American opinion appears to have returned to an appreciation of the French. Witness the recent run of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the top of the New York Times Bestselling Advice Book list and the omnipresence of Gilles Marini. I have had the good fortune of visiting Paris on a few occasions and am now in the midst of planning a trip to Paris and Rennes with my family, the first for our children. So now that it is safe again to love the French, and there is much to love, particularly their living-as-art-form approach to domestic life, I thought I would share some of my favorite things to do in Paris. Please add your own recommendations.
Here’s a 10-item list (sort of Lettermanesque) of my favorites, and other thoughts, from our time in Paris.
1) Boat Ride on the Seine at night. Very classic tourist activity– but of course it is. It’s a really nice thing to do. We used Bateaux Mouches, Pont de L’Alma, but Bateaux Parisien also looks good. Be prepared; it’s light out until 10:00 pm, or later.
2) Gerard Mulot, Chocolats et Macarons, 76 Rue de Seine in the Saint Germain (6th) arondissement. The pastries were the best we’ve had in our travels and we put a lot of research in on the ground. You order at the counter; the guy gives you a slip, you pay at another counter and they stamp the slip, and then you bring the slip back to the first guy who has your order all nicely packaged. Then you unceremoniously enter the street, tear open the pretty package and slobber all over it’s contents. Yumm…
3) Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés. The cultural history alone of this perfectly-located cafe makes it worth a visit. The cafe of choice of such luminaries as Picasso, Hemingway, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, a seat at Deux Magots by the sidewalk provides a ceaselessly entertaining view of passersby. We enjoyed brunch there and the food was very good, especially the Poilane bread which I had with baked goat cheese. In my opinion you really can’t eat enough goat cheese.
4) Berthillon, 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile. The place for ice cream in Paris.
5) Fountaine du Mars, 129 Rue St. Dominique, 01 47 05 46 44. Make a reservation for a street-side table. We’ve had dinner here a few times and the food is great and so is the atmosphere. The Obamas dined here on their last trip to Paris and apparently agreed with our assessment. For dessert they do a nice job with Ile Flottante (Floating Island), a delicious French classic involving meringue and caramel.
6) Le Petit Nicois, 10 Rue Amelie, 01 45 51 83 65. Lovely Mediterranean restaurant with great seaf00d. They do wonderful things with artichokes.
7) Tastevin, 46 rue St. Louis-en-l’Ile, 01 43 54 17 31. A truly exceptional restaurant on Ile St. Louis. Very tiny. Amazing service. Get the cherry clafouti. We had the best table by a window that opened onto the street.
8) Walking. Free and essential to balance out the caloric impact of the above-listed items. A great walk is to stroll through the Tuileries gardens to the Orangerie Museum, stop in for a visit with Monet’s Waterlilies and canvases from Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir and many others, and then continue your trek over to the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe. Climb to the top of the Arc for a great view of the city. Must have good shoes!
9) The Pompidou Center, Place Georges Pompidou. In my opinion, a waste, except for the view and the wonderful crepe I had from a street vendor before we went in. I had mine with Creme Marron (chestnut) – very tasty.
10) And, FYI it is my observation that caffeine and cigarettes play a significant role in keeping French women from getting fat!
Also, the Cluny museum, shopping at Dehillerin, the Conciergerie, Napoleon’s Tomb, shopping at Galeries Lafayette and so much more. Great food, art, history and shopping. What are your favorites? What have your teens and tweens appreciated about Paris?