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Jul 9, 2007 06:11 AM

10 Days in Paris--what not to miss

Friends and I will be in Paris next month on our first trip to the city. We wouldn't do a grand meal more than once, but what are some other quintessential Parisian spots that we shouldn't miss? Looking for bistro's, bakeries, markets that will provide a true sense of Paris. Staying near Montemarte, but will travel anywhere.

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  1. Dont' miss the Bastille Market on Sunday, then walk over to get the best falafel EVER!!! It's in a great neighborhood, you'll have a nice time. It's called L'As du Falafel and it's on 34 rue des Rosiers in Marais.

    Also, don't miss walking through the Latin Quarters and the open market there. We had fresh shucked oysters on the side walk at a seafood market. Some morning, grab some wonderful pastries and enjoy your breakfast in the luxenburg gardens.

    Could go on and on, Paris is wonderful - spent two weeks in April/May.

    19 Replies
    1. re: lexpatti

      Thanks, sounds great! By the way, is Poilane still the boulangerie of choice? Do they still bake in their original location, or is everything done off-site now?

      1. re: rneeno

        Many other boulangeries of choice: la boulangerie de Monge, BE, Kayser, Le Grenier à Pain, Julien jump to mind.

        1. re: souphie

          Thanks for the help so far. We have continued to study, and we would like to know how much of the city will be closed in the middle of August? Will we still be able to try Pierre Hermes, Berthillion, or Angelina? Does anyone have a recommendation for a great place for pate, saucisson, etc..?

          1. re: rneeno

            One more question for everyone: has anyone taken a walking tour with David lebovitz? Is it worth the expense?

              1. re: souphie

                Souphie - David has a well read blog - he is an ex-chef based in Paris and writes about food (chocolate and ice cream are his passions) and other things of interest. He does walking tours every so often.

                1. re: PhilD

                  Thanks. It really open perspectives to me that a food blogger can make money with a Paris guided tour. I can start taking reservations for 2008.

                  I browsed the site a bit, and I find interesting and biased. I guess I share neither the passion for ice-cream and chocolate nor the distance to fine dining. And I have no response to your initial question, hopes someone does.

                  1. re: souphie

                    I just took David's tour this week. While I think he's a knowledgable man and the other people on the tour seemed to enjoy themselves, I personally felt it was a lot of money to be led around a farmer's market. I (and, as it turned out, the other four people on the tour) was only attending since he no longer offers the chocolate tours. Not sure what the real story is behind why they're no longer offered--he'll only say cagily that he became too busy. My guess it that the chocolate shops are simply too far flung to make for a convenient tour. Anyway, he seemed reluctant to divulge too much information on the subject of chocolate, in general. One poor woman in my group asked his favorite and he came back with a dismissive, "I don't have any favorite!" Now look. I get that people probably ask you that five times a day. I get that this lady was a little grating with her somewhat unrefined promises to "show him all the real good foodie places in Chicago if he comes to visit!" I know she doesn't shop at Didier Ludot. But come on. We're not at a dinner party. She shelled out a fair sum of money for two hours of your food-related knowledge. If she asks your favorite chocolate shop, you can dredge up a polite response of two or three of your personal favorite chocolates in the city. I would save the money that you'd spend on a tour and take yourself out to a fun dinner (Les Pappilles in the 5th! Thank you, hounds...). And if you don't have access to farmers markets in your home town, try to hit the Bastille market on your own, if you can...

                    1. re: robyn90068

                      Thank you Robyn;

                      We have one of the largest farmer's markets in the country here in Madison, and the Lebovitz tour doesn't sound as if it will live up to expectations--perhaps we will wait until Souphie offers hers. We will definitely go to Bastille on our own.

                      1. re: rneeno

                        Thank you. Will you show me Madison if I show you Paris?

                        Seriously, if you want to arrange something, contact me.

                        And also, I don't know if I should tell you, but I'm a he. My wife picked the pseudo Souphie as it is the name of her favourite dog on earth, and, you see, I love her so much...

                      2. re: robyn90068

                        Dear Robyn;

                        I read your post regarding my Paris Outdoor Market Tour and I would like to clear up any confusion you may have had.

