I am keeping this post short. Very short. Why? Because Paris (and I feel silly saying this because I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit, and I mean that) kinda sucks. I didn’t get it. Where was the magic? The glimmering lights? The quaint storefronts? Gently washed cobblestone streets? Oh yeah. Paris is a big city. I know big cities. Grey. Rushing crowds. Tourist attractions. The only thing setting Paris apart from New York City? It’s undeniable history, the Eiffel Tower, and the fact that I can drink outside, wherever I went and whenever I wanted (thank God). Everywhere I went, I felt rushed, slightly claustrophobic, and dismissed. Do not be fooled by the quaint picture above. There were some highlights. I’ll speak about those in the pictures below. In general, skip Paris. If you want a big city in France, check out Lyon.
Post Eiffel Tower visit, Matt and I accidentally walked into this restaurant:
We later found out that La Fontaine De Mars is one of the oldest bistros in Paris. Located in the 7th arrondissement, La Fontaine has been open since 1908. We sat upstairs in a very small room, perfectly decorated in Victorian wallpaper, checkered tablecloths, brass lamps and polished silver. I was tickled. In addition, President Obama and his wife dined in the adjacent room on a visit to Paris a few years back. There was a plaque. A brass plaque, of course. If it were not for the obnoxious American couple sitting next to us (small room, remember) we would have had the room to ourselves. Regardless, we ordered typical french fare including grilled top loin steak in bernaise sauce with frites, game terrine with fig chutney (probably a mix of rabbit and duck), and vanilla flan to end.
On our second day in Paris, decided to make use of our kitchen in our stylish Parisian apartment and take to the markets like a local! Here were some of our finds (caution drool warning commence).
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite places five minutes from our apartment, and another accidental find, was La Maison des Tartes. This is a must if you are visiting Paris! Located in the 5th arrondissement, The House of Tarts has a small menu that offers up a variety of savory and sweet tarts. They also offer reasonably priced plates where you can try combinations of savory and sweet tarts alike, a drink often included. The pictures will speak for themselves.
It is no secret that the French pay attention to their food and the way it is grown. Every outdoor and indoor market is full of voluptuous looking fruits and vegetables that will make the most stubborn carnivore want to bite into a head of lettuce or a crate of apricots. I am pretty strict in the states about buying organic due to the insane practices that are allowed by the FDA including massive use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms. I wondered how popular organic practices were in France. I found this article which cleared it up: France Seeks to Cut Pesticide Use In Half.
We did other stuff in France other than eat. Swear.
I’ll end this with our excursion to Christian Constant’s Les Cocotte. Michelin star chef Constant, who often recognizes his mother as his first formal teacher and long time inspiration, owns four restaurants on Rue Saint-Dominique in the 7th arrondissement. The atmosphere and food alike are clean and contemporary, offering up the best and of what modern-day Paris has to offer. The service, very friendly. In fact, the whole experience made us feel like we were back home, dining at a new concept restaurant with the kind of American service we were used to… but we were in Paris and the food was delicate and poignant down to the last bite. Many of the dishes are served in Staub cocottes; cast iron pots. This was also the first time I saw ice bags. I now know you can order them on Amazon, but brought a few home because they were so darn charming. These are the pics from our most favorite Parisian meal:
Now that we are at the end, and I have reviewed the draft of the post with all of its delightful photos, I think it might be hard for any reader to understand why I think Paris kinda sucks. I think it is my own fault. I assumed Paris would be more like the France I had always imagined. Little did I know, that the France I imagined was actually waiting for me in Provence and Burgundy (more on that later). Perhaps this is the Paris you imagine. If so, I will leave you with a few tips on traveling in and out of Paris.
What Sucks: *And note I am not your average look up at the sky and roll out my fanny pack American traveler. I am experienced. And I am a city girl. I get it.
1. Its crowded. Everywhere. Be prepared for that when you visit major sights.
2. The Louvre: It is difficult to enjoy or take in the art work that tells the world’s history while you are being poked and prodded by tour groups and flashed in the face by cameras. It was a very strange experience for me.
3. Do not expect anyone to move out-of-the-way for you on the street. In fact, expect to get bumped. A lot. And ladies, men do not get out-of-the-way for you or open doors. I never thought American men had manners until I went to Paris.
4. You should greet everybody in France with “Bonjour” and you should figure out how to say “Do you speak English” in French before you go. It makes a big difference. It says “I am a tourist, but I respect that I am in a French-speaking country”.
5. There are no public bathrooms anywhere. Plan to go when you are at a restaurant or cafe and only if you purchase something. The only place to do your business for free is McDonald’s. And since everyone knows this, the bathrooms at Paris McDonald’s are DISGUSTING. Take it from a girl who has peed on the side of the road and in alleys (yes, it happened…happens)…anyway, effin gross.
What Doesn’t Suck:
1. You can walk around with an open bottle of wine or beer and plop down wherever you damn well please for a spontaneous rendezvous.
2. The boulangeries, patisseries, markets, and cheese stores are plentiful. You can get good food anywhere at most times.
3. People watching is fun and can be done from most street corner cafes over espresso or a pint of Kronenberg. (P.S. Beer is always offered in small and large sizes).
4. Public transportation rocks. From electronic boards giving you the time of your next train, to an easy to use mapping system, you can get anywhere in and around Paris easy peezy.
5. You are in Paris, afterall. And the chance to visit does not suck. At all.
Alas, this post was not short. In fact, it is quite long. Maybe Paris and I need to get to know each other better? Maybe.