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Posts from the ‘Paris’ Category

where will i eat today? or choosing a restaurant while visiting france

Eating well in France is important to me. Sometimes I organize my day around eating in a specific restaurant.

I live in France six months during the year, three months in Antibes, two months in Paris, and one month in Marseille. During those six months, I will eat lunch in a restaurant every day. Most of the time I will not repeat a restaurant. One can do the math. I eat in French restaurants 180 times each year.

If I am going to fly to France twice a year and spend between $1,000 and $1,500 for each ticket, I do not want to eat sandwiches or pizza or other fast foods while I am there. When I leave the apartment or hotel room in the morning, I do not want to carry a sack lunch nor do I want to eat “grab and go” meals. I want a good hot meal and I want to drink some wine. I will not become French when I am in France, but I can certainly pretend.

How does a visitor to France pick a restaurant? After all, eating in France should be an experience in itself. I suspect that most tourists choose a restaurant on the spur of the moment. If they are at Notre Dame, they will look around and choose one nearby, or select one that offers a menu that they understand, or pick a place that seems inviting or does not appear threatening.

That is a mistake. But, what should one do?

What do I NOT do?

Rarely will I rely on Yelp or TripAdvisor. (In fact I have blocked TripAdvisor on the my browser.) I am in France. Why would I take the advice of English speaking tourists, mostly Americans, when choosing a French restaurant in France?

I do sometimes make an exception. On the advice of Annie Sargent from The Join Us in France Travel Podcast, I have begun looking at Yelp reviews written in French by the French. That means typing into the search engines yelp.fr instead of yelp.com. But wait, there’s more!

3–sunday in the park with michael, or how to visit paris without seeing the louvre

On a Sunday in August in Paris, I had eaten a good meal at Bouillon Racine, a restaurant decorated in a Belle Epoque style. The lunch was all right, good, but the chance to admire the decor was the best part of the experience.

When I left Bouillon Racine, the afternoon had reached its peak. It was 13:30, maybe 14:00. I did not want to continue on a trajectory toward the Seine and the Boulevard St Michel, but instead decided to circle around the northern side of the Jardin du Luxembourg. I walked on rue Vaugirard toward the northwestern entrance to the Jardin and entered there.

My goal for the day was the restaurant and the walk to it. I had hoped to identify the tourist site later, if one happened to appear during the walk.

My day as a tourist, as mentioned in an earlier post, focusses on three components: a walk, a restaurant and meal, and a tourist site, in no particular order. It is my contention that a rewarding day in a foreign country can be experienced without checking off important sites recommended by a guide book. The hard part is thinking about the walk or the lunch first and only later hope that a famous place will be seen and, if not, saying, “Oh well, I had an excellent day anyway.”

As mentioned, I turned into the Jardin du Luxembourg and headed south in the direction of home.

Passing the chess players to the left and pausing for a moment to watch the tennis players in courts to the left as well and noticing couples or families or individuals who were sitting on the benches that line the walk to the right, I veer a bit through the hedges and stop at the model for the Statue of Liberty. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

La Liberté Éclairant is not the actual model that Bartholdi donated to the Musée du Luxembourg; it is a bronze replica. The original was withdrawn in 2012 for “raisons de conservation.” But wait, there’s more!

2–sunday in the park with michael, or how to visit paris without seeing notre-dame de paris

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” –Orson Welles

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words, like ‘What about lunch?'” —Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

Spending a lot of money on a trip to Paris suggests that the “bang-for-the-buck” better be good. Deciding to focus on a restaurant instead of a major tourist site takes courage. There are no guarantees that the meals will be good. They can be mediocre and expensive. The choice of a restaurant should, therefore, be well considered.

For this Sunday meal I have chosen a restaurant because of its design; it is in the style of Art Nouveau and heralds from the Belle Époque period. I believe that Bouillon Racine has been designated an historical site.

At the end of the last post in this series–“1–sunday in the park with michael, or how to visit paris without seeing the eiffel tower”–I had walked from Place Denfert-Rochereau, had passed through some parks, and had finally entered the Jardin du Luxembourg.

I continued my walk toward the Luxembourg Palace and altered slightly the direction I was taking toward the northeastern exit. Bouillon Racine is not too far from there, only a few blocks, a turn right then left then right. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

The Luxembourg Palace and the gardens to the south of it have an extraordinary history. It is my most favorite place in Paris. I return to it each visit. But wait, there’s more!

1–sunday in the park with michael, or how to visit paris without seeing the eiffel tower

The temptation is to see the biggies.  That is, those famous sites which everyone sees during their first visit to Paris and which everyone asks about later, if they had not been to Paris–ever–and would certainly want to visit themselves if they had a chance to go, one day. The Eiffel Tower. Notre Dame. The Louvre. Sacre Coeur. They are the biggies.

I suggest, however, an alternative approach to Paris. The tourist destination is important, of course, but I would add two equally important items to an itinerary: the meal, i.e., a visit to a restaurant, and secondly, the walk, i.e., becoming a flâneur.

Instead of choosing a destination as the goal for the day, select the walk or a restaurant, that is, the meal. The tourist destination will appear. If it doesn’t, the meal and the walk will be sufficient to call the day a success. You are in Paris.

I will illustrate by narrating a Sunday in Paris in August–a day in the life of a flâneur.

Lately, I have been staying, one might say living, in the Denfert-Rochereau quartier

Sunday, August 27, I decided to eat at the restaurant Bouillon Racine. The bouillon restaurants have an extensive history in Paris, especially in the mid-1800’s and the early 20th century, not only for the type of food they served but also for their Art Nouveau decor. A good meal–hopefully–at Bouillon Racine, a restaurant that has an history and a beautiful setting, was my focus for the day.

Where I was to eat was decided. The other two items, the walk and the tourist destination, needed to be considered.  I could have taken the #38 bus anytime before the lunch hour and arrived within a block of the restaurant.

My wish was to walk, however. That is a part of my method. When I arrived home in the late afternoon, after the walk and the lunch and seeing the tourist places, I had walked about 7.5 kilometers.

À la Defense Nationale 1870-1871. Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris. The statue of the lion dominates the plaza. Avenue Denfert-Rochereau then Boulevard St Michel goes north through the trees.

From the Place Denfert-Rochereau I walked north on one of the major boulevard, Boulevard St Michel. Bouillon Racine is a few doors off the boulevard. What would I see before I arrived?

It is a pleasant walk and quiet. Large walls of an hospital and apartments line the west side, as well as apartments on the east side. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

The end of Avenue Denfert-Rochereau opens up to Port-Royal and a busy intersection. But wait, there’s more!