Le Bon Marche’ Paris. A Stunning Food Hall In A Historic Department Store In A Great Neighborhood.

The area around Metro Sevres Babylone in the 6th arrondissement  does not always come up on the radar of a trip to Paris.  That is a pity.  It is home to good food, a great hotel which has been under renovation for who knows how long (over 2 years actually) and one of the finest if not the finest food hall in Paris located in the historic department store Le Bon Marche.  You can plan a walk, a visit to a wine bar after your walk or lunch at a number of good restaurants. Or just go shopping.

 

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On exiting the metro station you will see a non descript park, more of a square.  From there walk onto to the intersection of Rue de Sevres and  Boulevard Raspail.  Looking across the street, you will see the Hotel Lutetia.  This famous landmark has been under construction since 2014 and should reopen this year. Now looking the other way down Rue de Sevres, you will see a monument to the world of shopping, Le Bon Marche. Well you won’t exactly see all of it because it too is being renovated.

 

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Le Bon Marche is the world’s first modern department store. It was founded over 100 years ago in 1857 and it too is being completely remodeled to highlight its beautiful stately architecture.  The interior is simply stunning.

 

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But we weren’t there for the architecture.  As I have often written, eating in Paris is about a lot more than the restaurants.   European produce is exceptional in quality and look.  It is a cornucopia of this part of the world,  French salads and chicories, Spanish asparagus and squash, Belgian endive.  And rather than trying to list them, just all look at their beauty and the way they are presented.  We can all learn.  Lighting please American grocery stores?

 

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This food hall has everything you might need to cook a very very good meal including a full service butcher and fish monger.  Or do what we did.  We stayed at the Yellow Flat and enjoyed a simple dinner featuring artisan quality Italian pasta and pesto with shaved parmesan, steamed asparagus with Normandy butter and a salad composed of butter lettuce and chicories.    For Flo a cold Sancerre for me a dry Chinon.  Dessert two pastries from their bakery, a coffee eclair and a strawberry tart.  Why go out?

And all of this from a true temple of food.

If you need a little refreshment or lunch after shopping try these local establishments:

For lunch an old favorite, L’Epi Dupin, Address: 11 Rue Dupin, 75006 Paris, France. Phone:+33 1 42 22 64 56.  Very tourist friendly without sacrificing food quality.

For a glass of wine Le Sauvignon.  You can order light food there as well,  80, Rue des Saints-Pères – 75006.  Just past the Lutetia.  Phone 01.45.48.49.02. An honest simple establishment.

To reach Le Bon Marche from the Yellow Flat take the line 10 direction Gare D’Austerlitz.  Its just 4 stops.

Bon Appetit.

Jules and Flo.

10 Things We Love About Our Yellow Flat.

It’s rather amazing but it has been ten years since we finished renovating our Yellow Flat Paris and began sharing it with our guests.  Along they way we have gotten to know a wonderful community of people who enjoyed our pied a terre as much as we did.  So to celebrate the 10th anniversary Florence and I took a moment to think about what makes this place so special and why we enjoy it so much every time we visit Paris.

Number 1. Something new! Our comfortable queen sized bed. We sleep well after a day of enjoying a day in the city.  Good reading lights too.

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2.  Our living room couch.  We love the wonderful late afternoon light on the corner seat of the couch reading or just relaxing and taking it in.   It makes a great second bed for our extra guests.

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3.  The third thing that the we love about the Yellow Flat is our remodeled kitchen, efficient as hell and fully stocked. And our new espresso machine.

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4.  Our shower. It has so much hot water and great pressure. Perfect for relaxing after  a day of touring or walking.

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5.  The two-minute walk to the Champ De Mars park to look at the Eiffel Tower. We never get tired of looking at.  It is spectacular at any time of the day.

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Or night.

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6.  Walking to Poilane bakery for their amazing breads and morning pastries. Yes those are some amazing apple ‘chansons’ that make a perfect breakfast.

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7.   Two glasses of rose’ on the terrace enjoying the afternoon sun.  No comment needed.

