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Viewfinder Travel


 Discover A New Point of View

Paris- Left Bank, Ile de la Cité & Ile St. Louis

travel tips for Paris and France by viewfinder travel for photographers and art lovers
Scenes of Paris

ILE DE LA CITÉ Hotel Jeu du Paume - it would be hard to find a more central location in Paris than this hotel. It is located in the middle of l’Ile Saint Louis, with easy access to either bank. There are a few cute cafes and brasseries nearby (as well as Bertillon ice cream). The building has been converted from the old tennis courts, and, as such, has high vaulted ceilings and exposed beams. There is an area for breakfast and tea in the middle of the open space- make sure to ask for a room that is on an upper floor, as the rooms on the ground floor open onto the dining area. The rooms are more spacious than most hotels of the same ilk, and are decorated plainly, with exposed wood floors and ceilings. Marche des Fleurs, Reine Elizabeth II- Ile de la Cite- birds, flowers, flowers and more beautiful flowers. Only about a block long, but the smells and sights are such a lovely change from the tourist sights and throngs of of bodies nearby.

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Marche des Fleurs in Paris

Ste. Chappelle Cathedral, across from Notre Dame on l’Ile de la Cité, is more spectacular in some ways than its more famous sister. It is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, which survived the Revolution but has had to endure much restoration. It’s steeples and stained glass windows are awe inspiring, but more intimate in feel than Notre Dame. Well worth a visit. Notre Dame- as of April 25 2019, parts of the cathedral have been reopened for viewing after the fire. It is yet to be seen how they will manage crowds, which currently are unbearable. Check with your hotel before you work your way into the line... you may be happy with a view from afar from one of the bridges.

LEFT BANK Eats: Les Papilles- A wine cave by day and cozy, 10 table restaurant by night, nestled between the science labs on r. Marie Curie and the Pantheon. This was the best meal we had this trip (eclipsing an extravagant Alain Ducasse afternoon.) They have a large table downstairs in case you have a larger group. But sitting upstairs next to the wine (which you will pull from the wall for your dinner at only a 7 euro mark up), watching the owner hobnob with his customers, and taking in the scents from the meal next to you is half the fun. Rsvs a must. Pavillon de la Fontaine is now La Terrasse de Madame- in Luxembourg gardens. Take a seat and have patience if you aren’t attended to immediately. The waiters are friendly, but often overworked here. And why wouldn’t they be in this stunning setting under shade trees where your snack or lunch will be the treat of the day- not for the food, though it isn’t bad at all, but for the view in every direction of statues, gardens, fountains, kids playing ball, lovers strolling by, and regulars meeting for their weekly Ricard together.

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Les Deux Magots in summertime

Les Deux Magots- Yes, it's touristy and pricey, but their tuna niçoise/ curry salad, cheese plates, view of the church and people watching are worth it. What better place to feel a part of history, experience the full Parisian waiter routine, people-watch at leisure and enjoy a light French snack of goat cheese on toasted dark bread from Poilane, or a Croque Madame, especially if you’ve never had one, or my fave, the Salade Deux Magots with green beans, boiled egg, raisins, chicken with a balsamic dressing and yellow curry drizzle, accompanied by a crisp bottle of Sancerre? Ah, c’est la vie. At Bonaparte, across from St. Germain church and a few steps from Les Deux Magots, you may see a mash of bodies standing in front; don’t be put off- they are awaiting the opening of the theatre next door, and will, eventually disperse. This is a lovely, open-windowed place to have an aperatif or even dinner, even if, because of its location, it also attracts tourists. But the waiters are skilled at handling non-French speaking guests, the food is decent, and the possibility for meeting, or at least eavesdropping, on your neighbor is high. Bonaparte is full of hustle and bustle and jubilance.

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Paris Rooftops and the Tour Eiffel by Holman Photography

Hotel Rafael rooftop bar- While the hotel itself has a “men’s club” feel with leather banquets and red velvet bar, this traditional hotel near l"Arc de Triomphe holds a well-kept secret: a rooftop bar with views that will make you draw in a breath. Skip the 20 euro drinks at the downstairs, old-school, dark wood salon full of suited businessmen and head to the seventh floor. This rooftop has to be one of the highlights of Paris- a garden spot where you can relax over a drink with the Tour Eiffel in the background. It is also a place to see and be seen, so go early or get in line. At last visit, they were serving a Ylang and tequila drink that was so good I had to have two! Faust- We really enjoyed this place, which was recommended by a local friend of ours. It is a hop, skip and jump from the Eiffel Tower, under Pont Alexandre IIII bridge. Appointed with marble floors, soaring, backlit bar shelves, and towering street lamps. One of the friendliest staffs we encountered, and some unique twists on French food- almost like being in California (ha).

