Dining & Drinking, Paris
The Place des Vosges in the Marais is a wonderful place to catch the Parisians in non-posing action. Amid the beautiful square are little parcs where the locals bring their bébés to play.
As I passed thru one day, I saw a young, chic maman trying to get her child to slide down a 2-foot 30º-angle slide and watched a little 3- or 4-year old expertly kicking around a soccer ball.
This is also a beautiful place to stroll when the hubbub of the Marais wears you down. Listen to the playful rush of the fountain as you admire the lovely apricot glow of the ancient buildings surrounding you.
Then stop off for un café at one of the sidewalk terrasse cafés (Ma Bourgogne or Nectarine) surrounding the square; a prime opportunity to people-watch and not nearly as touristy as the Champs-Elysées or St-Germain-des-Près.
Nearby is the Maison de Victor Hugo.
Photos: Feb 2006
There are dozens of areas in the city dedicated to purchasing fresh food. Locals still practice the custom of buying in small quantities daily. There will be stalls selling fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood; plus bakeries and places preparing ready-to-eat dishes (sort of like take-out).
One that was close to our hotel was Rue Poncelet, of which I took the pictures below.
Other more famous markets are: Rue Cler, Rue Mouffetard, Rue Montorgueil, Marche St. Germain, and Marche Raspail.
There are all types of different Crepes in Paris. I was surprised though that they didnt make them with real fruit. For example strawberry crepes were made with strawberry jam. They were fairly inexpensive. We did though have some haagen daz crepes that were pricey but very good.
They sold crepes everywhere so they are not hard to find.
I ate at the Restaurant Le Camélia and recommend it highly to gastronomes. Then I walked through the town and along the Seine, also highly recommended. It's really fantastic to get away from Paris traffic to spend a few hours in a village atmosphere only minutes away.
I know you can do all that in Versailles, and I love the sculptures and parks there, but by now, in my experience, I prefer places like Bougival, where artists used to go and paint.
In most countries a brasserie = brewery is a place supposed to brew beer. Not in France where a brasserie is a place where one can drink beer, wine, coffee, sodas all the day but also eat breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The difference with a restaurant lies in the fact that the food served in a brasserie is generally (with exceptions) rather simple, less elaborate. Most served are salads, omelettes, toasts and steak frites. Nothing complicated to prepare especially at noon time when the brasseries are often full because employees have lunch there as well as people doing their shopping in the centre.
Do not assimilate the food of a brasserie to that of a Fast Food; there is an ocean of difference. A cultural difference and a dietetic difference. The problem of overweight is linked here to the "Burger" type food and the Parisiennes and Parisiens are, from what I observed, keen on staying slim especially in the areas with luxury shops like around La Madeleine or Place Vendome
You will see in a brasserie that most women eat salad. There are usually a dozen different ones on the menu. But even salad is not cheap in Paris, often around 12 € for a "Salade Caesar" type.
To be slim is a necessity when eating or drinking in a brasserie because the seats and the tables are so terribly close to each other.
Inside is non smoking; outside on the terrace is for smokers.
Crepes are the ubiquitous street food of Paris. The word "crepes" refers to both the final dressed product and the thin pancake itself. Unfortunately, no one knows the Origin of Crepes.
There are literally hundreds of Dinner Crepes Recipes and Dessert Crepes. Crepes can be filled with a veritable cornucopia of ingredients, in whatever combination the heart desires. Fillings can be lacking in freshness and quality, ingredients can be too sparingly used and worst of all, the crepes can be soggy and limp.
Galettes are a type of crepe whose crepe recipe is made with sarrasin (buckwheat). They do not have a particularly different taste once everything is added in; the identifiable difference is that they have a whole-wheat color. Sweet crepes are also called sucre;
In French restaurants you don't have to order wine or bottled water. We always get a "carafe d'eau" (pitcher of tap water) for free. It is perfectly all right to ask for this; no one will think you either strange or cheap. We often get a bottle or glass of wine as well, but not always. We have noticed many people do this, especially if they are driving.
If you want to save money, there are lots of ways to do it. When you do order wine, be sure you know how much you are paying for it. The one time we didn't ask, we ended up with a 54 euro bottle of wine. It was good wine but that is way beyond what we will usually pay. We learned a lesson . . . always ask.
