It's already been two months since my wife and I returned from a whirlwind trip to Europe which included a stop in the beautiful city of Paris. You would think I would have been anxious to write this blog post as soon as we arrived home, but I have put it off until now. Probably because this makes it feel like the vacation is truly at an end even though we have been home for some time now. I likely hoped that if I dragged out the preparation for this post it will be like we never left the City of Lights. But all good things must come to an end.
A couple of weeks ago I posted Part 1 of this entry. There I told about how upon arriving in Paris I joined the Société Centrale d'Apiculture as they inspected beehives in the Jardin du Luxembourg, where they have been keeping bees for over 160 years. It was fascinating to spend time with the French beekeepers and learn what we did differently and perhaps more importantly, how we are the same.
Aside from inspecting French beehives and befriending some of the nicest beekeepers you will ever meet, we did all the stereotypical tourist activities one would expect from a group of Americans roaming around one of the most visited cities in the world. The Eiffel tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame, we crammed all of it into three short days. Each site was more incredible than the last. We spent hours visiting some of the most famous pieces of artwork in the world, wandering through open air markets which seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and sitting back in cafes watching the world go by. By the end of the trip I think my fitbit was about to catch on fire trying to count all of the steps we logged.
While I had made it a point to visit beehives in Paris that wasn't quite enough for this beekeeper. I wanted to taste the sweet fruits of their labor as well. I make it a point wherever we travel, to seek out local honey to sample. No food more fully embodies the spirit and natural aromas of a region than fresh local honey. When it came to food, Paris did not disappoint. Baguettes, crêpes, au gratin potatoes, crêpes, cheese, crêpes. Did I mention we enjoyed the crêpes?
But I wanted to taste the real Paris. The terroir that you can only taste in natural foods that perfectly reflect the environmental factors of the region in its very structure. As a honey connoisseur and producer I knew I needed to find real Parisian honey. Unfortunately the hives I had helped tend when I first got to the city were not yet ready to have honey harvested from them. It was February at the time and the local beekeepers wouldn't be extracting from them for many months. And so I looked elsewhere. It did not take long to find where I needed to go. There are fantastic honey options all over Paris but everything pointed me to La Maison du Miel.
Normally, on this blog I don't brag about other honey producers. Let's face it, I run a business and it doesn't make sense for me to point you towards potential competitors. But after visiting La Maison du Miel I can't not talk about it. If you ever get a chance to visit Paris you must make this quaint little store a must see on your list. Nestled in the 8th Arrondissement, this small honey store opened it's doors in 1905! Meaning that this storefront has survived two catastrophic world wars which crippled this beautiful city. But to say it survived all this time is inaccurate. It has endured, and thrived.
The first thing I notice after I pass through the doors of La Maison de Miel are the floors. Beautiful mosaics of honey bees stretch out below from wall to wall. As you walk throughout the small space you can feel the tiles move beneath the soles of your feet as through the entire store is breathing. Expanding and contracting. As I spoke with one of the workers I learned that the floor is the original one from over one hundred years ago. Much of the store has been renovated and updated in the many decades since it first opened but the floors are considered a historical piece and so the store couldn't change them out even if they wanted to, not that they would.
The rest of the store is a perfect blend of modern Paris and old world charm. Jars of honey, soaps, and other products line the clean walls. Modern design styles draw your eyes to the beautifully packaged wares but the building has they shape and feel of old world Europe. And the fact that it is selling honey, an ancient food which is making a modern revival, only adds to the feeling that this store somehow walks a fine line between centuries.
And finally, I was able to sample what I had been dying to since I had arrived. The honey. La Maison de Miel has an overwhelming selection of monofloral honey varieties from all over the world. But first I went straight to the local selection. The worker bee who attended us graciously allowed us to sample as many varieties as we wanted. After I stumbled through a few brief sentences in broken French she rescued me by guiding me through the selections in perfect English.
They offer Lavender Honey from the South of France, Thyme Honey from the Pyrenees, and Bruyere Blanche, a honey from a local flower right there in Paris, among others. I of course, tried them all. I was particularly interested in the Chestnut Honey from there in the Paris region. It was thick, dark and almost had a salty taste to it. It was sweet like all honeys but there was an almost savory flavor to it. It was the most unique honey I had ever tasted so I bought a jar along with a few others to take home. After making my way through the French honeys I extended my brief tour around the world with Litchi Honey from Thailand, Avocado Honey from Mexico, and more. Each spoonful was drastically different from the last and told me something unique about the plant and the locale from which it was gathered.
Even though the store was relatively small, I could have spent all day in that honey shop. But we had a train to catch so eventually my wife pried me away from the honey candies and beeswax soaps, we made our purchases and we returned to the streets of Paris, our bags a few pounds heavier with carefully wrapped honey jars. La Maison du Miel certainly did not appear on any of the articles we read listing the best places to visit in Paris but it certainly made it onto our list. If you ever find yourself in the city make sure you find the time to visit this one of a kind store to see the best that Paris has to offer.
As usual, we barely made it to the train station in time a few hours later and as the sun set over Paris we made our quiet exit from the city. I am positive however, that it will not be the last time there. We look forward to finding even more of what the city has to offer when we return.