Earlier this year, I took a fabulous trip to Paris, spending 11 nights in the French capital. I had been meaning to do a trip report here, but hadn't gotten around to it.
So Day 1, upon arrival in Paris, I grabbed a cab and headed to my hotel in the 16th Arrondissement. I was staying in Le Dokhan's, a Starwood Design property. I really liked the hotel. The hotel has a lot of character and a very good champagne bar downstairs. (http://www.hotelledokhansparis.com). After checking in and unpacking, I headed out for a 2CV tour of Paris. I had the best driver, who has since gone independent. So if you are ever in Paris and want to have that experience, reach out to
Dinner on the first day was at Montee. Needless to say, it blew me away. My favorite dishes from that meal were the second course of cod and potatoes and the third course of foie gras and banana. The cod was shredded and tasted like heaven with a beautiful buttery finish. The banana and the foie gras paired perfectly together. During dinner, my phone blew up with texts from my friends and colleagues in the US. This was the evening the police on the Champs Elysees were attacked, so after dinner, I had to spend some time sending assurances that all was well since the US media blew it way out of proportion. I needed a good place to do that, so I walked over to La Rotonde and had a Kir Royale (and a scotch).
Day 2, I was up bright and early. Went down to the Trocadero and took a ton of pictures of the Eiffel Tower before the crowds arrived, then grabbed a quick coffee at Carette. Afterwards, did a lot more wandering around the 16th. Needed to grab some allergy medicine as my US based allergies were going strong in Paris. So found a great pharmacy and also bought a number of my favorite French skincare items. Lunch on Day 2 was at Chez la Vieille. I actually did reservations and sat in the tiny dining room up the stairs. My next trip there, we will be dining at the bar downstairs. The wine list at Chez La Vieille is very, very interesting. The food is also very much French classics. My personal favorite was the blood sausage with apples. Just absolutely fantastic. After lunch, headed over to the Palais-Royal and did a bit of shopping. For those in the states who like Luxury goods, stop into Delvaux. They are a Belgian handbag maker, in the same vein as Goyard, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton. The Paris store is beautiful, as are the bags they sell. The kicker is that for us Americans, it is significantly less expensive to buy them in Paris (or Brussels) than in the US (the only place in the US that sells Delvaux, is Barneys). After spending the afternoon shopping and walking, I headed back to the hotel.
Dinner on Day 2 was at Le Baratin in the 20th. The place was absolutely packed. The menu is on a blackboard. One of the starters was a ceviche of oysters. They were the best oysters I have every had. Just absolutely amazing. Everything at Le Baratin was flavorful and well cooked. Just good French food. After dinner, walked across the street to a little bar that looked fun. Had some French beer, chatted with a number of locals, and watched them go nuts over Serge Gainsborough music (i.e. singing aloud). Even was introduced to Polo and Pan, and have purchased all their music.
Day 3 was a trip out to Versailles. I knew going out on a Saturday was going to be killer, but I was grossly unprepared for the sheer number of people there. I glad I have done it once. If I ever go again, I would go when it is warmer when the gardens are in full bloom, and only visit the gardens and grounds. Dinner that night was at Le Dauphin. I had been to Le Chateaubriand in November 2015, and I wanted to try out its sister, more casual restaurant. I was not disappointed. I sat at the bar and feasted on a mackerel ceviche (amazing), red shrimp (sweet and delicate; I even sucked the heads), and pigeon. The wine was out of this world. I was so impressed, we are making a return trip this November with my folks.
Day 4 started out with church. I attended mass at St. Sulpice. Admittedly, I went for the organ concert after the service, but I was glad that I went. St. Sulpice is absolutely stunning. After wandering around a bit, I stopped into L'Avant Comptoir. Everything I ate was good, but nothing stood out as being overly outstanding. What was outstanding however was an Alsatian Pinot, Geschickt. I have not been able to find it since, but if you find it, buy it. Dessert was had a Chocolate Chapon near St. Sulpice as they have a chocolate mousse bar. Amazing. Then went back to the hotel to get ready for an evening concert at Saint-Chapelle. On tap that evening was the Four Seasons by a very talented string chamber group. I highly recommend seeing a concert there. You get a lot of time to sit, enjoy the music (the acoustics are actually quite good) and take in all the beautiful stained glass. Afterwards, I had dinner reservations for Les Enfants Rouges. I put myself in the chef's hands, and had a meal of kidneys and soft boiled eggs (usually, not a fan of offal, but this was very, very tasty), veal, mushrooms, and white asparagus, and a rum baba. Afterwards, just wandered around in the 3rd arrondissement, found a place to grab more wine, and watch the 1st round election returns (to no one's surprise, it would be Macron vs. Le Pen for all the marbles on May 7th).
