This post comes from our talented and well-traveled guest writers, Laura and Les
After the peaceful countryside of Western Burgundy, Paris is a bustling place, but with its low-rise grand architecture, wide treed sidewalks built along the scenic Seine River and spacious parks, it was easy to adapt.
Paris is best seen wandering about on foot. It’s not so much about getting from one point to another, but about what can been seen on the way. Stroll along the banks of the Seine or across one of its many bridges, through spacious parks like the Tuileries and Luxembourg or along one of the innumerable side streets with endless shops, bistros, cafes and patisseries. Buy a Metro Pass if you must, but if you are like us, you’ll never use it.
We arrived at our hotel, the Hotel D’Orsay, in a less touristy part of the left bank. It’s a small, comfortable hotel with spacious, well-appointed rooms. It was after the lunch hour, so we walked toward the always-busy square of St Germain des Pres to find a spot for a late lunch.
We found a little hole in the wall, the Petit Jacob, on historic Rue Jacob. The list of famous writers and artists who lived at one time on Rue Jacob is too long to list. Earnest Hemingway didn’t, but he drank at the Pre aux Clercs just across the street. The owner of the Petit Jacob was just about to close, but gave us a gracious wave to come in. She served us a light lunch, including her homemade soup, which hit the spot on damp, cool spring day.
While wandering aimlessly about the St Germain area, the best way to see it, we stopped in to the historic Church of St Sulpice, most recently famous for its “alleged” ties to the Knights Templar. It is a truly massive structure inside, but seems to lack some of the gracefulness of some of the churches we had visited earlier on this trip. We ate at the untrendy Cafe de l’Empire on Rue Bac, a quiet side street between St Germain and our hotel. It is a lovely cafe serving traditional food at very reasonable prices. In the tradition of French cafes, the rotisserie chicken and duck confit were very good.
The next morning we went for an early walk across the Seine and through the Jardin des Tuileries, the former royal gardens that connect the bottom of the Champs d’Elysee to the Louvre. People walking dogs, taking selfies, tulips in bloom, and the distant view of the Eiffel Tour beyond the golden dome of Les Invalides, it’s all there for the eye to see.
Later we walked past Les Invalides and through the gardens of the Eiffel Tower before fleeing the crowds of tour groups descending from buses. We continued onto Ile St Louis which is a lovely spot for a quiet stroll and a bit of shopping. It is home to some beautiful historic buildings, fine restaurants and many interesting shops. It sits just up river of the ancient centre of Paris, Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame Cathedral.
On our final night in Paris, we only had a five-minute walk to the Bistro de Paris, a classic, polished wood and glass French bistro on Rue Lille. We were seated at a large round table, where our waiter, who had a sly sense of humour, told us he had once served Jean Chretien at our table. It appears that our former prime minister had good taste in food, because the food was excellent, and in case the taxpayers were footing the bill, not overly expensive. We enjoyed bistro classics, herring in vinaigrette served with potato salad and white asparagus in hollandaise sauce, sole in white wine sauce and roast pork with crackling. Chocolate torte and profiteroles for dessert and it was back to the hotel to get ready for our flight home the next day.
As far as the Knights Templar are concerned, maybe they lost power because they got fat and lazy eating and drinking too well.