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Apr 7, 2014 10:42 AM

Paris in May- 4 days, 3 people, 2 first timers, and a budget….

Hello dear CHs.

I have been reviewing the board and food blogs for a while but am overwhelmed by the options in Paris. My mother sister and I are travelling there mid May to celebrate my sisters upcoming wedding. Should be very special, as it has been my sister "life dream" to go to Paris.

Given that we are only there for 4 full days (one of which is our arriving day, early morning), we have lots to see, and I'm trying to plan to ensure that while we are busy seeing, we also have planned food destinations. Of course this means we are limited to meals in particular areas on particular days.

I know this list is far from polished- but I am lost, and would so appreciate your advice. We don't mind spending money on a good meal, but that being said, the likes of Le cinq and L'Atelier Joel Robuchon are out of the question. I am looking for great French food- with meals varying from classic to modern. I want a great meal of escargot and steak tartare,not sure where that would be. On days we have walked a lot, would like to keep dinner a reasonable distance from the hotel, as I fear my mother will be too exhausted otherwise.
I am also looking for good breakfast options-which seems challenging since we are staying on the Champs… any thoughts on that? Please help!!!!!

Thurs (arrival day):
Lunch: Plan to walk near the hotel and to Printemps to let my sister enjoy the shoe department. Thought about lunch at Benoit.
Dinner: wanted somewhere near Eiffel tower (or walking distance)- was considering Chez L'ami Jean or David Toutain…

Lunch: Morning at the Louvre- need a lunch option near by (maybe Verjus for sandwiches?) Ice cream at Berthillon (if lunch could be near by even better)
Diner: Have requested (emailed) dinner at La Relegade (I know this gets mixed reviews- so if there is a better more consistent option in the same price range, please let me know!) If we can't book La Relegade would be looking for another option anyways, and location wouldn't matter.

Lunch: We are doing a food/walking tour of the Latin Quarter, and thought about grabbing sandwiches from Gerard Mulot (if we are not too full from snacking during the tour) and desert from Pierre Hermes to enjoy in Luxomberg gardens.
Diner: No idea… is Chez Georges a bad idea?

Lunch: Planing a trip to Versailles, will grab lunch from the market.
Dinner: Have booked Allard, but upon reading more reviews have second thoughts. Suggestions? Something special and memorable for our last night? Location doesn't matter.

Is it way too late to book at Frenchie? Also, my french is quite poor at the moment- will I have luck calling to book any reservations you might suggest?

Okay- have at it/me…. I'm sure you have much to offer in the way of advice.


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  1. Sorriest I must be a very careless reader.
    You say you want to dine at "a reasonable distance from the hotel".
    Could you remind me where your hotel is? I can't seem to find your mention of its location. My recommendations may be a waste of your and my time.

    A quick glance at your picks, may I suggest:

    Try not to have two major meals on the same day. For example Benoit and and Chez l'Ami Jean on the same day is having two overdoses on the same day. Go to one of them. John Talbott does not allow me to recommend Chez L'Ami Jean. But I can't recommend Benoit.

    For Allard, Chez Georges kind of dining, I would go to Chez Denise instead.

    Saturday: instead of grabbing sandwiches, which is a regrettable way of eating for Paris, why not have a handful of tapas at Dans Les Landes. It is well located near the Latin Quarter, has great food at reasonable price and wonderful, efficient service by hunky waiters. The reservation process is not insane.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Thank you for the suggestions. I am sorry I was not more clear- we are staying on the Champs near George V station.

      I will look at your suggestions- much appreciated!

      1. re: shariberri

        The misunderstanding is all mine. A haze comes over my world, called Les Creisses 2010.
        Your hotel's area is not the greatest for the kind of restaurants you are looking for, or for good restaurants in general, or for any place where locals go (therefore I may be entirely wrong. It may be full of great eateries. I never go there.)
        The only place near you where I would go is Aux Marches des Palais, very nice traditiona, non-bank-breaking place.

        And don't be afraid of the metro. The metro frequency is about 2, 3 minutes per train. Famous for our impatience, we Parisians start to bitch to high heaven when we have to wait more than 3 minutes for a metro.
        Chez Denise is easily reached by metro from where you are, about a 20 minute metro ride+walk.

