Dedicated to “uncle” Jess, thanks for your advice and wish you were here.
Home is nothing without family. Family is more than blood. While there’s no denying genetic relatives as family, the more modern version of family broadens to those we love, regardless of the origin of relation. To that note, my beloved “aunt” Judy and “____” Paul are in town. Why the quotes? While we may not be family in the dictionary, the relationship is such as family.
Having adults visit has broadened by vision of Paris, as well as improved it. As a relatively poor student, I’m willing to search for the cheap places, and to go wherever. Settle is a good word for what we do, things may not be perfect, but we’ll take them. A mentor used to teach “my compromise is your sellout.” Settling is a compromise, in that sense, its a sellout. I understand it, but being cheap means giving up a degree of taste and quality.
But not when family visits. Freshness, ambiance, and taste rule when money is less of an issue. So without hesitation, here’s some of Paris’ best based purely on stimulus, a day of indulgence.
The first step of a truly enjoying Paris is to be there in good weather. We’ve been blessed with weather warm enough for light jackets and the ability to ride the Velib (bike sharing system) or walk rather than take the metro. That makes a difference. Rather than negatively expose yourself to artificial light and the stench of human waste, treat yourself to fresh air and sunlight.
Start the day at Broken Arm. (Note, we are staying off of Place de la Republique, in the 10th / 11th /3rd arrodissment area). Both a store and cafe, its one of the best places in the city for a cafe creme or espresso. High quality single origin beans and dedicated baristas that weigh out their espresso shots make for perfect tasting and quite strong coffee, accompanied by fresh juices and smoothies, and divinely baked cookies and cakes, as well as granola and stand out granola. Beyond the food, the space is open and full of light, and the grandness is filled with a constantly wonderful playlist.
Brought back to life by the miracle of well-done coffee, hop on a Velib and ride to Montmartre. While full of tourists, the Sacre Coeur never ceases to amaze, nor does the view of the skyline from the top. On weekends, one of my favorite street performers juggles a soccer ball, then continues to do so while climbing a light pole. Loop around the hill to see the Place de Tertre, Picasso and Renoir’s old studios and the love wall at Abbesses. Montmartre is worth checking out because it is a splendid indication of Paris in the past, full of windy narrow streets rather than grand boulevards.
Despite its own appeal, I chose Montmartre as the touristy location of the day to set us up for lunch at one of my all time food favorites Rose Bakery. Fresh ingredients skilled cooking and a comfortable space with hearty wheat bread and rich butter and the option of big fresh juices make it a must eat. The tartes, which resemble quiches have the best dough I’ve eaten, the omelettes are sublime, the pizzettes drool-inducing, the salads of the freshest greens and hands down the best israeli couscous ever make it delightful for the hungry explorer. A myriad of languages and customers ranging from their 20’s to 50’s and beyond making it a melting pot of niches, united by good taste. Get a cake because indulgence is about taste and happiness over body image, and you can lose the weight on the Velib.
Next stop is just up Rue des martyrs, Kooka Boora Just like Broken Arm, they use good beans and pay strict attention to their technique while making coffee. I mostly drink espresso, but Paul appeared to have died and gone to heaven upon his first sip of his cappuccino. If you are still hungry, get a cake there, they are real good. KB is also a great place to go and study. Good music, a relaxed vibe and strong wi-fi add to the comfortable seating for a place cognizant to working – a rarity in Paris.
You can’t indulge without art. But especially if its a weekend, something its easy to forget your indulging with art if you try to go to a museum with the rest of the tourists in the city. For this reason, go to the Musee Rodin (Metro Varenne). It is small, most of it is outside in a beautiful garden, and it is focused on one artist of immense talent, the sculptor Auguste Rodin. Working primarily in the late 19th century, Rodin’s works are not quite realistic, but show powerful emotions, and extraordinary talent. There is the added treat of views of the golden dome of Invalides (Napolean’s tomb and the hospital for those wounded at war) and the Eiffel Tower). Its easy to take your time, sit on benches, and reflect, or merely enjoy an outdoor space accentuated by art.
Since we’re already in the 7th, and since we love coffee, head to Cafe Coutume. It sounds repetitive but its important. The space is comfortable, they play good music but most importantly the coffee is top notch and made by skill and attentive baristas. Its a good pick-me-up.
Once again, super caffeinated, its time to get active. Its late afternoon, so follow tradition and stroll. As evidenced by the Impressionists, walk as if you seem just to be walking, but watch the world go by as a thoughtful observer. Its called being a flaneur. From Coutume, head to Blvd. St. Germain to Rue du Bac, cross the Seine, and wander the Tuileries and the Louvre.
You may feel tired, but shouldn’t after all the coffee. If you do, head to the Cafeotheque. On the right bank of the Seine by Pont Marie (just east of Notre Dame), they focus on single origin beans from around the world and prepare them with the utmost attention. If not, its time to drink.
You could go to any cafe and get a drink, but its indulgence time, so find a small wine bar with an interesting looking crowd and try a wine you have never heard of, but that the server recommends. Rule one, forget about Bordeaux. As I wrote earlier, things get talked about and become popular, regardless of their esteem. France is full of good wine, so go off the beaten path. I’ve had great success with Bergerac and Bourgongne, so try one of those if available. Sit outside, take your time, and maybe order a second glass.
Time will come to dinner. Paris is full of delicious options and I won’t list them, but this week we have been to Robert et Louise, Au Fils des Saisons, and Breizh Cafe, all great options. There are thousands others. The only rule is do your research and make reservations. Recent reviews are key, as are notes in magazines, newspapers and blogs. If there is too many bad reviews, or not enough buzz in general, find somewhere else.
Unless you are a clubber, end your night at the Experimental Cocktail Club, a bar that feels like home. Groovy mixes of funk, jazz and hip hop are cool but noninvasive, and the drinks are creative, and combine new and delicious taste with the kick that you want. Richly decorated with wood and leather, its the perfect place to drink whiskey and gin cocktails improved with fresh juices and herbal flavorings. L’attrape coeur and the Old cuban were my favorites – whiskey and rum based respectively.
Remember that you could create days like this a thousand times over in Paris. The coffee you would repeat because its rare to get good coffee, and I covered nearly everything. But eating, drinking, art and shopping (which I didn’t even touch) are endless.
Hit the city, adventure, enjoy, indulge.