while I could share so much about it, I’ll simply say Croulebarbe is taken after the founder of the mill of the same name on the Bièvre (once the second river running through Paris, which has a fascinating and wonderful history all its own, if you’re into such things). So while taking a slow boat into Chinatown would’ve have been impossible on this narrow branch of the Bièvre, the river was definitely a huge figure in the history of the 13ème .

It’s hard to imagine a windmill once standing tall at the current western entrance of the Square René Le Gall where the above placard is located. It was removed, however as the Bièvre was culverted into an underground channel in 1912.  But that was the past, onto current times and how we enjoy the 13ème…

For the love of Food: where to eat in the 13ème
Eating out here is a wonderful experience, and I’ve found that all the restaurants we’ve been to have been accommodating and friendly whenever we’ve showed up with our little one.

(note: asterisk next to the restaurant name indicate high chairs available)

French food
Our favorite place to go, for coffee or meals is Il état un square*. It’s definitely a place where locals hang out, but you frequently also see out-of-towners enjoying the meals there as well.   It’s right next to Square René Le Gall (see below), so often in the summer we’d go to the park after the crèche, play until someone was exhausted, and then head over for a cool drink, and often dinner. We know the owners, Gérard and Nicolas, one of which has a daughter in Léon’s group at the crèche. They have high chairs for little ones and a piano for customers to play at, which Martin usually takes advantage of.

We also highly recommend L’avant Goût, which we go for lunch as the formule is far more reasonably priced than dinner. The food is excellent and beautifully presented, and we often tell our guest to check it out for a French food experience.

When I’m feeling nostalgic for the Auvergne, I take the family to La Halte des Taxis or La Butte Aveyronnaise


mmm, Aligot!!!

For a cup of coffee we like Café Noisette, which has decent lunches as well. Another is La Manufacture, the place we also go to for le complet brunch on a Sunday. For tea and to show off to visitors, we like L’OisiveThé*. Fantastic tea collection, a wonderful brunch spread, has knitting meetings, and also a decadent chocolat gourmand. Another favorite is La Butte aux Piafs*,  an excellent place to enjoy a café gourmand and wonderful ambiance for lunch or dinner.



Léon in the restaurant’s Tripp Trapp, inspecting the menu

…and because it’s the quartier asiatique: International fare
For Chinese restaurants, we enjoy Au Pays De Confucius* where the wait staff are so used to Chinese customers that French speakers are often misunderstood, as well as Ba Mien, and La Table du Ramen. If it’s Thai you’re craving we love Thai Papaya and Baan Issan.  Then there’s Comme au Vietnam* which is high on our list, not in the least because they have Tripp Trapp high chairs, but also because they serve a wonderful iced passion fruit tea and the owners are a lovely German and Vietnamese couple.

La Catrina Taqueria has my, being half-Mexican, approval for their tacos (but not their nachos, fake cheese, yuck!) and lovely freshly-pressed hibiscus juice. The fancier El Salvadorian restaurant called Ana M. is great for a lunch date. Café d’Italie* (formally Monte Cassino) rounds out our favorites as our preferred pizza for takeaway as the (mostly Italian) staff always give Léon a little treat as we wait.

Other places include Café Margeride*, Havane Café, and L’Aimant du Sud, solid backups for spontaneous outings, watching football, or for when we have guests visiting and have discovered one of our favorites is closed for an inexplicable reason.

What to do, what to do? I’ll tell you what to do…
When we’re feeling young and hip, we head over to Butte aux Cailles. It has a nice bohemian feel to it, with its many small bars and restaurants. There’s loads of street art along the quaint cobblestoned roads and in fact every year there is the Lesarts de la Bièvre  where over 40 artists around the 13ème open up their homes and/or galleries for the general public to stop in and admire. Sometimes accompanied by music or including a lecture, it’s a great opportunity to support local artists, and in fact one of Léon’s favorite books,”Compter aver un monster” was purchased during one of these “open doors” day. Other than that, Butte aux Cailles also has a piscine and fresh water artesian well where you can see locals filling up their water bottles liters at a time.

There are loads of parks for children, the closest one for us being Square René Le Gall. The biggest park by far, however, which we like to go to when we meet up with a big group, is Parc Kellerman.  Both are wonderfully shady and cool during the hot summer months and have all kinds of events for families to enjoy.  On Sundays, after shopping at Tang Frères for exotique fruit and cheap spices or the farmer’s market on Boulevard Blanqui we head over to the less crowded park (where we’ve been able to do Easter egg hunts without fuss) up the stairs from Corvisart called Jardin Brassaï.  We sometimes wander out to the Quai de la Gare, which has some excellent children’s events (Léon particularly enjoyed himself at a show on the Péniche la Baleine Blanche).

When the weather is cold we go to the Bibliothèque Italie, which has story time for children (0-3 years) eIMG_20160220_172220very 4th Saturday and for the 3+ crowd every 2nd Saturday.  Then there’s the wonderful Ilots des Bébés, an indoor play area for 0-3 or the Ludothèque Denise Garon, an indoor play area/boardgaming place that allows you to check out toys and boardgames as well as play on the spot. Another boardgame café is Oya, which we’ve visited once without Léon and were impressed. Cinemas include Les Fauvettes for classics, La Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé for silent films accompanied by live music, and for blockbusters UGC Gobelins.

