What we do in Paris
What to do in Paris...
I have been fortunate enough to visit Paris annually for several years. We’ve stayed a few times on the Left Bank, a few times on Île Saint Louis and recently in a swanky hotel in the 1st. While I do not think that it would ever get old to go to the Louvre and La Tour Eiffel and Sacre Coeur each time, for some reason we don’t. It is that age old dilemma--do you return to the places you know or seek out something new??
In travel, as in life, it is usually a good idea to mix the two. This time we tried a few new places with mixed success, but the old favorites did not disappoint. Here are a few on our Paris “must do” list. What’s on yours?!
Le Petit Pontoise--There are so many classic restaurants in Paris, it may not make sense to cross town for this one. However, if you do, you will be guaranteed an excellent plate of Coquilles St. Jacques and probably the best chicken and mashed potatoes you will ever have in your life. It is a sure bet.
L’As du Fallafel--No matter how much you love French food, you may find yourself in need of a break from French food...and, coming from Nantucket, anything ethnic is always a draw. This particular spot in the Marais is legendary; it is written up in nearly every travel guide and article on Paris must-eats, so it is usually pretty busy. The chaos and bustle is part of the show and you will certainly not be disappointed with the modest price tag. A ginormous fallafel is 7euro. The carrot juice is delicious! Schwarma, too.
Frenchie--We have only eaten at the wine bar, as the restaurant requires reservations two months in advance and we never plan that far. Here, you will find a young, vibrant, energetic kitchen with an adventurous menu of small plates that succeeds in virtually all of its efforts. You have to arrive by 7 or else put your name in and come back in an hour. Totally worth it.
We try to visit a “classic” museum and one off the beaten track each time. If you don’t get a reservation for the big exhibit at the Louvre or the Grand Palais, do not despair. There is always something wonderful showing in Paris and more museums than you could see in a month. Recent discoveries include:
Musee Nissim de Camondo--An fabulous manse turned museum of decorative arts, it is chock full of period 18th/19th century furniture, textiles and paintings acquired by the aristocrat, Moise de Camondo, whose tragic life is quite fascinating. A splendid museum on the edge of the beautiful Parc Monceau.
Musee Jacquemart-André--Another brilliant mansion turned museum, this one features the incredible art collected by Nelie Jacquemart and Edouard Andre, who dedicated their lives to acquisition and patronage--and featuring their collection in architectural splendor. The couple assembled an incredible collection of Italian renaissance art , as well as sculpture and decorative arts. The museum also features visiting exhibitions (currently Canaletto-Guardi Venetian art) as well as the permanent collection. The other bonus to this museum is its restaurant, Cafe Jacquemart-Andre, in the lavish former dining room--lunch here is a must! Walking distance to Musee Nissim Camondo.
Aux Trois Mailletz--This is our favorite--the divey piano bar upstairs is perfect for a before or after dinner drink and the same woman, Henrietta, is always playing the piano until 10 or 11. The cabaret, downstairs in a vaulted cave, is only if you are in for the long haul--it doesn’t really get going until midnight and goes til 5am. The night/morning we were there featured a hot Senegalese singer and a Tracy Chapman lookalike, as well as 4-5 others that were mostly fantastic. The food is not much, but you will certainly be entertained. Music is a mix of French & American pop and standards (from Annie Lennox to Edith Piaf). It is touristy, yet there are plenty of locals. 20+ euro cover for downstairs.
Of course, if you’ve never been or don’t go often, you may require a visit to Cafe Flore, Deux Magots, etc. If you’re a foodie, there are so many trendy spots (Itineraires--inventive, Les Papilles--wine store & restaurant), but for me, you can rarely go wrong with just wandering your neighborhood and finding a brasserie or a crepe...or Asian...or Moroccan. Good french food, international flavor, a little culture, a little nightlife. Once again, it’s all in the mix.
PS Dreaming of France? Here are some dreamy photos of Bordeaux:
LE PETIT PONTOISE
9 Rue de Pontoise 75005 Paris France
L’AS du FALLAFEL
34 Rue des Rosiers 75004 Paris
5-6, rue du Nil - 75002 Paris
30 rue Gay Lussac 75005 PARIS
(near Le Pantheon)
MUSEE NISSIM de CAMONDO
63 Rue de Monceau 75008 Paris
158, bd Haussmann 75008 Paris
AUX TROIS MAILLETZ
56 Rue Galande 75005 Paris
(edge of Latin Quarter/St. Germain-des-Pres)