A July 2000 trip
to Paris by Shetraveler
Quote: So you've been to the City of Lights and visited the top sites recommended by your guidebook and friends. Or maybe you never been and you'd rather take the road less travelled. This journal will suggest some friendly alternatives to the usual places (nothing against them, of course). Try seeing some of the "big ticket" monuments and visiting some of the sites I suggest for comparison. Either way, I promise, you'll still get your share of history, culture and great cuisine.
The rooms are on the smaller size (perfect if you don't plan to spend a lot of time in it), tastefully decorated and several come with a view of the dome (ours on the 6th floor did). Each contains a phone with direct access to the Internet, TV, minibar, modern bath or shower (ours had a shower only), safe, and hair-dryer. They are very family-friendly (there are triple and quad rooms) and are prepared for babies. The hotel also has an elevator and room-service. Breakfast is available, "all you can eat", and optional.
My room was up on the 6th floor and had a small balcony. The night time view was terrific. The room was smallish, but the bathroom was modern (with a shower, not a bath), spotlessly clean with plenty of linens.
What is exceptional about this hotel is its location. Literally you are minutes from some of the most important attractions in Paris: Invalides (across the street), Champs Elysee and the Rodin Museum (15 minute walk), Eiffel Tower and the Paris Sewer Tour(10 minute walk), Rue Cler and Metro station (3 minutes), Ecole Militaire and the Air France bus terminal (5 minute walk) that goes to Orly. There are also many restaurants nearby.
For photos of the property visit this site: website.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 5, 2001
Hotel de L'Empereur
2 Rue Chevert
While there are more famous cafes in Paris, such as the de Flore and the Deux Magots, their view could not match that of this little cafe across the Pont St. Louis. The beautiful backside of Notre Dame and a faraway view of the Pantheon are all yours as you sip your espresso or eat your Berthillon ice cream from a goblet. That's a 3-star view for the price of a few euros!
Meals are in the cafe vein, but can be substantial. Try a delicious steak with a gravy boat of roquefort sauce, on the side. It comes with buttery noodles. After that, I dare you try to eat a fruit tart for dessert. Something lighter might be a bowl of hearty onion soup, complete with a crusty cheesy crouton float.
For dessert, you can enjoy a crepe or the aforementioned Berthillon ice cream. They even serve a sensuous hot chocolate, Angelina-style, so thick that it must be cut with the hot cream separately!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 29, 2002
Le Flore en L'Ile
42 Quai D'Orleans
01 43 29 88 27
Michelin 3 star restaurants are great. But let’s face it. I don’t know too many kids that are preoccupied with eating that kind of meal. Kids want to eat and go. Hippopotamus allows just that. With its easily identifiable icon, Hippo feels fun – they even play upbeat Motown music. Take one look at its menu, full of photos of what you can order and French food will suddenly become familiar … and safe. A Croque Monsieur turns out to be an open-faced ham and cheese sandwich. ("That’s recognizable") A Chevre Chaud is really a green salad with cheesy croutons on top. I can eat that ("I’ll just take the cheesy bread off"). And on we go… In fact, the menu is a perfect basic French food primer for first timers. You may even have a problem getting the kids to go somewhere else for meals, as hamburgers, juicy ribs, tender steaks and chicken are also available.
Admittedly, Paris has a love/hate relationship with the Hippopotamus chain. They hate it because they perceive the formulaic menu to be too safe, and a perfect example of the dumbing-down of French cuisine. They love Hippo because they can actually take a spirited child there, let them loose, and the food is actually decent. So the French actually do dine here.
The service is brisk and the portions are large. English is spoken (but you don’t really need it with that picture menu). The restaurants are strategically placed throughout the city (20 locations), so there’s always one nearby.