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8.   The views of the Parisian skyline from our floor to ceiling sliding glass windows in the living room and bedroom.

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9.   Buying a salad at the Grenelle Marche bringing it home and enjoying it with a plate of artisan cheeses and a fresh baguette. And perhaps a lightly chilled Chinon or Bourgogne Aligote to go with it?

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10. The 10th reason to love the Yellow Flat is that we are celebrating our 10th anniversary. So please take 10% off of any booking of a week’s stay during July or August 2016. Just mention our 10th anniversary celebration when you book. And enjoy this shot from 2006 when we were finishing construction.

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As well as that wood paneling from the old kitchen.  It seems so dated in style.

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As a further thank you to everyone who has stayed with us over the years I am happy to send you an 8 by 10 print of any photo that has appeared in this blog  Just tell us your story on our Facebook page and mention the photo you have in mind.  Or ask me to pick one.  Like this one for example.  I think its pretty cool.

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All the best.

Jules and Florence

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www.yellowflat.com

Don’t be scared, it’s only French cheese.

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Going to Paris and not enjoying French cheese is a sin. There are hundreds and hundreds of kinds to choose from, a cornucopia of taste, texture and color. But finding the right one is often confusing as they vary by age, % of butter fat, region and the animal that produces the milk to start with.

Cheese lovers traveling to France can be divided into the aficionados, the scared and the curious.   This article is for the latter two groups. Hard core cheese lovers have plenty of books and blogs to enjoy (for example, look at: (chezlouloufrance.blogspot.com).

For the rest of us, French cheese is often a daunting subject.  Just look at this one ooze out of its skin.

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Now I have a confession to make.  I like mild cheese.  White cheese.  Mozzarella.  Jack. Queso Fresco. Always have and will.    And I am here to tell you there are plenty of French cheeses even the timid amongst you to enjoy.  Cheeses that are flavorful, delicious and very accessible.  And better yet, unpasteurized.  No soap box here, those cheeses taste better.  Period.

Still scared? Look at these little squares of fresh goat cheese covered in finely chopped chives.  How could anything so cute hurt you?

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Better yet, with the current exchange rate, cheese in France is a good deal.  Remember, you are buying in grams, so 200 grams (about 7 ounces so almost half a pound) is a good portion and what seems like an expensive price of say 25 Euros a kilo is only $12.80 a pound).

There is really only one place to buy cheese in Paris and that is the local cheese shop.  Take the time to find one close to where you are staying as every neighborhood has one.  Some have special owners that have passed the strict French regulations and been awarded the title of  ‘affineur’.  Affineurs are a part of the process of finding and creating great cheeses as they play a roll in the aging process as well.

In the 7th district there are two affineurs that we enjoy:

Marie Cantin (www.cantin.fr).  Marie and her husband Antoine’s shop has sold fine French cheeses since 1950.  They offer cheese classes as well.  The shop is located at 12 Rue Champ De Mars, metro Ecole Militaire.  Tel: 33 (0)1 45 50 43 94.

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On the other side of the Champ De Mars is Fromagerie Laurent DuBois.  (www.fromageslaurentdubois.fr)  There are three shops, the one we go to is located at 2 Rue De Lourmel, Metro Dupleix.

To get a sense of how an affineur views cheese, here is a quote from the Laurent DuBois website:

“The quality of a cheese depends on a complex series of steps. First, the search for good producers with whom we need to create a lasting partnership, and the selection of the cheeses. Then comes the aging in our cellars, keeping in the mind that the talent of the ripener lies in bringing the product to the point of excellent flavor. This precise moment also defines my taste for cheese, the particular time at which I think the cheese has the reached its peak of flavor. Then you need to know how to sell the cheese at the right moment, and thus advise clients who share our curiosity and our pleasure in the taste of good cheese.”

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Here are some basic vocabulary that you will need to know to select cheese.

Goat:  Chèvre.  Cow:  Vache

Sheep:  Brebis.  Made on a farm: Fermier

Made by a coop. Cooperative.

Artisanal is artisanal.  No surprise there.

