When I asked my daughter if she could pick any place in the world to see she chose Paris. A city hopelessly entwined with the collective consciousness of postcard stereotypes and cartoon romanticism. Both deeply longed for in my lust for French cuisine and French movies and repelled by through my fear of being an American tourist and the travel horror stories I’ve collected over the years. So I tried to clear my expectations, avoid the tourist traps, and find out for myself why this city held such a mythic spot in my world of imagined places.
Off on the right foot
I booked a 4 bedroom apartment on AirBNB in the 3rd ARR. on Rue de la Perle and Rue Rieille du Temple next to the Picasso museum. The website had recently begun testing local tours and classes so I booked a walking tour with a Parisian aimed at discovering the places locals frequent. This turned out to be invaluable. Paris for the most part is looking pretty much like New York these days. Modern buildings and the same collection of stores you see in every modern city. But if you’re like me, you want to find the tucked away gems of fresh markets and up and coming neighborhoods. The places that are still alive and have something to say, both the old and forgotten and the places yet to be trendy. We returned again and again to the places we discovered on this walking tour. We started off with a walk through the old garment district (Sentier), through several markets, around the canal district, and eventually ending in Place de la Republique.
The Marche des Enfants Rouges. A great little fresh market with a variety of food venders. Some of the best strawberries I’ve eaten and great tagine to boot.
Passage Brady. We also discovered several of these great passages which are pedestrian alleys lined with shops.
Fresh markets and butcher shops give a glimpse into regional ingredients that might not be so common elsewhere.
The canals offer a great place to relax and people watch.
Place de la Republique. This became a gathering place after the 2015 terrorist attacks.
Amelie and Montmartre
One of my favorite movies is Amelie (“Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain”) which is primarily set in the hillside neighborhood of Montmartre, a neighborhood made famous by both Bohemian artists and the nightlife such as the Moulin Rouge. I was eager to explore the area using the movie’s shooting locations as a guide.
We started at the Lamarck-Caulaincourt métro station entrance where Amelie takes the blind man on a short walk. Then winding up the back side of the hill.
Eventually we came to the Au Marche de le Butte which was the scene of the market Maison Collignon in the movie.
Next I arrived at the Café des 2 Moulins where Amelie worked on Lepic street. Georgette’s tobacco corner had been removed but the cafe seemed very much the same. We didn’t have time to order a drink so I snapped a few pics on the sly.
We then topped the butte through the tourist gauntlet of Rue Norvins.
And ended up at the Sacre-Coeur (the scene where Amelie returns Nino’s case in disguise).
At the bottom of the funicular we made our way to the Abbesses metro stop with the classic art nouveau gates.
Then down to the Pigalle red light district (where Nino worked at a sex shop) and to the Moulin Rouge (the site of another of my favorite films).
Exploring French cuisine
When traveling with two children my options for exotic food decreased. I did manage to slip in a few cafe meals with classic dishes and one good meal while I was there.
L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon Saint-Germain (his original restaurant). This meal got mixed results with the kiddos but was a fabulous meal in my opinion. My second visit to a Robuchon L’Atelier, and I was not disappointed. Robuchon’s effortless French/Asian fusion with thoughtful and meticulous detail provided an outstanding experience. View my full post of the meal here.
I also got to try an really great pizza joint called Pink Flamingo that I enjoyed very much.
My favorite day in Paris
It was really special for me to get to share a trip to Paris with my daughter. For one afternoon the two of us got to explore the city on our own and decided to walk around the canal district. At this time Katjia was a fiend for chicken so we bought a whole bird from one of the street rotisserie vendors along with the potatoes they cook in the fat drippings. We had fun trying to figure out how to ask for plastic forks and knives in the grocery store and bought some bread with Camembert, a half bottle of wine and juice, and other assorted goodies. Then made a nice picnic on the canal ledge and watched the people go by. Very calm and spontaneous. A very special memory.