Mr. S and I recently returned home from a trip to Paris. La Ville-Lumière (city of light) was the center of education and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment. In 1828, Paris began lighting the Champs-Elysées with gas lamps and earned the nickname “La Ville–Lumière”. Paris is a walkable city and you’ll see far more on foot than in a car. When making plans for what to do and see, I’m the research queen – a nickname fondly given to me by my husband. I look for the top 10 attractions and then look for places to eat. From there I’ll do up a rough schedule as to when we’ll see the attractions; this is not cast in stone (it usually changes) but used as a guide – you need to start somewhere!
We love a good cappuccino or espresso and as I was doing my Paris research, I found some really cool-looking spots. Thinking that Paris had the same coffee culture we have here I was shocked to learn that it’s only been in the last few years that coffee devotees have a place to savor good java. It was the expatriates who showed Parisians the indie coffeehouse concept instead of over-roasted industrial espresso. You might think we’re nuts to actively search out coffee shops while on vacation but hear me out. Planning a route to incorporate a coffee shop leading to an attraction works out pretty darn well. It allows us to see new neighborhoods and in return feel more like a local than a tourist. TimeOut has an amazing list of the best coffee in Paris and we visited seven from it. The neighborhoods we walked through enabled us to find hidden gems along the way.
The seven coffee shops we visited were: Cullier, Le Peloton Café, Honor, Fondation Café, Da Zavola, Le Coutume Café, and KBCaféshop. My personal favorites were Cuiller and Le Coutume Café. Lunch and cappuccino (as well as dessert) at Le Coutume Café was hands down THE best! We did enjoy lunch at Da Zavola but a glass of prosecco trumped the cappuccino.
On one of the walks from the hotel en route to a coffee shop (then onward to a tourist attraction), we stumbled upon a lovely area, Rue Montorgueil, located in the 1st arrondissement and 2nd arrondissement. It’s a place for Parisians to socialize and do their shopping (cafés, bakeries, cheese shops, wine shops, produce stands, fish stores, flower shops). We decided to come back for dinner and happy we did. We found a place to have a drink outside and watched the locals go by.
Deciding on where to eat wasn’t easy but a hostess standing on the street corner handing out bite-size pizzas caught our eye. Grab a piece, see if you like it, then head up the narrow street to Cuori Italiani. Clever idea and where to eat was solved although we did not order pizza.
From what I’ve written thus far, you might think we only ate Italian but such was not the case. We visited Le Marais (between 3rd and 4th arrondissements). According to A Paris Guide, Le Marais is the closest you will get to the feel of medieval Paris and has more pre-revolutionary buildings and streets left intact than any other area in Paris. Before Napoleon showed up the Marais is what most of Paris looked like – a labyrinth of cobblestone alleys. The rest of Paris was razed by Napoleon and Haussmann who wanted to build huge avenues and gigantic squares such as the Place Concorde. David Lebovitz’s list of 10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris rates L’As du Falafel as number 2 for Paris’s most famous falafel joint. I think it should be number one. Another day we ventured down to Forum des Halles (largest underground shopping mall in Paris) and had a yummy waffle stuffed with cheese, basil, and bacon. Waffles, as well as crepes, are everywhere in Paris but a stuffed waffle was new to me.
Our first dinner was at Boullion Chartier Restaurant (est 1896). No reservations allowed and the lineups may look disheartening but the wait is not long and even shorter if you share a table (we shared). Traditional recipes in a legend place – that’s their motto and it had to be one of our most enjoyable dining experiences in Paris. The atmosphere was electric and full of locals. Our waiter took our order by writing it down on the paper tablecloth. It’s how they’ve been doing it for generations and it works. The food is very traditional and good!
Our last dinner was in our room. We had seen so many locals walking with their baguettes in hand as they hurried home for dinner. We walked by local cheese and meat shops many times and decided we would eat like a local on our last evening in Paris. And we did! A selection of cheeses, cured meats, pâté de foie gras, a fresh baguette, local strawberries, and a local bottle of wine. Our room smelled delicious!
The Culinary Chase’s Note: My advice in a new city? Get off the main street and discover a local feel in the places you visit. Enjoy!