      2. re: Parigi

        I don't know why Benoit is so disliked. It's a good refined restaurant: the room is wonderful, the staff are great and the food is wonderfully classic. I suspect it's either an "anti Ducasse" stance, which is a shame because he does seem to save some beautiful rooms, preserve some great restaurants, and delivers very classic food. Or it could be the value for money, because it's not cheap (although it has a better value set price lunch menu) and if you don't stretch to Le Cinq it's not a bad alternative.

        I appreciate some love CLJ but it's a different beast - an old pub, sophisticated dishes with a rustic edge, and very high energy.

        CLJ is rock'n'roll whilst Benoit is a string quartet.

        1. re: PhilD

          I'm with you -- I don't like Ducasse but Benoit is rather good. That said, it's no string quartet, which is the highest form of musical expression. It's a nice piano bar is what it is.

          1. re: souphie

            Excellent snails though. Not belonging to a paleontology museum like the ones at L'Ami Louis.

            1. re: Ptipois

              Had Louis today, still my fave anywhere, bitch about them as much as you like.
              My guests loved them as well.

      3. Kudos to Parigi, l was going to replace Le Regalade with Chez Denise.
        l was going to replace sandwiches with guess what DL Landes.
        Why walking distance, if the steps of many metro stations are difficult for any of your party, take cabs, and your distances are seemingly not great so should be @ 10 euros/trip not much more than that, vs. 5 euros per group on metro/buses for the bunch of you

        17 Replies
        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          I am clearly not on the ball- I did not mean walking distance- so sorry! I just meant I wouldn't want to trek my mother on a 45min metro ride just for a meal (I would/have happily done this and much more- but I'm catering to a group).

          A metro ride of 20--30 min is absolutely fine!!! The only meal that would be nice in walking distance is breakfast.

          Sorry again- and sounds like I have two great additions to my itinerary!

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            On the Champs there is Napoleone the new Etchebest bistro open from noon to late. Dr John reviewed it on his blog late last year but I can't recall mention on CH. Maybe a good option after a hard day seeing the sites - looks like you need to book.

            Avoid the metro and taxis if you can. Better to use buses if you can as you see far more of Paris from them than you do in a underground train or taxi. RAPT has apps that make navigation easy and you buy carnets of tickets from any metro and most tobacconists.

            1. re: PhilD

              You as most Parisiens always say avoid the metro as you will see more of Paris from above ground.
              That is indeed true, however, in addition
              1/ You will rarely get a seat.
              2/ Your toes will be trod upon.
              3/ You will be squshed by others.
              4/ you may have to wait in inclement
              weather outside
              5/ Your wait for the bus will usually be
              at least double the wait for a metro.
              6/ It will many times take far longer to
              make your trip on a bus.
              Example Charonne to Place Rungis, two metros and a 0.5 kilometer walk, @ 40 minutes all the time
              On the 76 bus to Louvre, then the 67 it takes at 4 PM @ 1hr, 45 min.
              l am a metro guy.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Or you could get the 56 bus from Charonne to Porte de Saint-Mande, and then the 3a Tram to Poterne des Peupliers - should take 40 mins as well.

                Obviously better if its not cold and raining but isn't there an app that tells you when the next bus is coming so you can time your wait?

                I also find the Metro interchanges can be lengthy involving lots of steps - buses lower for access to those with movement difficulties.

                1. re: PhilD

                  All true as well.
                  BTW, your routing takes 2 tickets.
                  Timing does not work when at a transfer

                2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  May I add :
                  7/ Heavy traffic at rush hour, regular weekend road closures in the scenic bits, and many many traffic lights in the central districts otherwise ...

                  1. re: shakti2

                    May l add
                    8/ Many busses do not run on weekends

                  2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    As an absolute Paris bus fan (I hardly ever go underground except if I have no other choice), I am not exactly in agreement with my dear friend's DCM description.

                    It is true that:
                    - Buses are slow (you get more time to see Paris)
                    - You rarely get a seat (actually not so rarely, I always manage to get one at some point)
                    - About the squishing, the trodding, it only depends on what time you pick. You should avoid the 5-7 PM hours and watch the timing on the LCD boards: sometimes two buses arrive close apart and you can hop into the second one.
                    - I would say buses are not necessarily the best way to go to a restaurant unless you have at least one hour's time if you're far away, but they're excellent if you're rather close and also when you leave from the restaurant.

