Walking Rue Saint-Dominque Again.

Many years ago I wrote about enjoying the Rue Saint-Dominque, one of our favorite walking streets in Paris.  I believe that it has always been underrated with most tourists preferring to hang out just blocks away on Rue Cler for what is often a very ‘faux french’ experience.  Rue Saint Dominique is much more reflective of the neighborhood character of the 7th (for a little history you can Wiki here). Frankly it is much more fun and the food is better.

We recreated that walk on a recent afternoon. In doing so we found that a lot has changed.  First things first, if you need it here is a link to a map of this great street.

Starting at Invalides (i.e. in the direction of the 6th away from the Eiffel Tower)  you begin the walk west.  The view should look about like this, and be careful the traffic is one-way coming right at you.

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A luxurious way to start this walk is to stop for lunch at the sublime David Toutain.  After all, who enjoys a walk on an empty stomach?  Turn right at Rue Surcouf and it will be on your right a few doors up at number 29. We ate there several months and loved it, you can read more about our lunch in our blog.  But just to tease you here is one of the courses.  If you are planning ahead be sure to get a reservation well in advance.

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Your next stop is Gateuax Thomieux located the middle of the next block on your left at 58.  It’s part of the Thomiuex group that operate an upscale brasserie and hotel further up the block.  The pastries were beautiful and we enjoyed several later that evening including a kooglehopf that my Austrian grandma would be proud of.

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One of the hidden joys of this street are the number of narrow pedestrian only streets and alleys that branch of like these:

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Walk them in either direction for a glimpse of life in the 7th as it as been for years full of small shops and tradespeople.

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These side streets are full of great restaurants ranging from the Basque meat temple Chez L’Ami Jean at 27 Rue Malar to the modern Basque interpretations of Chef Sebatian Grave at Pottoka at 4 Due De L’Exposition as well as the hunting lodge ambiance of La Billebaurd (at 29). The area is also home to Catherine Reed’s combination cooking school and intimate kitchen at 11 Rue Amelie.  If you have time to take one of her cooking classes do it.

Another newcomer to the block is a branch of the Lille bakery Aux Merveilluex De Fred (94) with their too light to be imagined meringues.

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While stores and restaurants will come and go and despite the very upscale being the upscale shopping destination that it will always be, the street retains a small town village like flavor.

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Oh, and that chocolatier, Lemoine (74) is a branch of a famous shop in Bordeaux.  Stop in for their famous Canele, created by the wife of King Louis XII.

And yes don’t worry, there is still plenty of high-end fashion.

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We stopped at Cafe Constant (139) for lunch. Seated upstairs squeezed in with a crowd of local business people, Japanese tourists and families, we felt right at home.  The food was solid, wonderfully unspectacular and completely satisfying.

We finished the last few blocks and looked out at the Eiffel Tower before walking home across the Champs De Mars to the Yellow Flat.  It was a perfectly understated Paris afternoon.

eif posing 2The Yellow Flat is a one bedroom vacation rental apartment located a short walk from the Eiffel Tower.  Bright, warm and secure, it is our home away from home when we vista Paris and the perfect short term rental for you, your family and friends.  Returning guests always receive a 10% discount on their stay.

To learn more about the yellow flat, visit www.yellowflat.com or contact us at jkragen@prodigy.net

Winter In Europe Is Not Necessarily That Cold.

Christmas in Europe is different.

For those of us that are sometimes overwhelmed by the Christmas holidays, Europe is a refuge.  The holidays are understated, there is less in your face materialism and perhaps it is closer to the way it was in the past before the world carried it away into the search for bigger, better and more. As this photo of a local restaurant at Ecole Militaire in the 7th in Paris shows, the decorations are different too.  Much more subtle, restrained, refined.

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You have to look to find the christmas trees.  Imagine those in the US.

Chestnuts are everywhere both in the markets and roasting in carts on the streets.

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And they are delicious.

The weather is cooling quickly and its starting to feel like the holidays.

This is also a very good time to travel.

Air fares are ridiculously cheap, I flew round trip from San Francisco to London for under $600 and then on to Paris for under $60 each way.  And here is the best thing of all, this is how aircraft are looking right now, at least mid-week.

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Its pretty comfy even on transatlantic flights.  Plenty of room in coach for your stuff and to sleep.  Both ways.

