What is it that makes Paris such a great city to walk in? There are no straight
lines in Paris. On the map, perhaps, but in the Paris of the eye and the mind
there are mostly soft, easy, curved lines. The genius of Paris civic design is
the system of the "toile", the star. There is no "grid."
Nothing is quite square. Streets radiate from a focal point: a church, an arch,
an obelisk, a garden, an Opera House. Streets curve gently in the eye. The lines
of the Mansard Roofs, some slanted and some curved, reinforce this impression.
Buildings, as a consequence, are often trapezoidal, rather than square or
rectangular. Nothing repeats itself geometrically. Small parks with beautifully
tended flower gardens greet you as you promenade.
From the 17th Century onward, Paris civic architecture found ways to incorporate
shops into public spaces.
The 17th Century Place de Vosges surrounds a lovely park with buildings that
accommodate shops within an arcade and apartments above. In the 18th Century the
Palais Royal brought shops within a neo-classical public space with offices of
civic administration and grand apartments above. Grand residences throughout the
period (the famous "Hotels" of Paris) feature stunning interior
courtyards, often with formal gardens.
The Place de Vosges with its Arcade of Shops
The Palais Royal with its controversial "sculpture garden" and
its ground floor shops and grand apartments
A shop in the Palais Royal specializing in antique medals. An adjacent
shop specializes in famous designer clothing from the '20's to the '60's
Surreal view of 50's Fashions with the Courtyard of the Palais Royal
Reflected in the Window.
A Fountain in the Palais Royal
Architectural Details at the Palais Royal
The interior courtyard of the Hotel de Sully
There are two formal gardens in Paris that
should be high on your list to visit:
The Tuileries Gardens
Paris is a city replete with small, entrepreneurial shops. Beautifully arranged
window-displays vie for your attention. From early childhood children are
exposed to the visual arts. Even the street market vendors arrange their wares
to please the eye. The visual aesthetic abounds. It's a matter of taste.
A Wine Shop Window
A Vendor of Alsatian Specialties
A Specialist in Goat Cheese
An Array of Game Birds
Breads at the Bakery Paul
Deli Items at Gargantua
Foie Gras at Fauchon
Desserts at Fauchon
A Butcher Shop
A shop specializing in dried fruits
Vegetables at the Farmer's Market
Flowers at the Farmer's Market
A shop specializing in baby clothing, etc.
Gallerie Vivienne near the Palais Royal has some interesting shops.
For the ultimate in window shopping head for the Place Vendome.
Cartier, Bulgari, Mikimoto, Boucheron, Van Cleef et Arpels, are
all represented here with stunning window displays.
Parisians themselves are aware of the way that their appearance strikes the eye.
Men and women are beautifully groomed. There's a "scrubbed look" to
them. Haircuts are uniformly terrific. Even some that are slightly
outrageous are designed to please and not merely to attract attention.
Dress is never a "uniform" following the latest fad but always
calculated to look right "for you". The human form is neither flaunted
nor hidden. There are no pants with the inseam down to the ankles and no belly
buttons sporting a silver ring. Parisians don't stare but handsome, even sexy,
features deserve a good look.
Walking together "he" is not pushed out of shape if "she"
checks out other men (or women!) and vice versa. A brief "drama of the
eyes" is one of the pleasures of Paris. Courtesy abounds. Never do you have
a door snapped back in your face.
And there's always a "Merci!" when you hold the door. Parisian (indeed
French) courtesy is very special. Mutual respect runs deep, in a very
Modern France was built on the phrase, Libert, Egalit et Fraternit
Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. In many ways it cuts across all social strata.
There are no commands.
Always there is Sil vous plait or "IF IT PLEASES
Bring me a coffee! will be greeted with an icy stare and poor service. Un
caf, sil vous plait will elicit a smile and attentive service.
Its so simple, once you understand!
Pet dogs are
impeccably clean, groomed and well behaved, almost an accessory to their masters
look. Don't be surprised to see the dog curled up under the table at the foot of
its owner dining at the local bistro.
Paris looks great in the gray of winter. And when the sun shines, Paris dazzles
in the way that San Francisco or Venice light can dazzle the eye. But Paris
twilight can be stunning too, the so-called "Blue Hour": that pale
blue-light that diffuses itself throughout the city.
I tried to capture this blue-light in a photo of Notre Dame Cathedral taken from
Paris: The Blue Hour
And after dark, lights flood the public buildings in dramatic and
, the "City of
system of city layout does present something of a problem trying to negotiate
around the city. Emerging from the Metro you are often confronted with eight
possible choices of direction. There are detailed street maps (either upstairs
or downstairs) which show a street plan of the area. Select the exit closest to
the street that leads to your destination. Rather than consulting a large
foldout map, carry the small "Paris Pratique," available at most news
kiosks. Every street sign in Paris tells you which Arrondissement you are in.
