I’m tempted to say that you’ve never had a good meal until you’ve scoffed your way through Paris but of course that’s a gross exaggeration and terribly unfair to every other gastronomic city on earth.
But if I did say that, it would only go some way to indicating just how much I love eating in Paris. The Parisians love food.
OK OK the FRENCH love food, but in my wanderings about France I found that the food served up in the capitol took first prize, by some considerable margin.
To describe the delights of French onion soup slurped down al fresco and sat on a rickety old chair with scores of stylish Parisians filing past on their way home is almost too much to tackle. The croissants, the orange juice, fried eggs on richly buttered French loaf in the morning – mmmm. Coffee that warmed your extremities and gave you vigour to take on the day.
I liken eating a simple breakfast in a Parisian café to gazing at a priceless Da Vinci. It’s hard to fathom exactly why its so damn good. But it just IS.
Here I go talking about food again.
This article was not meant to be about food I promise. But when it comes to Paris…..
My last visit to the most romantic city on earth (and it still is I think) involved me staying in a dilapidated old hotel just opposite Notre Dame and around the corner from the famous Shakespeare & Company book shop.
Climbing the stairs to my room was not for the faint hearted. The steepness of the climb, the narrowness of the passageway and the creakiness of each and every step made me feel relieved that I was of the slimline physique. One extra croissant at the corner café and I am convinced that I would have brought the whole fragile, ancient assemblage crashing down to the first floor and leaving me with a pair of broken legs.
The stairs held and I managed to get my suitcase up there too. Not without the odd perilous moment though.
There are two ways to approach Paris. Well, there are two ways to approach a visit to any part of this astonishing planet of ours I suppose.
One can either do what most tourists do or one can try and copy the locals. I try as much as possible to follow the latter doctrine, and it usually pays off.
I’ve never been up to the top of the Eiffel tower. I probably never will. I have though seen the catacombs and I am a regular visitor to Muse De Louvre. I don’t spend all day there mind you. I generally make a beeline for the Mona Lisa and spend about 10 minutes gazing into her mysterious eyes before turning right and filing slowly past the most extensive collection of Da Vinci oils on planet earth. Breathtaking.
I will always take a walk up to Montmartre and gaze at the view over Paris from the steps of Sacre Coeur. The view from here means that one really doesn’t have to stand in line to hump your way up the Eiffel Tower .
The artist’s quarter is vibrant and fun but very touristy. You’ll be inundated with offers from artists to sketch your spouse in 15 minutes.
Don’t do it. They’re crap.
The highlight of any trip to Paris for me comes about on my walk down from Montmartre, down rue Germain Pilon to my favourite restaurant – Chez Toinette.
I first stumbled upon Chez Toinette years ago while ambling about the foot of Montmartre in the early evening and spotting a glow through a window that invited further investigation.
I peered through a misty pane into a charmingly hap-hazarded scene. A small space of old wooden tables and rickety chairs, chequered table cloths and cultured wine racks, candles and dried flowers. Around one table sat two chefs and a waiter pouring over samples of fresh ingredients and hastily prepared examples. The passion for their craft was thick in the air as they slurped and smacked and smiled and I knew then that I had happened upon something special.
My girlfriend and I feasted at Chez Toinette that night, and the night after….and the night after that which was our last on that particular visit.
I’ve been going there ever since.
Chez Toinette, 20 rue Germain Pilon.
There is so much to do in Paris and these articles are not meant to list all the scores of attractions that you can find in any online travel guide. But I do implore you to visit Au Lapin Agile which is a renown cabaret venue that is famously informal. So much so that it feels as though one is sitting in a Parisian family kitchen with the family in residence performing for you personally. The wine is extortionately expensive but the performers are literally at your feet.
Warning – you may be asked to chime in with the odd chorus.
I love a walk through Père Lachaise Cemetery. Its huge and so many famous historical figures are buried here. I like to visit Edith Piaf myself.
You will get lost.
Special mention must be made of the Parisians.
They have a reputation for being rude and abrupt but I’ve never found them to be anything other than charming. They will speak their mind and if you’re in the way you will be told to shift but they are always very helpful when I need them to be.
They are absolutely the best dressed and stylish people I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how they do it but they exude taste and panache from every pore.
Lastly, Paris is a wonderful city for love and to be in love in.
Take your partner or find one when you get there, either way, love is in the air in this beautiful city and you must make the most of it.
Paris – Food and Love.