Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Paris by the Numbers

Trip date: September 2022

There are 20 arrondissements, or quarters, in Paris; the 1st is in the center and they circle around and out clockwise like an escargot shell. You'll hear various nicknames for each, depending on if you are asking a local or reading a guidebook, but most are named for an area monument or building. And if you are not sure which arrondissement you are in, or heading to, you can tell by looking at the last two digits of the address zip code. I'm sure most of you know all that, but just in case!

So on this last trip to the City of Light, which just happened to be my 20th(!) I thought I'd explore as many of Paris' 20 as I had time for. 

The 1st/ Le premier

My friends that I stay with have jobs like most of us, so I was left to my own devices a few times. I absolutely love exploring Paris, and there is a lot I like to see that is of little interest to people who live there. 

Les Halles is a great area to wander in and it had been a long time since I had spent any time there. This time I went in to St. Eustache, which is an absolutely lovely church. I explored the seven chapels, gazed up at the 109 foot tall vaulted ceiling, found "The Disciples of Emmaus" by Rubens (1611), and checked out their 8000 pipe organ, one of the largest in France. 

Henri Miller's sculpture Ecouté is also right outside the front of the church. 

I had read an article on Champeaux restaurant, right across from the church, Alain Ducasse's casual eatery highlighting his "upside down" souffle and had lunch there. Let me just say that the service was absolute shit -and it wasn't even ½ full- and the food was fine at best. PASS.

On the banks of the Seine, and right next to the reopened La Samaritaine department store, is the very chic Cheval Blanc Hotel. Up on the 7th floor you will find Le Tout Paris, where you will indeed see pretty much all of Paris from their fabulous terrace!

It's a wonderful (and expensive) spot for a drink but really these views are worth it!

Also part of the 1st is the Île de la Cité, the island in the very center of Paris. I headed here one morning to Sainte Chapelle, arguably the most stunning church in the world. By purchasing a timed ticket online I was able to enter without a big queue, you can get your ticket the day-of on the website.

This was my 3rd time visiting and it never disappoints. But if you can choose to go on a bright, sunny day the stained glass really shines. Pun intended!

There are laminated cards you can use to read about the stories told in the 15 windows, personally commissioned by King Louis IX for what use to be his private chapel. Truly stunning.

As I left the church and walked over the bridge to the left bank, I got my first look at the damage and construction on Notre Dame cathedral. It's still so sad and unreal!

The 3rd & 4th/ Marais

There's a lot going on in the Marais but if you are looking for a cocktail, Little Red Door is a do-not-miss stop. LRD is currently at #5 on the 50 Best Bar list,  and for good reason. They make absolutely lovely cocktails, the service is super friendly, they take sustainability seriously, and they are open daily!

Just down the road a bit is another great spot for a drink, The Cambridge Public House. Sometimes names can be deceiving, and that is certainly the case here. Instead of pints of beer, we found a menu of creative and seasonal drinks. Well worth a stop, especially if you find the wait at Le Mary Celeste to be too much (as we did). 

If you are looking for a meal then Parcelles should be on your list! We went one day for lunch, just before it seemed to become one of the buzziest new spots in Paris. This tiny bistro is serving up modern dishes using traditional ingredients. They have a great list of wines from smaller producers as well. I had the carpaccio tête de veau, porc rotie, and a fig clafoutis. It was all delicious!

And if you are in the mood for a museum, let me suggest the very unique Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. Literally this means hunting and nature, and there is an astonishing amount of taxidermy! But the museum is more than that, offering a fascinating look at ancient, modern and contemporary collections that the founders have been collecting for about 50 years.

Throughout the private mansion which houses the collections, you'll find numerous drawers and cubbies to open and explore. There are displays of tapestries, sculpture, paintings, and of course guns. It's all very interesting; I've never seen anything quite like it!

