Friday, November 23, 2012

Paris in November

Last week, my sister and I stole away for a bit, I with the bump in tow — because it may be a while before we can pull off such a caper again. Paris is lovely this time of year in its sleepy, drizzly way that allows colors to pop against the gray. The bones of the trees are showing. Without the usual fray of tourists, the city feels truer than in higher seasons, and you notice things like a row of school children trooping down the street en route to a weekend camping trip, kerchiefs tied neatly around their necks and pint-sized packs and bedrolls on their backs.  

We ate, we walked, we shopped for our babies. We ate some more. We took in the Musée d’Orsay's "Impressionism and Fashion" exhibit. 

All the best fall things were out: Chestnut desserts. Truffles. Wild game on the menus. Pumpkin soup and scarves. There was a slow mist falling much of the time, and now and then a thread of woodsmoke curled through it.  
100% chocolate
Without Thanksgiving to stand in their way, the French are already decking their city in Christmas lights and garlands. And we thought American stores were shameless!
After 4 days, the travel bug had been sated and I was ready to get back to Ben and the girls. Onward to turkey, food drives, holidays, family, and not too far in the future, a new baby. 

Here's a round-up of a few favorite spots we managed to hit (and for more, check out last April's post Paris with kids):
Shops and Markets
  • Sunday Bird Market on the Ile de la Cité: I accidentally wandered into this little oasis on my last day in Paris and remembered it had been one of our first destinations, on my first, long-ago trip to the city. Bird and animal markets always make me feel kind of sad, but the sound of all that birdsong concentrated in one place is completely transporting. 
Veggie paella at the Marché Bio
  • L'Epicerie Breizh Café: Recently opened next door to Breizh Café (see below), this shop stocks Breton delicacies such as salted caramels and Bordier butter. 111 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd.
  • Merci: Stylish concept store in the 3rd, with clothing, home items, perfumes and knickknacks. A portion of proceeds goes to charity. 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 3rd.
  • Monoprix: France's answer to Target, with stores everywhere — though not so cheap anymore with the current exchange rate. The baby and children clothes are good quality (particularly the under-3 year old sizes) and I always come away with an armload, along with a couple jars of Amora mustard from the grocery section.
  • Sunday organic market (marché bio) on the Blvd. de Raspail, between the Rue de Rennes and the Rue du Cherche Midi (6th). Pricey but gorgeous produce and a lively, convivial vibe.
  • Huilerie J. Leblanc: The artisan oil boutique has moved from its boutique at 6, rue Jacob, into Tomat's Epicerie Fine, at 12 rue Jacob (back in the courtyard) in the 6th. My favorite oils are the pistachio, the hazelnut and the walnut. They will bubble-wrap the bottles for you to travel.  
  • BonTon: I have a hopeless weakness for this adorable (and pricey) kids' store, which stocks clothing, home items, and gifts for babies and children. 82, rue de Grenelle, 7th & 5, blvd des Filles du Calvaire, 3rd
  • Le Bon Marché: High-end department store worth checking out just for its amazing food hall on the ground level (La Grande Epicerie de Paris). 24 Rue de Sèvres, 7th.
  • Vanves Flea Market (Le Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves): Saturdays and Sundays, Ave. Marc Sagnier & Av Georges Lafenestre, 14th. If you have a good eye, you might find treasures among the haphazard displays. Though not as great a value as it once was, it's still less expensive than the more curated Marché St. Ouen (Porte de Clignancourt).
  • La Cigale Récamier: 4, rue Récamier, 7th. Who can resist the perfect soufflé, especially after staggering off the red-eye? The menu changes with the seasons. I had the pumpkin with Emmental cheese and Cassie got sea urchin soufflés baked in their spiny shells and presented on a bed of seaweed. We finished with a chocolate soufflé, served with a tiny pitcher of dark chocolate sauce to pour over it.
  • Les Papilles: 30, rue Gay Lussac, 5th. Bistro/wine bar near the Luxembourg gardens. Choose a bottle of wine off the shelf (wine is only by the bottle, and you can take any left over to go) and settle in for dinner — 4 courses of hearty fare that change nightly (set menu, i.e. no choices). There's usually a soup and a meaty dish, a simple cheese course, and dessert. You'll leave pleasantly sated, so plan on walking.
  • Rose Bakery: 30 rue Debelleyme, 3rd (also with locations in the 9th and 12th): Cozy, English-owned café if you're looking for a change from the usual French breakfast. Quiches, tarts, scones and other baked goods made with organic ingredients.
  • Breizh Café: 109 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd. A favorite in the Marais. Oysters and crêpes, hard cider. My savory buckwheat crêpe: smoked duck, sautéed mushrooms, and Jerusalem artichokes. Dessert: Chestnut cream crêpe served with chestnut ice cream and whipped cream.
  • Spring: 6, rue Bailleul, 1st. Multi-course tasting menu by American-born chef Daniel Rose, served in a small dining room around an open kitchen. A delicious meal (the venison was perfection), and the service was very friendly.
  • Bread & Roses: 7, rue de Fleurus, 6th. Organic bakery and light lunch, tea and coffee.
  • Vivant: 43 rue des Petites Ecuries, 10th. Fun vibe, solid food, and natural wines. Our reservation got messed up, so we ended up at the wine bar next door, which serves a simpler menu of tasty plates.
  • Little Breizh (no relation to Breizh Café, above): 11 rue Gregoire de Tours, 6th. Nice little crêpe shop if you're in the neighborhood, hidden among touristy places.
  • Juveniles: 47 rue de Richelieu, 1st. Always a fun gathering spot, run by Tim Johnston, that attracts Parisians and expats alike. Great wines and food (I worked here many years ago)
  • Le Verre Volé: 67 rue de Lancry, 10th. Fun, hip, and no-frills wine bar and bistro near the Canal St. Martin. Generous portions of tasty food and people-watching (very Brooklyn in Paris!)


  1. Great post! Paris travel during winters can be a nice idea. Paris is certainly the most gorgeous place in France and it has gained probably the most attention from tourists as every year a number of tourists plan their holiday tour to Paris. If you want a romantic break, then Paris is the perfect place for you. It is the city of love and glamour having several eye catching sights and attractions. If you love art and unique tributes, Paris can offer all of them as it is the home of modern fashion, museums and monuments.

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