Soft.  Doux. Aged: Gardes

Fresh: Frais

Which brings us to a list of five choices for you to try:

Goat cheese is chèvre.  Look for chèvre that is soft and fresh and when in doubt in a restaurant it is always good on a salad. Unless you know what you are getting into stay away from the ones called crotin, they are aged and strong.

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Tomme de Savoie.  Mild semi soft cheese from the French Alps.

Ossau-Itray  Semi soft sheep’s cheese from the Basque Country.

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Comte.  Unpasteurized cows cheese from Eastern France.  Slightly sweet nutty taste.

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Brie. Brie has a reputation for gummy soulless cheese that lack character.  But if you can find an unpasteurized versions of this creamy cows milk cheese in Paris, it will change your mind.

And last but not least, stay away from the Epoisse.  Avoid this stinker at all costs.

To my way of thinking, if you take the time to make a meal out of 30 euros of cheese a baguette and a good bottle of wine you can’t go wrong. It has always worked for us.

Jules and Flo. www.yellowflat.com.

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The Eiffel Tower Is Paris. Photos, Reflections And Meditations.

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The Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris.  Built in 1889 to celebrate the Worlds Fair, it contains a combination of history, engineering, location and visual power unmatched by any other urban landmark.

It is the sense of visual dominance that amazes during a visit to Paris.  It seems to pop up wherever you whether you are walking near the Seine, taking an elevated metro ride or looking out from a balcony.  When you see it, the Eiffel Tower commands your attention more than 125 years after it was built.  And for bonus points it sparkles every hour at night once in a show of thousands of small lights reflecting against the dark sky.

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It starts with a massive base.  Powerful yet delicate, an erector set gone mad.

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It rises in a lattice work of metal.

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Up into the sky.

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It is beautiful in the day.

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And night.

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Winter.

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Spring.

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Summer.

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Fall.  (Well sort of this was shot in August when it is really quiet).

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Even though it has been photographed a million times, it is often not any easy object to shoot.  It has a sense of scope, size and shape that make it a challenge.  But that hasn’t stopped anyone from trying.  Indeed, it the subject of millions of poses.

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And selfies.

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It is a scene. The scene of numerous weddings.

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And bike rides.  With a stop for coffee of course.

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It peeks out from behind buildings.

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And trees.

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Or just plain dominates the skyline.

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You can enjoy the view from the left bank on a foggy night.

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Or the right bank on a sunny day.

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From the deck of a barge.

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Or the splendor of the Trocadero.

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And many times it is simply a great place to chill on a sunny day.

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The Eiffel Tower is much more than a tower.  It is what makes Paris Paris.

The Eiffel Tower is the subject of our new Yellow Flat fridge magnet.  If you would like one, just drop me an email at jkragen@prodigy.net and I will get it right out.

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Want to dig deep? Here is a link to some history: http://www.history.com/topics/eiffel-tower

The Yellow Flat is a vacation apartment located 5 to 10 minutes from the Eiffel Tower, a very easy walk.  We look forward to hosting you there and seeing your photos of the Eiffel Tower.

Jules and Flo.

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Walking Paris. The Rue St. Dominique 7eme. Urban. Sophisticated. Yummy.

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Editors note:  You are viewing the original version of this post.  I recently updated it and you should read them together for the latest additions to this walk.  Here is a link to the update: https://yellowflat.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/walking-rue-saint-dominque-again/

Walking Paris remains the best way to see it. At least in bite size pieces This walk focuses on one of coolest streets in Paris, the Rue St. Dominique. The walk will take about 45 minutes not counting stops for food, coffee or beer.  It will be tough not to so leave extra time.  You can combine it with a visit to the pedestrian friendly shopping street Rue Cler for a wonderful afternoon in the 7th.

The 7th district has some of the most expensive real estate in Paris and when you do this walk you will understand why.  Home to so many upscale restaurants, beautiful residential buildings, museums and parks, it is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Paris to live in and to walk in.The walk starts from the Eiffel Tower.  Facing toward Ecole Militaire looking out at the Champ De Mars park start walking away from the Seine river.  Make your second left turn and head out from the park.  You are walking on Avenue Joseph Bouvard.  You will take to Avenue de la Bourdonnais and cross it to the start of Rue De Dominique.