La Palette- a favorite for the location and theme and outdoor seating on a not-too-busy corner in the 7th/6th. White-aproned waiters with slicked back hair and “un air particulier” about them seat regulars up against the wall of the building, the best seats for people watching. The art-themed interior is spotted with palettes (as one might imagine), paintings, and a toilet that fits only the slenderest of French women. The back room is often full of football fans- stick to the outdoor, shade-covered sidewalk for your rosé, cheese plate and “petit nerveux”. In the eventing, you may want to head back out for a 5-6 block walk to Rue des Canettes & Rue Guisarde where, though tourists abound, just as many locals reserve places to dine on this restaurant-lined street. Boucherie Rouliere is one of my favorites for a steak frites, and a few more creative dishes, though if you would like to reserve on, and receive a %15 discount try La Boussole . (I love booking a restaurant for the first night of a trip so I don’t have to think about where to go when I am tired and my brain shuts off). La Boussole offers some basic classics but all of them have a Middle Eastern twist, a dip here, a glaze there, some couscous on the side. There are numerous other creperies, pubs, restaurants and bistros in this area- ranging from a few tables to many, all of which look quite delightful. Hmmm, guess I will just have to go back. Chez René- Stroll along the Seine at sunset, while it is alive with boats, revelers, trumpets, dancers, and people stealing a quiet moment to read; it’s a sight to remember. When I went to Chez René for a dinner-for-one, I ate next to a dog (not terribly unusual for France). If you can grab a corner booth, sit back and watch the dance that is the spicy, bald waiter ducking under the hidden door in the bar floor, popping up to welcome more arrivals. This red leather banqueted, white table clothed restaurant is known for its beef bourgignon. Its walls are adorned with superb, old posters, a clock stopped at 2:01. End your meal with fresh strawberries de bois, sprinkled with sugar and cream whipped to hard. Holy cow.

Activities: Rodin Museum- open all year round. Even if you aren’t a die-hard fan, the gardens themselves are worth the entrance fee. Pack a picnic. His artwork, which speckles the estate and the house where he lived, is a bonus. His Gates of Hell stopped me in my tracks (not to mention the photo opp it provided when a gaggle of nuns stopped to look).

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Visitor at the Musee Rodin by Holman Photography

Army Museum- worth a full morning, perhaps a day. This is one of the most interesting, strategic overviews of WWII history I have seen. My husband lost himself in the historical collections that fill the rest of the museum. Napoleon’s tomb is in the back. Rue Mouffetard- market day is incredible, other days still an eye- and nose-full. Great little pop-in restaurants and pubs (raclette wheels will beckon you; succomb)! Canal St. Martin locks- this is an up and coming area, used as a backdrop for the film Amelie. We loved strolling along side the boats which were awaiting the swinging arms of the streets to open. (Don’t get on a boat, just watch from above one of the many bridges). Chez prune is a nice little place to stop for coffee. Olive and mustard yellow paint, vines, a copper bar and very friendly folks await inside.

Luxembourg Garden- one of those places I go every time I visit. Beautiful green, lakes with kids floating boats, rickety chairs on rocky paths, fountains, couples picnicking, men in caps playing boules; it’s some of the best of Paris wrapped up in a beautiful, little, verdant package.

Pont des Arts - one of the most romantic spots in Paris. Strolling over the Pont des Arts, in spite of the tourists, and the cliché, bereted accordian player busquing for a Euro... even with the lovers buying locks to place on the fencing, and the nasal wail of the Bateaux Mouches loudspeakers floating below, the romance of the city tingles in the air, in every direction. Notre Dame/ Ile St Louis are on your right, the Tour Eiffel hinting from afar left, the Louvre and Tuileries beckoning ahead, and the domed roofs of the Left bank are at your back. It is hard not to cross this bridge without a smirk- either in remembrance of a long-ago kiss or in a state of daydream thinking about the one you wish you had with you.


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I think of all hotels and locations in Paris, the Relais Saint Germain has become my favorite. It is in a superbly accessible, yet still mostly quiet, location, the staff is lovely, the rooms, especially the upper ones with decks, ooze charm, and let's not overlook the access to one of the Paris hotspots, Le Comptoir for dinner (breakfast also included). It is a quintessentially Parisian experience, with still a few creeky stairs and some rooms have small bathrooms, but it represents all the good Paris has to offer. Plus, it is near 3 or 4 other terrific cafes, and is near shopping.

Hotel Buci- It goes without saying that most hotel rooms in Paris are small, as is this, but not all are equal; this darling place is quaint, but still luxurious. If you have never been to Paris, the location is pretty hard to beat... smack dab in the middle of restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, and fresh markets just blocks from the Seine. On the down side, it is also tourist-central. But sit in the comfy chairs by the window for an apperatif, and you have the best view around for people watching. The hotel is decorated with velvety, dark hues, lively wallpapers (I l

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Hotel Buci in St. Germain, Paris

oved the aerial view of the city in black and white), and the breakfast downstairs is fine, though I think I would prefer being out in the hustle and bustle, watching the fashions pass by and the musicians perform out front.

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L’Hotel- a small, quaint, luxurious, if a little dark, boutique hotel. Lush furnishings, tall curtains, tapestried walls, kind people (more than once did we see staff chase down a taxi for a forgotten item). The impressive atrium, which will entice you to crane your neck up to see the dazzling, lighted dome, lends brightness and character to the whole place, and the pictures in the bar of famous visitors are more endearing than braggadocio. It is smack dab in the middle of a gallerie-littered area, and a nice spot to access both banks. Nearby food options are scarce (meaning you will be in for a 10 minute walk- see La Palette), but this 4 star hotel is not short on

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charm or dining options. The breakfast will make even the most jetlagged of bodies jump out of bed, served in a room of rich textures, sensuous floral arrangements and, oh, the coffee. Take a cocktail or moment of quiet out on the patio for a splash of light and fresh air- Oscar Wilde might inspire you.


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