46 Avenue Wagram
01 46 22 25 34
La Charlotte serves a similar sort of hot chocolate (but calls it something more whimsical) but in a completely different setting. Sylvie Langlet's romantic shop on the Ile St. Louis has many followers, particularly children who go to the Wednesday puppet shows (reservations necessary for the show). You'll feel as though you've wandered into the Hansel & Gretel story
Upon entering Sylvie's tea shop, you'll admire the glass case full of tarts, chocolate figurines and pastries baked right on the premises. In fact, you 'll have the pleasure of the constant smell of baking (kinda like grandmas?) throughout your stay. Look carefully at what's offered in the glass case as it's likely you'll be pointing something in there when it comes time to order.
Then pick one of the 3 tables in her store front or from the 4 in the back parlor, which resembles a tiny Victorian sitting room with its low lighting, mismatched armchairs, carnival masks, and dried flowers.
At this point you could order that hot chocolate or better yet a pot of one of the scores of teas she stocks (my favorite is the Jasmine) with a sweet (I like the "Witches Brooms" - chocolate dipped orange rinds). You'll feel like you're enjoying tea in someone's living room as the classical music drifts in and the smell of pastries being baked goes on.
Even using the restroom is an experience. Literally a water closet (but very clean) it's located in the charming courtyard behind the shop which you would have never seen unless you had to go!
The shop is closed for vacation in July and August. The webpage is: http://perso.orange.fr/la-charlotte/index.htm
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 1, 2001
La Charlotte de l'isle
24 Rue St-Louis-en-L'Ile
01 43 54 25 83
Restaurant | "Septieme Sud"
If you're so inclined, start off with a Greek salad. Tender lettuces leaves are tossed with tomatoes and a tangy salad dressing. It's topped with a generous slab of fresh feta. I also like the simplicity of tomato and cucumber salad. For your appetizer, you can try one of the tartines (they also make a good light meal) or just skip to an entree. I recommend the brochette of chicken or if you're tired of meat, the penne pasta with proscuitto. All the food sounds very simple, but it is deceptively so. And that's the idea when you compare it to cuisines of the other French regions.
The restaurant opens at 7:30 pm, but because it's so empty this early, you won't need a reservation - you can just walk in. However, if you want to eat when the Parisians do at around 9:30-10:00 pm, you should make a reservation. The restaurant is very popular with the locals from the neighborhood. The atmosphere upstairs is cozy (tables close together), almost romantic; downstairs in the cellar is a more party-like atmosphere. Either way, the food is the same. The staff speaks limited English, but the menu is translated.
7 eme (Septieme) Sud
159 rue de Grenelle
01 44 18 30 30
The restaurant is basically a large drawing room filled with mismatched chairs, wing chairs, settees, ottomans and sideboards. For example, the first seats available to you and your companion may be a cozy loveseat where you'll be eating off a low coffee table. These unusual seating arrangements give the feeling of being a guest in a grand salon, participating in what the French feel are their god-given rights: eating good food and discussing the world while doing so. It becomes the perfect place to eat with a group as the the furniture is quite movable and clustered into groups. If you must sit in a traditional place setting, there are tables and chairs in the back (which you may have to wait for) where it's much quieter.
Doormouse serves a very fresh tasting brunch at a fair price. To accompany the basket of bread, I tried the baked eggs with cream, chives and bacon, a delicious alternative to the "benedict" style of egg preparation. My friend ate an omelette with cream cheese and fresh mint leaf filling, an inspired combination. The service is a bit harried because the room is so full, but remember, you didn't come just to eat. You came to talk and listen.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 4, 2001
Le Loir dans la Theiere
3 rue des rosiers
01 42 72 90 61
Attraction | "St. Eustache"
You'd have to be a real cathedral lover to skip Notre Dame and see only St. Eustache. You really should see both of them as this enormous church was originally built a couple hundred years after Notre Dame to give that cathedral a run for its money. Of course, it hasn't enjoyed the same notoriety as its island cousin (it never had a famous hunchback) - it lacks the same conservation care and hordes of tourists, but nevertheless, St. Eustache served the right bankers well as the parish church for the folks then living at the Louvre and Palais Royal. Indeed, Richelieu, Madame Pompadour and Moliere were all baptised here. Colbert is buried here in a black marble tomb. The cathedral's bulky silhouette is easy to spot when exiting the Les Halles metro station, and when you get closer to the building, you'll notice that its exterior architectural style is not only Gothic (flying buttresses and rose windows) but also Renaissance (the columns) and neoclassical (the later-added facade).
