Paris...so many choices...here's what I have so far:
My first official post! Thanks for helping us...my husband and I....first time in Paris and we have done some research as to what restaurants to eat at...however...the list is long and our days are limited.
We arrive on a Sunday morning and leave on a Thursday around 11am.
When we arrive on Sunday we are going to do a hop on/hop off tour to get acquainted with the city. We are staying a little north of Montparnasse and slightly west of the St. Germaine de Pres area. We need a lunch and a Dinner suggestion for Sunday.
Monday we're probably going to head up north to the flea marks over near clingancourt and then make our way around Montmarte...Sacre Coer...etc.....While in this area...any recommendations for Lunch? Later that afternoon we have tentative plans to try to go to the Arc de Triomphe area/Champs Elysee and then finally onto the Bateaux-Mouches seine river dinner cruise.
--Do you recommend the Seine River Cruise for dinner or is our money better spent elsewhere in this area?
Tuesday we are most likely going to go to the Eiffle Tower then Musee D'Orsay and walk around the surrounding areas. We have tentative reservations for Moulin Rouge that night (not for dinner...just the show)...but we need to fill in a dinner this day too
Wednesday (our last day) we plan to head to Versailles early in the morning and then come back around lunch time. We were contemplating having a big lunch before heading to the Lourvre for the remainder of the day. Here, we thought that maybe it would be a good idea to eat at a pricier restaurant since Lunch is usually less expensive? Later that night we thought we would head over to Buddha Bar for a drink and check out the scene.
We leave the next morning for London.
I am going to list the restaurants I have compiled...it is lengthy...so any advice you have (or day modifications) would be greatly appreciated. Since this is our first time, we are relying solely on your opinons.
Chez L'ami Jean
Le Relais de L'entrecote
Le Fontaine de Mars
Restaurant du Palais royal
La Rotunde Montparnasse
Le Petit Troquet
Au Bon Acceuil
Le Ambassadeurs (lunch probably expensive)
Tour D'argent (lunch probably)
Georges (atop Pompidou)
Comptoir du Relais
Auberge du Champ de Mars
Au Pied de couchon
Bouef Sur le toit
Le Petit Zinc
We are looking for moderate priced dinners and good values for lunch. We value the food more than the ambiance...however...the ambiance is always a nice thing if available.
also, how do you make reservations...it is expensive to call France to make a reservation...is it possible to do it another way?
Just an itinerary note--unless you're going to limit your Versailles visit severely, you won't be back by lunch time and/or have the energy to do the Louvre that afternoon. It's a pretty full day trip assuming you want to see everything there. While the palace itself is impressive and doesn't take long, my favorite parts are the Petit Triannon and Hameau as well as the gardens--easy to spend hours exploring them and still not see everything.
The only restaurant I've been to on your list is L'ami Jean for lunch (I was there the week before last) which I liked but wasn't blown away by.
Many restaurants are closed on Sundays so that will limit your choices for that day. I found the Pudlo restaurant guide to be very helpful in terms of what was open when (a number are also closed on Mondays, I found).
It's been years since I've done the Seine dinner cruise so I'm not sure of current quality but based on previous experience, I'd eat dinner elsewhere then do a night cruise afterwards.