                        The tours are clearly titled as a 'Paris Outdoor Market Tour', and that's what they are-a guided visit to an outdoor market in Paris. I'm sorry if the other tour you wanted wasn't available, but I'm certain that was clear when you signed up for the tour. If not, please let me know so I can make any changes necessary.

                        As for me being "cagey" about why I'm no longer offering chocolate walks, if you must know, here's the reason:

                        This spring I was diagnosed with a serious leg condition which required two separate surgeries. Consequently, afterwards I was unable to walk great distances during the extensive healing process, which the chocolate tour required. I chose to keep this rather personal information to myself.

                        But since you must know, there it is.

                        As for the woman in the group asking, "What's your favorite chocolate shop?" I honestly don't have a favorite. There are simply too many to choose one, and it's not fair for me to tell people to go visit one shop over another.

                        And for my guests and anyone else visiting Paris, I feature all of them on my web site which is free to browse and download. One can simply go to the category box 'Chocolate: Paris & France' and get more information at my site. The reason I don't give out a lot of that information on the market walks is because in my experience, when people ask, they'd also like the name, address, opening hours, location, métro stop, directions, and specialties, which is difficult to do while on-the-go, especially at a busy market.

                        Often guests aren't prepared with writing tablets or pens or good maps either, and it's simply not fair to the other guests for me to use our group tour time for that. If someone would like that information after the tour is over, I do frequently do that, although I encourage people to download that information off my web site in advance since it's more convenient for them to arrive and have printed materials in their hand.

                        Anyone who's taken one of my tours or makes an inquiry through my web site knows that I give advice rather freely.

                        (I also hand guests a list of restaurants I recommend for their convenience, in addition to the copious amount of information available about Paris to anyone on my blog.)

                        I also normally hand guests my postcard with contact information and welcome guests who wish to contact me with any issues. I often do keep in touch with many of my guests, and several have become close friends as a result. If you were unhappy with the tour, I wish you had contacted me directly or the company I am associated with.

                        Yes, anyone can visit an outdoor market on their own, just as they can visit the Louvre, Notre Dame, and other attractions in Paris. I do have a historical knowledge of the market, the surrounding Bastille neighborhood, and all of Paris which I share. Plus having been a pastry chef for over twenty years, the writer of four cookbooks, and numerous articles on Paris, some guests enjoy seeing the market with me and getting my perspective. Others are happy to go on their own, while others prefer a guided visit.

                2. re: rneeno

                  I have done David's chocolate tour. I think it's worth it, as much for the insight into the neighborhoods as the chocolates. You could visit the same chocolate stores yourself, but you wouldn't get the same inside scoop. He's quite a relaxed and fun tour guide and the groups are very small so you really get to hear what he says. It's also great to be able to ask him about other foodie topics in the area.

                3. re: rneeno

                  If it's open, dont miss Pierre Hermes... really amazing. Don't go without planning a little time. Often there is a line out the door. Just wait till you see the amazing presentation... and don't forget to pick up a few macarrons if you like that sort of thing.

                  1. re: WineTravel

                    don't miss cheese! i can get good ice cream and good bread and even good cheese in Boston but even "good cheese" does not approximate the great cheeses of france. Go to Cantin or Barthelmy(?) see what is ripe and listen to good advice, and picnic in Luxemburg garden or Monceau or whatever lovely park is handy.

                    1. re: teezeetoo

                      The parks are awesome, and everywhere. Eat in a park everyday (for lunch or breakfast).

                  2. re: rneeno

                    Why don't you start at Le Grand Epicerie in the Bon Marche department store, on the Left Bank, not too far from St. Germain? It will give you a fantastic introduction to Paris. There's a nice little coffee bar in the back where you can sit and absorb what you've seen.

                    I spent three weeks there last fall and took a Patricia Wells class (a wonderful if pricey experience.) We took a field trip to Poilane. The baking process is fascinating, and you might write or email them and ask if you could have a tour. It would be best to go first thing in the morning because it is a tiny shop, and our group of seven people essentially filled the place.