You will see a beautiful corner cafe called Le Dome directly in front of you.  It calls you like a siren to sit and have a coffee and maybe an early snack.  Resist the urge. It is a tourist trap.

As you begin the walk you will notice something immediately, the street is full of food.  Bakeries, coffee shops, wine stores, all laid out beautifully in polished storefronts.  It is a feast for the eyes.

Starting out on your right is the empire of the well-known chef Christian Constant.   He has three restaurants on one block on the right side of the street, ranging from informal (Cafe Constant and Les Cocottes) to the more formal Les Violin.  All get very good reviews and Les Cocottes is loads of fun, an informal hip dining room focused on dishes served in small cast iron pots called Cocottes.  As I have reviewed most of the restaurants in the 7th (click here for the reviews) I won’t go into too much detail about them.

Next up is the very traditional Les Fontaine De Mars and the fountain itself which it is named for.  While Michelle Obama may have eaten there the food is not what it was.  It still looks great.

Take a moment and explore the side street at Rue De L’exposition where the exceptional bistro La Billebaude is found.  And this is a note to carry on, don’t hesitate to branch off for a block towards Rue De L’Universite or Rue De Grenelle and then return.  The side streets that radiate from RSD are just as interesting.

Feeling hungry?  Fantastic bakeries await you, Le Moulin De La Vierge at 64 (you will want to look at the stunning woodwork but remember this is a bakery and they are Parisians moving product)

And Patisserie Jean Maillot at 103.

What a pain au chocolat.

If that isn’t enough dough there is La Boulagerie at 85.

After this burst of activity continue on past Avenue Bosquet.  At the corner on your left is the American University of Paris.  Net up on your right is the aforementioned Rue Cler.  Worth a visit if you have time, just turn right.  If you are feeling thirsty then be sure to stop at Le Rouissilon on the corner of Rue De Grenelle for a local feel.

Return to RSD and continue on, stop and visit the Church of Saint Pierre De Gros Cailou.

I haven’t written enough about the stores believe me there are plenty.  From shoes, to designer clothes to pharmacies. Always more pharmacies in France.  And some of them sell unusual things like mirrors.

Soon you will reach Rue Malar with the so classic Cafe Malar on the corner and just up the block the infamous basque restaurant L’Ami Jean.

Here the side streets are elegant, full of small stores and unusual shops, take the time to walk up to Rue De L’Universitie and then back down to RSD.  This is a shoe repair store and like many in Paris they have a style that exists nowhere else.

If you look carefully there is a small passage running from Rue L’Universite to RSD called Passage Commun.  It has a working wood mill and a feeling of how this neighborhood was a long time ago.

And if you are in need of caffeine, there is the new Le Seven’s coffee at 58.  Next up is the Rue Sucrouf with, yes, another great group of places to eat.  It is overwhelming here, choose from La Poule Au Pot at the corner of Rue De L’Universite or two other quality bistros, La Petite Bordelaise and Au Petit Tonneau in the middle of the block.

All good things do end and you are heading to the end of your walk at Boulevard De La Tour Maubourg.  At 18 (on the corner of Rue L’Universite) you will find a branch of the famous caviar house Petrossian should you be feeling the need for luxury.

Look back up the block.  You should see the Eiffel Tower in the distance.  In this neighborhood it is always there.

What to do now? You can continue on straight to Les Invalides or a visit to the Musee D’Orsay.  Or turn around and reverse your trip.  You can head back down Rue De L’Universite or Blvd. Grenelle towards Rue Cler. Any way you choose, this is a great neighborhood walk in this great city. And if you aren’t hungry by now….

Should you want to finish this excursion by metro,  continue to Les Invalides, turn left and you will find the metro station Invalides at the bank of the Seine at the Quai D’Orsay.

Here is a link to map

And here is a list of the stores and restaurants reviewed, all located on RSD unless otherwise mentioned.

