As most people know, crêpes originated in France. Specifically, in Brittany or Bretagne around the 12th century, when buckwheat arrived in France. Legend says that a housewife accidentally dropped batter on to the stove and was pleased with the result. The name Crêpe is derived from the Latin name ‘Crispus’ meaning crisp or creases, which then evolved into Crespus in the 14th century and now crêpe.
Crêpes are thin pancakes made of flour, eggs, milk and water, with the optional addition of butter, depending on the recipe. They are usually made on a hot platform rather than a stove, although there are specific crêpe pans for at home. You’d be surprised how massive the crêpes become, which is why traditionally they are folded into triangles rather than rolled. You can watch crêpes be done this way in Paris, which is a lovely display. The oldest recipe for crêpes also comes from the 14th century and can be found in Le Managier de Paris.
Paris is fittingly where, in my opinion, you can find the best crêpes. I even went there just for them one summer. The capital of France is in the north of the country, situated along the river Seine. The city started as a settlement of the Parisii tribe in about 3 BCE and grew due to the trade route the river provided. Nowadays it’s known for its 19th century architecture, little boulevards and landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame and the Moulin Rouge.
It’s not necessarily only the great quality of the thin pancakes you can find there. Paris also has a huge variety of sweet and savoury crêpes, and there are countless of little cafes dotted around the city. Sitting in a café by the Seine in the afternoon, looking out on the promenade where tourists walk in their funny ways or take photos of the old, imposing buildings adds to the already amazing taste of your crêpe. If you are lucky (or unlucky depending on your preference of the instrument) someone will be playing the accordion just around the corner.
You could also go up the hill to the artist’s quarter, or Montmartre, with a crêpe to go. The old artist’s quarter lies next to the Basilica de Sacré-Cœur, a Roman Catholic church built in the 19th century. Here you can enjoy a stunning view of Paris, watch painters and various other artists perform their skills, whilst relishing a warm savoury or sweet delight.
This brings me to my previous point of variety. In the UK, you are lucky if you manage to find a tasty sweet crêpe, probably with lemon and sugar, or Nutella. In Paris you don’t even have to walk five minutes for one, and the place will have countless more flavours. Whether it’s cinnamon with vanilla ice cream or Dulce De Leche, it won’t be difficult to find. And if you, like me, prefer savoury crêpes, you will be in luck as well. Savoury crêpes are either made with normal crêpe batter, or with the more traditional buckwheat batter. The latter is gluten free and gives the dish a stronger consistency and more bread like taste. Combined with slightly melted Brie, or Ham and Dijon mustard, this can be breakfast, lunch or just a hearty snack.
If you are a fan of the movie ‘Amelie Poulin’, which you should be, you can also check out the café where it was filmed in Paris. The film tells the story of a French woman and how she sees the world in a quirky, funny and sweet way. It also has lovely music and amazing shots of Paris, so I do suggest watching it before you go! In the Café des Deux Moulins you will obviously get amazing crêpes, but also the experience of being in a lovely quaint French café. On the note of tourist attractions, I do not suggest going up the Eiffel Tower. There is a massive queue and the metal tower, created for the 1889 World’s fair, really is much nicer to see from below. This can be done by sitting in the park in front of the Notre Dame. Next to the Seine, this small park is full of different birds and, on a sunny day, people enjoying the scenery. I would have suggested going into the Notre Dame, and marvelling at the stone statues at the top, however at this point a crêpe at the bottom must suffice.
Ultimately, it does not matter where in Paris – or actually anywhere in France – you go. You will always find somewhere close by to have delicious crêpes whilst enjoying the absolutely stunning city.