We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, concerning our recent trip to Paris. We apologize for the interruption caused by yesterday’s posting on lunch at Le Pont de l’Ouysse, but we figured that you’d agree that our feast was worth reviewing.
In any case, one of the greatest joys of any visit to Paris — like our whirlwind trip to the French capital a few days ago — is the chance to walk through favourite districts of the city, stopping into shops, taking in the sights, and occasionally plunking down in a café for a glass of wine, a Perrier, or a coffee.
For my wife Jan and me, the 1st through the 8th arrondissements are really the only essential, “must-see” districts. They are the heart of Paris, and include both the Right Bank (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 8th) and the Left Bank (5th, 6th and 7th).
Each has its own amazing beauty, points of interest, and atmosphere, but our personal favourite is probably the 7th. (If you’ve ever seen a photo of the Eiffel Tower, you’re looking at the 7th.) Our hotel of choice is Hotel Le Tourville, cleverly named for the Avenue de Tourville on which it sits.
With that as our starting point, let’s embark on a tour of the Tourville’s neighbourhood, taking in some of the sights that Jan and I enjoyed last Friday night — an evening of walking, café-sampling, wine-sipping, and people-watching.
Leaving our hotel, we walked a short distance along the avenue to the Hôtel National des Invalides, the monumental gold-domed structure (which includes the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte) that I featured in this blog a couple of days ago. It was early evening, but the sky was still bright, and so we headed back to the Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg, walking along the boulevard in the direction of the Seine, until we came to Rue de Grenelle.
There we stopped at a brasserie for a glass of white wine and some people-watching (where I carefully noted more examples of attractive young women wearing very short skirts and shorts). Then we strolled along the Rue de Grenelle to Rue Cler, which may be our absolute favourite among the city’s streets.
Rue Cler is relatively short, but in its few blocks it includes a huge number of cafés, restaurants, take-out food shops, small hotels, stores of all kinds (chocolates, dry cleaning, wines, keys — you name it), and an amazing variety of shops selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and cheese. Here’s a look at one of the fruit displays we saw last Friday evening:
After some window shopping, we settled down at a café at the corner of Rue Cler and Rue de Champs de Mars. (If the name Champs de Mars seems familiar, that’s because it’s the huge public space that runs between the École Militaire and the Eiffel Tower.) Our waiter was the tall guy in white with the shaved head, seen walking in from the right side of the photo. He proved to be amazingly adept at not only serving a large number of people but also directing the customers he knew to the choicest tables.
To show you how common the cafés are along Rue Cler, here’s a view of another one — just across the street from where we were sitting:
Evening was becoming night as we moved along to our final café, where we planned to have a light dinner. It’s the Café Tourville, and it sits on what we consider the best street corner for people-watching in all of Paris.
The café is just steps away from the Metro station École Militaire, and it faces a huge intersection where Avenue Bosquet meets Avenue de Tourville, Avenue Duquesne, and Avenue de la Motte-Picquet. The chairs and tables outside the café were mostly occupied last Friday night, but we found a good spot and settled in. Here’s one view of the crowd:
And here’s another view:
And finally, a look at two guys seated in front of us, with a good view of (yet another) attractive young woman wearing a short skirt:
From where we sat, we could just make out the top of the Eiffel Tower, which pops into view every hour on the hour as the lights all over the structure start flashing. A nice ending to an enjoyable, relaxing evening — and another great day in Paris.
Coming soon: We return to two Parisian restaurants where we first ate in 1998.