Our Paris trip round up
There're too many things to love about Paris, i.e. choosing from prix fixe menus, lining up for fresh bread in boulangerie, riding the metro and walking to everywhere, getting lost and overwhelmed by museums, relaxing in beautiful public spaces and parks, taking the splendrous cityscape for granted, strolling in historic neighborhoods that are rich with history and culture, and the feeling that people simply enjoy life and living well...in style, effortlessly.
You always hear about how expensive Paris is, but it doesn't really cost a fortune to eat an amazing meal. In fact it's way more valued than LA in general with the quality and quantity you get from a Prix Fixe menu.
As for the extravagant formal gastronomical restaurants, I'd recommend to at least try their more affordable lunch prix-fix menu once, such as La Table de Joel Robuchon and Taillevent. The dress code is not as formal for lunch as well.
If you don't want to break the bank for good food, there're plenty of Bistronomy places as they called it. Causal inexpensive (bistro) + gourmet fine dining (gastronomy) that offers amazing fine dining quality 3 courses for 18-30 euro. Most of the places we blogged about fall into this category, such as Au Fil des Saisons and La Muse Vin.
Even though good food is everywhere, there're plenty of tourist traps and mediocre places in Paris too. Absolutely DO NOT go into any of the restaurants that're on Rue de la Huchette, Rue Xavier Privas and Rue st Severin in Latin Quarter. Basically just avoid eating around in that area. It's always good to do research ahead and avoid walking into random places even they might appear authentic or charming. These are some of my sources:
- Pudlo Paris (Pudlo is a French food critic, English edition, good for addresses and opening time)
- Paris Miam Miam (recommendation from Paris locals, focus more on bistros and local eateries, text in both French and Japanese only)
- Chez Christine
- Luxeat (she's a model and she eats!)
- Etienne Marcel
- David Lebovitz
- Gridskipper Paris
Many formal restaurants require reservations and confirmations. I got my friend who can speak French to call for me in LA, but you can also talk to them in English. It's good to reserve at least 2 weeks prior for those famous Michelin stars rated restaurants. For many "bistronomy" places I could get a table walking in without reservations just fine. I would also walk into bistros during day time and ask for available table that night. Here's a good website that let you make reservations online (but note: a lot of good smaller places aren't listed:
Most restaurants open for dinner at 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm so don't show up too early. And lots of restaurants and shops don't open on Sunday. Make sure you plan ahead and find ones that open. Service charge are included in the bill already, you pay exactly what it says on the menu so you don't really have to put tips. But if you really like the service then you can put extra coins on the table, which we did on few occasions.
Here's a a list of restaurants/bistros/bakerys we blogged:
Angelina (Patisserie + Tea Salon)
Au Fil des Saisons (Bistro)
Le Jardin de Varenne (Museum Cafeteria)
La Ferrandaise (Bistro)
Au Levain du Marais (Bakery)
Creperie Suzette (Creperie)
Le Pre-Verre (Bistro)
Le Bar a Soupes (Soup Bar)
Le Réfectoire (Bistro)
Dalloyau (Patisserie + Tea salon)
La Table de Joel Robuchon (Gastronomic)
Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki (Patisserie + Tea salon)
La Ravigote (Bistro)
Le Baratin (Bistro)
Pierre Hermé (Patisserie)
La Muse Vin (Bistro)
First the usual tourist sightseeing in brief, Eiffel tower was a bit of a let down. Try to go see Eiffel tower at night, it looks a lot prettier with lights and at every hour there're sparkling lights for 10 mintues.
Notre Dame is the most breathtaking sight for me in Paris. Try to catch the free choir organ performance at night. It was a very ethereal and magical experience for us. Love the amazing echo and rich organ sound, very gothic and haunting. Absolutely don't miss going up to the tower to see the stone creatures and a nice view of the city. You have to line up outside of Notre Dame on the left (a lot of guidebooks neglect to mention it).
The tourists centric Champs-Élysées is totally overrated. If you don't have lots of time in Paris then don't even waste your time going there no matter how famous it is. It's just a big boulevard with expensive stores and chains, think Rodeo drive meets 3rd street Promenade. It's prettier around Palais Royale but it's still just a tree line blvd with lots of traffic. Most of these madame area are just very Haussmann and grand, yawn.
Instead, go to Marais which is the most beautiful neighborhood to walk around in Paris. Beautiful old buildings and mansions mixed with eccentric charm, cobble stone streets, cool boutiques and cafes, pretty parks and church...it's got everything that satisfied your ideal Parisienne experience. Certain parts of Montmartre and Latin Quarter are really charming and nice to walk around too. There're lots of beautiful public parks to hang out in Paris (why oh why does LA lacks such essential thing?). My favorite is Luxemburg Garden.