Turn to page 7 for the map of the 7th Arrondissement (etc.). A quick scan will
usually pinpoint your location and destination.
The Metro is a snap. Trains are identified by their last stop. You rarely have
to wait more than five minutes.
Which brings me to an unfortunately sour note about Paris. Pickpockets abound.
If you walk along with a large foldout map you become a sitting duck. A
pickpocket will position himself so that you bump into him and an indignant
"you bumped into me!" and the loss of your wallet will ensue. Always
position yourself defensively in a crowded Metro car (wallet pocket against a
door, etc.). A favorite ploy is for a pickpocket and accomplice to jostle you
from behind making a last second exit with your wallet, just as the closing door
prevents you from giving chase.
The old escalator trick has the partner accidentally (on purpose) drop something
at the top resulting in a pile-up of bodies and a wallet lost to an accomplice.
Suspend courtesy. Push your way over and out of harms way. Don't advertise
yourself as a tourist (camera hanging from a string around the neck, stopping to
gawk in crowded pedestrian traffic, etc.)
An ankle strapped container for passport and excess paper money is one way to go
if you're wearing pants. Exiting a crowded Metro car, head for the sidelines if
you're not sure where to go rather than stop dead in a rush of exiting
pedestrians. Avoid getting bumped from behind at all costs.
These tips are true for any large city but even more so for Paris. Be savvy, not
Gypsies used to be the terror of Paris, purse snatching and grabbing exposed
wallets in broad daylight. One harried woman outside the Louvre was hanging on
to her purse as a gang of gypsies tried to wrestle it from her. I ran up with
forked fingers pointing and loudly chanted some demonic sounding gobbledygook.
They literally s**t in their pants and ran in several directions. Laughs and
loud applause from bystanders rewarded the finest role I ever played!
The Louvre, of course, has no peer in its combination of richness, importance
and diversity of its artistic treasures, its clear organization and syntax of
departments, the fineness of its installations and displays and the overall
ambience. And there are so many additional worthy museum destinations to select
from, including, of course, Versailles and the Muse D'Orsay.
Investing in a 5-day museum pass @ 50 Euro is a good idea. They are available at
most Metro ticket counters (you will no doubt also be buying the "Carnet de
Dix" 10 metro tickets at approx. 10 Euro).
The pass entitles you to VIP entry at some 50 museums, bypassing long ticket
A View of the Louvre from the Jardin du Carousel
The I.M. Pei Atrium at the Louvre.
view of the
Pyramids at the Louvre
Sun on the Louvre
The Muse D'Orsay across the River as seen from the Jardin des Tuileries
The new (newly renovated) Muse Guimet (Oriental Art)
rivals the Brundage in its collections and state of the art
I always enjoy a visit to the Muse Nisim de Camondo (18th Cent. French Art and
decors) out near Parc Monceau at 63, rue de Monceau. (This is closed
Mondays and Tuesdays, by the way.)
The Rodin Museum is always a pleasure. It's located at 77, rue de Varenne
and is closed on Mondays.
The Sculpture Garden
Fatigued by the vast wealth of treasures at the Louvre? Spend an hour or
two in the Cabinet of Medals (Cabinet des Medailles et Antiques) at the Bibliothque
Nationale de France, (58, rue de Richelieu A.P.) and view its small but
exquisite selection of objects d'art. This is open in the afternoon
from 1 until 5.
The newest star in the galaxy of
great museums in
is the new
and Anthropological Artifacts: Muse
du quai Branly. The following link will give you some idea of the
richness of the collections:
the Metro #1 to La Dfense and explore the truly awesome contemporary
architecture. It's at 1, Parvis de la Dfense and is open from 9 in the
morning until 7 or 8 at night.
A Play of Reflections in Mirrored Faades
Looking South from the Grand Arche
Looking North from the Place de La Dfense
A Garden and Skylight of a Rotunda given a 'Cubist' Play of Forms by the
use of Mirrors"
the sightseeing, museum going, shopping, walking that you will be doing has a
way of sharpening the appetite, abetted by the street smells of Terrines slowly
cooking in ovens, bread baking, etc. Wonderful restaurants, bistros, cafes
abound. Once settled into your chosen hotel there will be great places to eat
within walking distance. One strategy that works well at times is to spend the
morning in intensive museum going. Make lunch the day's primary dining-out
experience, as most restaurants do not do significant "downsizing" of
the dinner menu at lunchtime. The afternoon can be spent walking and/or shopping
leisurely. A late afternoon snack will carry you through an evening at the
Opera, Ballet or Symphony.
