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Paris- Right Bank

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Paris at night by Holman Photography

What is it that makes a person fall in love with Paris? And why are we somatically, cerebrally, and intimately drawn to it? Ok, there's the food. And the beauty. And the touchable history. The river. The smells (well, let’s be honest, it’s olfactory porn, really). But at the root, I think it has to do with its accessibility, its walkability- more specifically, how each and every block has something to offer the senses. There are no long sections of plain.


Every corner offers a painted boulangerie, an artistically designed display, a preserved façade, or an artisinal shop (my husband calls Paris “Richard Scary Land”, as there are so many shops selling only one thing- one pastry, one style of shoe, one type of repair). Even the dingier, gray parts of town have things that draw a smile: mannequins posed on balconies to display the vestitures of the low-priced wares inside, Minecraft-style graffiti characters on random corners, markets full of goose eggs, cheeses, faux furs and African masks…. Only the grand boulevards will awaken you out of your other-wordly revelries with their bright lights, dirty sidewalks, and head-down city-goers to make you want to duck into the safety of a smaller maze of streets full of those huge, arched, carved doors, painted in bright colors which stand out against the greys of the surrounding buildings. Sigh. And so the yearning to return again and again continues.



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Here are some of my latest recommendations for places that have found their way into my heart and stomach. My advice is to make yourself a map on Google (star your saves) and pull them up on your phone’s map as you walk through town. Much less embarrassing than spreading out a huge paper map! Buy a "carnet" of 10 tickets on the metro. They should get you through a day or so. You will need to make reservations at most of the places below- doing so will take some of the stress out of “looking-while-hungry”. Oh, and take comfy shoes for walking- this is a walking town! {One of the best restaurant guides is David Liebowitz- I think his choices and write-ups are right on.}

Short list of places (check back, as there are more to come): EAT! Le Chardenoux- A classic bistro, traditional food and atmosphere. Ceiling painted with clouds, etched glass separators, kids and businessmen alike. Very friendly. (The Charlie Hebdo site is not too far from here, should you be interested in seeing it). Cafe Breizh- crepes extraordinaire in the Marais. Make reservations, lest you be part of the line that weaves around the corner. The apple cider is a must, and next door is a gourmet’s delight- cheeses, butter, meat, tapenades…. Browse while you wait for your cidre. (There is also a Petit Breizh, more modern and larger, closer to St. Sulpice on the Left Bank. While the menu is the same, the feel is not. It is trendier, and less cozy. Not my preferred spot, but still a great stop if crepes and cidre are on your list!) Willi's Wine Bar- we loved this place last time we went and reviews say it is still holding its own .

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Lunch at Place des Vosges Paris

Ma Bourgogne, on Place des Vosges, under the lovely archways, is a wonderful stop for sitting outside and enjoying a sunny day. The food can be hit or miss, but the people watching is hard to beat. It is known for its beef tartare, so if you like it, try it.

Miznon- I had read about this hole in the wall in the Marais, but the mass of bodies in the doorway always turned me away. So we tried again, and were rewarded with food worthy of the stellar reviews this place receives. Order up front, and take your food to the back room. The stacks of cauliflower are not only beautiful decoration, but once Miznon works its magic, will rock your white vegetable world! They are known for their falafel and beef bourgignon, so give those a try, if they aren’t sold out, and do not miss the pita- the freshest of fresh and an oral delight. My friends and I agree that we would fly back to Paris just to have this meal again… we are only half joking. Carette, on Pl. des Vosges- A delightful little place to sit, either on the patio or inside, for tea, good macarons, or a sip of wine. Glass, a little bit of frill, a lovely collection of pastries and treats, and a location that’s hard to beat for a late afternoon libation, or a delectable breakfast. there is another Carette, by Trocadero, that is much more of a see and be seen king of spot mainly for Parisien (tourists seem to be intimidated by it for some reason), more crowded, smokier...

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Le Bar Connetable- you will miss it if you blink. Evenings are a huge draw, with bodies spilling out onto the sidewalk, drinks in hand. But for lunch, the hidden-away family-friendly upstairs dining room is open, offering a meat heavy menu. It is an old-school, kitschy but warm interior and bar. If you are stumbling by, and need a break from museums or shopping, stop in for a quick glass of wine… or just for the experience.

Chatelet sur l’Isle- If taking a small ferry across a “moat” weren’t enough to pique your interest, perhaps eating smoked duck and melon, foie gras, gambas, veal in a velouté overlooking a sweet little lake on an enormous deck in the sun, or tucked, on a colder day, into a muralled room under antler chandeliers will tempt you. This whole meal is an experience … the getting there, experiencing a new part of Paris (it is not too far from Louis Vuitton Foundation, so make a pairing of the two), and loving the contemporary menu.