There are so many other things to see and do, and perhaps you’ll be tempted to to check out the neighborhood on our recommendation alone, but mostly the 13ème is lovely because it’s where we’ve begun some of our first journeys as a young family.


Helping Unaccompanied Minors in France

In the grand tradition (and in memory) of my mother and my Abuelita, who helped anyone, anytime, and anywhere…

Photo on 12.05.13 at 09.14 #212108957_10153294723649385_2544398964833475937_n

After sending out emails to a few places to see how we could help the refugees here in Paris, I received a message from “Collectif parisien de soutien aux exilé.e.s.” As I had put us down as being interested in temporarily hosting refugees, we opened our home to 4 young men (aged 15 and 16) for 3 nights. It was a wonderful experience, and I encourage you, no matter where you are in the world, to do something to help (see this post for links on what you can do). And if you’re in Paris, even if you’re like us with our tiny apartment and a 2 and a half year old, please think of hosting, especially now that those at La Chapelle, women and babies included, have been expelled,  Check out the closed facebook group “Soutien aux exilés de GdE” (PM Elise or Morgann) or contact Refugees at Home. at

Our experience was as followed…

Our brave, young men were from Afghanistan, and had traveled through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Romania, and then somehow made it to France. They have travelled without their families with them, without knowing anyone in their final destination here in France. They are so considered unaccompanied minors. They were polite, respectful, and so kind to Léon. It warmed my heart to see how protective of him they were – for example, whenever we went out, they formed this lovely human wall around Léon and his bike. It was wonderful to have 4 extra pairs of eyes watching him! They all had little brothers and sisters back home, some Léon’s age, some even younger. Beyond that, we didn’t find out too much more about them, as communication was limited. I became interested in trying to learn Dari, but my attempts made the Big Boys (as Léon called them) more confused.  I think they only understood when I said ‘Yek” which is “One” and “Man” which is “Me”. But I couldn’t stop thinking of how their families must feel. I felt very much for their mothers and fathers (those that were still alive) who were so far away, without regular news of their sons.

I very much felt like their temporary mother, and kept asking them to eat, and worried so much every time they had to go out – what if something bad happened? Would we know?  Were they warm enough? Were people being nice to them, or did they experience prejudice everywhere? Whenever I accompanied them, I saw people staring judgemently and wished I could have told them how sweet and brave each of these young men were. I can only imagine what their lives had been like, before they left Afghanistan, while they were traveling, and now that they are here in France.   In this way, I  had a very, very small window into how strong both my grandmothers must have been: my paternal mother with 10 children and my Abuelita who took in I-don’t–know-how-many folks (including my own mother when she was an infant) over the years.

What I learned is, when you have a growing toddler and 4 teenagers in the house, you really must plan your meals and shopping trips!!! I learned this after the first night when I realized I wasn’t satisfied with the amount of food we had. We didn’t have to provide them with anything as they had meal tickets (other wonderful people were taking care of their administrative and various other needs during the day), but we did anyway. We spent our breakfasts and dinners together, and during the day the Big Boys went out and about, meeting with various social services.

It was fun to learn from the guys what a typical Afghan breakfast was (through Léon’s picture dictionary), which was actually similar to our Mexican-American one: eggs scramble with onions, peppers, and tomatoes, served with flatbread. I’ve never had so many tortillas at once in my house, and I was reminded of Abuelita’s bottomless pot of warm tortillas:


They are gone now, and I don’t know if we’ll find out how they’ll get on. We’re friends with one of them on facebook, so I’ll at least know if he’s ok. Whatever happens, I’m glad we met them.  Léon has just said “Léon suche Big Boys” and it was sad to tell him they won’t be here tonight. But maybe we’ll see them again. We wish them well and good luck for the future.








Bücher für dreisprachiges Lernen

Léon, inzwischen eineinhalb Jahre alt, versteht bereits viel, und spricht eine Handvoll Wörter. Bis jetzt scheint er alle drei Sprachen aufzunehmen, französisch hauptsächlich durch die Crèche, deutsch durch mich, und english mit Melissa. Dazu kommen Verwandte und einige Freunde, durch die er ebenfalls mit den drei Sprachen in Kontakt kommt.

Es gibt viel Literatur über zweisprachige Kinder, aber über das Lernen von drei oder mehr Sprachen gibt es wenig. Nach einiger Recherche hat Melissa zwei Bücher aufgetrieben und gekauft: Xiao-Lei Wang, “Growing up with three languages. Birth to eleven”, and “Learning to read and write in the multilingual family”, here are some reviews:

Melissa ist ja Expertin in diesem Thema, und sie hat sich schon mit Freuden an die Lektüre gemacht. Mir werden diese Bücher bestimmt sehr helfen, alleine um mir klarzuwerden, was an Plannung und Arbeit auf uns zukommt, wenn wir darauf hinzielen wollen, dass Léon sich in allen drei Sprachen zu einem bestimmten Grade zu Hause fühlen soll. Das hilft uns auch, unser Vorhaben an unsere Erwartungen anzupassen.