Village Saint Paul is a quiet, pedestrian only area in the Marais, known for its selection of antique shops. Don't wander here during lunch when the shops are closed, or you'll feel like you are in a deserted neighborhood. Before noon or after 2:30pm you can pop in and out of little courtyards and maybe find some treasures to take home. 

Basically if you see an archway with an open door or gate, you should take a peek! I met a lovely Japanese photographer with his own gallery and also found some very cool shops. Some with antiques, some with vintage clothing, and another with this awesome wall of mirrors.

The 5th/ Latin Quarter

I absolutely love classic French bistro food. I had read about La Rotisserie d'Argent, the more casual sister of the famous La Tour d’Argent, and thought this sounds exactly like where I want to go for lunch. I was exactly right.

Seated at a lovely window table with a view of the booksellers along the Seine, I was brought an amuse bouche to go with my glass of champagne while I read the menu. I decided on the oeuf mayonnaise served on medallions of potato and topped with grains of mustard. 

My main course of a 1/2 roast chicken with jus and duck fat roasted potatoes was served to me hot from the cast iron skillet and was fantastic! I finished lunch with an espresso which came with a madeline, perfect! I have to say that the service here was the best I remember ever having in Paris, except for at a Michelin star restaurant. Highly recommend and will be making this one of my go-to spots!

If you need to walk off your lunch, The Church of Saint-Séverin is tucked just a few blocks back on the street of the same name. It's one of the oldests churches on the left bank, originally built around 650 as a chapel in homage to the hermit monk Saint-Séverin who lived and died on the site. Then it was destroyed by the Vikings in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 13th century in a flamboyant gothic style. 

It's rarely busy so it's very easy to pop into. Outside you'll see lots of interesting gargoyles peering down at you!

The 6th/ Saint-Germain

A favorite casual restaurant of mine is the Avant Comptoir du Marche, I mean I actually really like all the Avants-Comptoirs but at Marche there is some seating whereas the others are stand-up only. 

We ordered a selection of plates to share, including some delicious duck hearts, remoulade, and octopus. It was a fabulously sunny Saturday and it felt like most of Paris was either eating here or walking by. This is such a fun spot!

While we were eating I spotted a shop across the street with a window full of quenelles! Based in Lyon, a town known for its quenelles, the Giraudet shop sells a gorgeous assortment of both regular size and mini(!!) dumplings along with a selection of sauces. We grabbed some minis to take home for apero hour!

Not far from here we passed by Popelini which sells amazing flavors of chou à la crème, otherwise known as cream puffs. 

I highly suggest that if you are visiting the city and have an Airbnb or the like, these quenelles, a roast chicken & potatoes from a local stand, and Popelini for dessert make a very dîner francaise. And that is exactly what we had that evening!

The 8th/ Champs Elysées

One afternoon we met some friends for a lovely brunch at the Cafe Jacquemart-Andre. The restaurant is in the dining room of the once private mansion-turned museum and is absolutely gorgeous. 

Sunday brunch is 32.00 € and includes hot drinks, juice, a pastry/bread basket, a choice of entree and dessert. I added champagne to mine... cuz France. I don't think they take reservations, we arrived right at opening to get a table for the 7 of us on the terrace.

Also in the 8th is the ritzy area of Madeline. My favorite tea shop Fauchon is located here, so I usually make a stop to stock up, this trip was no exception. A glass of wine and some people watching in this area is great too. 

The 9th/ Opera

One evening we went out with Forest's friends, Jennifer and David Lebovitz for drinks and dinner in Pigalle. Our cocktail spot for the evening was "gritty glam" Sister Midnight. It's a tiny spot with creative and tasty cocktails which also hosts drag and burlesque shows on the weekends. Very fun!!

A short walk away, right where the 9th meets the 10th, we had a very good dinner at Brasserie Bellanger. Highlights were the olive tapenade, lamb croquettes, and steak frites. 

