Featured : Bordeaux & Brest | Lille & Orleans | Paris
“I had forgotten how gently time passes in Paris. As lively as the city is, there’s a stillness to it, a peace that lures you in. In Paris, with a glass of wine in your hand, you can just be.” ―
Contents for Bordeaux & Brest : Introduction | Bordeaux Photo Gallery | Bordeaux Walking Tours | Mademoiselle de Margaux l’Inspiration Chocolat | Brest Photo Gallery
Introduction. My bestie, Ellie, an aficionado of noteworthy food and drink, succumbed to wanderlust and immersed herself in the myriad pleasures and local customs that are Bordeaux and Brest, France. We are lucky she’s sharing her adventures, experiences, and places to dine with us here in a brand new page.
“People wonder why so many writers come to live in Paris. I’ve been living for years and the answer seems simple to me : because it’s the best place to pick ideas.” ―
Bordeaux, France : A Photo Gallery
Recommended places in Bordeaux. To immerse yourself in the local culture of this great city in France and experience the landmarks and people, contact Bordeaux Walking Tours, owned and operated by Hela Mansoula. She and her multi-lingual staff will take personal pride in showing your family and friends this amazing locale. Visit her Facebook and Instagram pages for an amuse bouche of the dynamic and stunning place that is Bordeaux.
For confections that are less about sweets and more about works of art, visit Mademoiselle de Margaux l’Inspiration Chocolat 16 rue Pernand Philippart, or the Place de la Bourse stop on the city’s famed tram system.
Brest, France : A Photo Gallery
Introduction to Lille & Orleans. A buddy and I ended up in Lille, France while en route to Belgium. It was, as the saying goes, a happy accident. In driving around the charming city, the largest in Lille Métropole, we ended up at a local restaurant based purely on the aroma of freshly baked bread pouring out from its open doors and windows. Alas, warm bread never fails to seduce.
“Everything ends this way in France…everything. Weddings, christenings, duels, burials, swindlings, diplomatic affairs. Everything is a pretext for a good dinner.” – Jean Anouilh
The owner was charming and asked if he could indulge us and serve us a meal completely off-menu. We agreed and he brought us a baguette; locally made cheese; salad greens with dressing made of herbs his family grew; warm potato salad; and foie gras. Although composed of simple ingredients, the meal was one of the best we have ever eaten, and was completely responsible for our new-found affection for Lille, so much so in fact, we are planning to return in the coming months. Just to dine there.
“I like a cook who smiles out loud when he tastes his own work.
Let God worry about your modesty. I want to see your enthusiasm.” ― Robert Farrar Capon
Orléans, located on the Loire River in north-central France, was another happy accident. The city, the capital of the Centre-Val de Loire region in north-central France and southwest of Paris, is famous for a number of reasons. First and foremost of course is Joan of Arc, also known as “The Maid of Orléans,” having led the French army to several victories.
It’s also known for its stunning cathedral, Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d’Orléans, pictured below.
“There is an admirable fact about the psychology of France. She forges the thought and the beauty of a world…her destiny is never to be mediocre.” ― Joséphin Péladan
The city has not shied away from embracing modern architecture, however :
Contents for Paris : Charles de Gaulle Airport | Transportation to Downtown Paris | Quick Summary | Map of the Métro System | Shuttle Service | Causses | Gagosian Gallery | Gallery Muriel Grateau | Hôtel des Batignolles | Le Mary Celeste, La Cave à Bulles, La Fine Mousse | Le Sargent Recruteur | Nordik Market | Tim Strolls Through the Left Bank
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you. For Paris is a movable feast.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Charles de Gaulle is one of the city’s two main airports with the other being Orly. International flights originating from North America will arrive at de Gaulle, sometimes referred to in French as Roissy. The airport is huge and navigating it can be daunting since major sections are being renovated and the signage is not as clear as it could be. The following, however, should assist in getting around the airport and ultimately traveling to downtown Paris by train or shuttle. A summary of these steps follows, too.