Day 5 was the day I was changing hotels. But first, I went to take some great photos of the Eiffel Tower and wander along Rue Cler, though since it was a Monday, a lot of the places were closed. Fortunately, most the cafes along Rue Cler were not, so I did a small cafe crawl for breakfast. My new hotel is located in the 1st Arrondissement. Le Roch Hotel and Spa, located right on St. Roch, is a wonderful property and I highly recommend it to anyone. This was my second visit there, and, amazingly, it exceeded my 1st stay (https://www.leroch-hotel.com/en/). After checking dropping off my luggage (my room wasn't quite ready, but they would go ahead and move my things there while I was out shopping), I headed to Rue Saint Honore. Did I mention the hotel is just a block away? This trip was for my 39th birthday, so I was off to buy my present to myself. Goyard has become my happy place in Paris, so I was picking up a new bag. After that, I wandered around all the shops along Rue Saint Honore, before, after visiting Colette (RIP this December), I popped across to La Coupe D'Or for some wine and people watching. This is PRIME people watching real estate, so pop by and grab one of the seats that are right on Rue Saint Honore.
For Day 5, I had no plans for dinner, and had not had lunch as I was too busy walking around and shopping. After dropping my purchases back off in my hotel, I got dressed and set off to wander. First stop, a little "cafe" by the river. Maison Maison is a converted shipping container that serves wine and snacks riverside. It was a great place to have a glass of Pet Nat and watch the people (and the sunset). Afterwards, I got up and wandered around, taking a lot of photos. I had decided to make my way to Chez Denise for dinner, so I headed that way. I did not have a reservation, so I shared a table with another single person, who ended up being a great dinner companion. We had a lot to talk about, so it was a lot of fun. I ordered the Cote de Beouf (half order, rare of course), escargot, and chocolate mousse. It was a simple meal, but everything was fantastic. My half steak was absolutely massive, and I tried my best, but could not finish it. I love the way they serve their wine, and I am afraid I had way too much. I am looking forward to a return visit the first night we are back in Paris.
Day 6, I definitely woke up feeling worse for the wear. I decided to take a bit of a detox day (i.e. no wine). Fortunately, a friend of mine was in town, so we were going to meet up for lunch. He was staying off of Rue Monge, so I decided to take it easy that morning (i.e. recover) and then head over that way for lunch. We went to a small cafe near Saint Medard. Afterwards, he went back as he had to meet his fiancee (she is French and he was actually in town as they were getting married in the Civil Ceremony), and I headed down Rue Mouffetard and just wound my way through. I eventually made it to the Pantheon. After the Pantheon, I headed to Le Rostand for coffee and some juice before spending a lot of time in the Jardin du Luxembourg. I am looking forward to my couple of days in Paris next July to take in this park in all its glory. After, I headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a relaxing evening at the hotel.
Day 7 was going to be a big one. First, lunch at Astrance. Then the evening at the Louvre. What can I say about Astrance other than it was worth every penny. They do have a very reasonable lunch menu at 70 Euros (120 Euros with wine), but I was not going to be reasonable. I went with the full seasonal menu and the upgraded wines, so in total, it ended up being about 250 euros. The foie gras, mushroom, and green apple tart was absolutely stunning. As were the red shrimp with a sate sauce, the black miso mackerel, and the milk fed lamb with peas, broccolini, and red chiles with black curry. The wines were very, very interesting, and I appreciated that they would bring the wine, allow you to enjoy it with the food, then come explain what the wine was and the flavors that it was meant to bring out. The only warning with Astrance is that lunch is at a minimum a 2 hour event. Mine took me just over 3 hours, so plan for a long lunch.
