2 Days in Paris: Spring Break '07 Wooo!
Hi. You'll have to forgive the somewhat incongruous subtitle; it was chosen in an attempt to garner more attention for this thread with the promise of excitement and nubile college debauchery. I realize that I'm highjacking another recent thread in a way, but my requests are somewhat different.
Unfortunately, that's not really the case. But I will be going to Paris for the first time over my spring break in mid-March. I'm looking for all sorts of recommendations. I've read the threads and have collected a good deal of information, but I'm trusting you all to help me out with the (numerous) particulars. I'm not much of a participant on the France board, but it's not for want of enthusiasm.
As an aside, I don't speak any French. This is also my first time to Europe. Is this going to be a problem? But I will eat absolutely anything.
Anyway, here's what I'm looking for, in order of importance.
1) One or two, two-three star Michelin lunches. So far I'm looking at Taillevent, Le Cinq, Ledoyen on the low (read: realistic) end of the price scale. In other words, I know these places have lunches from around 70 Euro (lunch special at Taillevent) to slightly north of 100 Euro ("light" tasting menu at Le Cinq). But there's always the appeal of the big boys at Ambroisie, Arpege, Guy Savoy, Gagnaire, etc. I am particularly interested in Gagnaire's lunch prices, as I can't find any details online. Can I get a nice lunch there for around 100-120 Euro? If you're not familiar with my tastes and work from other threads, I'm very interested in modern food* and would love to go to Michel Bras but simply cannot logistically. Is Pierre Gagnaire a reality? I know Savoy has an "internet only" 100 Euro lunch, but the way they make it sound it seems so gauche. Does anyone know if it's worth it? I'd really prefer a three-star restaurant (though I've read the rumors that both Le Cinc and Taillevent are losing a star each) but am okay with a two-star with modern, super compelling food. I also realized I'm only booking reservations about five weeks out. Will this be a problem, should I reserve via email?
2) A couple quintessentially Parisian dinners are also in order. I'm looking to keep prices in the less than 70 Euro range after taxes and gratuity. I don't need to drink much at all and would rather spend the majority of my money (or all of it) on food. Is it contrived to say I'm looking for a really awesome brasserie or bistro? Probably, but that's what I'm looking for. I'm more interested in super old-school, classical cooking or a modern-inflection. I'm not one for moderation.
3) Any sort of food shops really worth seeking out would be great. Cheese shops, notable bakeries, charcuterie, markets stuff like that. I know there's so much there that I'll just be overwhelmed and want to focus my efforts during my limited time. Just give me the best of each category, or perhaps a place where there's a nice concentration of things and I'll be golden.
4) Where should I stay? Any cheap hotel recommendations or general cool places I should try to locate myself? Something centrally located sounds good, but I really don't want the Parisian equivalent of Times Square (I know, I'm sorry, please don't be offended by the comparison). Although my Michelin dining aspirations may suggest otherwise, I'm a student and need to save money where I can.
453,308,375) I've heard there's like art and like museums and like cultural stuff and this big metal tower. Does that stuff actually exist? Is it worth seeking out in between otherwise perpetual eating?
Thank you so much for all your help. If any of you ever need recs in NYC, I'll save you some time and say Eleven Madison Park under Chef Humm, Jean-Georges for lunch, Katz's Deli and wd~50 back-to-back, Momofuku Ssam, Pegu Club, Death and Company, Milk and Honey (but watch out for the bridge and tunnel crowd on Wednesday(is-the-new-Thursday)-Sunday evenings). You're friends will be impressed with your foodie knowledge.
*For reference, I will be trying to visit the Fat Duck and Alkimia in England and Spain as other notable meals.
per your numbering
1/ IMHO, if you're thinking one classic high-end meal, knock Le Cinq off the list. If you really want to experience the LeCinq food experience, you can try the food by going for tea and ordering a dish or two. You're paying a lot of a premium for the setting but if that scene doesn't matter to you, and the food does, for the money, you're way better off at Taillevent or a Savoy restaurant.