Otherwise make dinner the main attraction of the evening. Be sure that your
limited French at least extends to "Bon Jour", "Merci",
"S'il vous plait," and the food items on a restaurant menu.
A lot of my Paris Restaurant favorites are quite personal. After the Opera
or the Ballet, which might not get out much before 11, we head for Chez Denise
(a.k.a. A La Tour de Montlhery) near Les Halles, open round the clock but closed
Saturday and Sunday. You can have a huge copper pot of "Tripes au
Calvados" (enough for a dinner party of four) washed down with a liter
bottle of house Brouilly. There's Foie Gras (about 4 oz.!) served with a large
glass of Sauternes. It's raucous and tables full of Parisians with trencherman
Chez Denise with l'eglise Saint Eustache in the background.
de Veau and Tripe au Calvados at Chez Denise. They do a great Brochette of Beef,
Steak Pommes Frites, Lamb Braised with White Beans, etc. for the less
The young crowd on
a budget head for Le Trumilou, a block and a half up the quay from the
Hotel de Ville. The patron Monsieur Drumond (" Ah, Monsieur Gorman
so nice to see you again! How's the wine shop in California?")
orchestrates the scene with speed and aplomb and always has a few goodies on the
wine list from the Beaujolais and the Southwest. Duck with Prune-Plums is
a must. There's an excellent 18 Euro menu.
Near the Odeon on the Right Bank is Aux Charpentiers on the rue Mabillon.
Past the great zinc bar thrifty Parisians are dining in unpretentious
elegance. Best Pied de Porc in Paris and there's always an
interesting wine to try from a short but select list. For the most recent
visit, lunch included starters of a Crayfish Tails and Baby Spinach Salad,
and across the table Eggplant Caviar with Goat Cheese, Pimento Pure and
Basil-Infused Olive Oil (fantastic!) These were followed by a perfect Milk-Fed
Veal Chop, cream and porcini mushroom sauce, and perfect house-made egg noodles.
My dining companion had his favorite Pied de Porc. A delicious bottle of
Morgon (Cru Beaujolais) served properly at very cool cellar temperature
accompanied our meal. Desserts included Frozen Nougat with Raspberry Pure and
a slice of Tarte au Mirabelles. Oui, ca c'est Paris!!
Up the street is THE place to buy
your state-of-the-art stove and convection oven and all manner of accoutrements!
Maison La Cornue
18 rue Mabillon
I returned after several years to Brasserie Bofinger with its stunning
Belle poque dcor. Dont be surprised if the service is under-par by Paris
A Terrine of Lamb Sweetbreads
Choucroute de Poisson
in the 14th Arr. is La Rgalade, a "new" Bistro with a Southwest
accent but reservations well in advance (two weeks to a month) are a must.
The most exciting cuisine, however, is at Chez Michel behind the Church of
Vincent de Paul near the Gare du Nord. Here's one dinning experience: a starter
of a Pt en Croute of Feathered Wild Game with a lightly dressed salad of
Barbe de Capucin (an exotic chicory), arugula, etc. No Cornichons, but a small
crock of pickled wild mushrooms give zest. Across the table, my associate had
Fresh Baby Abalone in a Pure of Potato and the "Tomalley" of the
Abalone. Then I had Veal Sweetbreads, Salsify, Garlic, in an incredible Sauce
Reduction, the whole covered with shavings of Black Truffle. My dinning
companion is enjoying an incredibly rich stew of Loin of Baby Goat, Chestnuts
and Black Chanterelles. Terrific!
(@ 35 Euro) and an excellent bottle of 1er Cru Burgundy
(@ 30 Euro) added to our enjoyment of the meal.. The restaurant has a base three course menu at 30 euros. But
all the most inventive cuisine is listed on the blackboard with notes like
"10 euro supplement" Don't hesitate. Go for it!
At my most recent visit there was a starter plate of Fresh Cpes (our Porcini)
in a veal/white wine/mushroom stock reduction, garlic and tiny crunchy croutons.
Across the table there's a Ceviche of Lobster Meat, peeled and seeded tomato,
mesclun greens. Both fabulous! The Half Braised Pheasant is on a bed of Braised
Cabbage and Carrots. The rest of the pheasant is in a cocotte off camera,
including a chunk of duck foie gras! Awesome! The Grouse was a well hung breast
stuffed with forcemeat of the leg, roasted and served with Black Currants and a
pool of a Cassis reduction. Terrific bottle of Burgundy
@ 35 euros!