Luckily, the cathedral has interior space of barn-like proportions, allowing for great acoustics (which is what this cathedral has always been known for). Liszt premiered his Grand Mass here as did Berlioz with his Te Deum. The French composer Rameau who is buried here probably still enjoys the musical heritage as organ concerts still take place to this very day (phone 40-26-47-99 for tours and free recital info - Sundays at 5:30 pm).
If the cathedral's name sounds familiar, St. Eustache is also the name of a famous coffee bar in Rome that I reviewed (see my Rome journal). A Roman general, St. Eustache was martyred in a particularly grisly fashion - roasted alive along with his family inside an enormous bronze bull.www.st-eustache.org
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 5, 2001
2 impasse Saint-Eustache
Attraction | "Vaux-Le-Vicomte"
So, been to Versailles and done that? Visit the chateau that inspired Versailles and its gardens ("inspired" is a nice way of putting it, given Vaux-Le-Vicomte's tragic history).
The story goes like this: Nicolas Fouquet was a finance superintendent (like a treasurer) under Louis XIV. He decided to build a home worthy of such a high position in the king's court and hired the most talented architects, painters and landscape designers France had to offer. Upon completion of the project, he threw a lavish housewarming party to which he invited the king. The king, outraged that such a chateau should better any of his own, had Fouquet arrested 2 weeks later by the famous musketeer D’Artagnan on trumped up charges of embezzlement (even if he had "mismanaged" the king’s funds, it was no different than what any of the other ministers had done). The chateau and all of its contents were seized (with the exception of two tables, which you can still see), as well as the builders and architects who worked on the chateau (they promptly went to work on Versailles). Fouquet spent the next 3 years defending himself, at the end of which he was exiled. But, that wasn’t good enough for the king. Louis changed the sentence to life imprisonment in solitary confinement. The morals of the story? 1. Don't steal from the king. 2. If you do, don't invite him over for dinner!
While the front of the chateau is very striking, the real showpiece is the Baroque-style backside of the building and its uncrowded gardens. Clearly the nobility spent more time back here than the front. The interior is furnished with period pieces, but none of these are original, expect those two left-behind tables. You can even see an unfinished ceiling painting, the result of the artist being torn away and made to work on Versailles.
The property covers over 100 acres and golf carts are available for rental to visit the grounds. It is a very popular locale for weddings (I saw three taking place during my visit!) The fountains show off from 3-6 pm on the 2nd & last Saturday of the month. There are also evening candlelight concerts every Thursday and Saturday, May to October.
Part of the reason there aren't huge roving crowds, like at Versailles, is that the chateau is a bit of a challenge to get to. The easiest way to get to there (35 miles outside of Paris) is to take a day tour by tour companies such as Paris-Vision or to rent a car. For the adventurous, there’s the not-so-direct public transportation: train from Paris (Gare de Lyon) to Melun or by RER D, from Paris (Chatelet) to Melun. Across from the station at Melun in front of a pharmacy and a restaurant, a Châteaubus shuttle will take you to the chateau. The shuttle schedule is sporatic, so plan accordingly. Their web site is www.vaux-le-vicomte.com. Phone:
Vaux le Vicomte (Gardens, Castle)
Castle of Vaux le Vicomte
Attraction | "Musee National de la Mode & du Textile (Le Louvre)"
Not to be confused with the Musee de La Mode and du Costume in the 16th arrondissement, this annex of the Louvre in the Rohan wing offers a peaceful respite from the beehive atmosphere of the Louvre's main galleries.BR>
Selections are rotated every 6 months, like the objets d'art that they are, and are presented by theme. When I was there, the theme of the exhibit was the "Art of the Orient." Going back to the 17th century, all manner of clothing from head to toe (for men and women) displayed Asian influences, either in form or in fabric. For example, a lovely 18th century ballgown had a detailed and intricate Asian garden sceneembroidered on its skirt, complete with fountains and courtesans. You'll come to appreciate the ability to throw on a pair of sweats and just go.