Bäckersfrau und baker’s man

Léon, inzwischen ein Jahr und einen Monat alt, hat angefangen, bei Klatschliedern mitzumachen. Der Renner ist zur Zeit:

Paddy cake, paddy cake, baker’s man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can,
Pad it, and roll it, and mark it with a ‘B’,
And put it in the oven for baby and me.


Mit mehr Gesten ist das deutlich lustiger und interaktiver als das deutsche Pendant:
Backe, backe, Kuchen,
Der Bäcker hat gerufen,
Wer will guten Kuchen backen,
Der muss haben sieben Sachen:
Eier und Schmalz,
Zucker und Salz,
Milch und Mehl,
Safran macht den Kuchen gel.
(Schieb’ ihn in den Ofen rein.)

[Edit: Die letzte Zeile kannte ich als Kind nicht, singe sie aber mittlerweile mit.]

Zumal mich schon als Kind das ‘gel’ (=gelb) immer gestört hat.
Also haben missytas und ich das ‘Paddy cake’ Lied auf Deutsch (frei) übersetzt:

Butterkeks, Butterkeks, Bäckersfrau,

Back mir einen Keks, aber ganz genau,
Roll ihn aus, stech ihn aus, schreib ein ‘B’ darauf,
Ist er gebacken, mach die Ofentüre auf.

On Breastfeeding: The End of an Era

Since the fall of 2013, our little Léon, or iBun as I still call him in my head, has been able to depend on my body to give him everything he needs. He has had the best protection and nourishment possible, both in and out of the womb. We’ve walked a bit of a bumpy road to get where we are in this New Year, but now the time has come for us to wean away from the breast and over to a mostly formula-based diet.

Breastfeeding has not been easy, but I’m proud to have had my six-month old son on 100% breast milk since the day he was born. We’ve had everything from latching problems to overproduction to an abscess to mammary candida. But always, I powered through, with my array of weapons which included an electric pump, washable and disposable nursing pads, lanolin, cold packs, wandering around the house topless as much as possible and my last resort, always, Doliprane. My hard work has payed off as our little iBun has not been even moderately ill, save a fever he had in reaction to a vaccine, in his 6 months of life.

It took us awhile to find our rhythm, but soon I was feeding iBun in parks, on hikes, on lakes and seashores, in restaurants, cafés, trains, planes, embassies, prefectures, once while walking, once in a cemetery, and one very bad-ass time in a volcano crater in what felt like high-speed winds. We had a sweet freedom to go out when we could, Martin and I, without having to worry about formula or bottle preparation.

I remember as we were preparing him for 2 bottles of breast milk a day that I would provide to the creche, feeling a slight sadness in thinking my son was slowly growing away from depending on me for sustenance. My life became a game of when I could pump milk. But this also gave me a bit more freedom personally as I could now pump milk if I wanted to have a glass of wine at dinner or some such.

Even so, we were paying a price. There were, of course, the aforementioned health problems. Additionally, I still had to wear nursing-compatible attire. I either slept with my nursing bra and pads on, or topless on a towel as I always leaked at night. Sex was no longer about maneuvering around a pregnant belly but worrying if I would squirt or leak breast milk all over Martin at some point. Although I was often uncomfortably full of breast milk I still had this irrational paranoia that if I wasn’t careful I’d run out of milk. So I ate large healthy meals and limited my exercise to walking. Perhaps needless to say, I wasn’t one of those women who lost weight during breastfeeding. Rather, I kept my postnatal weight.

And so, as time went by I knew that I would be weaning little iBun at the six month mark. I longed for aspects of my pre-pregnant self – my usually dependably good state of health, the capability to remember things, the shape of my body and the wardrobe that went with it, the ability to push myself hard whenever I like doing whatever exercise I wanted. Other things, little things.

The time had arrived, little iBun’s six-month anniversary and as we were preparing the first formula bottle I couldn’t help but feel a certain melancholy that my sweet time with my sweet little boy would slowly decrease to a morning and evening feeding. We could no longer depend on my production during the day if we were in a pinch but now had to have a formula bottle always in reserve, just in case.

But, now I have a flexibility I haven’t had in a long time. Martin and I have the ability go on little dates here and there and I don’t have to worry about pumping or feeding beforehand, or calculate how long we can be away. I no longer have to wear clothing that buttons or zips in the front, or that has clever slits on the side. But even more important to me now is the ability to really exercise without worry.

I went for my first jog in ages, today! And it felt great!

I feel as if I’ve found where my rhythm is going as mother, and now is the time to concentrate on a more healthy balance of my other selves and what I’d like to have for myself, what I’d like to do for myself. And these are just little things, like jogging, like bike dates with Martin. Nothing fancy, just enough to be more than mother. A mother plus. Mama+

Happy New Year, everyone!