I know it sounds trite, but I love Paris. I’ve been enough times that I have habits I can’t break, and I’m still starry-eyed enough that I find something “new” to love every time.
Habits I was glad to indulge were croissants hot out of the oven at Eric Kayser and macarons at Pierre Herme. But the twist is that I went to quiet locations of both this time. Eric Kayser’s uncrowded 11th arrondissement location near the Nation metro was five minutes’ walk from our hotel, and Pierre Herme’s newest location on the Right Bank, close to the Tuileries, was queue-free when I dropped by on a Saturday afternoon. Score.
Speaking of our hotel, I was a little skeptical of staying in the 11th, but the Grand Hotel Francais got rave reviews on TripAdvisor for being stylish, steps from metro stations, and a reasonable 130 euros a night. All true, and I give bonus points for being around the corner from food-haven rue Paul Bert; free wi-fi; an antiques market on Boulevard Voltaire (on which the hotel sits); and did I already mention Eric Kayser goodies were a five-minute walk away?
With Clotilde Dusoulier’s Edible Adventures in Paris book in hand, I visited for the first time the Chinatown around Belleville metro, also in the 11th. If you remember the Triplettes de Belleville, you’ll know the area is super hilly. Luckily, the Chinatown bit doesn’t require too much climbing to explore, and unable to decide between banh mi and pho, I chose both. Clotilde’s book recommends Saigon Sandwich, which truly is a hole in the wall. The place would be overwhelmed if more than two people showed up, which is endearing. I loved the crunch and tang of the classique‘s pickled crudite, and the Saigon Sandwich man knows how to balance his mayo and chilies, but honestly, the sandwich was a bit skimpy on slices of pork. Sure, it was only 1.80 euros, but I’m willing to pay more for a sandwich chock-full of the yummy fillings.
No worries, though. Ten feet away from Saigon Sandwich is Dong Huong Vietnamese restaurant, also highlighted in Clotilde’s book. It’s a warren of a restaurant, and tables turn fast, so there was no problem getting a seat even on the wettest, coldest Saturday afternoon. In no time flat, Jon and I were face down in our bowls of beef pho. The broth was hot, rich and meaty – the kind of soup you slurp straight from the bowl. At about 7 euros a bowl, the pho’s no question a good value.
We of course didn’t leave Paris without first loading up on wines and snacks at la Grand Epicerie, but we also loved waking up earlyish the next morning to toodle around the 7th and 8th arrondissements using les velibs, and then meeting my haven’t-seen-him-in-ages Parisian friend, Jeremy, for lunch at Breizh Cafe in the Marais. Breizh was a tip from both David Lebovitz and Clotilde, so no surprise that the egg-ham-and-cheese-filled buckwheat crepes were simple, but tasty, as were the dessert crepes, which had that nice bit of caramelized sugar to them (as well as a boatload of butter).
Another perfect weekend in Paris. Now if only the Eurostar didn’t cost a small fortune, I’d be in Paris even more often.
Eric Kayser, 309, rue de Faubourg Saint-Antoine, 11th, 01 49 79 01 76; closest metro: Nation (1, 2, 6, 9, RER A); closed Sundays
Pierre Herme, 4, rue Cambon, 1st, 01 58 62 43 17; closest metro: Tuileries (1); closed Sundays and Mondays
Grand Hotel Francais, 223, boulevard Voltaire, 11th, 01 43 71 27 57; closest metro: rue des Boulets (9) or Nation
Saigon Sandwich, 8, rue de la Presentation, 11th; closest metro: Belleville (11); open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm; Sun 10am-2pm
Dong Huong, 14, rue Louis Bonnet, 11th; closest metro: Belleville (11)
Breizh Cafe, 109, rue Vieille du Temple, 4th; closest metro: St. Paul (1); closed Monday and Tuesday