2/ If it were my money, I'd give up two of these meals for one more *** meal. I found the E40-70 meals to be the most variable, with a few being a real disappointment. do not feel like you're missing out by eating a bagette sandwich in lieu of a "meal", 2 out of 3 times we spend E50ish on a mid-range meal, we would have enjoyed a mixte bagette as much and being much happier saving the difference for another high end meal. That said, Cafe Constant (the baby restaurant to Christian Constant's highend Le Violin d'Ingres is good value in that price range. The oysters at la huitres bar on St Germain are excellent and worth it too.
3/ consider having lunch at Lavinia (yes, the wine store). the chacuterie plate is excellent (E20) and you can drink the wine from there at the retail price, which is a really great deal - esp since they have some awesome half bottles for crazy cheap i.e. E6. Keyser is a great bakery, the mixte is one of the best and the raspberry financier is amazing. The apricot tarte, red fruit tarte and rhubarb tart at Paul are great (these have a puff pastry base, the tarts with the shortbread base weren't great at Paul). Go to Laudree for the shortbread tarts like strawberry and lemon.
Other ways to eat cheaper:
- have fun cruising the markets and grocery stores too, rather than just eating at restaurants. The mixed meat plates we put together at home were some of our favourite meals and the packets of meat at Champion or Monoprix were often very excellent, we had no bad ones.
- spending E12 for two pastries at a bakery like Laudree, for example, will be terrific treat and satisfying meal unique to Paris. There's really nothing like the bakeries of Paris. I strongly recommend the ugly but really fantastic strawberry tart and the juicy lemon tart at Laudree.
- the much discussed L'as really is a good falafel, and can't be beat for E4
- we never had a bad crepe, and my husband contends he has done a comprehensive survey
- walking around Le Grand Epiciere (a/the high end grocery store) should be a real treat for at least one meal
- can't help on a specific location of where to stay, but we find the public transportation really good in Paris, so we like to stay in the 7th close to around St Germain & Respail because from there you can access almost all the bus and train lines you'd want to easily. Catching the city bus and just riding is a great way to see the city for a really low price, the buses are great. Get the 10paks of train/bus tickets and go nuts.
Try to start a conversation in French (learn a few words) 99% of the people will take pity on you and switch to english, but it'll be appreciated that you tried.
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Folks, please help us keep the focus on chow. Hotel recommendations are off topic for our site. Thanks!
I love the 7th and have stayed there 5 times.Rue Cler in the 7th is a fantastic place for foodies, they have fresh fruit markets,wine shops,cheese shops, bakeries, shops that sell everything you would need for a fabulous picnic lunch. A great inexpensive cafe the Cafe Du Marche, loaded with locals, huge portions, great goat cheese salads, duck & frittes, steak tartar, etc. at about 8 -9 Euro a plate. In the 7th there are really great bistros with very reasonable prices. Petit Troquet, is a lovely little restaurant with great food, very small menu, but everything is excellen,t for I think 30 Euro for 3 course price fix. Also Florimonds is really good, Au Bon Acceuil, Cafe Constant, Ami Jean, Fountain du Mars all reasonable with very good food. Eat the crepes from the crepe man right on Rue Cler, or grab some fresh cooked sausage or sihskabobs (spelling??) from the woman who cooks them right on the street in front of the little shop that sells it to take away. It is a few shops away from the Grand Hotel Leveque. There are some fabulous food to be had a Rue Cler.
As for the the problem of not speaking French, almost everyone speaks at least some English, however get your self Rick Steves French Phrase Book & Dictionary, available from Amazon.com, for like 8 bucks. It will be a Godsend. Learn a few essentials, it will take you a long way, I know it helped me on my first few trips immensely, being from New York with NO FRENCH SKILLS AT ALL. I have since progressed to a set of 9 CDs Learn to Speak French and am doing very well, preparing for my next trip back in May.
As for the starred restaurants, go for it for 1 or 2 meals, but unless you have unlimited funds there are so many great little bistros that are excellent.
If you go to Notra Dame do not miss Le Vieux Bistro right next to the Cathedrel on the left loooking at Notra Dame face on.
If you want a great hotel you can e mail me directly if you like firstname.lastname@example.org, it is a no no to talk about other topics on Chowhound and I respect that. Enjoy Paris it is truely the best.
email me at email@example.com and I'll tell you about cheap places to stay in Paris.
And I second Le P'tit Troquet...great food, great prices, charming service.