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When was the last time you saw a check in line like this?  It is pretty nice.

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Does this have you thinking of a last-minute trip to Paris?  Contact us now.

A neighborhood story.

Urban living is sometimes seen as cold and indifferent.  And that is because it often is.  The neighborhood that the Yellow Flat is located in is typically Parisian, baker, butcher and until recently an old man who spent his days in a stairwell next to the grocery store smiling, smoking and panhandling.  But this time when I returned to Paris the space where he sat was empty and instead I saw this:

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A small makeshift memorial and flowers where he had sat and held court every day.  As you can see from the poster he had died.  A mass was held in his memory at the local church.

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And these words in his memory.  Even in Paris, in this most busy urban area, the world stopped for a moment to pay respects to him.

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And the Euro? Wow.

I can’t remember the last time that the Euro was at 1.06 to the dollar making travel to Europe a great value.  Take a look at this meal for two that we enjoyed at the Bistro Balhara or Rue Duvivier about 10 minutes walk from the Yellow Flat:

Start with a fricassee of crispy snails (yes I did it) and wild mushrooms.

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Follow with perfectly prepared wild caught that morning scallops.

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Finish with a soufflé finished with Calvados and flambeed at the table.

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Including a bottle of delicious Gamay from the Loire, this lovely dinner cost us a grand total of 110 euro, 116 dollars.  Perfect neighborhood cure for a cold Paris night.  And next time I am going for the 6 course tasting menu at 52 euro each.

Yum.

The Bistro Balhara is located at 23 Rue Duvivier, Paris 75007.  www.bistrotbelhara.com

We hope to see you soon in Paris at our Yellow Flat.

In Paris, Long Leisurely Lunches Are Sublime. We Enjoy the Artistry of David Toutain.

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Cod with foraged greens and morels

Why do I believe that lunch is the best way to enjoy a gourmet, i.e. michelin starred, meal in Paris?   Consider this.

  • It is easier to get a reservation.
  • You are awake.
  • For those of us that don’t eat as much the courses tend to be smaller.
  • It is a steal.  That’s right, compared to dinner, a steal.

On each trip to France we try to eat at least one outstanding meal and this one featured a visit to David Toutain.  His one star Michelin restaurant, opened in 2014, is located at the border of the 7th and 6th districts.  The chef, who trained under Allain Passard and worked at great restaurants such as L’Arpege, brings the food of his youth, spent in the lush farms of Normandy to your table.  And for our palates this means something that we are now used to but can be lacking in Paris: an ingredient driven tasting menu. The ingredients, fresh and often foraged, are the stars of his show.  Throw in some minimalist sensibility, a fine sense of design and a coastal emphasis and you have a winner.

On arrival around 12:00 we were seated upstairs.  Florence immediately caught the slight, we were steered away from the every day local lunch crowd. Put the tourists out of sight.  I didn’t care, in fact to me it felt like a private dining experience for the two of us tucked away from the noise in the library.

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I am not going to give a detailed review of every plate that we enjoyed. I will let the pictures talk and note that the meal was incredibly balanced, thoughtfully plated, beautifully designed and innovative.  Service was professional if a bit stiff.

Afterwards think about this meal and what you would pay for it including a 1/2 bottle of Saumur red for me and two glasses of Sancerre for Flo.

The menu at lunch offers three tasting options, we chose the least expensive (55 euro) and the middle one (80 euro) and they took it from there.  What followed was a show of flavor, texture and color.

Amuse?  Beet carpaccio

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The most amazing brioche nest.

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The menu started.

Black sesame soup with seaweed roll and juniper.

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Cod without the morels for Flo (don’t worry we shared them).  Even the darn foam was delicious.

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Eel.

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And a savory egg custard in shell.

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Mains.

Lamb two ways.

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Haddock.  Two kinds of carrots.  Eggplant.

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Even the crackers impressed.

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Desserts.  Many.

Coconut mousse.

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Mixed fruits and ice cream over vanilla cream.

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Espressos were needed.

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But they were not done with us. Look carefully at the bowl, those are tea smoke infused macarons. You see them, the light grey circles.

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Two and a half hours later we walked into the 7th and back to the Yellow Flat via Rue Saint Dominque laughing.  The sun was shining and the Eiffel Tower gleamed.   Paris was perfect.

