You know how the tagline of this blog identifies me as “an aspiring expat”? I’ve finally managed to make that a reality. After spending eight months in Paris, I’m back home in the US for a few months before I move to London in September… for an indefinite duration. (Given the size of my law school loans, I’ll be there for at least three years doing big law, but I have no intention of coming back even if I leave that job.)
I kept a separate blog about my life in Paris (kenfrancais.blogspot.com), but I’d be remiss if I didn’t post something here!
Here’s a list of my favorites. It should be noted that I am in the minority among Parisians in the first four, but trust me, they’re the best!
- MONUMENT: Parisians are totally jaded about it, but for me, there’s no question: the Eiffel Tower is my favorite thing in Paris. I love it at any time from any vantage point, but the best is watching it sparkle (for the first five minutes of every hour once it’s dark, until 1:00) from Trocadéro. I still haven’t been to the very top, but I took the stairs to the second level.
- MUSEUM: For me, this is a no-brainer. The best museum in Paris is the Orangerie, located in the Jardin des Tuileries. Monet’s famous water lily paintings are here, and I never tire of seeing them. The museum also has a small but potent collection of other Impressionist works, including pieces by Renoir, Manet, Cezanne, Picasso, and others by Monet. It’s the perfect size and lacks the crowds of the Louvre.
- PARK: Paris turned me into a garden lover, and I’ve already been to two parks since returning to my hometown five days ago. My favorite in Paris is the Jardin des Tuileries. Yes, it’s busy and filled with tourists in the summer, but it’s filled with beautiful flowers; has views of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, and the Louvre; includes four fountains surrounded by chairs to lounge in; and couldn’t be more centrally located. I could truly stay there all day.
- SQUARE: It’s a tie between Place de la Concorde (which just has such an amazing view; you get the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and the skyscrapers at La Défense) and the Place des Vosges (in the Marais, which is a great little park if you want a smaller place to chill).
- CHURCH: Sacré Coeur is my favorite on the inside (it’s brighter than its older peers), but Notre Dame can’t be beat on the outside. The view from its south tower is the best in Paris. My favorite time to go to Notre Dame is at night, when the plaza is almost empty – you feel a real sense of peace and history.
- COCKTAILS: Hands-down the best bar in Paris is Le Calbar at 82 rue de Charenton in the 12th arrondisement, about 10 minutes’ walk east of Bastille. Its three bartenders Thierry, Christophe, and William are personal friends of mine and are truly great people in addition to being legitimate artists when it comes to mixology. My dad, a connoisseur of martinis who was convinced it was impossible to find decent ones in Europe, says that William made him the best martini he’s ever had. Their menu is helpfully organized according to base liquor, but they regularly concoct things for you that aren’t on the menu. Of the regular drinks, my favorite is the 1980’s, which is vodka-based. The best part is that these drinks are significantly cheaper than those on offer at more famous bars, where €13 is the standard price. At Le Calbar, some are as low as €9, and most are under €12. Go and tell them Kendra sent you! Great atmosphere too.
- CRÊPES: The best I’ve had are at Café Breizh at 109 rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais. I love the complète oignon, which comes with onions marinated in cider, and the simple yet delectable salted caramel for dessert. (Note that others claim that Crêperie Josselin in Montparnasse has the best crêpes, but I’ve been there a few times and was never as impressed.)
- RESTAURANT: The site of my first ever meal in Paris (back in July 2012) and what is still the best meal of my life, Autour d’un verre at 21 rue de Trevise in the 9th arrondisement remains my favorite restaurant. Everything they make is amazing; I’ve had duck, steak, sea bass, and lamb that all brought me to tears. Try the pears soaked in red wine for dessert, if you can save room! This is also a great deal – a starter, main course, and dessert is only €31.
- MEAL(S) OF CHOICE: You can definitely find fancy food in Paris, but my go-tos are simple: salade de chèvre chaud (warm goat cheese salad) and croque madame (essentially, grilled cheese with ham inside and a sunny-side-up egg on top). They’re available pretty much anywhere and never fail to satisfy. Oh, and I can’t forget the falafel at L’As du Falafel in the Marais. It’s a classic.
- WINE: I’m still no expert by any means; I will just say that, on the whole, wines from Bordeaux have been the most consistently pleasing.
- PICNIC LOCATION: The western tip of Île de la Cité (at the Square du Vert Galant) is the place to see and be seen in the afternoon and evening on a warm and sunny day. Bring a bottle of wine and dangle your feet over the Seine while watching the boats of tourists pass by.
- METRO LINES AND STATIONS: I lived on line 4 and remain partial to it because it’s fast and goes to so many useful places. That said, the single best stretch of the metro is on line 6 between Bir-Hakeim and Passy because you go over the Seine with an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower. My favorite metro stations (or more accurately, platforms) are: Concorde, line 12 (because it has the Declaration of the Rights of Man written in tile on the walls); Bastille, line 1 (because it has a mural of the history of Paris); Bastille, line 5 (because it marks the original foundations of the Bastille prison on the platform); and Saint-Germain-des-Près (because it projects literary quotes on the walls).