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France on Friday
Ken and I just could not keep within our budget if we ate at the fancy restaurants that we would have liked to in Paris. For example, I would love to have tried the restaurant at the Eiffel Tower, Le Jules Verne. The Eiffel Tower restaurant used to have a bad rep, but now is run by Alain Ducasse-trained workers and the food is reputedly as spectacular as the view. But when the price is over 100 Euros per person, without wine…..well, we made some different choices. (An album of pictures below)
1. Creperie Saint Andre des Artes, in the Latin Quarter. I had read that creperies are a cheap alternative for eating in Paris. Just remember that crepes are generally desserts, but creperies serve gallettes which are main dishes in a folded crepe. I actually had a seafood stew at this tiny friendly place, and Ken had a salad. Price for everything €22.10
2. Cafe Mollien at the Louvre. We missed the food court with the McDonald’s located in the glass pyramid–both enrage some people– but on the first floor up, before you enter the galleries, there are some quick-serve sandwich counters. Eat early or late, because the mobs around noon filled all the seats. Hoping for something a little better we went up another floor to Cafe Mollien, which is best in good weather when you can sit out on a terrace and take in the view. It was raining, so we stood in a lengthy line and sat with a view of an ornate stairwell–quite spectacular. We were disappointed to find their fare was pretty much the same as downstairs, packaged sandwiches and limited drinks. Price for 2 sandwiches and water and iced tea: €15.20.
3. Illy Coffee Shop. We were riding the sight seeing hop-on and off bus, and hopped off on the edge of Montmarte when we were hungry. Illy has a striking red and white modern design which I loved and a limited buffet of small dishes in addition to their mainstay, coffee. Price for two very tasty lunches and water: €22.70
4.Restaurant at the D’Orsay Museum. The D’Orsay is cleverly constructed in a grand old railroad station, and the restaurant inhabits one of the fancy ballroom/meeting rooms decorated in high Gilded Age style with lots of chandeliers and gold paint. We sat next to a high window looking out on the museum plaza and the Museum of the Legion of Honor. Lovely restaurant, lovely service and very good food. Price for two plats du jour and water: €32.70.
5. Chez nous. Of course if you have an apartment, you eat at home sometimes. We shopped at the Franprix grocery store just down the street a block where our first stock-up of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, fruit, ham, eggs and water cost €13.11. That served for a couple of salad dinners, hearty breakfasts (supplemented with pastries from Paul), and a picnic at Luxembourg Gardens.
6. Paul Boulangerie and Patisserie. I was a bit disappointed that there were so few boulangeries and patisseries nearby, so we were happy to find Paul, with its lively sidewalk cafe, charming interior and extensive sales counter. (Turns out it is a chain and we even saw one in the Amsterdam airport! However it is a 121-year-old establishment.) We sat outside the one in St. Germain de Pres with our netbook, sipped our tea, and later picked up pieces of pizza to take back to the apartment to eat with a homemade salad. Pizza price: 2 big pieces €6.20.
7. Le Bistrot Mazarin (French site). Another thing about staying in an apartment is that you quickly adopt “your” neighborhood bistro. This was ours…just steps from our front door. We ate there more than once, notably when we were killing time waiting for an electrician to fix the front door so the key card would work and we could get in! We took our time over two hot chocolates, and then nibbled tomatoes and mozzarella and a dish of the world’s BEST French Fries. Our real dinner there: two salads and two cups of tea cost €31.20
8. Cafe Med. If I get back to Paris, I would love to stay on Ile St. Louis. This tiny charming island in the Seine reeks with history and sports adorable shops and eateries. This elbow-to-elbow place with a delightful waitress gave us one plat du jour (which included a ganache and then a chocolate crepe for dessert and a salad for one of us, plus cups of tea). Price: €31.01.
9. Mariage Freres. (Click on the Rive Gauche location menu!) Tea can count as a meal if it is high tea and if you are not extremely hungry. On the day that we were waiting for the electrician, our first stop, at our landlord’s suggestion, was the nearby tea room. Turns out that in this country where not very many people drink tea, Mariage Freres produces the absolute best. The brothers Mariage started trading back in the 17th century, and are still at it. The building is quaint, the service impeccable and the varieties of tea astounding. Price for two pots of tea and one complete plate of snacks: €20.00. This was absolutely one of the high points of Paris for me.
10. Big Ben Bar, at Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon. (Trust me–Follow that link!) This meal was as close as we came to a splurge. I wanted to eat at Train Bleu, or at least to SEE the gilded age glory of this train station restaurant from the late 1800′s. We inadvertently did it right. Because we did not have reservations and were there an hour before they opened for dinner (at 7:00 p.m.) we were served dinner in the bar–really just an extension of the dining room. So we got the great view of the decor. Fabulous food, and paid much less. We walked over from the Place Bastille after visiting Victor Hugo’s House, and had 4 iced teas (in France you cannot get plain iced tea–just bottled, overly sweet, fruit-flavored. AND no free refills!). We ate two great dinners and had one dessert. Price: €86.00.
Do not feel sorry for us because we missed the haute cuisine of Paris. The food we ate was almost always terrific, and when we left Paris, we were privileged to eat in not one, but TWO Michelin one-star restaurants, as well as have more culinary adventures.
All photographs are taken by Ken or Vera Marie Badertscher and all rights are reserved. We hope you enjoy them, but do not re- use without asking.
How important are eating experiences to you when you travel? Do you just want to refuel, or is the cultural experience of foreign dining something you look for?
UPDATE ( 2011) Now you can take it with you. We’ve published an e-book with an enlarged version of this post. Get it at Barnes and Noble for your Nook.