2 weeks + 3 days in Paris
I'll be spending 2 weeks in Paris in late October/early November, then a few days again in mid-late November. Will be staying in an apartment in Montparnasse near Rue Daguerre for the first 2 weeks. I'm spending the first week with my little sister who has never been to Paris (or France or Europe) before, but she loves French food and culture (and speaks much better French than I do). I would like to give her a nice well-rounded experience, and at the same time she's on more of a budget so aside from our 2 splurge lunches, looking at more affordable options. My second week will be spent with a couple of friends who have been to France multiple times before, so the itinerary will be less packed, and there's less of a budget restriction. After that will tour other parts of France for 2 weeks with my husband (separate threads for those, as I've learned on these boards), and spend our last 3 days back in Paris, with an apartment in the 5th for the last 3 days.
Here's my plan for the first week (last week of October):
- Sunday: Our flight from SFO comes in at 9am. Figure we would probably get to our apartment by around 10:30am, check out the Raspail market to get some breakfast and supplies for the week. Want to get some stereotypical French food starting with crepes for lunch at La Crêperie de Josselin. Dinner at La Coupole, which has been highly recommended by some of the locals I've talked to (including the person we're renting the apartment from) but seems to have mixed reviews on this board (should we go to La Rotonde instead?). Looking for atmosphere as well as a good representation of classic French food. Go to the Eiffel tower.
- Monday: We have lunch reservations at Ledoyen (I emailed and their lunch menu is now 105 euros). I had hoped to do this later in the week but this was the day they had it available (I hope it doesn't ruin me for the rest of the trip!) I figure this will be a long and filling lunch so planning on just having some bread and cheese for dinner (is it better to get cheese at Raspail the day before, or should we go to a specialty cheese shop?). We'll probably walk along Champs Elysées after lunch since it's right by Ledoyen all the way to Arc de Triomphe.
- Tuesday: Go to Montmarte and check out Sacre Coeur, have croque-monsieur for lunch at Coquelicot. Dinner at Sens Uniques in Montmartre, or if we decide to go back to our apartment earlier, at Le Cornichon.
- Wednesday: Day trip to Champagne region. Still a bit torn whether I should go to Epernay or Reims. Would want to visit Pommery if I go to Reims and Moet if I go to Epernay, and would like to see some smaller producers as well. Is it possible to do that without a car in either city, which city is better for visiting without a car? Still need to find a restaurant for lunch once I decide on which city to visit. Will probably have more bread/cheese/market food for dinner, along with any champagne we may buy.
- Thursday: Going to the Louvre in the morning (my sis isn't much of a museum person so we'll probably only spend a couple of hours here). I would like to do afternoon tea at Laduree, but I can't tell from the website if they take reservations over email/online. Do I have to call to reserve a spot? Dinner at La Cerisaie.
- Friday: No plans for lunch, we are right next to Rue Daguerre so will probably get a sandwich/snack from that market. Dinner at La Regalade.
- Saturday: We have lunch reservations at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile (get their "cheap" 37-euro prix-fixe menu), dinner at Cafe Constant (is it impossible to get in on a Saturday, since they don't take reservations?)
Also looking to cram in a patisserie/macaron crawl at the 6th one of these days (Laduree, Pierre Herme, Gerard Mulot) since my sis loves sweets, and macarons are her favorite.
Second week plans (First week of November, a little less firm since I still need to consult with my friends on what they want to do):
- Sunday: Go around the local markets (Rue Daguerre & Raspail), dinner at Les Cocottes
- Monday: No firm plans for lunch, dinner at Le 122
- Tuesday: Have reservations for lunch at Le Cinq, will probably have a light dinner of just bread/cheese or go to a wine bar for snacky food
- Wednesday: Might go to a day trip so will probably have a late dinner close to the apartment...looking at La Rotonde or La Closerie des Lilas
- Thursday: No firm plans for lunch, Chez L'Ami Jean for dinner
- Friday: No firm plans for lunch or dinner, looking at maybe Bistrot du Dôme.
- Saturday: No firm plans for lunch, Dinner reservations at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon St. Germain. I would have already been to lunch at the Etoile location by this time, but my friend really wants to try this place. I figure this will be a different experience though since we have less restriction on budget, and with 3 people can order a bunch of dishes a la carte. Is it too much to go to both restaurants within a week of each other?
Any recommendations for good cafes in Montparnasse for coffee/snacks? My buddy is kind of a coffee snob so looking for places with excellent coffee.
Last 3 days (Late November w/ the hubby)
- Sunday: Arrive in Paris in early afternoon (will probably eat our lunch on the train from Bordeaux), hang out at a cafe for coffee/snacks (any recommendations in the 5th/6th for good coffee, snacking and people-watching?). Drinks and light dinner at L'Avant Comptoir.
