Between my junior and senior year of college, I had the pleasure of spending my summer on a student tour of Europe. For several years, I had saved up money from babysitting, mowing lawns and other odd jobs to be able to go on this dream trip and I am sure you can imagine how excited I was once I was on my way.
Along with a bus load of 43 other American college kids, I ‘explored’ 23 countries in 60 days. Of course in many ways we were living the story line of the 1969 comedy “If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium“. Often it felt like we would just drive, stop, look, snap the obligatory photo, check a major site off of the bucket list and get back on the bus to do it all over again at the next stop.
I remember one afternoon in Paris where we stopped at the Louvre, followed the woman holding up the umbrella into the building, made a bee-line to the Mona Lisa, spent about 5 minutes and then headed right back out the door and back on the bus! Needless to say, this did no justice to the Louvre itself but, at 19 years of age, this was still all part of a WONDERFUL experience! The approach gave us a sampler of cultures, foods, music, scenery, history and more. We had the stamina to do it and, to be honest, we didn’t have the attention span to delve deeply everywhere we went anyway. For many of us, it sparked a life-long quest of returning to the places where we wanted to spend more time and skipping over the places we didn’t. (Yes, I have returned to the Louvre twice since then.)
I kept a journal over the course of the trip and was quite good about making sure I didn’t go to bed at night without ‘getting current’. I am so glad I did. It has been a lovely (and cost-effective) souvenir that I have revisited from time-to-time over the years. In the back I made several lists of things such as the music that we played on the bus, the exchange rates we experienced, and other relevant trivia. One of those lists itemized ‘What I Will Miss from Europe’. The first entries on the list (not in any particular order):
- sidewalk cafés
- good, cheap wine
- speaking French
- the strength of the dollar
- flower boxes
- the adventure of exploring each new city
- being ‘legal’
- a feeling of history
Recently, Chuck and I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in Monterey, California and making a stop that brought my European memories rushing back. We had merely dropped by the Paris Bakery Café on Bonifacio Place to get something for breakfast when we realized we had stumbled across so much more.
Founded by a French baker named Jackie Jegat, the Paris Bakery Café offers almost everything I loved about Europe tucked away in historic Monterey. The café sits indoors overlooking the sidewalk but has all the right charm. The croissants are to die for! No wine on the breakfast menu but the whole family speaks French. I wouldn’t insult them by trying to bargain because the value for your money is excellent. As for a feeling of history, the café is one block off of the Monterey Path of History. Being the original Spanish capital of old California and sardine fishing hub in more modern times, Monterey is a great city to explore on foot.
I am thrilled to have found an ‘almost local’ source for a European-quality croissant. Next time you are in Monterey, stop by for your little taste of Paris. You won’t be disappointed!