Regarding making reservations for restaurants....agree with Brunella....fax is still very popular in Europe...however other options: we signed up though our land-line phone carrier (MCI) for their international calling plan and have used it for years. You don't get charged unless you make a call, and when you do, it is literally pennies a minute. For planning a fairly lengthy European trip, my phone bill will perhaps be an extra $20-30. Money well spent, imho. Then there is always (?usually) the option of emailing either your hotel and asking them to make the reservations for you, or as has been mentioned, checking the restaurants' web sites to see whether they provide an email address for you to request a reservation....regarding Versailles, agree with chefjune, brunella and others...perhaps not something you have to do on your first visit. I have only beento Paris twice (many years apart) and actually went to Versailles both times (because of the people I was traveling with). The first trip was better, more thorough, as we also went to see the nearby Cathedral Chartres, but the second was completely underwhelming...we didn't get to see the gardens because it was pouring rain, nor did we get to see the petite trianon, nor hameau (although I had seen them years before without my husband). To do it right, as has been recommended, you should allow plenty of time...souphie's suggestion for lunch at le veranda would be among those suggestions of how to do it right, should you do it at all. Four days in Paris is not a huge amount of time...maybe consider spending it all in the city proper? You could spend weeks and months discovering this magical city. Picnics (even if in your hotel room if weather is inclement...an absolute must!). Less is truly more, as all have agreed. Leave time for the little unexpected treasures that pop up in your wanderings. Enjoy, enjoy! pamela (pmh)
Having spent decades here for many months a year, all the people who visit all say the same thing. Less is more. Sure you want to do a lot, but come on, no one can eat two big meals a day for a week, then to London for more of the same. You can read about most of your list of restaurants on other posts. While Paris does have good restaurants it also has mediocre restaurants serving heavy gloppy food. Many of those are on your list. Consider buying provender from good shops and having picnics in the prettiest city in Europe with some of the best food available anywhere. Go to one of the zillion markets, get bread, wine, cheese, saucisson, fruit, sit in a park and really enjoy Paris. For my meals, if l had to pick a few. Chez L'Ami Jean for lunch, using this as example as your other chowhound poster does not like it very much, thus as always a difference of opinion. Have been there twice in last 10 days and just love it. Chez Denise, a favorite of mine and so much fun in addition is great as well; For a big bucker Cinc, Gagnaire, Arpege, Le Grand Vefour are all wonderful and entirely different. Do YOUR research and find what you might like, what l like does not really matter. Use the Seine cruise when you come in, jet lagged and haggard, just to relax you. Go to the Marches au Puces after that, around 2-3 on Sunday. While open on Monday, many, many stalls are closed. Perhaps Porte des Vanves on Sunday until 2 PM might be better, smaller, more affordable and a lot of fun. While this city is not NYC, travel still does take time. Metro great but one end of city to other will take 20-45 minutes, this adds up. There are phone cards available in US to call Europe for 2-3 cents a minute, get one, With rare exception, most restaurants have same day reservations available. Yes the fussy one should be done in advance and usually can be done by email
Again less is more, do a little and love it instead of beating yourself up and cramming everything together.
Agree with Delucacheesemonger as well. One of the best ways to enjoy Paris is simply by doing... nothing. Just strolling and wandering. You're staying near Montparnasse so another fun food activity for Sunday might be going to the Bd Raspail organic market and picking up food for a picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens.
Thank you all who advise the 'less is more' approach. I will be in Paris from Dec 22-Jan1 and realize many restaurants will not be open at that time. I am really looking forward to the simpler things like chestnuts over fires, etc. I am encouraged that I won't have to make an expensive dinner reservation at such a time of year and can still enjoy.
re: sarah galvin
Sarah - a word of caution. The biggest market sector that will close for the holidays will be the great mid priced local restaurants. Your eating choices will be restricted and you may need to stray into the higher end to eat well. That said Christmas is great in Paris, far less commercial than oher cities, with lovely decorations and a nice atmosphere.
I am beginning to learn that! Thanks for your advice. I seem to spend Christmas in faraway places a lot, for some reason, and it's always the same - quiet! It's good to have the 'heads up'. Hopefully I will be able to buy some lovely 'take out' from markets for a few meals. I am looking forward to it!
re: sarah galvin
One of my BIG wishes is to spend Christmas in Paris... staying in an apartment,where I can cook Christmas dinner from the great findings in the markets. One of these old days, I will get to do that.
Are you staying in an apartment? If so, and you enjoy cooking, you will have a fantastic food experience, imho.
Agree with DCM. Optimise your routes. Less is more. Stay in Versailles and eat at Ramsay's veranda, which is excellent and in the park ( reviews here: http://www.julotlespinceaux.com/2008/04/gordon-ramsay-in-versailles-yeah.html ). The cruise is a nice experience, expensive but does not compare with anything else -- there's a lot of things to see from the boat. Food is not particularly interesting on boats except on the one whose chef is Philippe Groult (it will be advertised).
From your list, here is what I would keep (I don't consider the ones I took off worth a visit):
Chez L'ami Jean
La Regalade (those first two are the best value in town for excellent food, they're crowded and tiny and noisy but have high level food
)Le Relais de L'entrecôte
Le Fontaine de Mars (excellent textbook bistrot, open sun I believe, not cheap)
La Rotonde Montparnasse (open late, open everyday, good food and wine, hyper-classic brasserie)
Le Petit Troquet (or rather the original Troquet rue Bonvin)
Au Bon Accueil
Ledoyen (lunch...expensive -- very fancy, special)
Gagnaire (hyper-expensive and hyper original/experimental, Gagnaire is a genius and the experience is generally a roller coaster at best)
Le cinq (best restaurant in town, and comparatively good value -- my recent pics here: http://picasaweb.google.fr/ZeJulot/LeCinq25Sep08#
)Le Cerisaie (tiny bistrot with tiny portions, excellent SW wines, simple SW food)
Le Meurice (for high luxury, boring fancy food, exceptional desserts)
L'entrecote (same as Relais de...)