Course at Chez Michel.
and Pheasant at Chez Michel
had the pleasure last trip of having lunch at Aux Lyonnaise, serving up the
classic cuisine of
for over a century. Here you will find the cuisine that formed the base for the
cuisine of Paul Bocuse before he went off the deep end. "Lunch"!! For
starters: a gratin of chanterelles, blanched cardoon, and cream, topped with a
thin crust of melted "Gruyere" type cheese. What an unlikely but
incredible combination! Then on to a Braised Poussin with Crayfish Tails and
Fall veggies (petit pois, baby carrots, salsify, baby turnip.) A
bottle of 2004 Reuilly Rouge accompanied. Then a Souffl avec Mirabelle.
Picture this:!! a frozen sorbet of Mirabelle topped with an exquisite Mirabelle
infused Souffl in an individual little souffl dish! How did they do it!! The
repast called for a splendid 1990 Marc de Chambertin (Trapet). Such gastronomic
If your budget can handle it, dine at wine importer Michael Sullivan's (Beaune
Imports...excellent wines!) "favorite restaurant in all of
L'Assiette. It features simple, straightforward and utterly fresh and highest
quality ingredients, a restaurant that would serve as a paragon for Alice
There is exceptional Basque Cuisine at Au Bascou including many wines of the
region. (Go for lunch and visit the near-by and fascinating Muse des Arts et
And lastly, an exceptionally "tony," "now" restaurant in the
1st Arrondissement : Pinxo. To call it "Asian Fusion" would do it an
injustice. It's pure French Cuisine which in not afraid to go East to expand its
repertoire of ingredients: e.g. quick grilled skewers of baby squid and Spanish
pimento accented with deep fried chips of garlic and shaved ginger; stunning!
38 rue Ramur Tel 42 72 69 25
181 Rue du Chteau (14th Arr.) Tel 43 22 64 86
10 Rue de Belzunce Tel. 44 53 06 20
9, rue d'Alger - angle de La Rue du Mont Thabor
Tel. 40 20 72 02
49 Ave. Jean-Moulin Tel. 45 45 68 58
84 Quai de L'Hotel-de-Ville (4th Arr.) tel: 42 77 63 98
10 rue Mabillon (6th Arr.) Tel: 43 26 30 05
CHEZ DENISE (aka A LA TOUR DE MONTLHERY)
5, rue des Prouvaires (1st Arr.) tel 42 36 21 82
GAEL GREENE ON PARIS:
My perennial favorite
is Hotel du Lion d'Or. Centrally located in the 1st arrondissement. M. Amour and
his staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. Indeed after so may years it has
become something of a home away from home. The building is early 18th Century
with much exposed stonework and ancient wood beams. No elevator but you
appreciate working off a few calories from that slice of foie gras, which
you could afford because of the reasonable hotel rates.
If you prefer more deluxe accommodations you would be best advised to peruse the
lists of Hotels in Time Out and Rough Guides. I've seldom been disappointed by
either web-sites recommendations.
Ordering tickets on line for concerts, ballet and opera is a snap but you should
allow at least three months lead time for best availability. You pick up your
tickets at the box office about an hour before the performance. Here are some
The old Opera House (Garnier).
The New Opera House (Bastille).
A cityscape from the top floor.
The Grand Staircase.
Night at the Theatre du Chatelet.
Mural over the Bar at the Chatelet.
Versailles is a must if you've never been. Here's where the Museum Pass is a
godsend as lines for tickets are often hellacious.
Fontainebleau is most pleasant.
Walk through the forest gardens to the Chateau and don't miss the grand entry
staircase and the series of frescos by Rosso Fiorentino, commissioned by Francis
I. These are great Mannerist works showing the influence of Michelangelo's
frescos in the Sistine Chapel.
You can visit the Cathedrals of Chartres and Le Mans in one day. My favorite
French Gothic Cathedral is at Amiens, an hour by express train out of Paris
(Gare du Nord). It's the largest interior space of all the French Cathedrals and
truly awesome. The newly cleaned and restored portals display some of the finest
examples of Gothic Sculpture. A little restaurant just opposite the Cathedral
had some exceptional cuisine for lunch: Le Petit Bedon, 6 Rue Cormont.
A visit to Chateau de Chantilly takes an hour or so by train from Paris and a
pleasant walk to the chateau, making a delightful day trip. The original chateau
was destroyed during the Revolution and the current building is a more or less
copy dating from the 19th Century.
main reason for the visit is to view the picture galleries of the Muse Cond.
The collection is perhaps second only to the Louvre in France and includes two Raphael's
that are worth the trip. The building that did survive from the 18th Century is
the nearby horse stables. It seems that fortune-tellers convinced the Prince de Cond,
a fancier of horses, that he would return after his death incarnated as a horse.
He commissioned the construction of truly palatial stables, for me one of the
most remarkable of all architectural spaces. It also houses a fascinating
"Museum of the Horse." You don't have to be an equestrian to
appreciate a visit.
after a Parisian Vacation in February of 2004 and updated in Spring 2005 and
Spring and Fall 2006