                    I believe buses are truly the best and cheapest way to see Paris while not being on your feet. I use them all the time. Métro knocks me down. Not unsafe, just tough to be in.

                    Using tickets is only good when you're there for three or four days. If you're there for more than a week, get a Pass Navigo Découverte: it's only 5 euros, does not contain any personal information and you can charge it weekly as you wish. Then you don't have to worry about changing anymore (from bus to bus, from métro to bus, etc.)

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      I'm hopping on the Ptipois/PhilD bus bandwagon.

                      Like my fellow bus fans, I'm not an absolutist. For most trips, the bus works better than the métro and for others, the métro is more convenient. It just depends on time of the day, the distance, the route, with or without shopping/ packages, and whether any transfers are involved. My own rule of thumb is that métro is fine (despite getting groped and running the risk of pickpockets) if it's a straight no-change run. But I will go out of my way to avoid a change of trains at one of the labryinthal interchange stations. And I almost always avoid the métro when I'm carrying shopping, etc. In general, I do tend to enjoy the bus much more and rarely have problems/ delays taking it from home in the 6th to the office near l'Etoile... an extra 10 minutes by bus is hardly a heavy price to pay for the extraordinary scenery that I'm privileged to see along the way. My favourite and most usual form of public transportation is, however, the Vélib... in good weather and breaking a few one-way regulations on the way, just 10 mins from home to office ... and there just happens to be Vélib station around the corner from my two favourite breakfast places, the Café Fleurus and Bread & Roses. I do have a car (mostly used for weekends) but, even if I didn't, I'd probably use the AutoLib' car-share thingey and/or taxis.

                      1. re: Ptipois

                        l have had a Navigo for years so no not my problem on transfers, but for the OP or infrequent traveler might be an issue.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          As I wrote, if one stays in Paris for more than 4 or 5 days, getting a Navigo Découverte costs almost nothing, you can charge it on a weekly basis and just keep it warm for the next time you come.

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            I agree and have used Navigo now for three years, but planning is required. The smaller than passport ID photo can be done with a "selfie" and a modern printer-or using the photo booth in the metro. My wife and I travel about central Paris and even out to St Denis Basilica with Navigo. Since we each have 4 to 6 daily metro trips we save a lot.

                        2. re: Ptipois

                          Count me among the bus types, despite the fact that because of surface conditions, they are less reliable than Metros. But my reasons have little to do with visual treats (although seeing the billowing fruit tree blossoms yesterday a la Amarcord en route to lunch was cool); no I prefer the bus due to my aging knees.

                          1. re: John Talbott

                            Don't the Metro stations provide an elevator? Never used one, but seem to recall they were an option. How about at Lamark-Caulaincourt, which I recall being the worst for steps?

                            Answering my own question...."There are roughly 50 Metro/RER stations within central Paris that have elevators and accessibility for wheelchairs. The stations listed on this map are the reduced mobility accessible stations. Although the stations themselves will be accessible, very few Metro / RER lines have roll-on accessibility for the train itself. Metro Line 14 and RER E have complete roll-on / roll-off access for wheelchairs right onto the trains and all station stops are accessible by elevator. The other Metro lines that have accessibility up until the train itself include Metro Lines 1, 2, and 13. The RER B train, popular for its CDG Airport to Paris route, has complete accessibility only at Gare du Nord."

                            1. re: hychka

                              "Don't the Metro stations provide an elevator? "
                              Not all.

                              1. re: hychka

                                Yes but only at a few stations and then not for all lines. Your map may seem to indicate they are accessible but if you look at how many stations or lines at stations are missing you can see the issues.

                                The big problem is changing lines which usually mean lots of steps. The elevators only go from the street level to a specific platform they don't help you cross lines or move between platforms.

                                What your map does show is how many bus lines have buses that facilitate access for people in chairs. The buses drop to the curb and have reserved chair space.

                    2. Some of the places mentioned have online reservation systems that are helpful for visitors.

                      Dans Les Landes is a place we are going to this May, here is online link-

                      Also on is Metropolitian, a very good modern bistro in the 4th.

