Apart from the main attractions, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, et al., Paris is full of streets, shops and cafes begging to be explored. Here are a few that left an impression:
– I guess I should start with our home base, the Hotel Beaugency. With a location a street over from the picturesque Rue Cler, we couldn’t have asked for a better spot, not to mention having access to the entire city via the nearby metro stop. Great rates for a comfortable space only a couple blocks from the Eiffel Tower.
Eats & Treats
In the first ten hours I was in Paris, I’d already visited four, yes four, pastry shops for a delicious snack, and each was delectable (for instance, a donut filled with Nutella, much to my excitement). I’m sure some bakeries are better than others, but really, the worst is probably better than most anything we can get here. Anyway, below are some memorable cafes, restaurants and bakeries.
– On the aforementioned Rue Cler was L’Eclair, the quintessential French cafe, serving memorable croissants and cafe au laits to locals and travelers alike. (The link leads to my friend Cara’s blog. Her write-up with photos is spot on.)
– Also on Rue Cler (I loved Rue Cler, can you tell?) was Café du Marché, apparently a favorite with locals because of the inexpensive, for Paris anyway, prices. We tried a salad with fresh vegetables including green beans and a subtle vinaigrette, topped with foie gras. It became a worthwhile challenge to stack our forks with a little of each individual ingredient of the salad for the taste explosion! I also had a delicious and buttery steak accompanied by bacon-y potatoes.
– Le Wilson, near the Place de Trocadero, played a part in one of the loveliest evenings I’ve ever had. We set out on a walking tour of the various monuments lit up at night. We had stepped out of the Trocadero metro stop and didn’t really see anything remarkable until we rounded a corner–I’ll never forget the impact of seeing the lit Eiffel Tower from the plaza across the Seine. After basking in the glow and every-hour-on-the-hour light show, we decided we needed a snack, which turned into a full-fledged dinner, naturally. French bread and butter, Brie, Salade Nicoise, and onion soup were our selections over the course of a leisurely couple hours. On our stroll home in the glow of the Eiffel Tower, it started to snow.
– We visited Vagenende on Boulevard Saint Germain for a splurge meal, a prix fixe, three-course dinner served in the lovely Belle Epoque-style interior. Each course offered two options, so naturally we each chose something different and shared. Since the menu was all in French, I don’t know exactly what I ordered, but I did enjoy a lovely salmon appetizer and a delicous, rich stew entree with Indian influences.
– We visited a GROM in Venice, and after discovering that there was a location in Paris, we made it a point to stop by. Sure, I was wearing a winter coat, mittens, a wool hat and three scarves, but it’s never too cold for gelato is my motto.
– Ladurée is the pastry shop destination with its celadon and pink motifs and gilt gold details. Macarons are the highlight, but I tried some other pastries that were just as delectable. There are Ladurée shops around the world, but the only one in the States is in New York City (they just have to have it all–the cronuts! the macarons!).
– We visited Angelina’s location in the Louvre for liquid chocolate; Cara opted for the hot version, while I chose the cold. Ne’er a marriage more divine than that of art and chocolate.
– One afternoon I strolled over to Davoli, an Italian deli on Rue Cler, for a snack (by which I mean some pasta and sausage). The nice Italian man tried to teach me some French words as he prepared my food. For a little while, I pretended I lived in Paris and was just making my daily stop at the deli to visit my friends from the Motherland. Great fun.
– Crêperie Josselin in Montparnasse is the kind of place you’d want to step into on a cold day for a hot drink and good eats. Full of people and food, the little cafe served a variety of crepes from savory to sweet that you could enjoy for as a meal or a snack.
This is a sampling; there were many more cafes and bakeries which we tried and loved. They say to stay from heavy tourist areas, which I would say is wise. If a local recommends it, definitely give it a whirl.
If you see something pretty in a window, step inside and check it out. You never know what other delightful things you find; what’ll stick with you; what you’ll take home with you.
– Deyrolle is a taxidermy shop where you can buy a stuffed elephant for EUR 20,000, among other animals. In addition to the taxidermy, the shop offered various nature-related curiosities and books. Upstairs and in the back was a room dedicated to the collection and framing of insects. I probably wouldn’t buy a scarab in a shadowbox, but some of the butterfly species were incredibly beautiful.
– I’m hesitant to call the Galeries Lafayette a department store lest you picture a Macy’s. For all intents and purposes, that’s what it is though. We spent a good bit of time in the especially marvelous paper, book and stationery section.
Just a little sampling, but a fine one it was. We were there from Saturday until Wednesday, and we jam-packed our days as best we could. But naturally it wasn’t enough.
“We have to go back!” – Dr. Jack Shephard, Lost