Traveling by train. The De Gaulle Airport is served by two train stations :
― Aérogare 1, or “Roissypôle Gare”
― and Aérogare 2
Follow the signs, Paris par Train (“Paris by train”) to Aérogare 2, located between Terminals 2C and 2E. Aérogare 2 provides transport via the RER (Réseau Express Régional or Regional Express Network) Line B Suburban train and to the rest of the country via the SNCF TGV lines. If traveling to downtown Paris, you will use the RER Line B.
Buying tickets for the RER Line B Train. American credit cards, which lack the requisite computer chip found in European-issued cards, will not work at automated ticket kiosks which offer instructions in a number of languages. You will need euro coins in hand to make your purchase. There are currency exchange offices in the airport and Aérogare 2.
Buying tickets from the Ticket Office. You can also purchase your tickets directly from the ticket office marked Billets Paris / ile-de-France, or “Tickets Paris / Suburbs.” The RER Line B stops at the four main stations in central Paris : Gare du Nord, Châtelet Les Halles, St-Michel Notre Dame, and Denfert Rochereau.
Important Tip. It’s a good idea to buy your Métro tickets now as well for use on the subway system since once you arrive at one of the above-mentioned stations, you will transfer from the RER Line to the Métro to reach your hotel / B & B. Once you purchase your RER Line B tickets, use the escalator, stairs or elevator to descend to the track levels. You may board any RER train to reach Paris so check the signboards for departure times. The train will be identified by a 4 letter code under the Mission heading and by the track number under Voie. Also, retain your RER ticket as you will need it to exit the RER system prior to transferring to Métro.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” ― Thomas Jefferson
Quick Summary :
1.) In Terminal 2, look for the “Paris par train” signs leading you directly to Aérogare 2.
2.) Buy tickets for the RER Line B to travel to Paris. With euro coins in hand, use the automated kiosk for your ticket purchase. Or, buy your tickets in person from the ticket office, Billets Paris / ile-de-France, or “Tickets Paris / Suburbs.”
3.) Descend to the track levels and take any RER train to Paris.
4.) The signboards show the departure times, 4-letter train code, and track number.
5.) Retain your RER ticket to exit the system at one of the 4 stations in Paris, i.e., Gare du Nord, Châtelet Les Halles, St-Michel Notre Dame, or Denfert Rochereau.
6.) Once you arrive at one of these stations, you will then transfer to the city’s Métro system.
Another option to reach downtown Paris is via the Yellow Van Shuttle, a highly reputable service which will take you directly to your hotel’s front door. Fares depend on whether you’re traveling alone or with others and your reservation can be made in as little as 24 hours prior to arrival.
If you are so inclined, you may want to consider renting a car. Travel from de Gaulle to downtown Paris is relatively straightforward. Your driving skills will be put to the test, however, once you reach the city limits. Paris is characterized by one-way streets, and intersections and traffic circles which upon first glance, may not be for-the-faint-of-heart as cars move very rapidly. Taking your eyes off the road even for a second to admire the breathtaking architecture will not be greeted kindly by other drivers who will quickly dominate the road once your naiveté has been spot-checked. We arrived during a week, unbeknownst to us, featuring a national holiday. There was, no exaggeration, only one rental car available at the airport as all the others had been reserved by Parisians intending on driving outside the city for a long weekend. We quickly nicknamed the vehicle, pictured, the Pumpkin Car. It served us well since it was able to navigate narrow streets and tight parking spaces. It was also east to spot blocks away. And without it, we might not have discovered the myriad pleasures of Lille and Orleans.
“Paris is a world meant for the walker alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich, if muted, detail.” ― Edmund White
Located in the 9th arrondissement at 55 rue Notre-Dame de la Lorette near the Métro Pigalle’s and Saint Georges’s metro stations is Causses, a gourmet food shop lover’s dream come true. The shop offers healthy cheeses, condiments, deli meats, fruit, salad, sandwiches, soups and take away―perfect for lunch outside.