                    I would recommend that you visit the market on the Avenue President Wilson, which is on Wednesday, and the permanent market on the Rue Cler in the 7th, which is within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. You could buy things for a picnic and eat on the Champs de Mer.

                    I thin Berthillon will be open and Angelina, too. But along with the well-known names, just be open for exploring as well. I'm mad about Eric Kayser's breads and pastries; there's a Kayser one block from the Odeon metro in St. Germain. I also would recommend a darling wine store nearby called Le Dernier Goutte (the last drop) which is run by a Cuban-American., Juan Sanchez. They can answer all your questions and give you some recommendations on wines under 20 Euro. If there's anything you want to take home, Juan will pack it for you in a crush-proof box

                    I think more restaurants will be closed than shops. No matter what, be prepared for muggy weather and pace yourselves. It will all be there on your next trip (hopefully in the fall or spring next time!)

                    1. re: brendastarlet

                      I believe Berthillon is closed ALL SUMMER! I know it sounds incredible that an Ice Cream Shop would be closed in the summertime, but I'm pretty sure that's the case. And if they're closed, it is not likely that the product will be available in restaurants, either. Bummer.

                      Personally, I found the sorbets too sweet, but the ice creams are sublime.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        my personal favorite ice creams are from CHRISTIAN CONSTANT the patissier on rue d'assas. He is open all summer. The maison Berthillon is closed all summer, but all the retailers on the island and in the fifth have huge stocks, though is is true that the choice diminishes as the summer goes by

                      2. re: brendastarlet

                        Thank you for all of the great suggestions.

              2. Since everyone usually mentions l'As du Falafel in le Marais, stroll down the street for dessert and go to Finkelsztajn for the best cheesecake on the planet (gateau au fromage blanc). Everything is good [and pricey] there. It's a great deli with very good pastries.
                I'd recommend getting a great baguette at Le Levain du Marais (both locations: boulevard Beaumarchais and rue de Turenne, one of them is usually closed on rotation during Summer). If you find some good jambon a l'os at the Bastille market, some good cheese and fruit (mirabelles if you are there mid/late August) voila! you can have a nice picnic by the Seine.

                Don't be disappointed by Berthillon being idiosyncratically closed in the summer because you find Berthillon ice cream everywhere on the Ile St Louis anyway during that period, also you can go to Mon Vieil Ami.

                for a good cheese selection that is not too pricey, I recommend La Fermette rue Montorgueil, also they vacuum-seal if you want to take some cheese back home.
                I also always recommend the Nicolas chain stores to my American friends because not only they can recommend some decent wines at decent prices but they usually have one person on staff who speaks English.

                if you like your coffee, go to La Grande Epicerie on the Malongo stand and ask for La Grande Reserve: I always bring back 500g, cheaper than Illy and smoother.

                There are some really nice places near Abbesses but my memory is not working. At the bottom of the Butte, loking toward Barbes,turn your back on Le Sacre-Coeur, take the main street on your right and walk to the farthest cafe, it stands on a corner street and serves normal, every day humble cafe fare: oeufs-mayo, pate, etc. It is a normal cafe, othing fancy about it but it is a piece of the everyday Paris that is quickly disappearing.

                Also if you are in Paris you should have North African fare, so try Omar or that place on rue Keller: can't recall the name but it is the one and only North African restaurant on the street. There is also a fabulous couscous place at la Goutte d'Or but for the life of me I cannot recall the name of the place or the street. Ask at your hotel for "un bon couscous".

                3 Replies
                1. re: bad nono

                  Thanks for all the great ideas--we can't wait to get there!

                  1. re: bad nono

                    < also always recommend the Nicolas chain stores to my American friends because not only they can recommend some decent wines at decent prices but they usually have one person on staff who speaks English.> I don't find their selection of wines remarkable at all -- certainly nothing I would want to carry home to New York! My first criterion for carrying a wine back in my suitcase is that it be something that either I could not get in US, OR that costs so much in US I couldn't afford it here. (Raveneau Valmur comes immediately to mind....)

