PARIS, May 7, 2016 – Years ago, during my traveling infancy, I developed a good bad habit to which I have been true ever since. Just as Brits break every afternoon for tea, my vice is ice cream. Wherever I may be in any foreign land, I go in search of the best ice cream I can find.
When a fellow traveler learned of my immoral behavior, she told me about a place to check out next time I was in Paris. I did, and I have never looked back since. Never again will I have to search for the best ice cream in Paris.
Some say that Berthillon is simply the “best ice cream in the world.” Others claim it to be merely the “best ice cream in Paris.” Truthfully, I don’t know. Nor do I care, because no other ice cream will ever have a chance to find out.
Berthillon is the Orient Express of ice cream. Not just because it tastes so good, but also because of the story behind it, which makes it all the better.
Though Berthillon ice cream has been around since 1954, it wasn’t until the famous, and influential, French restaurant guide known as Gault Millau recommended “this astonishing ice cream shop hidden in a bistro on the Île Saint-Louis that it gained worldwide recognition in the 1960s.
If “healthy” ice cream is your cup of tea, then Berthillon is the place. Situated at 20-31 rue Saint Louis on the island of Saint Louis, Berthillon’s original tea room is the place to go. There are other locations on the island and throughout Paris where Berthillon ice cream is available, but part of the fun is getting it from the place where it was created.
Île Saint-Louis is one of two small islands in the River Seine. It is tucked away and connected by a small footbridge behind the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which means that, logistically, it is not difficult to figure out where to begin.
After crossing the bridge, take the main street in the center of the island and walk down the narrow road until you see a line of people on your right eagerly awaiting a chance to sample their favorite cool, creamy confection.
Don’t be put off by the line. Patience is a virtue. It is well worth the wait. The tea room inside is small, so most people purchase their ice cream out on the street and move on to the next great adventure in their itinerary.
Berthillon boasts some 70 all-natural, chemical-free flavors. Each is created from the freshest dairy products available, which are usually purchased just before an individual flavor is created. Hence the term “healthy” ice cream, or, at least, as “healthy” as ice cream can get.
If you have a personal favorite, do not be surprised if it is not available. Berthillon does not produce each of its 70 choices every day.
That said, you will discover fruit sorbets like blackcurrant and pink grapefruit, or the more traditional and richer offerings made from fresh milk and eggs, such as salted caramel, candied chestnut and even gingerbread.
Of course, there are also those traditional vanilla flavors that used to define ice cream, which are far less adventurous. They are certainly no less tasty, however. For example, how about a chocolate “affogato,” which is a ball of vanilla ice cream served in a white porcelain mug and topped off with hot chocolate before being covered with praline cream.
Now you’re getting the idea.
Raymond Berthillon, who began creating his delightful desserts in the 1950s, died in August 2014. But his legendary gift to the world of confectionery delights lives on.
For those wishing to read more, the Berthillon website is available. But, hélas, it requires fluency in reading and/or speaking French.
There are a couple of other quirks here as well, which are important to know about so that you are not disappointed. Berthillon is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and it also shuts down in mid-April until the first part of May. Also, forget about satisfying your taste buds during the heat of summer. Berthillon is very French, so it closes toward the end of July until early September.
Berthillon is also closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If learning all those details sounds like too much work to satisfy your ice cream addiction, just remember: Berthillon is well worth the effort and the wait.
Berthillon is accessible by Metro at Point Marie (line 7), Saint Paul (line 1) and Cardinal Lemoine (lines 9 and 10). You can also get there on bus lines 24, 63, 67, 86 and 87.
While it does take a little effort, Berthillon is not really hard to find if you persevere. And besides, when you actually do discover it, you are guaranteed to get your “just desserts.” Savor the experience.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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