Be sure to go upstairs for a spectacular view of the Tuileries Gardens.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 29, 2002
Musée de la Mode et du Textile
107, rue de Rivoli
Paris, France 75001
+33 1 44 55 57 50
Attraction | "Egouts (Sewers) of Paris"
If someone offered you a glass of water directly from the Seine, would you drink it?
You might if you had lived during the Middle Ages. This city underneath the city, literally its guts, showcases the history of the sewer in Paris, going all the way back to Roman times. It requires a sense of adventure, since you're going under the city instead of above it.
Waste management was begun minimally during Napoleon's regin. However, Baron Haussmann should have been knighted for developing a system to separate the waste water from the drinking water later in the 1800s. At the time, the network of sewers was mere 360 miles long. Compare that to the present day length of about 1,300 miles long (stretched out, it reach all the way to Istanbul!). You can even see the street number on the pipes that show to which building they belong.
The hourlong tour starts with a film, continues with historical photos and displays (check out the decorated toilet seats) and ends with a walk through the maze of tunnels, guided by an "egoutier" (sewer worker). There is a mild odor (it is a sewer afterall), but the historical value of the the technology more than makes up for it.
Musée des Egouts de Paris
face 93, quai d'Orsay
Paris, France 75007
+33 1 53 68 27 81
Let's get ready to rummage!!! Described by some as the "mosh pit of retail" and "combat shopping", Tati appeals to the lowest common denominator in all of us, whatever that may be. In 1948 Jules Ouaki decided to sell clothes at the lowest prices possible, displaying them like fruit in a market. Thus, Tati (and the sport of discount shopping) was born. Having said that, be prepared for a circus-like atmosphere and "the lowest prices" (their slogan) for things you never knew you needed. The pink gingham shopping bags have as much brand recognition in Paris as our Tiffany’s blue bag. Even the name is evocative, as the experience is completely tatty!
An average hectic day at the Republique store resembles a shark feeding frenzy, the "chum" being $1.99 t-shirts and $3 bras in DDD. Rummaging is de rigeur. You may find yourself in a shopping smackdown with a group of teen-age girls for the same pair of sneakers and tussling over a knock-off Jean-Paul Gaultier skirt with a St Honoré matron. The prices are so low that if you don’t really like what you bought, you can afford to throw it out.
Recently, Tati has tried to diversify by adding a gold jewelry (Tati Or) and candy line, but clothing remains the big bargain.
5, rue Belhomme
Paris, France 75018
+33 1 55 29 50 00
The Deyrolle shop could only exist in Paris. This 155+ year old taxidermy shop is straight out of a fairy tale where family pets and wild animals don’t actually die, but live in suspended animation in this shop. They certainly all come alive after the shopkeeper locks up at night. Personally I imagine them lighting up their cigarettes, pouring the cognacs, and discussing the finer points of human nature.
The shop is the quintessential Cabinet of Curiosities (and a bit of Noah's Ark), with its faint smell of formaldehyde, creaky wood floorboards (sometimes the only sound you'll hear!), and shelves crammed with creatures great and small. You'll walk down one aisle only to find it blocked at the end by a stuffed water buffalo. You'll look up and see a stuffed hawk in mid-swoop. A veritable Noah’s Ark, you see glass-eyed creatures ranging from the smallest butterflies to a mounted ostrich. Big animals include polar bears and baby elephants. Most touching are the domestic pets, cat and dogs, many left behind because the owners could not bear the grief of seeing their beloved pet again (the exact description of a stuffed cocker spaniel that I had asked about). I especially liked the reproductions of Victorian posters, one comparing the amount of alcohol consumed by countries (with the French proudly in the lead!).
