5 days alone in Paris - walks / neighborhood recs?
I'm visiting friends in Avignon and then headed up to Paris by myself from 1/1 - 1/6. I've never traveled alone, have only been to France as an 8 year old, and rarely eat alone! What a wuss!
I'll be staying in Montparnasse, and feel okay about that area, since I'll be returning to it every day and will have time to get to know it... but am looking for neighborhoods that are particularly chow-friendly for traipsing around. I'm sure there is no way I'll be able to pull my act together enough to keep track of specific restaurants. But any food-heavy (budget friendly a plus!) blocks or walks would be appreciated.
Secondly, and please don't poo-poo this, but my French is so-so and I might like to spend one evening in an expat-heavy area in case I get lonely or find that I haven't spoken aloud to anyone in a few days. If you happen to know of a resto or bar w/ an English speaking proprietor etc. I would appreciate it.
PS: did see the great post on 5th arr. and am greedily looking for similar
Le Marais is probably the best neighborhood for you. I spent a few weeks there several years ago and became a semi-regular at a lot of expat bars in the neighborhood. Most are probably gone but the Lizard Lounge, which was the biggest expat destination back then, is still around.
There's a street near the Bastille end that has a bunch of places to eat, including the famous Bofinger brasserie. It's also a fairly easy walk to the Ile St Louis and Left Bank.
I spend about six months in Paris every year, three in the spring, three in the fall. And I travel alone, which is entirely comfortable and quite easy. You'll be there in game season, and you shouldn't miss some game meals--wild duck, pheasant, roe deer, red deer, wild boar (both young--marcassin, and mature--sanglier), wood pigeon, and so on. Chez l'Ami Jean (rue Malar in the 7th) is a worthy destination for game.
A neighborhood bistrot in the 12th, À la Biche au Bois (the doe in the woods, avenue Ledru-Rollin at the corner of rue de Lyon), is run by owner-chef Bertrand Marchesseau and his gorgeous wife Celine. M. Marchesseau speaks perfect English and really knows his way around game. Four courses (entree, plat principal, fromage--big selection--, and dessert) for about 24€ without wine. The tables are jammed in, but the non-tourist crowd is charming and the atmosphere is about as "vrai Paris" as you can find.
An afternoon exploring the old streets between the place d'Odeon and the river is rewarding, as are walks in the parc de Belleville, the strongly North-African area north of metro Barbés-Rochechouart, the Marais (where I live when I'm here), and, of course, Montmartre. You'll also find plenty of interesting little eateries. Menus are posted out front, but don't speak to quality. If you're not using a restaurant guide, you just take your chance. And sometimes you'll score well. But what the hell, the discoveries you make on your own will retain their bright colors in your memory long after the Eiffel tower and the Louvre have faded to sepia. Paris is, geographically speaking, a small city, and you can get to these places, some far from Montparnasse, very quickly by metro.
The latin quarter, in the 5th arrondissement, is full of tourists. Those who don't speak Japanese speak English, if you're longing to hear and use your native tongue. But there are damned few of it's myriad restaurants worth going to. It's a "must see" in all the guide books, of course, but seems so not-parisian because of the tourists and the schlock shops.
The key to a memorable sojourn in Paris is walking, discovering the city for yourself, and not wasting time on what you've already seen in 287 movies.
(Just 20 yards from my apartment--more than 300 years old, by the way--on the rue du Petit Musc in the Marais is the ancient bistrot Les Temps des Cerises, at the corner of rue Cerisaie. Lunch only, weekdays only. But it's very "old Paris," and the fricassée of frogs legs is a treat. You don't easily find frog's legs in Paris, by the way, and nowhere else this cheap (13 €) and this good.)
I like to hang out in the 5th. not because there are lots of English speakers... I find them all over Paris! I like the atmosphere, and there aree always people on the streets, since the Sorbonne is the heart of the area. Yummy eats at La Fontaine on the rue Soufflot. It looks like a bar, but the food is excellent and moderately priced. My favorite market street is the rue Mouffetard, and the best breakfast in Paris, imo is at the Cafe Mouffetard.. they make the best brioche I've ever eaten... like silk.
If you want to speak English and eat and drink well, head over to Willi's Wine Bar in the 1st... 13 rue des Petit Champs Everyone there is bilingual, and the owner, Mark williamson, is a Brit. He has a fine dining place next door called Macéo, that is a don't miss.
In the 14th, I love La Cagouille. don't miss the burn-yiur fingers cockles! Chef Allemandou has maybe the best stock of Cognacs in Paris. also, Le Petit Marguery is in your neighborood... very old Paris, and good food and good welcome.
I would not go to Paris without taking my most recent edition of Patricia Wells' Foodlovers Guide to Paris. I have never gotten a bad rec from her books!
I heartily endorse chefjune's recommendation of La Cagouille. It's an excellent seafood specialist in the place Constantin-Brancusi. Directly opposite it across the square is one of the bakeries of Max Poilane, brother of the late, much lamented Lionel. His breads are unlike Lionel's but top class.
And around the corner from him is a Spanish tienda, Bierza, with excellent Manchego cheese and jamon de serrano and de pata negra, the best dry cured ham in the universe. Also great Spanish sausages, chorizo, lomo, and so on.
And Le Petit Marguery is also wonderful. There's almost always game on the carte in winter, and sometimes Lievre a la royale, wild hare stuffed with foie gras, a great and hard-to-find recipe.
Mark Williamson's Willi's and Maceo are friendly and excellent, but I rarely go to either because they're always full of Americans and Brits. I am, I suppose, a reverse snob.
re: Maurice Naughton
<Mark Williamson's Willi's and Maceo are friendly and excellent, but I rarely go to either because they're always full of Americans and Brits. I am, I suppose, a reverse snob.> I think Willi's is a particularly great place to as a solo diner... there are always friendly folks to meet, and I've made some friends that I now hand out with in New York! not bad... in fact, great fun.
I'd agree with the Marais suggestion-don't miss the bakery Le Levain (32 r De Turenne)-you can buy something and eat it in nearby Pl Vosges. Also Pain de Sucre (14 r Rambuteau)-amazing treats.
If you head out towards Pere Lachaise r. Oberkampf is an interesting walk, with a detour to La Bague de Kenza, an Algerian bakery (106 r Saint-Maur)-if you don't believe me, take a look:
That's also near the Canal St Martin area, where you could stop in at Chez Prune (71 Quai de Valmy) and even head up to Belleville...more of a working class/hipster area.
And for eating alone, refer to the Le Partage thread-you will not feel funny or alone eating here, I guarantee.