Paul Bert 6- The interior is easygoing and minimalist, with only 10ish tables, but the food is serious. We had an octopus dish that was beyond delicious- the sweet ragout of eggplant on the bottom was a taste extravaganza. Most dishes came beautifully prepared, with a flavorful depth and some surprises that had us all reaching across the table to taste each other’s food. The wine list is slightly edgy, including some organic and unfiltered wines; be sure to ask about what you are ordering, and get a full detail of the wine offering before you order. Rue Montorgeuil, just behind Les Halles is a lovely place to stroll and grab a bit or boire un coup. Plenty of cafes, creperies, ice cream and pastry shops (including the oldest, Stohrer).



ACTIVITIES

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Louvre pyramid in Paris at night

Louvre area- Mosying through the Louvre’s outside courtyard, surrounded by facades of life-sized figurines, and then emerging onto the 1990’s, glass entrance of the museum, backdropped by the Arc du Carousel and the gardens of the Tuilleries, is a lovely introduction to Paris life, art and architecture. Wander farther beyond the Louvre towards the Comedie Francaise and into the Gardens of the Palais Royale for one of the best places to evidence the emergence of Spring- folks lingering on every available bench, trees in bloom, beautiful grass that no one is allowed to step foot on…. And what better time to grab un petit nerveux, to get a little caffeine coursing through those jetlagged veins, than a quick sit at the cafe at the Place Colette. It is a lovely, if somewhat busy, place to stop, with a view of the metro Palais Royale glass work adorning the metro entrance. The waiters all have a third eye and crawl out of the woodwork if they sense a tip coming their way (hey, at least we Americans have one good bit of reputation working to our advantage). Oh, yes, and they have an easy-access bathroom- no charge.

Musee Carnavalet (if you don't speak French, audio tour needed)- in the Marais is a fascinating stroll through Parisian history. Sadly, it is under construction for major renovations until mid to end of 2019. Pompidou Center- usually houses a fabulous exhibit. The building itself and the performers out front are fun to see. Stroll around the area (though perhaps not late at night).

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Louis Vuitton Foundation building

Louis Vuitton Foundation- this building is a wow, an awe-inspiring structure that flies, and curves. It is a marvel of opaque reflections and huge spaces. The view from the top is worth the entrance fee alone, especially the sight of Paris’s skycrapers framed by the Vuitton building, favoring the modern over the traditional Eiffel tower view. The museum butts up against the Parc d’Acclimatization for kids, so squeals of delight will follow you through your visit.


Les Puces de St. Ouen, including marché Paul Bert & marché Vernaison-this experience is almost a sensory overload…. stuffed foxes, bin upon bin of silverware, copper pans, chandeliers, vintage posters and old Ricard sets, and oh, let’s not forget the people. I truly could do a whole photo essay on the shop owners alone: men in silk cravats, ladies who look as if they have become part of their displays. Try les Merveilles de Babellou for your copper fix, and truly, you can’t go wrong if you just wander. Warning: you may spend your whole day, or two…. or three….

boutiques and stalls at flea market in paris st ouen les puces holman photography viewfinder travel planning france paris
Stalls at Les Puces de St. Ouen

STAY

There are plenty of luxury options in Paris, as one might imagine. I tend towards hotels with. more boutique feel, a personality that reflects the neighborhood. This does not mean they are not luxurious, though many of them are less showy and much smaller.

Luxury travel and hotels in Paris france and europe by viewfinder travel recommendations
Pavillon de le Reine lobby

Pavillon de la Reine was just as lovely as I had anticipated during all the years I passed by and could not afford it. Rooms are simple, but elegantly appointed (it goes without saying they are also small). But the lounge/library areas are velvety and beckoning- it is hard to choose between them for breakfast. The basement has a workout area and spa. The location is truly hard to beat, in the middle of charming Place des Vosges. It is elegant, luxurious, and a favorite Paris spot.

Hotel du Petit Moulin- ($300) http://www.hotelpetitmoulinparis.com/ In a terrific location, a quaint building that used to be a bakery, and designed from top to bottom by the fashion designer Christian Lacroix- boho chic. Each room is different. Only breakfast served, but plenty to do, see, eat nearby, including the Picasso museum. Hotel Les Tournelles- If you can't swing the Pavillon de la Reine, this 24-room hotel is a wonderful alternative. It is in the most fabulous of locations- smack dab in the middle of the Marais, one block from my favorite square, Place des Vosges, but far enough away from shops and bars that it is peaceful and quiet. It was redesigned in 2016 (the building is a 17th Century gem) with a contemporary design dominated by teals and lively hues, but they left the open wall and ceiling beams to maintain its historical feel. As you wind down the creaky stairs, you wish the walls could tell stories. (Or you can squeeze in the old-fashioned elevator, a throwback in and of itself.) There is a nice little library for coffee, drinks, reading just off the lobby…. If you don’t need elevator, the rooms on top floor are a treat, with a 1-person balcony and view across Paris rooftops. Note that there is no restaurant (and no coffee maker or fridge in the rooms). There is a nice breakfast room in the basement, but it is shouting for windows; in the winter it must be cozy and lovely, but on a sunny day, it is not where I want to take my coffee and croissant (La Carette around the corner is a better alternative). The staff is supremely kind and helpful.

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