Oh yes, the cost for two including the morel supplement was $216.  That is with tax and tip.

Worth every centime.

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Reservations were relatively easy by email, staff was very responsive.

Address 29 rue Surcouf, 75007 Paris

Phone +33145501110

Email reservations@davidtoutain.com

Website: http://www.davidtoutain.com

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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News And Views From The Yellow Flat. And A Deal Too.

The Eiffel Tower Shines On

Change is in the air at the Yellow Flat Paris.

For the past 10 years we have enjoyed the friendship and camaraderie of Thierry, the manager of the Yellow Flat.  He is a large part of what makes it so special.  But he is ready to spend more time with his family, his wife and his 4 grandchildren and will be leaving us at the end of the year.  We wish Thierry the best and thank him for the professional and graceful way he worked with our guests.  We will miss his humor and most of all his laugh.  To his health!

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Sante!

Change is part of life and we take this opportunity to offer new services and options to improve your vacation in Paris.  Let us introduce you to Lisa Elias and Sasha Romary of Savoir Faire Paris (SFP).  Their boutique agency will manage the Yellow Flat starting in January of 2016. Both are fully bi-lingual.  They are also charming, attentive and professional.

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Every guest at the Yellow Flat will receive a welcome basket including tea or coffee, sparkling water and a snack such as a croissant in the morning or baguette and cheese in the afternoon. The apartment will be set with fresh flowers.   The apartment will always be stocked with the things you need to enjoy your stay, dish soap, hand soap, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo etc.  You will still have the package of services we offered in the past including airport pick up and return by a reliable driver for the same price as a taxi or lower as well as the option to stock the refrigerator full of groceries when you arrive. And as always, if you are missing something, just ask.

We have a new espresso machine (Nespresso) and flat screen TV waiting for you.  We are updating our wi-fi to a fast fiber optic system for easy communication.  Free calls home will continue as well.

Do you need help planning your trip, making dinner reservations or travel plans?  Would a personal concierge in Paris be of help to you?  You can purchase 2 hours of planning services through SFP, just let us know and we will send you more information.

The events of November 13 rocked Paris and frankly our family as well.  We want to show support for everyone who works and lives in Paris and to thank those of you who stayed at our Yellow Flat.   We offer a 10% discount on any rental during 2016 to previous guests.  That offer extends to any referral that you make to your friends and family.  Just make the reservation by March 31, 2016 and be sure to let us know when you stayed with us.  Drop us a line and let us know when you want to come.

Our very comfy couch is waiting for you and so is that view from the terrace. Come visit Paris and enjoy the Yellow Flat in 2016.

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My favorite spot to relax.

All the best,

Jules and Flo.

DSC_0003An early morning view from the terrace

We Feel The Pain Of Paris. What Can We Do Now?

The Eiffel Tower Shines On

The Eiffel Tower Shines On In The Night

The city of Paris has a Latin motto which is: ‘Fluctuat ned mergitur”. The translation to English is ‘tossed by the water but not sunk’.

When visiting Paris the week the before the November 13 massacres, I enjoyed the hospitality of a city full of spirit, wonder and warmth. The first night there I had long-planned a visit to the wine bar at Verjus to enjoy the explosion of informal drinking and enjoying smaller plates that has spread across the city.  Imagine my surprise. When I arrived I found that it was closed for a private party.  We lingered for a moment on the street and struck up a conversation with a man who turned out to be the host of the party. Seeing our disappointment, he invited us into his birthday celebration for a glass of red wine.

Doors opened to us.

Verus Wine Bar Paris

Verjus Wine Bar Paris

Now doors need to remain open for them.

I walked the streets of the 10th and 11th.  The district was packed with people out enjoying their lives in these vibrant neighborhoods.  7 days later hell would break loose.

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The decision of whether to travel and where to travel will always be personal. Only you can decide whether to travel to Paris, or for that matter Beirut or Tel Aviv or whatever city struggles with the horrors of this modern world.

I ask you to go. When you do, think about this: By doing so you stand in defiance of those that who act without regard to human life. You stand in support of the working people of Paris, from the maid that cleans your room to the chef at a gourmet restaurant to the bartender who pours your wine.

Parisians are returning to their cafes.  They will not back down. Will you join them?

A glass of Calvados at Odeon.