                      Terroir Parisien is also very good. They have a website where you can make an online reservation. The Bourse location seems to be getting more love these days.

                      1. Agree with the bus people completely, but as l am very impatient, time is my major consideration, thus the metro.
                        Again for example just had to go to St Paul area from Bd Voltaire.
                        the 76 bus would have taken me door to door, but when at stop needed a 13 minute wait, took 9 to Nation, then 1 to St Paul and got there before the bus would have arrived at original pt. of departure.
                        Plus my bus stop at Charonne was exposed, but good weather so not an issue.
                        Different strokes/different folks, strictly my preference and has always worked for me.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          This native's attitude toward the metro is somewhat in between.
                          1. The metro is the least favorite of all the public transport.
                          2. When I have a time constraint, metro is my preferred transport, as it offers the best time management, often better than a taxi. (But some posters on this thread are so pathologically late that they may not know what a time constraint is…)
                          3. My fave transport is walking. Great views, great experience, great time control, great weight control. What not to like.
                          4. After a meal, I never take the metro. Never never never. Who wants to get into a smelly place after a good experience with good tastes and smells, duh !

                          1. re: Parigi

                            OTOH, remember my license plate and thus avatar

                        2. Thanks to those who have contributed, and thanks for the unexpected debate about metro vs bus- I will consider this when planning our daily travels.

                          Any more thoughts on restaurant choices, or must-do's in this time frame?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: shariberri

                            Apologies for taking your thread on a little detour... one of the more delightful features of the France board. :)

                            But back to you.

                            Re Champs
                            The Champs Elysées has a deadening effect on food quality and an inflationary effect on prices in the neighbourhood. My office is just steps from the Arc de Triomphe and good-value good-food eating in the area is always quite a challenge for me.

                            If you can tolerate the garish modernism, you can get a relatively good breakfast (with egg) in the brasserie of the Publicis Drugstore at the Etoile-end of the Champs... they also serve Pierre Hermé pastries (not sure exactly if they get their deliveries in time for an early breakfast) at astronomical prices i.e. 17€ each !! ... but if you abstain from Pierre H's quite excellent goodies, the prices are not really unreasonable for the area.... opens at 8am on weekdays, 10am at weekends... and stunning view of the Arc de Triomphe if you're lucky enough to get one of the window tables. At the Rond Point-end of the avenue, Le Napoléone (suggested by PhilD) near rue Marignan is also a breakfast possibility ... continuous hours from 9am to 1:30am but the kitchen isn't geared up to do much cooking until 11:30am or so... but certainly pastries and coffee and maybe some eggy stuff for breakfast (I've only been for lunch so can't be sure) ... it's also a very convenient place for lunch, afternoon tea, apéros, dinner and late night snacking at, of course, Champs-typical high prices... the executive chef runs some seriously good restos in the 18th, 15th and 14th and, even though Le Napoléone is the least good of his 4 restaurants, it is heads above the other eateries on the Champs. For a very pricey breakfast, the opulent Maison Ladurée on the Champs @ rue Lincoln (i.e. 200 metres from métro George V) is open from 7:30am on weekdays and 8:30am on weekends... full breakfast with eggs, fruit, juice, pastries, etc for, gulp, 30 € but you can reduce the pain by at least half by picking from the menu rather than going for the "formule"... there's also a weekend brunch for 40 € but not available until later in the morning.... and a modern-day Tower of Babel sometimes... occasionally the only language not heard is French.

                            Close to your hotel means high prices. But have a look at the Table du Lancaster on the rue Berri, Restaurant Le W (but only recommendable if the roof terrasse is open) at the Warwick Hotel on the rue Berri, Le Boudoir on the rue Colisée, the Restaurant de l'Hotel Vernet on the rue Vernet, I'Instant d'Or on the ave George V, Le Charbon Rouge on the rue Marbeuf, Maison de l'Aubrac on the rue Marbeuf and the already suggested Le Napoléone to see which appeals and fits into your budget. Food is above average for the neighbourhood for all of them.

                            Do NOT play it by ear... the area is a minefield of overpriced mediocrity.

                            1. re: Parnassien

                              Do NOT play it by ear... Paris is a minefield of overpriced mediocrity.