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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!

first thoughts after landing on malta

From the airplane Malta looks very flat. Looking this way and over there, one can see a rise, a hill of some kind, but generally from the plane Malta is flat.

Malta is warm in September, in the mid-80’s Fahrenheit. During the cab ride into Valletta, I started taking off clothing. I flew from Paris where I woke up one morning in late August feeling autumn in the air.

During the 15 minute cab ride, I decided Malta was flat.

After getting acquainted with my apartment, which is near Il-Forti Sant Iermu (Fort St Elmo), I left and started capturing images. I was no longer in Paris. I was immediately fascinated by the balconies.

Valletta, Malta , or Il-Belt (“the city” in Maltese), is a small city and the European Cultural Capital for 2018. In 1980 Valletta was officially recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The streets are narrow and many permit only pedestrians. They do not meander, but are laid out in a grid. One can look for long distances up and down each street, either seeing the Mediterranean Sea or a wall that surrounds the city. On each side of a street many balconies, sometimes in a patchwork, jut from the walls. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) 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!

montparnasse 1900 & the belle epoque & fast french food

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” ― George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

You might decide not to venture into the restaurant Montparnasse 1900 in Paris. You might notice the large fancy windows and the classic bistro tables and chairs outside, then decide to look through the door into the dining room of the restaurant, and see the elaborate art nouveau Belle Epoque decor, but then say, “I cannot afford a meal here.”

That would be a mistake. The Montparnasse 1900 serves “French Fast Food.” It is my own assessment of its cuisine during the lunch hour. (I have never eaten during the dinner hour.) The meals are rather inexpensive and the dishes are not complicated. Many of the plates are prepared in advance thus the designation “fast food.” Only the main dish will arrive warm.

The restaurant is known for its “Menu Belle Epoque.” For 36 euros you will be given an aperitif, an entrée, a main dish, a cheese course, a dessert, a 1/2 bottle of wine, and finally a coffee. Not bad. However, if you examine the menu, you will note that the only dish which needs preparing at the moment is the main dish. If you order fish, it will be cooked and arrive with mashed potatoes. If you order the beef, it will be cooked and brought to your table with mashed potatoes. French Fast Food.

The food is good bistro fare despite my characterization of its preparation. The restaurant is worth a visit, and I will go back once again. I like the Menu Belle Epoque.

It is a popular restaurant. It fills quickly. I recommend arriving around 12:30. I was the only foreigner.

Paris has a number of restaurants that have been designated by the government as historical monuments. Montparnasse 1900 is one of them, and for that reason it worth eating a meal there.

The restaurant space was created in 1858, bought by the Chartier brothers in 1903 who opened eventually two other restaurants–Bouillon Chartier and Bouillon Racine–in the Belle Epoque style. The brothers renovated the space in 1906 and gave it the beautiful nouveau art decor.

In 1986 the government listed it as a historical monument. It went through some more periods of restoration, and in 2003 it opened its doors once again. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!