You might wonder how such a shop makes its money. You too could have your pet stuffed for a fee. Or you could rent a lion for your next film. They also sell crystals and geodes. The day I was there, a small group of schoolchildren were purchasing a butterfly for a class project (about $15-$20). In any case, one could spent hours here, at one with the animal kingdom.
Postscript: A fire ripped through Deyrolle in February 2008, but they remain open while they rebuild. Please support this magnificent establishment during its renaissance
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 29, 2002
46 Rue du Bac
Attraction | "Cimetiere De Montmartre"
The Montmartre Cemetery too has its share of celebrity residents, many of them artists such as Zola, Stendahl, Dumas, Berlioz. I like those of Najinksy (Division 22/#31) and the tragic chanteuse Dalida (Division 18/#7). However, it's the non-celebrity tombs that you may find the most tragic and touching.
Some the of the most beautiful sculptures are on the tombs of men. Life-sized grief stricken widows, many of them young, carved from granite or marble are usually on top of or next to the these graves. My personal favorite is a weathered bronze of a grieving girl on top of the tomb (around division 22). Perhaps most haunting of all are the oldest untended graves, with little or no engraving left on the headstones to identify the family name or occupant. Who still cares for these? Who remembers them?
The hours of the cemetery are 9 am - 5 pm.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 13, 2001
Montmartre Cemetery-Cimetière de Montmartre
Place de Clichy, Avenue Rachel
Like Picasso, Rodin was a prolific artist and understood the value of his work commercially. Once a masterpiece was created, like "the Kiss", casts were made so that the general public too could own a little "kiss". Also like Picasso, whose mistresses tended to become his muse, Rodin's mistress, the tragic Camille Claudel, became his inspiration, student and teacher. Many of her works are also displayed here, and if you look closely enough, you'll notice how both of their work influenced each other's finished products in form and sensuality. All the works are displayed so that you can see them in the round -- as they were intended to be viewed.
Certainly one of the most famous pieces in the collection is the aforementioned "Kiss", so sensual and moving that you may be tempted to try one out right there. It is also one of the most popular, so there always tends to be a group of tourists in front of it. But linger a bit and actually walk around it. You'll see that this kiss is much more than a simple liplock.
Equal to the beauty of the sculpture are the gardens on the property (the 3rd largest of any of the "hotel/residences" in Paris). Here you'll find the "Thinker" and the life size "Burghers of Calais" as well as the famous "Gates of Hell". There's a tiny cafe where you can get a cup of tea and perhaps a madeleine and enjoy the shade and tranquility of this special place.
77, Rue De Varenne
+33 (1) 44 18 61 10
Attraction | "Maille Mustard"
True, it's the same brand of mustard available at your local supermarket. Heck, it's been around since the early 1700s! However, the store in Paris (and in Dijon, where else?) sells flavors exclusive to the retail outlet, some of which are pulled straight from the tap. As I stood in line behind several locals refilling their earthenware jars (croques) with one of the three flavors offered that day, I determined that I would purchase a medium-size croque of the Chablis flavor (a flavor that is exclusive to the store).
The rustic jar looks beautiful in my refrigerator and is a lovely souvenir of my trip. And the mustard! The Chablis flavor is a delicate version of the white-wine mustard, flavorful but not as assertive. I find myself looking for excuses to use the mustard (yes, I even use it on fries). And since my croque is nearly empty, I'll be returning to the store and dutifully standing in line with the rest of the locals.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 29, 2005
Boutique Maille Paris
6, place de la Madeleine
Paris, France 75008
+33 1 4015 0600