The 3 major museums: Lourve, Musee d'Orsay and Pompidou are must of course. Lourve and Orsay get extremely crowded and exhausted you fast. Three hours each is maximum for us. We ended up going back twice since it's hard to see everything at once. There're lots of smaller, quieter and much much less crowded museums that are worth going: L'Orangerie, Musee Rodin, Musee Gustave Moreau, Musee de Picasso and Musée des arts et métiers for retro-technology fun. Musee Carnavalet in Marais is another wonderful place to go. It's a free museum devoted to the history of Paris. The beautiful courtyards there really worth checking out (good for resting your feet when you exhausted yourself shopping there).
Opera Garnier is WAY prettier than Versailles.
For us the best shopping in Paris are:
- Marais (i.e. Rue des Francs Bourgeois, Rue Vieille du Temple, Rue Charlot) - good mix of upper middle range select shops (Shine, Les Belles Images, Abou d'Abi Bazar) and middle range chains boutique such as Manoush, et vous, Antoine & Lili, Le Comptoir des cotonniers...etc.)
- Bastille (Rue de Charonne, Rue Keller) - more hip, affordable indie designer boutique and select shops (Sessun, Almost Famous, Des Petits Hauts, Loulou addict...etc.)
- St Germain des pre (Rue Bonaparte, Rue des Canaettes, Rue du Cherche midi, Rue de Rennes), good mix of luxury labels and chains, more madame. (Maje) and lots of shoes store (Bocage), there's also CityPharma for cosmetic in discount price. The best department store is Le Bon Marche, I really love their 1st floor market La Grande Epicerie de paris.
I also highly recommended the Moleskine City Notebook Paris. This elegant little book had proven extremely useful for us as there're details street maps, metro maps and index of street names inside. I carried it in my pocket and it guided me everywhere. The note paper in the back let you write down all the info of restaurants and shops from researches. Best of all, since the cover look just like a regular moleskin notebook so you could appear less of a confuse tourist with fold out maps/guidebooks while standing in the middle of the street trying to figure out your way haha...
Since we're at Paris for 2 weeks, it was more affordable to stay at an apartment. Our apartment located at a very convenient locations (2 metro stations nearby) at Latin Quarter. It's bigger than most hotel rooms in that price range. There's a kitchen (not that we did any cooking but it was nice to use the microwave, water heater, dining ware..etc) and the best thing was to be able to do laundry at the washer/dryer inside. It was about 693 euro for a week. Downside is that it's very very noisy at night as it's a late night cheap eat neighborhood.
These are some good apartment rental sites:
- Rental France (where we rent our place from)
- Paris Address (lots of gorgeous ones on Ile St Louis!)
- Roth ray
It's best to find a place that has metro stations very closeby. The next time I go to Paris I would choose one in Marais. I think Latin Quarter and St Germain des Pre are nice area to stay at too.
If anyone is interested, we seperate our photos in 5 parts (because we are geeky that way ^^;;):
Part 1: the islands (Notre dame, St Chapelle)
Part 2: the grand and famous sights (Eiffel, Lourve, Orsay, Opera, Versailles...etc)
Part 3: Bohemian and artistic (Montmartre, Musee Gustave Moreau, Pompidou)
Part 4: Left bank (Latin Quarter, Montparnasse, St Germain des pre)
Part 5: Historic and charming (Canal st-Martin, Bastille, Marais)
Joan | November 7, 2007 08:00 PM
Now with internet and blogs, researching are so much easier.
Thanks sneakermonkey, I'm glad you have fun reading our report. I've read about many criticism of the Michelin LA guide, I don't it'd ever come close (usefulness, interesting choice, etc.) to our local writer like Johnathan Gold.
Freda | November 28, 2007 05:17 PM
Your Paris post was awesome. It was like everything you could hope for in a trip! Good food, sight seeing, little discoveries.
And cool pics!
There is a Michelin Guide to LA.
Are you guys going to try it?
sneakermonkey | November 22, 2007 11:30 AM
The amount of research you did is amazing! Next time if we go together, I will just depend on you so that I can concentrate on stuffing my face hohoho.
What did you think of French people? Did you encounter any trouble with them? You said they don't have much veggy in restaurants. I really don't think wine can subsitute for vegetables. Maybe French people eat heavy meaty rich food in restaurants while they eat their vegetables at home?
seat | November 12, 2007 05:02 PM