Café de Flore (172, Boulevard Saint Germain). If for no other reason than to sit with history, you should have at least a cafe at Café Flor.One of the rare cafès that during WW II was able to serve its customers underneath the bombs. On its chairs some of the most famous writers, philosophers and artists spent entire days dialoguing and building up a new idea of society: Picasso, Sartre, De Beavoir, Giacometti are just some of their names.
We had arrived a few hours earlier from London on the Eurostar. After finally getting out of the Gare du Nord train station (a warning tip) we went to our hotel to drop off our bags and freshen up. We then took our first Metro trip (took RER from Gare du Nord) and got off at St. Michel. Walked over toward the Cathedral of Notre Dame and since we had about 1 1/2 hour until our bike trip we stopped off for a quick sandwich at this stand just down the street from Notre Dame
Thanks for the great tips. For breakfast we are simply looking to have a tea or hot chocolate and maybe a baked good. For lunch, that tuna sandwich sounds great. For dinner, we are looking for local eateries that are charming, reasonable (locals would eat there), romantic mood or atmosphere. Also, where is the best place when visiting the Eiffel Tower to buy a baguette and some cheese to sit on the lawns below and have lunch?
For those Americans on their first time out of the U.S., a big difference you will find when dining is the waiters will not be rushing you away from their tables by giving you the check immediately -- or ever, until you ask for it. You will be sitting forever if you don't request the check. And for Europeans coming to the U.S., expect the check to be shoved at you any time from when your food first arrives till you say you've had enough, depending on the quality of the restaurant, but don't feel like you have to leave -- just a difference in the custom.
This is the advice of Gulliver on The Economist:
Eating and drinking
• When dining out in Paris, it is easy to be intimidated by stroppy-looking waiters, long menus and longer wine-lists. Relax.
• Grabbing a sandwich for lunch at one’s desk confirms Parisians’ worst stereotypes of Anglo-Saxons. Lunch, a sit-down affair, is treated as a real break from the office, and conversation over food is not necessarily work-related.
• Don't turn up at 8pm for an 8pm dinner and expect anyone to be pleased to see you. Most Parisians won't arrive until 9pm (and dinner will probably start at 9.45pm). Conversely, it would be rude to overstay your welcome: once one couple leaves a private dinner party, the others will follow suit. This means that most private dinners are over by midnight.
• Wine at a business lunch is becoming unusual in Paris. But to refuse wine at a dinner could be considered odd. Whatever the circumstances, it is extremely bad form to drink too much. Equally, it is still bad form to object to a post-prandial cigarette or cigar (Nicolas Sarkozy himself is partial to the occasional Havana).
• Tipping is simple. A 15% service charge is automatically added to your restaurant bill, and no extra payment need be made. However, it’s a good idea if you intend to return to leave a modest amount; even just a couple of euro coins will be appreciated.
• As a rule, French waiters take their work seriously. They would not dream of indulging in the gushing familiarity that marks America’s dining rooms. You and they should first exchange a formal “bonjour/bonsoir Monsieur/Madame”. On the other hand, they will happily explain what is on the menu.
• Unless you are a connoisseur, it is wise to ask advice on what wine to drink. Even in quite humble restaurants the waiter will have the expertise to make a suitable choice. The same is true for cheese (eaten before the dessert). Moreover, whatever the standard of restaurant, the waiter will quite probably speak some English and be proud to use it.
• Water normally has to be asked for (and rarely comes with ice); loud voices are not appreciated; and in posh restaurants even the least stroppy waiter may sneer (at least inwardly) if you order a Coca-Cola to go with the chef’s haute cuisine.
• Smoking in bars, cafés and restaurants has been banned since January 2008, although establishments can provide a sealed-off room for smokers.
We had walked to the Pantheon on rue de Soufflot and then continued on past the adjoining church Genevieve, walking down rue Valette you can admire some local restaurants and apartment buildings as you quickly come to the square where Le Pub is located on the corner of rue Lanneau. This is a lively place with tables and chairs outside and people enjoying a drink and something to eat.
It looked like the local pub, a nice place to pass a few hours. Should you not feel like a beer just wander around the square, listen to the music and admire some of the old buildings.
Just remember, be polite...if you are not sure about something-ask!
Unlike the USA, the waiter will not bring the check until you ask.
The gratuity is included, but leaving an extra Euro or two is appreciated.
One of the things that every visitor to Paris must do is dine at one if its many fine restaurants and bistros. The latter are often less expensive. Also, taste one of the many fine wines available. Bordeux and others cans be found quite easily throughout the city. Also note that many restaurants dont open for dinner until 7:00pm.