- Monday: Lunch at La Tour D'Argent (68-euro prix fixe lunch)...is this place worth going to? I've always been interested in checking this place out and soaking up the history/ambiance, and maybe getting a tour of their wine cellars, but the reviews have been pretty mixed. As long as the food is decent (doesn't have to be spectacular), I think I'll be happy. Dinner at A La Biche Au Bois (hubby wants some game meats).
- Tuesday: Lunch at Pierre Gagnaire...initially wanted to do dinner but that got vetoed by the hubby due to the cost. How's their lunch menu? Will probably just want something light for dinner but with a lively atmosphere, thinking about checking out Frenchie's wine bar.
I have reservations for all the Michelin-star places (except for Pierre Gagnaire which only takes reservations 30 days ahead), do I need to make reservations at the brasseries/bistros as well or can I just show up for those? What are good times to show up to maximize our chances of getting a table without a reservation?
Really appreciate any comments/suggestions from everyone.
<Also looking to cram in a patisserie/macaron crawl at the 6th one of these days (Laduree, Pierre Herme, Gerard Mulot) since my sis loves sweets, and macarons are her favorite.>
When you're macaroning, don't skip Maison du Chocolat. I just LOVE both their chocolate and mocha macarons.
Around the 14e, for your apartment food supply such as oil, salt, etc, head to Monoprix (corner of r, Daguerre/Gen. LeClerc) on the Sunday of your arrival. It is good and just about the only place open Sunday afternoon. There are great cheese shops, boulangeries, etc all over Paris worth seeking out but if you have an apartment or two weeks, shop at the neighborhood stores. There is good cheese shop, a large butcher, poissoniere and not bad produce stand on pedestrian end of r. Daguerre. That is the best way to blend into the neighborhood and get to know the merchants. You'll notice after a couple of times, you will get a warm greeting and better service. Get some warm vienienoise for the mornings at d'Antan, about the only good
boulangeries on Daguere. Moisan on Gen LeClerc is good but always a line in the late afternoon. Explore your neighborhood and see what they have to offer before jetting out to far away places for everyday provision. That is the reason you picked the 14e.
Just a note about daily outdoor markets like Montrouge and Edgar Quinet; unlike farmers markets in the SF Bay Area, the vendors do not grow what they sell. They are just retailers but still the best way to shop for fresh goods.
Good cafes in Montparnesse: there are loads of cafes lining the blvd but for the quality of the coffee, it is strictly Parisien, dark, syrupy and bitter. As for the scene, it is bustling (also lots of auto traffic and noise) with most having large outside or covered terrasse. I don't find them anything special. For more cozy, try rue Gaites.
La Coupole is not known for food but as a scene, it is terrific. The decor is historical and it is great for people watching. Seats about 500 with a bustling bar. It gets just about everyone, Parisiens, visitors, families, people going to the nearby cinema. I often take visitors there and we always have a great time. Go late on Friday/Saturday night and order the simple things: oysters, steak. The food at is La Rotond is much better but I haven't eaten there in years. I really like the brasserie at La Closerie des Lilac for late night. Don't know if they take reservations since we just drop by.
Lunch at Pierre Gagnaire: it is my favorite restaurant high-end in Paris where I have eaten more than half dozen times. I think the prix-fixed lunch is worth the cost but I don't find the food comparable to his tasting menu or a la carte (the best). Of the four courses, the first series of small tastings and desserts are more indicative while the two middle main plates are generally just good and not 3 star. My advice is still do it as I am not advocating spending the huge sum of money for the other two options. Of all the prix-fixed lunch of the 3 stars that I have eaten at, the food and experience at Guy Savoy matches most closely to his overall food because one can order from the regular menu. The food for prix-fixed lunch at Ledoyen is very good. As for Tour d'Argent, since you know what to expect, I would do it. I don't believe their famous pressed duck is part of the prix fixed lunch.
As for other reservations, as most posters already written about in earlier posts, it is best to. For a place like La Coupole, one can always get a table by showing up; might have to wait for awhile at the bar during prime time. No need to fetch about making reservation at La Cerisaie and such too far in advance. Make them when you get to Paris. The 3 stars and CLJ are exceptions. It is time for us Americans to debunk our overly obessiveness. It has become a joke to my all my European friends. I don't think Laduree on r. Royale take reservations. I love old historical places as much as anyone, but I would just go in and take a look as it is always a mob scene, lots of pushing and shoving. I don't think it is worth it, not even for tea and one of their overly sugary pastry. The second floor room at their rue Bonaparte branch in the 6e is much more serene but a bit precise. Distance wise from the Louvre, it is a toss-up.
Thanks so much for all the great tips! I think I will definitely make a stop at the monoprix on my first day (I love visiting foreign grocery stores anyway). And I get what you say about really enjoying the neighborhood I'm in...that was my goal from the start but I might have lost sight of it a bit in trying to find "the best" everything.
