Love it when our travel expert Susan is on the road, particularly when she brings back great tips about a city I love, Paris …
[Picture by Rita Crane]
Having recently returned, I’m delighted to share my most recent take on that always wonderful city, Paris …
New restaurants: there is a host of new, small restaurants, often a husband/wife team with the “formula” of a fixed price menu with choices for all of the three offered courses. The highlight was Itineraires – the most inventive food ever, 36 Euro menu (with some supplements), hip interior with equally hip and welcoming wait staff (Itineraires, 5, rue de Pontoise, 5th Arrondisement, +33-1-46-33-60-11, advance reservations essential).
Another new restaurant, with less adventurous, but still great food is L’Epigramme, with a 30 Euro menu (9, rue de L’Eperon, 6th Arrondisement, +33-1-44-41-00-09, reservations also essential). A forerunner of this “formula” is Mon Vieil Ami on the Ile St. Louis, with reservations totally necessary and an Alsatian menu that integrates lots of great vegetables, that is around 40 Euros (69, Rue St Louis en l’ile, +33 1 40 46 01 35, www.mon-vieil-ami.com).
If French food is getting you down, you can try hip Spanish food at Fogon, either with a fixed menu edgy tapas menu (around 40 Euros or so) or a paella menu for 2, in a modern interior (45, Quai des Grands Augustins, 6th Arrondisement, +33 1 43 54 31 33, www.fogon.fr, reservations advised). I urge everyone to Google these places to see what they’re about in advance.
Restaurants near or in museums: Always helpful to find are great restaurant stops near or in museums to make for an elegant day about town. My favorites include: Caf Marly (93 rue du Rivoli, 1st Arrondisement, +33 1 49 26 06 60) facing the Louvre Pyramid, but with its own entrance. Dine outside on the terrace or inside in a Phillipe Starck interior. Georges, atop the Pompidou Centre (9 rue Beaubourg, 4th Arrondisement, +33 -1-44 78 47 99), has a wild interior and lovely terrace with great views around town. Separate elevators will take you there if you do not want to go to the museum. Reservations are advised for both but not always essential at lunch.
Great Exhibitions Seen: For those going to Paris shortly, you might be able to catch some of the exhibits we saw. At the Grand Palais (www.grandpalais.fr) there is a fabulous 200+ portrait exhibit of Andy Warhol’s work, at the Quai Branly (incredible architecture by Jean Nouvel outside and within the permanent exhibits) is a fabulous exhibit on Jazz and its relationship to all of the arts, and at the Centre Pompidou (www.centrepompidou.fr) there’s a wonderful exhibit on Kandinsky and a delightful one on Calder’s Paris Years showing his wire sculptures that are like 3D drawings along with some of his charming films. Note that at Quai Branly (www.quaibranly.fr), in addition to their quite fancy restaurant Les Ombres, the casual caf offers light fare on a terrace with view of the Eiffel Tower (as does the fancier restaurant).
Unusual Museums: Not to be missed is the Musee Baccarat (www.baccarat.fr) with a wild display by Phillipe Starck. Also fun is the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr ), at the back of the Louvre, on the rue du Rivoli, with special exhibits but also permanent ones on design and fashion. Note that they have their own caf with terrace seating facing the Tuilleries.
Where to stay: I confess that I am a “Left Bank Girl,” and we stayed at our usual haunt, the Hotel d’ Aubusson (www.hoteldaubusson.com). They couldn’t be nicer or more welcoming, and the location couldn’t be better. Just don’t be disappointed by the fact that many other Americans have discovered it as well – you won’t feel like you are “going native” here. The place is small, and, if full, other options on the left bank include their sister hotel, Hotel Millesime (www.millesimehotel.com) at a lower price point, as well as the ultra hip La Villa (www.la-villa-paris.com)- hipper interior, perhaps less focused hoteliers, and the Bel Ami, a Design Hotel (www.designhotels.com). Further up is the Montalembert (www.montalembert.com); also very hip, closer to the shopping area around Le Bon Marche, but further from some of the restaurants noted above in the 5th and 6th and also more remote from the Ile St. Louis and Marais (if you plan to walk there, which I do). On the Right Bank, I’ve heard good things about the Castille (www.castille.com), so this may be a good option for those who want to be on “the other side.”
Nightlife/Shopping: for those interested in clubs, bars, etc. I suggest using www.timeout.com for Paris and buying their print guide for the city. They also cover hip shops by city area. On the Left Bank the shops and boutiques around the area of the department store Le Bon Marche (www.treeslbm.com) are a pretty good bet – and don’t miss the food hall in Le Bon Marche – it is truly amazing. On the Right Bank, don’t miss Colette (www.colette.fr) on the Rue du Rivoli and the many shops in the Marais (which is the area surrounding the Centre Pompidou so you can reward yourself for a cultural experience by shopping before or after!).
Walking Around: Paris is a grand city and anywhere you walk is interesting – that’s part of the fun! Frommer’s Pocket Guide: “Paris Day by Day” has some good, easy to follow walking tours for those who want more direction. Also, National Geographic has a “Places of a Lifetime” series online and there are good, printable walking tours for Paris (and other cities).
You can only have a great time in Paris. The only problem is deciding what to do given the wealth of offerings!