A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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Paris

March 22nd, 2004

Parisian on a bike

Parisian on a bike

Paris is a magnificent city that not only captivates you with its exquisite architecture, but enriches you with the depth of its art and culture. Paris is a walking city; because if you travel any other way, you will miss too much. It’s true that the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame are the key historic sites; but it is not until you have walked the different neighborhoods will you understand all that Paris has to offer. The heart and soul of Paris is not found in any museum; it’s in its people…the artist painting in the park, the writer smoking in a cafĂ©, or a woman hiking along the Seine.

Paris is a large city, broken into 20 arrondissements (districts) bisected by the Seine River. The right bank is dominated by the major historic sites, the fanciest shops, and the most expensive hotels. The left bank is more bohemian, with small cafes, antique stores and creative shops giving it an artistic flair. But Paris is not two distinct regions split by the Seine; it is a city of many neighborhoods, each with a unique charm. Rather than dwell on those major attractions covered in depth by the guidebooks; I would like to highlight a few of my favorite neighborhoods; and some of the hidden gems of Paris.

If Paris is a new city for you, perhaps take a boat ride along the Seine, or go to the top of the Eiffel Tower to get an appreciation for how expansive the city is. Although the Eiffel Tower is primarily for tourists, everyone can appreciate its splendor as it lights up like a shimmering Christmas tree every night on the hour.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

Notre Dame, located on the Ile de Cite, is a masterpiece, yet I prefer Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. The cathedral is a spectacular example of Roman-Byzantine architecture; with its massive domes and turrets. The bronze front doors are exquisite with their relief sculptures depicting scenes from the life of Christ, including the Last Supper. The vast interior is covered with mosaics and beautiful stained glass. The cathedral is perched high on a hill, the second highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. The front steps are a popular rest stop, providing a dramatic view of the entire city.

Parc Monceau

Parc Monceau

Although the Lourve is described as one of the best museums on earth, and the Musee d’Orsay has a tremendous collection of impressionist art; there are a number of smaller museums that are worthy of a visit. In the 17th arrondissement, just a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe, are Musee Jacquemart-Andre and Musee Nissam de Camondo. These spectacular mansions give you a good idea how the haute bourgeoise lived and entertained in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Musee Jacquemart-Andre’s double spiral marble staircase is unbelievable; and its art collection impressive, including works by Botticelli and Bellini. Be sure to get the audioguide which provides an excellent narration on the home’s history. While in the 17th arrondissement, make sure to visit the Parc Monceau behind the Musee Nissam de Camondo; perhaps the prettiest park in all of Paris. St. Alexandre Nevsky Cathedral is a spectacular Russian Othodox church located just a short distance from the Parc Monceau. It’s five golden domes are stunning and unique, and the interior frescos and mosaics are beautiful.

Organic Market

Organic Market

Sunday mornings are very sleepy in Paris, but it is a great day to visit the markets. The grand flea market, Marche aux Puces de St Ouen on the northern outskirts of the city (metro stop Porte de Clignancourt) is a true experience. Don’t be fooled when you first see jeans and handbags; this market is one of the best places to purchase antique furniture. It spans over 15 acres and has hundreds of dealers and vendors; and will ship anywhere in the world. Camard is a reasonable and reliable shipper. Another fun market on Sundays is in the 6th arrondissement; the Organic food market on Boulevard Raspail. The Parisians bring along their shopping carts, picking up meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. There are also stands with grains, homemade sauerkraut and organic wines. But you do not have to be a Parisian to take part; you can buy cheese, bread and excellent charcuterie to make lunch for a picnic in Luxembourg Gardens. There are even stands cooking up fresh potato galettes and buckwheat crepes with egg and cheese…a great breakfast treat.

The Marais is another great neighborhood to visit, and is located about a mile east of the Louvre. It was the area of royal residence for centuries, before they abandoned the area during the revolution. The Place des Voges is the heart of the Marais. Uniform brick and stone buildings with arcades form a perfect square around a park that was the scene of many historic events over the centuries. The perfect symmetry makes it one of the most unique and beautiful squares in the world. But the rest of the Marais is not as formal. Over the last 40 years many galleries, cafes, restaurants, and chic fashion boutiques have moved in, giving it a comfortable artistic feel. Many of the old grand mansions have been restored and turned into museums. Three of these are: Musee Carnavalet, Musee Cognacq-Jay and Musee Picasso. Near the Pompidou Center is a true classic bistro, Benoit, and it is still one of the best in Paris. One of their specialties is chicken baked in a thick salt crust, really moist and delicious. The foie gras and cassolet are also both outstanding, but be prepared to take a nap after eating a meal like that

Spending time on the left bank is particularly enjoyable because it offers beauty, art and culture in a very relaxed environment. The main street, Blvd St Germain des Pres, is scattered with cafes and brasseries where people like Hemmingway, Satre and Camus spent time. Centrally located is a magnificent park, Luxembourg Gardens, where families play on the lawn and children sail toy boats in the pond. Near the Luxemburg is St Suplice, a beautiful twin-towered church. The interior is massive, with a high vaulted ceilings and large arched windows. Note the murals by Eugene Delacroix to the right of the main doors. As you stroll the streets of the left bank, you will notice a variety of artistic shops. Rue Jacob is filled with antique stores and interior designers. Rue du Bac has stores specializing in beautiful linens. Flower shops are eye popping, with Christian Totou and Flamant being two of the best. And throughout the area, art galleries, antique bookstores and chic boutiques will keep you entertained for hours. One of my favorite small museums, The Rodin, is in the 7th arrondissement. The mansion itself is beautiful, and it contains a fabulous collection of Rodin sculptures. Behind the museum is a formal garden of boxwoods and roses intermixed with additional sculptures. Visiting it is a real treat during the warmer months.

There are many great places to eat on the left bank ranging from the casual bistro to the more formal Le Jules Verne located on the second platform of the Eiffel Tower. Les Bookinistes, which is the second restaurant of noted chef Guy Savoy, is excellent. It is a more modern bistro, with a hint of Californian style. Brasserie Lipp is a classic; but stick to the basics like steak frites. Le Chamarre is a new chic restaurant. The food is French, however it incorporates exotic spices from Mauritius (home of one of the chefs). Rotisserie d’en Face has long been a favorite, serving simple meals with a focus on spit-roasted meats and poultry. Unfortunately the consistent La Bastide Odeon was extremely disappointing during my last visit; perhaps they changed chefs.

Seine River

Seine River

There are so many things to enjoy in Paris, but one of favorites is just strolling along the Seine. The river weaves through the center of Paris, framed on each side by some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Notice that each bridge is different, some more modern and sleek, others quite ornate with elaborate statues. Boats carrying tourists along the river add life to an otherwise slow moving river. It was fun watching a couple walking hand in hand along the Seine. A group from a passing boat began to call to the couple…the couple kissed and the boat erupted in cheers. Paris is a city that is alive and will capture your heart…I can’t wait to return.

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One Response to “Paris”

  1. It is an absolutely indispensable part of that is causing some major changes.

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