Great advice on La Coupole and La Tour d'Argent...I think I will enjoy both as long as I know what to expect. I'd be willing to visit them for the ambiance/scene more than the actual food (as long as it's at least decent), because sometimes just having great food <CH blasphemy> isn't the be-all and end-all </CH blasphemy>. Good to know we don't need to make reservations for La Coupole or the little bistros way in advance. I do think i will call Chez L'Ami Jean soon.
I would love to get the tasting menu or order a bunch of dishes a la carte at Pierre Gagnaire. Unfortunately I probably have to cut back for budget reasons, especially since I'm already going to Ledoyen, Le Cinq, and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon on the same trip. Decided to cut out Joel Robuchon Etoile and sub La Tour d'Argent for that instead, that way I only have one reserved meal w/ the hubby and we can be more spontaneous in our last 3 days. The only dinner out of my Michelin meals will be at L'Atelier in Saint-Germain...at least with two friends with me hopefully we can get a good sample of the menu between the 3 of us.
I had an excellent time having tea at Laduree the last time I was in Paris (I don't think we made reservations then, we just showed up), but admittedly my (other) sis who was with me did think their pastries were too sweet. Are there any other places to have tea and French pastries that you would recommend? I would prefer something very French/Parisian since I am already doing afternoon tea at the Ritz on my side trip to London.
Regarding the obsessiveness, I think I'm a lost cause... :)
My error regarding Monoprix. I meant Franprix in the neighborhood that is open Sunday until 1pm. Same for the fromagerie, etc. Monoprix is closed Sundays. I am not much of a tea drinker, therefore, I am not familiar with places that serve great teas. Maybe others can chime in with some suggestions. For salon de the (mainly for the atmosphere or pastries and when we are in the area), we like Le Valentin in the Pg Joffrey, the simple Ble Sucre off the Fg Saint-Antoine, Jacque Genin , Cafe Pouchkine in Le Printemps is fun if one is shopping, Patisserie de Reves on r. de Longchamp is beatutiful to look at, and definitely Jean-Paul Hevin in the 1e. If we want something special in the neighborhood, we go to Dominque Saibron. None are similar to the classic ambience of Laduree. We tend to buy pastries and eat in.
The prices for the high-end restaurants are astronomical, dinner is easily $1000 for two. Stick with the lunches like you're doing. I agree that there is more to dining out than just great food. Great food doesn't always make a great evening. This site is so food obsessed that sometime we lose the sight of that fact. CLJ is a good example. The food is excellent but I have not been there in a number of years because I just couldn't take the tight surroundings and the noise. Seems like everytime we eat there, we get put in one of the extra-cramped tables in the center row. And I am not a big person. Hopefully with the new revamp menu, they've remove couple of tables to make it more comfortable.
For great coffee, there have been a couple of recent posts regarding to the new crop of coffee bar/roasters opening in Paris. I remember Cafe Coutume in the 7e mentioned. haven't been to any.
Have a great trip. It is a luxury to have over 2 weeks in a single city. And don't cramp the patisseries in the 6e all in one afternoon.
I guess everyone's entitled to go to La Coupole once but about:
"- Tuesday: Go to Montmarte and check out Sacre Coeur, have croque-monsieur for lunch at Coquelicot. Dinner at Sens Uniques in Montmartre, or if we decide to go back to our apartment earlier, at Le Cornichon."
Since I live nearby I have strong feelings about Montmartre joints, I think the astonishing food at the top is only to be found at the Clocher de Montmartre (Rue Lamarck) and I'd agree that except for the Table d'Eurgene (Sue) the best on the flat is Sens Uniques. Oh and Sacre Coeur is a wonderful sight from outside or a distance but the inside is banal.
As for theother spots you mention I'm also dizzy reading them so I'll quit here.
re: John Talbott
Re Sacre Coeur, we were appalled last visit to see the rampant illegal sale of beer, mostly to underaged kids, on the steps of SC. Piles of carton trash piled up, broken glass, adding new meaning to all the old saws about urine stench in Paris as a stream snaked its way down the steps to rue Lamarck. Selling water out of iced buckets near bridges and monuments is one thing; beer is quite another, IMHO.
Two weeks plus 3 days and with an apartment, you have plenty of time to explore and be tiny little bit spontaneous. Take advantage of it and don't plan everything. Is not like you have to cramped everything into a three day visit. And the variables: rain and maybe even a strike or two. Your post reads like a tour; got dizzy reading it.
Yeah, that's what I need to watch out for, since I tend to overplan! You should see my color-coded spreadsheet (at least it's easier to read than the post) :)
I'm trying to limit myself to a few reservations per week, mostly for the fancy lunches/dinners and be more flexible for the other days. At least now that I've done some research I am armed w/ my giant spreadsheet and google map of possible restaurants for whichever corner of the city where we would wind up any given day. I'm hoping I don't have to make reservations for the bistros/brasseries and be able to "wing it" some of those days.