After lunch, I went back to the hotel, changed into more casual clothes, and headed to the Louvre. This was a Wednesday evening, which means the Louvre is open until almost 10. I was able to jump the line with my ticket and get in quickly. However, stupid me wanted to go the Vermeer exhibit, which was a 45 minute wait to get in as they were strictly controlling numbers. The Vermeer exhibit was nice, and I got to see some of the paintings that had been moved there specifically for the exhibit, but in hindsight, I probably would have skipped it. The building itself is almost as impressive as the works of art it holds. My favorite works in the entire Louvre are the Nike of Samothrace and Liberty Leading Her People. The Mona Lisa is tiny and overrated, and I almost got my nose broken by someone jostling to take a photo. After the Louvre, I was still absolutely stuffed from lunch, so I went back to the hotel, had a drink or two, and went back to my room to crash.
Day 8 saw me sleeping in. I was on vacation after all. Lunch was at Septime, which is one of the best deals in Paris. The highlight of the meal was the main course, which was whiting from Normandy with acacia flowers, zucchini ribbons, and a white wine and acacia butter sauce. The fish was tender and perfectly cooked. After lunch, walked to the Bastille (well, the monument), then just walked around town, popping in and out of places, admiring the street art (saw Pacman ghosts) and stopped into little shops. Visited the Place des Vosges and had a coffee, enjoying more people watching. That evening, it was time to go visit the Musee d'Orsay. Similarly to the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay also has evenings that it is open late. That Thursday was one such evening. The building is very, very impressive, but so is the collection of Monets. I was absolutely stunned by their collection. Dinner that evening was over in the 15th at Je The...Me. It is a locals place that Bourdain once visited. Thankfully it was not overcrowded. I had a dinner of foie gras, sauteed kidneys and potatoes (so, so good), and chocolate cake. I loved this little place.
Day 9 started early, with me heading over to Du Pain at Des Idees. I am not sure why it took me so long to go over there, but man am I glad I did. Just absolutely awesome. Grabbed something that had some sweet bacon in it and of course the Chocolat et Pistache Escargot. Took my goodies, grabbed some juice, and headed over to the Canal St. Martin to enjoy them. Chatted with a fellow American who did the same thing, and got dirty looks from an old Frenchman as we had obviously taken his usual bench. Afterwards, just meandered through the city getting more great photos. Sometimes that is the best thing to do in Paris. Dinner that evening was at Le Voltaire. They had a veloute of white asparagus and cassolette de escargots de Bourgogne au persil which absolutely hit the spot given it was cold that evening. I really like Le Voltaire, but it is definitely old school.
Day 10 was a shopping day. I headed to the Galeries Lafayette to buy all the things I wanted to bring home with me. I bought sea salt, mustard, and butter (a friend shared his secrets for bringing it back). I also stopped at L'eclair de genie and grabbed breakfast. After depositing everything back at the hotel, I headed over to Saint Germain. I wanted to sit at Cafe de Flore and people watch, but after waiting for 30 minutes, could not get a table outside (the weather this day was the best my entire trip). So I crossed the street and went and had wine at Chez Georges. I did not go downstairs, just stayed in the little bar upstairs. I then visited a few more places in the area before it was time to go to dinner at Spring (RIP). I had a great meal at Spring, and I am sad that it is gone. The best of the meal was the main course, which was actually two courses in one, the veal with white asparagus and the veal sweetbreads. Just well done all around. Afterwards, I went and had oodles of French 75's at Harry's.
Day 11 was another day where I woke up a little worse for the wear. Decided to spend the time packing up. Once I did try and go out, it was raining and all the streets around the hotel were blocked as they were filming Mission Impossible 6. So I went to Coupe D'Or (I could get there) and had some ice cream and a coffee and people and traffic watched. That evening, I had tickets to hear Mozart's Requiem at La Madeleine. The rain made getting in and out of the church a challenge, and I almost went down the steps multiple times. Rain makes marble really, really slick. Afterwards, I was having dinner at Le 404. I had been to sketch in London, and had heard good things about Le 404. I was not disappointed. The food is solid and the atmosphere is fantastic. Le Derriere next door also looks very, very interesting.
The next morning, I headed to the airport and flew out. I was very, very glad I was flying first class as that got me expedited through immigration and security. CDG is a bit of a mess to fly out of, so when I am flying out next July, I will definitely be upgrading.