Bakeries

Moulin de la Vierge 64

Jean Millet 103

Restuarants

Le Cocottes Christian Constant  135

Cafe Christian Constant  139

Les Violin D’Ingres  135

Le Fointaine De Mars  129

La Billebaud 29 Rue Exposition

L’Ami Jean 27 Rue Malar

Le Poule Au Pot 121 Rue Universite

Le Petit Bordelais  22 Rue Surcouf

Au Petit Tonneau 20 Rue Surcouf

Petrossian.  18 Blvd. de la Tour Maubourg

Bars

Le Rousillion 186 Rue Grenelle

Eating Well In Paris Sometimes Means Not Going Out.

Allard. A classic.

What it is that you like to do best when vacationing in Paris?  Odds are that eating out is high up on your list.  No surprise there.  Yet there is a lot more to eating well in Paris then just the restaurant scene.  A wonderful aspect of the Parisian eating experience is found every day in countless traiteurs, farmer’s markets, specialty food stores, bakeries and the small gourmet food shops that dot every district in the city offering you a variety of styles and types of food that can not be rivaled.

Let’s get one thing straight. I love to eat out at restaurants while on vacation.  I spend much of my pre-vacation planning scouring blogs and lists to find what is new and good.  I search the internet and doggedly pursue anyone who has a good restaurant list.  There is nothing more satisfying than discovering new foods, new chefs and new ways of doing things while traveling.  I love the satisfied walk home down unfamiliar streets with a good meal and a few good wines in my stomach. That is contentment.

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And nothing could have topped the meal I had at Afaria (reviewed later this month along with my favorite bistros of the 7th and 15th).  Just look at that mountain of duck.

Duck at Afaria.

But if your vacation eating experience was to just stop there you miss so much.  France is full of incomprehensibly wonderful quality ingredients.  Incredible seafood and some of the best oysters in the world.

Great dairy.

Beautiful vegetables and an emerging organic culture that has taken hold.

So when you visit Paris, don’t rely on restaurants alone to define your eating patterns. Especially in the morning.  Get yourself into that artisan bakery and feel the wonder these young guys felt staring lovingly into that case of goodies.

Order a pain au chocolat or a croissant, sit down and have a cup of coffee.  The coffee may not be great, but you are there to enjoy the baked goods.

Take your time and let Parisian life unfold around you.  Look at the ceiling, the signs, the scene.  And don’t take too long ordering, people are busy in the morning.  They aren’t on vacation like you are.

Get our your grocery list and head to a farmer’s market like the one Blvd. Grenelle, five minutes from the Yellow Flat and then don’t eat out that evening.  That is right, skip one precious dinner out.

If there isn’t an open air market that day take a look at the gourmet stores around you.  Go in, ask questions, have fun, buy lots. Then go back to your apartment and take out a great loaf of bread, olives, cornichons and pate.  Add some salads. The quality of the prepared food is first-rate.

Buy a delicious poulet fermier at the butcher and make sure you get some those potatoes that are cooking at the bottom of the rotisserie, browned as only fat can.

Go to the cheese store, let them guide you through the insane variety of choices. Buy 4 cheeses, one hard, one soft, one goat, one they recommend. Add a baguette and quaf it down with a bottle of refreshing red Chinon or Morgon, slightly chilled.

Finish with a fruit tart or some macarons from the bakery on the corner.

Relax in your apartment.  Take off your shoes and decompress, it is a vacation after all.  Open the windows.  Listen.  No noise, no waiter, no wait and no pretension. Just you, your guests (or your squeeze) and the delights of eating in France.

You won’t regret it.

You can find great food ready to enjoy at these wonderful businesses near the Yellow Flat:

Bakery:   Oh So Famous: Boulangerie Poilaine.  49 Rue Grenelle.  Bio and winner of best baguette 2012;   Frederic Pichard, 88 Rue Cambronne.

Cheese shop.  Marie Cantin. 12 Rue Champs De Mars.  Laurent Dubois.  2 Rue Lourmel.

Butcher.  Boucherie Marguerite.  4 Rue Lourmel.

