Ambling (flaner) the streets of Paris is a favourite pastime of ours, particularly in the area bounded by Boulevard St Germain near le Buci on the left bank and the Louvre across the Seine, and encompassing the Latin Quarter at St Michel through le Citie and onto the Marais. This region is a collage of apartments, narrow streets, grand boulevards, restaurants and side walk cafes, antique book shops, galleries selling works of art some of museum quality, odd shaped historic buildings, churches, hole in the wall creperies, a few Irish style pubs and tucked-away boutique hotels.
The area pulsates with life and activity from mid-morning to the evening when the popular streets are packed with pedestrians and the pavements overflow with outdoor cafes. Street artists ranging from virtuosos to the bizarre perform their art where ever they can collect an audience.
On Sundays, the Marais is packed and on Rue des Rosiers in the old Jewish quarter unbelievable queues form for take away Falafels.
The Falafels are great value as the pita is over stuffed with various fillings, but I must admit that I much prefer the cheesecake slices from Pitzman in Rue Pavee as a sample of local Jewish food.
A little further along is the Place de Vosges, once a residential square of opulent aristocratic apartments enclosing a central park, its arches on three sides now houseing boutique shops and cafes.
We attended two concerts in the Church of Saint Julien le Pauvre, a small Greek catholic church with an intimate atmosphere and one of the oldest churches in Paris. The first was a recital of gospels and negro spirituals by the Gospel Dream Group. Although the flyer for the Group shows 13 singers only six singers took part, probably due to the small size of the church.
Nevertheless, the group was outstanding and finished with a rendition of the Saints Came Marching Home, that brought the audience to their feet with many dancing in the aisles. Overall a excellent evening.
The second concert was an operatic recital of Ava Maria, Amazing Grace and a repertoire of classical arias by Catherine Manandaza. She had a very melodic voice and responded to the three standing encores, with a rendition of Edith Piaf’s signature song a ‘Hymn to Love’ showing she was as good as the best. It was a magnificent performance.
The Church of Saint Julien le Pauvre has evening concerts through the summer and can be booked on line at www.concertinparis.com or tickets can be purchased at the church 1 hour before the recitals. Doors open 15 min before the recital, on a first come first choice basis.
Then of course, there is the Parisian food, with amazing cakes and the breads baked fresh throughout the day; and at the top of the culinary experience are the restaurants. As some of these can charge hundreds of Euros for lunch, we chose restaurants where the maximum cost was €55 for a lunch menu.
Le Relais Louis XIII
on 8 Rue des Grands Augustins 75006. Michelin 2 star.
The restaurant consists of an elegant salon set in a historic building with exposed beams providing an excellent ambiance. We had the three course lunch menu at €50, with a complimentary Gougerre au Fromage (cheese puff) appetizer and soup at the start and a complimentary choux creme at the end, producing an effective 5 course lunch. The entrees and desserts were outstanding. The main courses, pigeon, and chicken were Vgood-excellent. Service was Vgood, with the chef coming out of the kitchen to greet the diners and show off his fresh poultry. Overall a great experience, and with a total cost of €110 for two including sparkling water but no wine, the lunch was excellent value for money.
Le restaurant in l’Hotel:
13 RUE DES BEAUX-ARTS 75006.
A Michelin one star, and one of Tripadvisor’s top Parisian restaurants. The restaurant is set in a cozy room that overlooks a small courtyard with a fountain. The setting is one of chic elegance providing a relaxing ambiance; We had the three course lunch menu at €55, which, with sparkling water and a shared glass of wine came to €132. Overall, the 3 course meal with coffee and petit fours and complimentary appetizer was outstanding and excellent value. In particular the complementary beetroot appetizer was inspired, the entrees and dessert outstanding and the mains excellent.
53 Quai des Grands Augustins.
A Michelin one star restaurant overlooking the left bank of the Seine. It has a modern chic ambiance.
On our first visit, I ordered suckling pig (€36) from the al a carte menu. The portion was so small (and mostly fat) that the waiter came with a supplemental plate of meat!
My wife chose a main course and dessert from the menu de jour at a price of €28. Looking around at the other tables most plates were small. In fact, one should regard each course as one plate from a Degustation menu. The quality of the food was Vgood- excellent. But the ala carte menu was poor value. On our second visit, we chose the three course menu de jour which included a glass of wine. At €31 it was good value. Service from the waiters and the kitchen seemed hurried and pressured. Overall it was disappointing when compared to two years ago.
In fact, we experienced this busy-busy feeling in a number of cafes and restaurants and wondered if the establishments were struggling to serve the diners with the resources at hand, possibly due to the difficult economic situation.