Even though I didn’t change my FB profile photo to red, white and blue, I did put up a somber toned photo of the Tour Eiffel. But words and images on social media seem empty and hollow after what’s happened. We’ve all gotten a bit immune to the continuing reports of terrorism but this time around it was so close to home that it’s even more difficult to know how to react.
And by react I don’t mean posting words or images on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
That’s why today, on my blog, it was very difficult to decide what to post or talk about. So I started thinking about what I could actually do to fight terrorism. Me. Here. Now.
Mostly I write about the good things in life. Food. Travel. Culture. I don’t write about bomb attacks, shootings or much else that would cause alarm or fear. My world view is, and always has been glass half full, if not overflowing.
I found President Merkel’s speech particularly moving. “This attack on freedom is not only aimed against Paris. It’s aimed against us all. We know that our free life is stronger than terror.”
There was also this comment, to an article in the New York Times, that expresses perfectly what so many of us who love Paris are feeling, but don’t know how to express.
France embodies everything religious zealots everywhere hate: enjoyment of life here on earth in a myriad little ways: a fragrant cup of coffee and buttery croissant in the morning, beautiful women in short dresses smiling freely on the street, the smell of warm bread, a bottle of wine shared with friends, a dab of perfume, children paying in the Luxembourg Gardens, the right not to believe in any god, not to worry about calories, to flirt and smoke and enjoy sex outside of marriage, to take vacations, to read any book you want, to go to school for free, to play, to laugh, to argue, to make fun of prelates and politicians alike, to leave worrying about the afterlife to the dead.
No country does life on earth better than the French.
Paris, we love you. We cry for you. You are mourning tonight, and we with you. We know you will laugh again, and sing again, and make love, and heal, because loving life is your essence. The forces of darkness will ebb. They will lose. They always do.”
One of the terrorists’ aims, surely, in attacking Paris, a city that is one of the world’s great tourist destinations, is to bring ordinary life to a halt. One of the consequences would be to slow down a city that derives a good share of its income from tourists. While I can’t give comfort or advice to friends who live in Paris to go on about their daily life fearlessly, I can give you a push to not give up on Paris if you were planning a trip there. Or, if you weren’t planning a trip there, maybe you should?
I’ve been meaning to post my Paris list of things to do from my most recent trip there in September. Now seems a good time to do it.
Domenico and I spent a glorious five days there, staying at a friends apartment. It was a last bit of summer vacation before work started up again. Since the trip was definitely not work for me, I made absolutely no plans ahead of time. I did not make restaurant reservations weeks in advance. I didn’t even make a sightseeing list of things to do. I did mention on FB that I was going, and got an outpouring of great advice that was essential. Since we were staying in an apartment, we were able to fool ourselves into thinking we were living the life of Parisians, if only for a few days. We got up, went to the market, saw movies, and went out to dinner a few times. We took long aimless walks. We also managed to take in quite a bit of culture, since, you know, we were Parisian.
So here is my list of places we went to, things we did. Living a fearless, beautiful week in Paris. The only way I know how to live.
Le Relais de L’Entrecote
15 Rue Marbeuf 75008
This is a small Parisian chain that specializes in one thing only: steak frites. We went to the one near our flat, in the 8th, but there are a few scattered around Paris. Delicious.
58 Avenue des Champs Elysee
(also Orly Airport)
What’s Paris without a stop at Laduree. Again, we went to the one near our flat, but I love the original one, in the 6th on Rue Bonaparte. Don’t those pastel colored plates make you happy? If you’re flying out of Orly, make sure you save time for one last stop at their cafe there.
23 Rue Bayard 75008
This old world bistrot was recommended by a few friends who live in Paris (including the owner of our apartment) as being the best old school place to eat in the neighborhood. They were right. I had a big old plate of veal kidneys. Also? Instead of butter they bring you a little tub of rillettes to spread on your baguette.
10 Rue Mabillon 75006
Domenico has a found spot for this place, since he went there with our daughter Emma and her friends a few times. Old school, bistrot. Dependable and good old fashioned dishes like sole meunier.
6 Rue du Marche Saint-Honore
Our favorite spot for oysters, I’ve written it up here.
34 Rue de Richelieu
This was the only hip, new trendy place we went to. The food is fabulous and the setting minimal but very earthy at the same time.
5 Rue Mondetour
Strongly recommended to us by David Lebovitz, we loved it. He says it’s one of his favorite places in Paris at the moment, and that is endorsement enough.
Marche President Wilson
Avenue du President Wilson 75116
A very fancy market in a very fancy neighborhood. Where we happened to be staying. Amazing produce, but also lots of things (pate, cheese, etc) if you want to have a picnic or take things back home with you.
Place d’Aligre 75012
At the other end of Paris, much more gritty and slightly ethnic. Unfortunately one of the main parts, the covered Marche Beavau, is undergoing restoration after a fire, but still worth a visit.
We made the decision to visit small museums while we were there, staying far away from the Louvre or anything else that even suggested crowds and lines.
Musee Cernuschi de Paris
7 Avenue Velasquez 75008
Small museum located in a former private home, they have a lovely collection of Asian art.
Musee Nissim de Camondo
63 Rue de Monceau 75008
This may be one of my favorite places in Paris. Located in a private home built in the early 20th century, it recreates extraordinary 18th century interiors with it’s collection of decorative arts. Don’t miss the kitchen, on the first floor.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi 75116
Located in the Bois de Boulogne make sure you go here, if only to see the extraordinary building by Frank Gehry.
Musee Jacquemart Andre
158 Boulevard Haussmann 75008
Another private home museum, this one features not only extraordinary decorative arts, but also an amazing collection of Renaissance painting. Don’t miss the cafe, which is one of the best museum cafes I’ve ever seen.
261 Boulevard Raspail 75014
Very cool building designed by Jean Nouvel , it hosts changing exhibits which are always fun and interesting.
Musee Marmottan Monet
2 Rue Louis Boilly 75016
This private home museum features one of the biggest collections of Monet’s late water lilies. I could sit in the basement oval room and gaze at the Monets for hours. Be forewarned: this is in the hinterlands of the 16th, so almost no place at all to eat anywhere nearby.
Since we were staying in the 8th, we ended up walking through the Tuilleries quite a bit. Our favorite thing was to sit on one of those chairs around the main round fountain at the end of the day.
Bois de Boulogne
This was the first time we ever took a walk through here. It’s worth trying to work this in when you visit the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Even though I didn’t end up doing a lot of actual ahead of time planning in the end , I did do a lot of reading about things. Here are some great resources
David Lebovitz, has lots of great advice on his website, his book The Sweet Life in Paris and his Paris Pastry app,
Paris by Mouth is the best web site for restaurants in Paris.
Alexander Lobrano’s great book Hungry for Paris
Jane Sigal gave me loads of information on restaurants featuring the new wave of Bistronomy cooking which she just wrote a book about.
Ann Mah, who spends half the year in Paris, has a lot of great information on her website, and her book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, is essential reading for any trip. She was also nice enough to invite us over to eat this delicious cake one afternoon.
A lot of people responded on FB, over 70 comments!! Here is the thread if you’d like to take a look. And a big thank you to all of you who chimed in!!