Boarding a plane for the first time in 2.5 years, my first destination had to be Paris – for I needed some form of practical application for the past 3 years of French lessons, and some reassurance that what I’ve learnt was indeed useful.
I stayed in 2 different 4-star hotels, Hotel États-Uni Opera (2e Arrondissement) and Hotel Paris Bercy Le 209 (12e Arrondissement), both of which I would recommend. The former was brilliantly located at a close proximity to various tourist attractions. By foot, you could easily visit the Louvre, Palais Royal, Jardin des Tuileries and Galeries Lafayette. The latter, though significantly further from central Paris, was a safe area and allowed me to visit less touristy and crowded neighborhoods like Bastille. Both hotels were also right by the metro stations.
Our first meal was at the patio of Café de Flore, perhaps (one of) the most Instagram famous cafes in Paris. Braving the cold winds (there was a long queue for indoor seating), we tucked into the best onion soup of my life, a hearty duck parmentier and hot chocolate, and an alright smoked salmon sandwich.
Nearby the café were 3 quintessential museums I visited – Musée d’Orsay, for its Van Gogh, Manet and Monet paintings (+ a sneaky shot of the Eiffel Tower); Musée du Louvre for Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace; and Musée Rodin (less touristy), dedicated to Rodin’s sculptures and some paintings by Van Gogh and Monet. Buying all your tickets online prior to your museum visit is a must to avoid even longer queues and disappointment.
From the Musee d’Orsay which was right next to River Seine, I strolled along the quay of the river, sitting on benches occasionally to people-watch and cruise-watch. Moving east, I passed by Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame, which was still under re-construction works. I also stopped by and queued to enter the most popular bookstore in Paris, Shakespeare and Company. It was one of my best bookstore experiences and well worth the wait.
Right next to the bookstore was my dinner venue, Le Petit Châtelet, serving classic French cuisine. The main dishes I had (Beef tenderloin, beef cheek, duck confit) were remarkable, but I would advise to skip the desserts which were average.
One of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris was Montmartre. As much as it was a very touristy area, the cobbled paths and white-washed buildings were nonetheless charming and the view from the Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur was spectacular. Some other spots in this area were The Wall of Love and the Halle Saint-Pierre (less touristy) which held an art exhibition during my time there.
Though there were a good selection of bistros and restaurants within Montmartre, I would recommend exploring Pigalle (just below Montmartre) for food as well. Perhaps the most photographed restaurant in the area, I headed over to Pink Mama to join the line for lunch. Thankfully, bar seats are available for those without reservations and I got in for the first round of seating. The food – burrata, ravioli filled with rabbit ragu, octopus, tiramisu – was decently good, and service was impeccable.
Le Marais was my other favorite neighborhood. It was full of hippy cafes, bistros, restaurants and boutique shops (homeware, flowers, candles, perfumes, vintage clothes, chocolates). For my café-hopping tour in this area, I went to:
Boot Café – a small and cozy café which only opens on the weekends. Admittedly, the coffee and bakes were not fantastic but the vibes were great.
I.O Café – good coffee and pretty good bakes.
Dreamin Man – great coffee and exceptional vibes, with lots of regular patrons who were friendly with the baristas. A must visit.
For food, I would recommend Robert et Louise which serves different meats grilled over a wood fire. Featured above are the rib eye steak and duck breast with honey sauce that we ordered.
I also had the chance to explore the Bastille neighborhood, where it was home to the Marché Bastille, one of the largest open-air markets selling fresh produce every Thursday and Sunday from 8.30am – 1.30pm. There were also cafes and bistros in the vicinity, out of which I visited Passager – the flat white and French toast I had were very good. The walk along the Coulée Verte René-Dumont, something like the High Line of Paris, also an idyllic activity I did in the area.
For day trips, I did one from Paris to the Château de Versailles which was about an hour away from central Paris via the RER train line C. Be prepared for half a day of walking in the Palace and the expansive Gardens.
Last not but the least, my favorite meal in Paris was at Les Papilles (one of David Lebovitz’s recommendations), which I felt was an underrated bistro. The course menu here changes daily, and we had the 4 course menu at only 35 euros per pax (SGD50). Will write a separate post for this. There were also various attractions nearby, like the Pantheon and Le Jardin du Luxembourg where we walked off the calories.
Blessed was this trip of fine weather and gastronomy, warm service and… freedom from the stifling pandemic. And from now, le monde t’appartient.