In 1889 in the city of Croix, in Northern France, a man named Charlemagne Mayot founded a bakery and café called Paul. 124 years later, there are now Paul bakeries in 24 countries, including the United States. I discovered a Paul bakery in Washington DC several years ago, and it has become one of my favorite places in the world.
This is partly because I love food. I had a friend observe once that I don’t give directions by street names, I give directions by landmarks. And most of my landmarks are food places. “Keep going past Busboys and Poets. If you’ve passed Franklin’s you’ve gone too far.” Paul is one of my favorite landmarks in Washington DC. The bakery is right by the National Archives and the Navy Memorial and is easily accessible.
And have I mentioned the food? The food is incredible at Paul. They make homemade bread each day and use demi baguettes as the base for delicious sandwiches that are perfect for an on-the-go lunch or picnic in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.
And then, of course, there are the desserts. My favorite desserts include a cappuccino macaroon and a beignet filled with Nutella. These are also made daily and are always fresh and warm.
While the food is delicious, I have a special place in my heart for Paul due to many memories that are attached to the place. Clare would come down to visit my family in Maryland for many holidays throughout the years when she lived in New York, and we loved to go exploring in DC. One place that we always had to go when she visited was Paul. We would get sandwiches and beignets to go and then we would walk around the monuments, the Capitol, or the Library of Congress.
When Clare and I went on our trip to London over spring break this year, we found a Paul bakery right next to Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly. We also took the Eurostar train from St. Pancras International in London to Gare du Nord in France. We had 8 hours to spend in Paris. We went to the Louvre, Shakespeare and Company, Saint-Germain-de-Prés, the Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. We also were able to squeeze in two trips to Paul!
When I began to write my Evan story, the novel that I just finished writing, last summer, I spent a lot of time in the Paul in Washington DC. A large amount of the first 1/3 of my manuscript was written in the café, looking out at the people bustling by the National Archives.
Paul will always have a special place in my heart. Whether it is in Paris or DC, or whether I’m writing or with a friend, Paul is always a necessary stop for an outing. And believe me, once you try the food, you’ll be hooked too.