Springtime in Paris

Photo of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris twice in the last year for project meetings, here are some thoughts and information on places I really enjoyed.

On both trips I took the newly reinstated NightJet train to/from Vienna. The train leaves Vienna at about 19:30 and you are in Paris about 9:45. On my first trip the night train only went as far as Strasbourg, so I spent the day there and then took the TGV to Paris (which, by the way, is much faster than the night train over this distance). Here are my Strasbourg recommendations from that trip.

On my June visit I had time to visit the Musee d’Orsay to see an exhibition on Gaudi’s architecture. The show and rest of the museum were great, but boy was it crowded! I was expecting that they had reduced admissions due to Covid, but that wasn’t the case. I bought a timed-ticket online and so my wait was short (be sure to do this too!).

I’ve dreamed of Paris since elementary school French classes. Classes at Berkeley in architecture and city planning history only supercharged my interest. So, of course, I always do things like walk on the boulevards, ride the metro, and visit great urban parks like the Jardin du Luxembourg when I visit and just soak up the city.

As a city planning history buff I’ve been fascinated with Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann and how he changed Paris starting around 1850. Last June I walked through the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, one of his park projects, and on this trip I visited the Carnavalet Museum, where I enjoyed several exhibits on city planning including one on Baron Haussmann. The Carnavalet is the city history museum with many wonderful exhibits packed into several connected townhouses in the Marais district. And, it’s free!

While I’ve visited Paris often, oddly enough, on many of my trips I have not eaten particularly well, so for these trips I tried very hard to find great food and was successful. Here are some highlights in no particular order …

Restaurant Le Blavet, 15eme – this is a very nice traditional French restaurant. I had a goat cheese wanton for an appetizer and a main course of steak, both excellent.The only other guests were French. It’s a small place where the owners are cooking and serving, they were very friendly. The restaurant had a nice selection of ciders and wines by the glass and half-bottle.

O Coffee, 15eme – I was staying near this coffee bar and so had breakfast there one morning. Excellent scones (not so French, but OK!) and coffee in a “modern” coffee bar style.

Au 35, 6eme – I was walking by looking for a good place to have lunch in this highly touristy area and was drawn-in by the restaurant’s blackboard listing Gazpacho soup as an appetizer. I followed that with steak frites, because, well, Paris! Au 35 had excellent wines by the glass so I could have a nice white with the soup and a red with the steak – chosen after discussing the options for several minutes with my servers. The only other people there were French, including a large party of office workers meeting one of their co-workers who had just had a baby (including the, well-behaved) infant. A great experience.

Le Café des Musées, 3eme – Right around the corner from the Carnavalet Museum, I had an excellent coffee here (especially needed because the coffee served on night trains is not so good!), probably before they were officially open. It looks like a nice place to eat, and they had several local craft beers on tap …

Chez Mademoiselle, 4eme – I was starving after leaving the museum and worried that I’d only find someplace full of tourists, but luckily, I stumbled on Chez Mademoiselle. The lunch menu of a beet salad appetizer and a sautéed sea bass with risotto was perfect, especially with a wonderful glass of organic red wine from Languedoc-Roussillon (my favourite wine region!). The restaurant was calm and staff very welcoming. It was just wonderful.

Louison Hotel, 6eme – A very pleasant and calm hotel that provides a great base for exploring the shops and cafes around Rue de Cherche-Midi and Rue de Sevres like the Fromagerie Quatrehomme which makes you hungry just breathing in the aroma and seeing the beautiful variety of cheeses!

Au Chien Que Fume, 6eme – a typical café around the corner from the Louison. I had the traditional French breakfast of a coffee and croissant standing at the bar in this restaurant with people as they came and went for their morning coffees. Everyone was friendly and eating this way (like a local) is one of the things I love about traveling. Also, the coffee and croissant standing cost about 3.20 Euros. (The name means “The dog who smokes” and unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the sign: bulldog with a pipe!)

Le Standard Rive Gauche, 6eme – Steak frites was the lunch special one day so I had to stop here and enjoyed it with another wonderful Languedoc-Roussillon red wine. Make a reservation so you can sit in the downstairs café, it’s more interesting than the upstairs room.

Domaine d’Olleac, 7eme – the website says Olivier maintains simple French southwest recipes with carefully selected products in a family atmosphere – and it’s right. I’ve rarely had such a nice experience talking with Olivier about the food and wine. He helped me choose an excellent meal of salad with goat cheese, pork roast and plums in Armagnac with a lovely Madiran red. Next time I will try the trout which also sounded great.

Chez Paul, 11eme – On Friday I met my former colleague Walt from San Francisco (now living in France) for a day of talking, walking around, and, naturally, eating and drinking. He suggested Chez Paul and we had a wonderful typical French café lunch (which is to say great!). Walt wrote about it on his blog (WCS – Another American in France), so I won’t repeat, just to say everything was excellent and our waitress was fun.

Around Gare d’Est, 10eme – My night train to Austria left from Gare d’Est, which is a very busy area full of fast food of dubious quality. Walt and I had a nice drink on the sidewalk at the Café La Ville de Provins. Then I stopped in at Schmid Traiteur, a food shop specialising in Alsatian cuisine (which I love!), where I picked up a cold Tarte Flambee (see Strasbourg) to eat on the train. (Be sure to check out the website, it has a nice drawing of the train station in about 1900, when they set up shop.) Then we stopped by “The Place to Be” directly across from the station for a good-bye beer (wine for Walt) – and enjoyed the happy hour prices!

Canal St Martin neighbourhood, 10eme – on my June trip I visited this area (about a 5-minute walk from Gare d’Est), looking for something to eat on the night train home. It’s a nice area to explore with lots of shops and bars. I picked up baked goods at Boulangerie Liberté, which I especially liked because their napkins said: “Paris, Tokyo, Kyoto” which made me feel worldly.

Andy Nash

April 19, 2023


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