The 10th/ Canal St Martin

On another night before dinner, we made a repeat visit to Copperbay for a couple of lovely cocktails. It's always a pleasure to come here; the drinks are delicious, the staff are super nice, and the space is very modern and chic.
Next up we walked to Marrow, a relatively new modern bistro just steps from Gare de l'Est. We were seated at the kitchen pass, great seats for watching Chef Hugo Blanchet (formerly of l'Atelier Robuchon et chez Hélène Darroze à Londres) create stunning dishes.
The menu is short and changes daily. We chose about ½ of the plates offered (they will also do a tasting menu for you) and I'd be hard pressed to name a favorite as everything was delicious! Using traditional ingredients, the dishes are creative and fun.

We started with a piece of toasted bread piled high with beef tongue and shaved cheese. Sounds weird, tasted like a great pastrami open faced sandwich!

The octopus here may be just as famous as the marrow. Both are do-not-misses! The bone marrow is cooked inside a "bone" made of bread, so that pretty much everything is flavored and edible. It is fantastic!

I haven't really spent any time in the 10th, unless I'm going travelling through Gare du Nord or Gare de l'Est but it's someplace I want to explore more. And I'd love to eat here again!

The 11th/ Nation

It wasn't my first time, but seeing an exhibit at Atelier Lumieres is always great! This time we saw Van Gogh, which of course was beautiful, and also a feature on ‘Yves Klein: Infinite Blue’ who I didn't know as much about.

There's a couple of great cocktail bars in the area, one is Frequence. It's unique in that they have an amazing collection of vinyl and are playing fantastic music while you sip on your delicious cocktails!

A 10-minute walk from Frequence is House Garden which offers low ABV cocktails made with seasonal ingredients and some very delicious small plates. The inside is adorned with lots of leafy green plants and there is also outside seating. It's a great spot!

The 12th/ Bercy

I'm not sure if this is still an offering, but Forest arranged for a group of us to go up on the roof of the Opera Bastille for a tour of the saffron gardens.  Unlike the Opera Garnier, the Opera Bastille is a very modern building and is the perfect environment for the crocus which like direct sun. The Opera also has a vegetable garden on a lower roof area.

We were let in through a locked side entrance and through the back halls, elevators, and stairways of the Opera. That in itself was very cool! The building is so massive that there are elevator maps showing which department is where and how to access different areas. 

We then had our first peak at the gardens as we exited a staircase to one of the lower roof levels. It was much bigger than I expected!

Our guide explained the hows and whys while we explored the peppers, tomatoes, herbs, etc. Then we returned to the back hallways of the Opera and made our way past the ballet dancer's practice studios, the musicians quarters, and all the way to the highest rooftop where the crocus grows. 

The flowers weren't in season but holy hell this view!!! The other ladies I was with have all lived in Paris for years but even they were completely wowed by this view! And they pointed out the terrace of Yves Saint Laurent's apartment to me, very cool! 

The 14th/ Montparnasse

On my first night in town Forest and I headed to La Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse. This is one of my favorite places to have a martini. The restaurant, and it's bar The Hemingway, have been serving Parisians since 1847. As with many places in this area, it was the haunt of many writers, actors, and artists. The barmen are professional and friendly, there is a piano player, and the customers are mostly locals. 

As we were enjoying our drink, Forest glanced at the man sitting next to her and realized it was an older French moviestar. She was pretty tickled, and said hello and chatted for a minute. Seems La Closerie is still a spot for artists! 

When her husband arrived, we moved to the casual part of the restaurant (there is a more formal section) for a lovely dinner of classic bistro dishes, including these excellent escargot. If you are looking for a old school brassiere, you can not go wrong with this one!

Also in the area is Rosebud, another classic spot that was adored by the local artists. We stopped in for a drink early one evening much as past regulars Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre most likely did. They'd still be at home with the 1930s decor at this historic, quiet and casual bar just off Rue Montparnasse on Rue Delambre.

All photos from Paris here.

Other posts from this trip:

Paris For Free

(Michelin) Stars in Paris

36 Hours in Marseille

Exploring Corsica

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