Category Archives: Belleville

Paris In Winter

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Well bonjour!! Thanks for taking my call after I so rudely ghosted you. I seem to be spending a lot more time on Instagram (@maihem)  than I do on this blog, which I suppose is a sign of the times. However, my husband asked that I post about our recent week in Paris, and it seemed the least I could do. This one’s for you, mon amour!

Paris calls to me in all seasons, but I have a particular weakness for her in winter, when the days and queues are short. The light, though elusive, is especially golden, and reveals the silhouettes of the trees normally clothed in foliage. The beauty is more austere than in other seasons, but no less compelling.

When I lived in Paris, the one inquiry I dreaded from friends was where they should stay. I was ill-equipped to answer, as we spent very few nights in hotels  before we moved into  our apartment. I have returned several times since we moved, however, and can now recommend several hotels, all of which I have stayed on more than one occasion and found to be consistently good.

The Marriott Renaissance Arc de Triomphe is short on atmosphere but was a great hotel for us the times we were there on business. It is surrounded by fun shops and is conveniently located in the 16th.

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I have loved Hotel Le Saint both times I stayed there. This is a small boutique hotel located in the swank neighborhood of Saint -Germain -Des -Pres in the 7th. The quiet street is a short walk from the lively Boulevard St. Germain, lined with stores and cafes and bars. The rooms are generously sized and very comfortable.

Who wouldn’t love staying in a boutique hotel just off of the picture-perfect Place des Voges in the Marais? La Pavillon de la Reine is a lovely 17th century building with fifty-six rooms, a quiet bar, and an enchanting terrace perfect for tea or cocktails. I love the calm, unstuffy elegance of this place. An added bonus is that you will never have trouble  finding your way back to the hotel because of the frequent signs pointing to the famous Place des Voges.

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This was taken when I was there in August- not quite as verdant in winter!

None of these hotels are inexpensive; however, we were always able to use credit card points or to find special deals on travel sites. Obviously there are many less- spendy places to stay in Paris- I am just sharing my experiences, which were all wonderful.

It’s always tempting to return to old favorite restaurants in Paris, but this time we made a concerted effort to try some new (or new to us) places to eat. Our favorite discovery was Le Rigmarole, a tiny place in the 11th opened in October by a French-American chef. The tasting menu was original and vibrant and crazy delicious. I am sure it will quickly get harder to book, and will also become more expensive than the reasonable 49 euros currently charged for the tasting menu. Go toute suite!

Another exciting find was Le Grand Bain, tucked away in the (sort of) gritty Belleville neighborhood. Despite our early 8:00 reservation, the place was packed with (mostly French) people enjoying the creative small plates. Two dishes we wanted were already sold out, which happens in these small restaurants that cook their food fresh and in limited quantities. Our waiter was most helpful in steering us toward other choices, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner.

For some reason we rarely ate Asian food when we lived in Paris, despite the abundance of good Asian offerings. This time we popped into a very popular Japanese restaurant in Saint Germain called Ippudo. Ramen and pork buns were the perfect antidote to the cold weather and to our empty bellies.

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I was even able to find a spicy one, which is not easy to do in Paris!

We did make the required return visit to one of our enduring favorites, Ellsworth, where we have dined many times and never been disappointed. Americans Braden Perkins and his wife Laura Adrian moved to Paris in 2007 and soon opened Verjus (another of our darlings) and then Ellsworth, both of which were received  with much approval by Parisians and tourists alike. The Ellsworth menu is shared plates from a fairly limited menu that packs a lot of flavor and food into a small space. The only savory to remain a constant on the changing menu is the fried chicken with pickles, and we wouldn’t dream of not ordering it. This time the raw scallops made my eyes roll back in my head.

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Hey- looks aren’t everything.

The malt ice cream with crispy bits is a regular among the desserts and for good reason.

I understand that the owners are in the process of opening a third restaurant, so we will have another place to add to our rotation. This reporter looks forward to giving you the scoop on it as soon as she possibly can. I’m here for you. mes amis.

We only had six days, but we hit several museums, a few parks, walked our Fit Bits into ecstasy, saw some old friends, and drank way too much vin rouge. It was glorious.

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Don’t go changin’, Paris. I”ll be back.

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Filed under Arc de Triomphe, Belleville, Paris, Paris dining, Paris hotels, Paris in winter, Paris photos, Place de Vosges, Saint Germain des Pres, Uncategorized

Walking Around Belleville

I spent a lovely day last week wandering around the Belleville neighborhood, which felt like a world away from the eighth. Back in the mid-19th century, Baron Haussmann’s makeover of Paris left many slum residents homeless. Throngs of these displaced people fled to Belleville, and today the area is home to many working-class people of all ethnic backgrounds. This is the place to look for those exotic ingredients or spicy peppers, or for authentic ethnic restaurants. Belleville also offers beautiful vistas of Paris without the crowds and tacky souvenir shops surrounding Sacre Coeur.

My first stop was Parc de Belleville. This relatively new park (I think it was opened in 1988) is built into a hillside and is a series of shady paths traversing the hill and stairs going up and down. It was serene on that late morning, with only a few people occupying shady benches and a small group of sun-worshippers having lunch in an open yard. IMG_2397 IMG_2395 IMG_2399 The park was nestled right up against apartment buildings, whose residents no doubt enjoy the view as well as the prime picnic opportunities. IMG_2398 IMG_2400 IMG_2401 And the view!! IMG_2402 Just outside a park exit was this inviting little cafe with a shady terrace. IMG_2407 I took a seat at one of the colorful tables and ordered the cheese and tomato tart. IMG_2403 IMG_2404 And then this happened. Don’t judge. I was climbing hills. I needed my strength. IMG_2405 Just across the street was this adorable building anchored by a boulangerie. I fantasized about living on the top floor. Yes, I would have been able to touch both sides of the apartment at the same time, and my bed would have to be placed diagonally. But I could rig a basket onto a rope pulley and send my money down and then pull a warm baguette or croissant back up through my window! And then I could eat them while admiring my view of the Eiffel Tower. How sweet would that be? IMG_2406 After that lunch, I had some walking to do. IMG_2409 IMG_2410 IMG_2413 I walked a long way up Rue Gambetta, which begins with this gorgeous Art Deco metro station. IMG_2414 IMG_2415 This street borders one side of the Pere Lachaise cemetery and offers a beautiful shady walk. IMG_2416 IMG_2396 IMG_2417 IMG_2419 IMG_2420 The street is also home to many elementary schools like this one. Each has a marble plaque commemorating the Jewish children who were removed from the schools and taken to camps with the cooperation of the Vichy government. It is difficult to visualize those scenes, how terrified and confused those poor children had to have been. IMG_2418 IMG_2424 IMG_2425 IMG_2427 I did not go to Place Sainte-Marthe on this trip to Belleville, but one of our very favorite restaurants is found there, Le Galopin. It’s well worth a trip off the beaten path the next time you are in Paris.

Thanks for visiting!

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Filed under Belleville, Le Galopin, Paris, Paris dining