It had been a long time since we’d travelled to Paris. Our extension remodel was complete and Joe was fully recovered from his heart surgery. There were a lot of wonderful exhibitions that were going to be in Paris over one period of time. The only problem was that if we wanted to maximize the exhibition visits it would be in the cold of winter. The upside would be that hotels would be available and maybe even offering winter promotional rates. We packed our winter gear and headed out.
We stayed at our current favorite hotel — Best Western Aramis St.-Germain
This hotel is in the most incredible location. It’s in the 6th, a 1/2-block from Boulevard Raspail, across the street from St. Placide Metro and steps from the Rennes Metro, AND a bus stop directly in front of the hotel. It’s a 3-star hotel with comfortable rooms with refrigerators and coffee making facilities.
For the better part of a week we…
…ATE at our favorite restaurants:
Hokkaido: We’ve been going here since we first moved to Paris. It’s really one of our favorite places.
Crêperie Little Breizh: This little crêperie is in the most incredible location in the 6th. They don’t take reservations and there’s always a line but it moves fairly quickly. It’s well worth the wait!
Le Reminet: Another one of our absolute favs. When we lived in Paris we would take advantage of their luncheon “menu” (sometimes called Formule) because we liked to be home on the barge in the evenings vs having to travel in to the city for dinner. At the time it was 14€ for 3 courses. Usually you had a choice of two items for each course (not free choice of the a la carte menu). It was always excellent. It’s a little pricier now, but still an excellent value. Since we now stay in Paris we like enjoy their dinners. If you can plan in advance we can take advantage of discounts up to 50% (conditions apply) by making reservations with lafourchette. The discount doesn’t apply to beverages, and each person must order 2 items from the a la carte menu. What we usually do is one of us orders a starter that we share. We each choose a plat (main). And then we choose a dessert that we share also. Unless of course, the desserts are too incredible to share.
Joe had the salmon and I had the scallops. For dessert it was a chocolate and fruit presentation that was absolutely killer.
L’auberge de la Reine Blanche: is an old haunt of ours from decades ago. It’s a cute little restaurant on the Île-St. Louis. We spent a Revillion (New Years Eve dinner) with Michael back in 1999. It was crazy. Since then it’s changed hands a couple of time and serves more “standard” more diverse typical french menu items but the friendly service and atmosphere makes up for this. Again, if you book through lafourchette you can get some good discounts on the meals. But they also have a very good formules that include unlimited wine. They also still offer prix-fixe menus at very attractive prices even in the evening, which many restaurants are no longer offering.
L’as du Fallafel: No visit to Paris is complete without heading over to the Marais for a Schwarma or Fallafel and frites at this institution. It’s madness, there’s always a line outside but again well worth the wait. Nothing fancy inside (as you can tell by Joe checking the marque on the bottom of his plastic plate). They have a take out window but then what? It’s a real mess to try and eat these standing up on the street or taking it over to the Place des Vosges to sit on a park bench.
Indulged in french caramels by Henri Le Roux, chocolates and kouignettes at Georges Larnicol. Oh the kouignettes! One can’t resist to bite in to one of them as soon as you exit the shop. A stop at Larnicol is perfect to fuel Joe at the Starbucks across the street while I shop at Aroma-Zone.
We went to SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS…
We were incredibly fortunate to be in Paris when there were a number of exhibitions that we would enjoy. We organized our visit so that we went to a special exhibition every day.
• We started at the Fondation Louis Vuitton (a museum we’d never been to) with their Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection. It was an amazing collection of artists like: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Albert Marquet, Paul Cézanne, André Derain, Henri (dit Le Douanier) Rousseau, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, Paul Signac, Odilon Redon, Georges Braque, to name a few. Fortunately we bought our tickets well in advance as people without tickets were standing in line for 3-4 hours to get in!
• Next was Bernard Buffet Retrospective at the Musée d’arte Modern de la ville de Paris. Joe was familiar with Buffet and said I’d like him. His signature is what many people remember about his works. I hadn’t seen much of his work but I really enjoyed the exhibition.
• We lucked in to getting tickets for opening day of an excellent exhibition entitled Camille Pissarro: the first of the Impressionists at one of our favorite museums, the Marmottan.
• Another wonderful exhibition was Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) The Youth of Impressionism at the Musée d’Orsay.
• There was also a Bernard Buffet Intimement exhibition at the Musée de Montmatre. Though the exhibition was much smaller it was more enjoyable as we had never been to this museum. We took the funicular up to Sacré Coeur and wandered through Place de Tertre to the Musée. Signs of Spring were popping up through the cold air.
Photos of our favorite Buffet works:
• The best of the best was that we got tickets to the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting at the Louvre! We bought our tickets almost a month prior. When we got to the special exhibition entrance we couldn’t believe the line! Advance tickets were sold out for weeks ahead. We were reserved for an exact time but we found that so were hundreds of others. We had to stand in a line for ticket holders for our time. We waited about 90 minutes before we were let in. It’s tricky with selling tickets for an exhibition that was going to be so popular as people didn’t move through the exhibition in a timely manner. They needed to control the number of people that were in the exhibition area at any one time. It was worth all the waiting. Superb doesn’t even begin to describe it. Turns out the Louvre didn’t expect the response for this exhibition and the lines were a daily occurrence. Typically French the guards went on strike because so many people were complaining about the long wait even having advance tickets.
And I indulged in Brocantes…
Paris isn’t the ideal place to find the bargain jewels that I used to find in the countryside. But it was fun to wander, people watch and maybe find a curious item that I’d ask the vendor what is was. There’s one photo of an item that looks like a hatchet. I couldn’t figure out what it was. When I asked the vendor he told me it was to cut sugar, as in those days sugar was bought in hard blocks. Imagine that it’s survived through the decades to end up at a brocante.
We even went to the massive sprawling Puces in St. Ouen. The Puce can be pretty confusing as it’s actually a bunch of little sections with vendors stalls interspersed between connecting alley ways. I included a photo of one of the sections to get an idea of the layout. It’s easy to get lost. Each stall usually has it’s speciality: furniture, coffee grinders, silverware, Dinky toys, copper. There were a couple of sections that had some pleasant shops and cafes in them. Again, it’s not where bargains are to be found. Prices are high but many tourists give them business because of the “oh, I’m on vacation” attitude.
As you can well imagine, the week flew by and it was time for us to pack all our treasures in our bags and head home. We never say adieu but rather a bientôt when we depart as we know we’ll always return to this magical favorite city of ours.