Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Paris: Some Notes

Paris is a big city.  And like any other big city, to really know it you have to live there, work there, be there for a while.  Clearly, I don't know Paris that way, but I know it as a tourist knows it, and tourist-to-tourist, I've got some recommendations to pass along.  So here's a run-down of my favorites from our time in Paris!

Fave Meals
If you don't have a dinner reservation, you need to have a contingency plan (or 3) -- places you won't be disappointed to end up at that are in the same area as the uber-popular-ridiculously-overbooked place you really want to go.  Trust me.  The top restaurants book up fast in Paris, and as a long-time follower of the no-plan plan, I can tell you it only works if you have options!

Here are the places we actually got into and loved:
-Chez L'Ami Jean:  old school French cuisine lives on here.  We went for lunch because we couldn't get in for dinner, and it was outstanding.  They have a four-course lunch menu that changes daily - get that.  And a bottle to go with.

-Semilla (St. Germain):  We stumbled upon this place after we couldn't get into Le Comptoir de Relais, and I'm so glad we did.  It's a new place with modern cuisine, and with a stroke of luck we got to sit at the best table in the whole place -- looking directly into the kitchen!  I was in heaven.  They do this mango appetizer with some kind of magical gelatin that will make your brain dance.  It's awesome.

-Robert et Louise (Marais):  We also stumbled on this place while wandering the Marais on our last night in Paris.  There were some people waiting outside with wine glasses, so we thought, if we have to wait, at least this looks like the place to do it!  And so we waited, but just for about 20 minutes, and then got seated at a communal table with another young couple which turned out to be a lot of fun.  All the meat is roasted in an old-style brick oven at the back of the tiny restaurant.  And the FOIE GRAS.  OMG.  I don't even like foie gras, really, it's one of the few things I don't care for.  BUT THIS.  This was other-worldly.  It was served as an appetizer with thin slices of toasted sweet cake to spread it on, and a glass of sweet white wine to wash it down.  It tasted almost like apple butter somehow.  It wasn't meat-y at all.  Just soft, sweet, buttery goodness.  I dream about that foie gras.

Les Cocottes:  Chef Christian Constant's newest, hippest place.  Trendy/casj vibe, and great for lunch.  Get the cocottes (pigs feet), of course!

-Breizh (Marais/St. Germain):  Real crepes.  Casual, cheap, good.

-Berthillon:  Best. Ice cream. Ever.  No joke.

(Also, this website has some great recs!)

Fave Photo Op
It's hard to get the whole Eiffel Tower in a picture when you're too close to it.  For the best photos, head to the Place de Trocadero (Metro: Trocadero).

(Except maybe don't stand in front of the metal grate.  Oops.)

Fave Strolling Spot (besides the Seine)
The Luxembourg Gardens are jaw-dropping.  They have it all: ponds, shady areas with benches, long lawns, and endless trails to stroll on.  Just add wine for a perfect afternoon.

Random note:  We also saw quite a few people jogging through here, which is surprising for a European city.  Notably, none of them were wearing Lululemon, or neon Nike shoes for that matter.  In Brian's words, "this is what working out looked like in the '90s."

Fave Touristy Tourist Stop
Lauduree.  I mean, how could you not love those macarons?  Endless flavors and the prettiest little shop (but no pictures allowed inside!).  It feels very Marie Antoinette (spoken as a real tourist).

Fave Non-Touristy Tourist Stop
The Bourdelle Museum.  Bourdelle was a student of Rodin's who is known for his gigantic sculptures, which were often commissioned by South American dictators.  The museum is in his former home and studio, and feels really authentic.  And there are no tourists here.  (We only found out about it from an older couple we sat next to at L'Ami Jean.)  Go!

I also really loved the Pompidou Center (modern art), although it is a bit more of a tourist hot-spot (but not nearly to the extent of the Louvre or the d'Orsay).  The inside-out design of the building itself is striking, especially in contrast with the old city surrounding it, and it has some interesting works and also offers excellent city views.  We went on a cloudy, drizzly day.

Miscellaneous Notes:

THIS is the line for...
Wait for it...
Abercrombie & Fitch.  On the Champs Elysees.  I wish I were joking.  It's completely inexplicable to me, especially because I saw no one actually wearing A&F in Paris.  Seriously, WTF?

Dress Code
Speaking of fashion, I noticed this time around that Parisians dress like it's fall year-round, regardless of the weather.  It was 80 degrees some days, and I was wearing summer dresses while the Parisians doned their boots!  They are also much more put-together than us Angelenos (at least us Westsiders).  Their jeans are never ripped, their shirts never cropped, they hardly ever go without a scarf, and I'm pretty sure jorts are banned inside the Paris city limits.  So bring a blazer and some fun flats or boots, and leave your flip flops at home.

And BTW, neon is NOT a thing.  Although the Canadian tuxedo may be??  It's unclear -- I saw quite a few offenders, but maybe they were all Canadian tourists ;)

Things Aren't Open Sundays. Or Mondays.

Markets, museums, stores.  Museums are closed on random days.  Markets are generally closed on Mondays, as are many restaurants, and stores are closed on Sundays (again, WTF?).  Also, if I were you, I would assume everything is closed for the entire month of August.  I'm not kidding.  The first day or two of September we got burned by the random closings at a few different places where we just showed up to find "closed" signs on the doors.  It's kind of like life before cell phones, when you'd try to meet up with someone but there was always a chance they wouldn't come and you wouldn't get the message until later.  You know what I mean?

French Kids
They really are "astonishingly well-behaved," as Pamela Druckerman wrote in the most-talked-about-parenting-book-in-the-blogosphere, Bringing Up Bebe.  They don't cry (ever), and are generally stoked on life.  It's miraculous!  Even I thought they were cute!

P.S. More Paris pics here, here, here, and here, if you'd like to see.


Anonymous said...

Going to Paris next weekend! Definitely taking your food advice!! Miss you Ash! Love, Rich

Ashley said...

Rich, that will be so fun! October is the perfect time to visit, too. Have a wonderful time! Miss you!

Brittany said...

Since I know you are good at EVERYTHING, as unfair as that is, after you're done being a super important smartypants lawyer, can you be a food blogger? Hearing you talk about food makes me laugh - because i so wish i was there - thats how good you make everything sound - and I know you mean it because i've seen you eat those foods and like - stop everything. you are cute. write about more food - maybe i'll come to LA and you can take me on a food tour! wow thats a new fantasy i think.

Ashley said...

Brittany! Please come to LA and go on a food tour with me!!! We would have the best time ever. You are one of my most favorite people to eat good food with because I know you love it too -- the two of us could eat all day long I think :)
Maybe we should just travel around the world togther and eat and then blog about it...you think anyone wants to pay us to do that??

Brittany said...

If anyone would pay us to do that, you'd have to buy a wheelbarrow to roll me around the world for our travels when I become the size of a house. For now, I'll "settle" for coming to LA and eating lots of your grandmother's cheese pies and baklava! Now I just have to have money again, then - food tour!

Amanda said...

You are so right about August... as a matter of fact both in Spain and France the whole country closes down for a month.
You really do know how to enjoy life ! Looks like you had a super good time !