Au Pied de cochon (if you want a meal in the middle of the night -- no other reason to go -- and even then, unless it's 4am, Chez Denise is probably open)
Le Petit Zinc (a very pittoresque brasserie in StGermain with very decent food and wines, open every day)
For opening time and days and prices, check www.viamichelin.com .
I think first-timers always think they can "fit it all in!" I know I did. I found out I was wrong. I remember getting sick the day I planned to "wander around" Montmartre and see Sacre coeur. still have never gotten there. Maybe this trip?
The biggest disappointment of that first trip was the day I spent in line for l'Arch de Triomphe, and walking the Champs d'Élysée. I came away with the feeling of "What's the big deal?" Maybe if I hadn't always lived in big, glamorous cities, I'd have been more charmed. Fouquet's has TERRIBLE food, but very good hot chocolate, and is a good place for people watching from a window seat.
We enjoyed the Onion Soup at Au Pied de Cochon, but I wouldn't go out of my way to dine there. As Souphie said, "at 4 in the morning..."
I'm also guessing that on your first day you will want only lunch, then perhaps a museum visit, then home to sleep off the jet lag.
Try not to plan out everything to the letter, and leave room for little discoveries. They are everywhere in Paris and the surrounding area. DCM's suggestion of picnics in the parcs is surely one of those... Imho you are better off planning a few special meals rather than trying to pack each day with a "memorable" lunch AND dinner. You are likely to enjoy nothing that way, not to mention making yourselves sick from to much food!
I envy you your first Paris visit. It's a magical city. and btw, don't miss a picnic on the Pont des Artes, the pedestrian footbridge on the way to the Louvre.
Everyone thinks they MUST go to Versailles. I didnt go there on my first trip. And I didnt go there on my second trip. Finally got around to it on my third trip and was totally underwhelmed. You are only there for four days. Why waste a whole day going to Versailles when there is so much to do right in Paris?
The Seine dinner cruise is a fun touristy things to do but again, totally not de rigeur for a first time visit. And especially if you are there in the winter when you'll want to me by a warm cozy fire. Leave the dinner cruise for a repeat visit on a balmy summer night when you've seen everything else.
I'd warn against making both lunch and dinner reservations in the same day. Meals take a long time (esp dinner) and can wear you out. Two hours is absolute minimum. 3 hours is pretty normal and 4 hours is not unheard of at the gastronomy temple places. Plus unless your french is pretty fluent you will have a certain amount of anxiety every time you open a menu.
If you insist on making a ton of reservations before hand, you should check out www.bestrestaurantsparis.com. Some of the places on your list are bound to be there and the service is free. Also check the individual restaurants web-site and see if they accept reservations from their website. Failing that, I recommend faxing. Faxing is still big in europe and is the preferred method in many establishments.
If you plan every minute of every day you will resent your vacation. Dont try to see everything. Assume you will return. Leave some free time to just be.
Brunella is so right! I also wouldn't recommend Versailles if you only have 4 days in Paris. Sheesh! I've been to Paris 8 times and have yet to see Sacre Coeur! It's okay! There is so much to do there, and just wandering the streets is so satisfying.
I've learned not to plan too many t hings and just let stuff happen. It IS vacation, after all!
I'm coming next week and have just 3 days in Paris. I have two "musts " this trip.... Le Petit Trianon @ Versailles (Sunday morning-ish) and L'Orangerie, which I couldn't get to last year because of the transit strike. Otherwise, there's always next trip.
BTW, I definitely recommend at least one picnic -- outdoors if the weather permits, but somewhere, in any case.
re: sarah galvin
I''ve never been there over Christmas. In 02 was there in early December, so I really can't say. I do know from friends who live there that much of the city closes down, kind of like August, as everyone goes to their weekend homes for the holidays, and many restaurants are closed for the week as well.
However, I am sure there are still food shops and markets with goodies for sale, and museums, and the lights, and all.
Someday I hope to have the experience of the holidays in Paris!
re: sarah galvin
Food shopping is on -- it's their biggest time of the year, the one time when everybody spends money on food. It's some restaurants that take to take time off. But much less so than in August.
Also, to respond to a question you asked somewhere else, Dec 31st is not a holiday, so Passard will have his lunch menu that day. Always wise to double check, of course.