The Louvre is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest museums. It’s only drawback is the same that characterizes other urban collections of art―its inability to showcase truly large-scale works.
The Paris branch of the Gagosian Gallery, however, can. The prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel designed the building which sits at 800 Avenue de l’Europe, Le Bourget in a former airplane hangar, near the French Air & Space Museum.
As is typical with Nouvel’s work―he is, after all the genius behind Barcelona’s Torre Agbar and New York City’s Tower Verre / MOMA―the exterior is light, fluid, and experimental and more than hints at the great spaces within.
Ensure you pack light when you travel to the city as you will undoubtedly want to bring items back. Stop by, for example, at the Galerie Muriel Grateau at 37 Rue de Beaunein Palais for one-of-a-kind tableware showcased in a brilliant, minimalist space. The store itself is a must see.
I discovered the Hôtel des Batignolles, a small, inexpensive hotel in the 17th arrondissement, located on a quiet residential street near the Place de Clichy and Rome Line 2 stations and just a few stops from the Palais Garnier, the city’s opera house. The room was clean, comfortable and featured a newly remodeled bathroom. There is a small breakfast room near the hotel’s lobby, but the hotel manager was kind enough to bring fresh coffee, croissants and jam directly to our room every morning. Depending on the time of year, you can obtain a room for as little as US$ 80.00 / night. The price already includes the requisite hotel fees and taxes making the Batignolles a great bargain.
Belgium and Germany, both of which pride themselves on their beer-brewing and consumption prowess, should be looking in their collective rear view mirrors and sweating, even for a bit. France, believe it or not, has embraced micro brewing and beer. Proof can be found at Le Mary Celeste, a cocktail bar at 1 Rue Commines, near both the Filles du Calvaire ou République and Saint-Sébastien – Froissart metro stations.
Although the cafe is known for their fantastic drinks and tapas-based menu, which changes frequently based on the season, they offer a small selection of beers, including Brooklyn Lager. And while Belgians and Germans may scoff at this as nothing more than a small effort, they should reconsider. After all, look at what the Gallic nation accomplished when they set their sights on art, cuisine, fashion, and wine.
Also check out La Cave à Bulles, a spectacular store at 45, rue Quincampoix, which sells an impressive selection of craft beers made in the region. Or La Fine Mousse, located at 6 avenue Jean Aicard. The bar has more than 150 different bottled ales and beers, close to two dozen on tap, and small cheese plates.
One of the oldest restaurants in the City of Light has received a shot in the arm for vitality and a well-needed design transformation by Jaime Hayon. Located at 41 rue St Louis en l’ile, Le Sargent Recruiter, now features a more modern look but retains the charm and soft edges which characterize Hayon’s work. The kitchen specializes in refined interpretations of provincial cooking. It’s a risky move in a city with so many restaurant choices buts its one that pays off. The food is delicious and the service is very good. The restaurant is near the Pont Marie, Sully – Morland and Saint-Paul metro stations.
Chefs across Scandinavia and the greater Nordic region have catapulted restaurants in their respective countries to some of the world’s greatest, and garnered long-overdue attention to the area’s local ingredients, by importing French culinary techniques and putting their own unique interpretations front and center. The results, in places like NOMA and Geist, are impressive to say the least. The French are returning the mutual admiration in a different area, albeit one which still centers around the home. NØRDIK MÅRKET has opened at 13 rue Charlot in the Marais and the locals cannot get enough of the concept store which features genuine Scandinavian / Nordic home goods and vintage items.
“The best poet is the man who delivers our daily bread…the local baker.” ― Pablo Neruda
Friend Tim was in Paris and, in strolling down Rue de Furstenberg, effortlessly managed to seduce our culinary senses. Chef Manuel Martinez’s La Maison du Chou was just one of his many stops in the City of Light’s Left Bank, but it’s enough to hold our attention and captivate our palates…