If the Eiffel Tower is the architectural symbol of Paris, then the baguette is the gastronomic. There are entire books written on this staple of the French diet and for good reason…it is an art form and sustenance, a tradition and a statement. Parisians know which type of baguette goes best with cheese, which to use for sandwiches, for breakfast, and where to buy it. The boulangerie (bakery) is as important to Parisians as their beloved pharmacies. During the les vacances (holidays) signs are posted on the closed bakery door indicating which others are open. But, not all boulangeries are inherently good. There will be several close to you, no matter where you live, and you will have the fortunate pleasure of having to taste test them all. Watch for the long lines and the empty bread racks and you will have a clue as to which ones are revered by the locals.
While baguettes are the most commonly known by the non-French, there is a wide variety of baguettes: the baguette classique, the baguette artisinale, and the baguette de campagne – and those are just three kinds! Each bakery has its own specialties as well. You will also find dense, chewy peasant loaves, thin crispy bread sticks, small rolls with a plethora of different kinds of seeds, multi-grain breads, sourdough breads, the list goes on and on. If you buy a larger loaf your baker will ask if you would like it sliced. A machine does this in just a few seconds and then it is neatly placed in a plastic sack for you to take home and enjoy. Of course there are also delicious pastries for sale in almost every bakery, as an additional temptation!
There are chains of boulangeries, as well, and some of them are quite good. When in doubt, you can always trust Kayser, http://www.maison-kayser.com, with nineteen locations scattered around Paris and dozens more in Japan, Greece, and Russia to name a few of its international locations. Most are open from 7 am until 8 pm, and they are closed on different days – the one at 8 rue Monge in the 5th is open on Sundays. There is also the well-regarded chain of bakeries called Paul, http://www.paul.fr, which has approximately 40 shops in Paris, dozens of sales outlets that you will find in train stations or large metro stations and over 130 shops throughout France.
Your local bakery will be an important focal point for you, not only because you will probably find yourself in the queue daily, but also because small announcements for services, babysitting, etc are often posted in local bakeries and your baker may be the first person in your neighborhood to remember, and greet you by, your name!