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Nov 27, 2010 03:02 PM

First time in Paris - suggestions and tips

Hi all -

I'm looking for some advice on places to eat during an upcoming stay in Paris. More details are below and I appreciate any guidance!

My husband and I will be visiting Paris for 9 days in mid-March 2011 for a belated honeymoon. We are both very excited, but also a little intimidated. Obviously there are so many options and opportunities to experience delicious food, and we're not sure where to start. We have to be cost conscious, so will probably only make dinner plans two or three nights during our stay. We are hoping to hit suggested restaurants during lunchtime. Any spots we should try for lunch or dinner? We like all kinds of food (I especially enjoy sweets and pastries), all kinds of atmospheres. We are interested in trying Le Comptoir, Frenchie, Le Chateaubriand (on Avenue Parmentier), and Rose Bakery. Obviously there is a very strong chance we won't be able to get a table at the first three places listed, and I'm not entirely sure all of them offer lunch. But I wanted to throw them in there to give you an idea of where we're coming from.

In terms of price, we are not sure what the price of a good meal is worth at lunchtime in Paris, but if I were to throw out a number I would say we'd like to keep it between 15 and 20 Euros per person.

We are staying at three different hotels - one in the 3e arr, 5e, and 20e. This doesn't matter so much - we are willing to travel well beyond where we are staying.

We are also nervous about the language barrier - we are American, and while neither of us are fluent, we both studied French but have not conversed in many years. We are worried that if our French is too poor it will severely alter the trip, though we are starting to brush up now.

Any restaurant suggestions? Language tips? Idea on the best way to snag a table at Le Comptoir for lunch?

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  1. Le Comptoir at lunch is easy, turn up early (12:00 noon) or late (>2:00) and there shouldn't be a wait. If you hit peak time then you may need to wait - it doesn't take reservations for lunch. But be aware €15 to €20 for lunch will not be easy there.

    That price point is more likely in regular cafes or places frequented by office workers grabbing their lunch with their company issued luncheon vouchers in my day these came in denominations of €7 so a lunch at or slightly above €14 was common around my office (note, this is also why lots of bakeries have the set formula of sandwich, drink and pastry for approx €7)

    1. Always say 'bonjour' or 'bonsoir' when starting a conversation with any French person - gendarme, boutique clerk, anyone - or your presence will not 'register' with said individual. (Don't start off with "excusez-moi" or "pardonnez-moi" or ......) Once you break the ice, though, most Parisians are warm & helpful, and will probably admit that they do speak English ("un petit peu" which is usually a too-modest-appraisal of their abilities). Remember that a French person is most likely unable to distinguish between an American, English, Scottish, Irish, South African, Australian, New Zealand or Canadian accent, so do not be intimidated by any American (friend?) who tries to convince you that the French "hate Americans". They don't, and probably couldn't identify you as one if they did. (Sorry to even suggest this, but it really irks me when I hear this from anyone....) Have a great honeymoon!

        1. re: hychka

          thank you PhilD, boredough and hychka - so helpful!!

        2. As a canadian living in Paris, I agree with boredough, the important thing is to say bonjour when you walk in any place, be it a boutique, ca cafe or a bakery.
          good restaurants are expensive in Paris. My trick: go for lunch is the really nice one, and hit local cafes at night. Usually even the chic restaurants have a great lunch menu for about 30 to 40 euros.
          For nice bistrots for a good price, you have to look into the small neighborhoods, behind National and Bastille, the 15th arrondissement, and so on... just trust your instinct...