Paris. Empty. Quiet. Is This A Dream? No, It’s Paris In August, A Great Time To Visit.

Paris on a Saturday morning.  I am walking down Blvd. St. Germain. I feel strangely and completely out of sorts. This normally bustling boulevard is almost empty, devoid of cars and pedestrians.  It’s 11 am.  Where is everyone?

Earlier that morning the Champ de Mars is strangely silent.  There are only a few couples enjoying the morning sun taking in the always breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower.  Even the lines under the world’s most famous tower are weirdly short although that changes later in the day.

I walk past deserted cafes.  I take photos in the street.  No one honks or tries to hit me. Grocery shopping is easy, the line at our local grocery store is 2 persons deep instead of 10. What is going on?

It is August and Paris is on vacation.  Parisians have deserted the city in droves for vacation homes, beaches and country life, making travel almost impossible by train or car during the last weekend in July.  Imagine this situation in the United States if you can.  Wall Street empty.  Walking down the middle of Sunset Blvd. in LA or Market Street in San Francisco.  Well we know that will never happen, but in France it is normal to leave your business for 3 or 4 weeks of relaxation and journey every summer.  A civilized approach to living that dates back to earlier times when avoiding the August heat meant traveling to the country and now the only time of the year when French families can go away together.  This is one habit that we could well adopt in the U.S. but no doubt never will.

Make no mistake, this is a wonderful time of year to be visit Paris and to rent an apartment. But there are some tradeoffs.  Most importantly, many of the stores and restaurants you want to visit are closed.

Those little signs seemed to be everywhere.  Mostly hand written, posted in the windows of the restaurants and smaller individually owned stores.  ‘We are closed for our annual vacation from August 1 to 27’.  Some closed as early as July 27.  Others waited until August 5.  But by the end of the first week of August, there were more closed storefronts  to be seen than open ones. Most of my favorite bistros and restaurants were shut tight as were the boulangeries that we prefer (although plenty remained).  So were the shoe repair man, the cheese store and the fish market while it seemed that every pizza joint was still open and smelling good.

This is not to say that you can’t eat.  You can, it just takes a little more work and if you are going to Paris just to hit the well-known restaurants,  maybe this is not the month for you.

Should you go?  Absolutely.  While traveling to Paris during those week can be a mixed bag, I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives.

Some positives:

You can ride a bike around the city and almost relax.  Almost.  We actually finally used the Velib system, a subject I will be writing about in the coming weeks.

You can find a parking space.

There are shorter lines at tourist destinations like major museums and they are all open.  Last time I went to the Jeu De Paume to see the Robert Frank show the lines were around the block.  Just look at this line for the wonderful exhibit of Eva Besnyo’s haunting black and white photography currently showing.    That is right, there is none.

Less traffic on the streets.

Less noise.

Less struggle to get around.

The strange sight of Parisians sunbathing on trucked in sand at Paris Plage on the banks of the Seine.

Some negatives:

Road work and construction projects everywhere taking advantage of the quiet city.

It is harder to find a good meal, especially on Saturday or Sunday and Sunday was already a tough one. Many restaurants that do remain open close on weekends, this was the case with both Chez Les Anges and La Gitanes in our neighborhood.   Do your research whether on Trip Adivsor or CityVox and call or check the internet before heading out.  And rest assured, not everyone has left and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes serving them and you.

Shopping is restricted to corporate chains and large businesses as most boutique stores have closed.

Not that bad, is it?

On balance we love being in Paris in August.  It is a time to see a different side of the city.  A time to walk further and longer and enjoy the now quiet streets.  A time to reflect and to enjoy summer.  A time to slow down, something unusual in this normally bustling metropolis.

Hang out on a bench somewhere.

Or a bus shelter.  Feed the pigeons.

Take a nap on the grass.  Have a long cup of coffee.  Read a book.  Slow down.  There is an empty cafe waiting for you.

Do what lovers do.

Which these days turns out to be talking on their cell phones, look closely at them.

It’s Paris in August, a city like no other at a time like no other.  Go slowly and enjoy it.