                    I haven't been in a wine store in Paris yet where there was NOT someone who spoke English. Rneeno, don't be intimidated if your French isn't fine.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      that's right, that's the reason why I used the adjective "decent", not "remarkable". The advantage of Nicolas is that they are all over the place, including the normal, non touristy neighborhoods and they are always nice and friendly, no matter how little you spend.

                  2. Lunch at three-star Pierre Gagnaire is the experience of a lifetime -- but at current exchange rates would probably run you a staggering $400 or so. I second the recommendation for ice cream at Bertillon, which is open in summer (unless they are remodeling). I did not enjoy the trendy bistros with the famous chefs (highly rated in Zagat) nor the touristy institutions recommended in mainstream American guidebooks. However, random Chinese in Belleville (Chinatown, now trendy) and random North African and chic cheap French in the 11th arr. around metro stop Parmentier were very good. Enjoy!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: KateC.

                      Oops, sorry, I do not know if Bertillon is open in the summer -- I was there in May. Also Mariages Freres is worth a visit. They sell tea, which doesn't sound all that exciting, but it is. Unbelievable flavors (which they claim are natural) and quality. Sort of like perfume. They have several outposts and have been in business since 1854. Good for presents.

                      1. re: KateC.

                        I whole heartedly second the Pierre Gagnaire recommendation for lunch. It was far superior to any fine dining experience I've had in the states. French Laundry included. The couple next to us, made the exact same comment to the captain-"Keller is good, but this, this is amazing..."

                        As for Berthillon I wasn't really impressed. I much preferred Amorino. I was consuming a "giant" sized portion every day.

                        I wasn't a fan of macarons until Laduree.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          Found my Paris notes from 3 months ago. I never finished typing things up because the Pierre Gagnaire meal became a 2 page essay of admiration.

                          Best dining experience ever: Pierre Gagnaire

                          Best croissant: Maison Poujauran (7th)

                          Best Poulet Roti: Maitre Volailler (9th)

                          Best pastry: Souffle aux Pomme at La Bonbonniere de Buci (6th)

                          Biggest portions ever: Chez Denise (1st)

                          Biggest Let-down: L’Atelier de Maitre Albert (5th)

                          Best Frozen Treat: Amorino

                      2. If you are a tea fanatic, I highly recommend La Maison de Trois Thes in the 6th. It's owned and operated by a woman who claimes to be a direct descendent of Confucius, and who's to argue? This is not a traditional French tea room, but a Chinese tea parlor, where you can try and buy teas, but there are no pastries. The tea, however is amazing, and much of it is not available anywhere else outside China.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Thanks to everyone for all of these great ideas--I love checking the board each day. Does anyone have a suggestion for a great charcuterie?

                          1. re: rneeno

                            very diffiult in August. I would say: Lafayette Gourmet and La Grande Epicerie. Also Lesourd rue Lecourbe (a butcher) is open in August. The rest of the year, there is produits d'auvergne rue Cambronne, maison Divay rue Bayen, maison pou avenue des Ternes, la maison du jambon rue cler. This in no way an exhaustive list, of course; but those are alll great places.

                            But in general, for fine food shopping in August, I rely on the first two I mentioned: Lafayette Gourmet in the Galeries Lafayette bd Haussmann, and La Bonne Epicerie in Le Grand Marche rue de Sevres.

                            1. re: souphie

                              Isn't that the Grande Epicerie, at Le Bon Marche...?

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Yes it is, and not la bonne epicerie au grand marché.

                                Also (last minute info): Les papilles gourmandes, rue des Martyrs, is a great charcuterie open all summer. Today they also had hyper fresh and big vanilla beans straight from La reunion -- ice-cream tonight!

                        2. Just got back from Paris last week... we had a great meal by Sacré Cœur. Well, maybe not amazing by Paris standards, but if you've been sightseeing all day and forgot to grab lunch, then hiked up to the top of Sacré Cœur w/ starving tummies... Anyways, I think the resto was St. Catherine's (or something similar, right by the painter's village) -- sit outside under the awning & get the mussels (under the appetizers -- although a giant steaming bowl full of tender baby mussels not much bigger than a pinky nail was waaay more than just an appetizer for one). Heaven.