A glass of Calvados at Odeon in the 6th.  The way to finish a night.

We are tossed by turbulent waters but our spirit must not sink.  When you wonder, when you doubt, do not give in.   Go to Paris for the first time or the 10th.  It is the loudest statement that you can make to honor the 128 innocents who died.

Cakes, Desserts And Lots More. Paris Bakeries Part 3: Enjoying The Patisserie.

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The Patissier

Exploring and Enjoying Parisian Bakeries Part 3.

Sweets, Desserts and Much Much More.

There is truly no way to do justice to the depth and variety of delectable goodies available at a good Parisian Patisserie in one article.  You will find an often overwhelming selection of tarts, chocolates, pastries, cookies and macarons (which seem to be everywhere these days).  Some will be familiar to you, others will be new and they are worth seeking out.   Think variety and you will not be disappointed.

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Classic Bakery Counter

Tarte Aux Fruit or Fruit tarts are commonly found in both individual and large. The quality is very reliable even in less than great bakeries. Choices include mure (blackberry), citron (lemon), fraise (strawberry), framboise (raspberry) and poire (pear).  Many tarts will mix fruits for design and color.  Fillings range from simple glazes to rich creams.  The best ones run simple like this:

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Perfect glaze and crispiness

Eclairs. I confidently wager that Paris has the best eclairs on earth with a variety of fillings including chocolate, coffee and vanilla creams.  Take a moment to read my review of Patiserrie Stohrer and then consider going there.  It was that good, the bakery is a throwback to Paris in the 1700’s and Rue Montorgeuil and the area around it are worth the trip.

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Yes, since 1730.

Macarons.   These small almond based cookies or cakes with creme fillings have conquered Paris and apparently the world.  But honestly, is it worth waiting hours in line for one at La Duree? Better to pick some up at their stand at CDG airport on the way home and wow your friends. Macarons come in a cacophony of flavors and colors and are not in any way to be confused with coconut Macaroons.

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Praline

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Pistachio

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Raspberry

Creampuffs are called Choux. The name means “little cabbage”.  If you can find them, try a Chouquette: small puff pastries without filling covered in sugar. Sort of a French donut hole.

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Les Chouquettes

Opera.   An intense rectangular chocolate mousse cake covered in dark chocolate and often decorated lushly even featuring gold flake on occasion.

Canele.  This Bordeaux specialty has a distinctive caramel burnt sugar flavor and unique shape.  They are dense almost chewy perfect along side a shot of espresso.

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Canele, pride of Bordeaux.

Chocolates.  Many bakeries will feature a display of chocolates to add to the party.

Bakery Chocolates

Bakery Chocolates

Recommendations in the neighborhood:

There are two pastry shops worth seeking out close to the Yellow Flat.  First is La Patisserie De Reves located across the Champ De Mars on Rue De Bac.  A visually engaging combination of classics and innovation that is really quite spectacular.  About 20 mins walk. 93 rue du Bac, 7th, +33 1 42 84 00 82. Métro: Rue du Bac. lapatisseriedesreves.com

The second is Desgateauxetdupain, an easier walk and again a lighter and innovative take on traditional cakes.  63 boulevard Pasteur, 15th, +33 1 45 38 94 16, desgateauxetdupain.com. Métro: Pasteur. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 8am-8pm

Though not in the neighborhood, Bontemps Patisserie, a young and dynamic new bakery in the Marais is turning out heavenly cookies called sable’, a cross between shortbread and sugar cookies with a crumbly nutty texture. Small drops of intense flavor made with a fine delicate hand.

Patisserie with amazing cookies in the Marais

Patisserie with amazing cookies in the Marais

bonempspatisserie  57 rue de Bretagne in the Marais+33 1 42 74 10 68  Metro Arts et Metiers.

For a completely different experience try these two patisseries, unusual in terms of both flavors and experiences with very different lineage.

While you many not think of Algeria as home to baked goods, consider visiting La Bague De Kenza. Think dates, almonds, baklava, rosewater and honey.  Order an assortment. 233 rue de la Convention, 15th, +33 1 42 50 02 97. Métro: Convention. labaguedekenza.com

Sadaharu Aoki As obvious by the name, this Japanese owned patisserie turns out exquisite chocolates that must be seen to be appreciated.  Located at the border of the 6th, 7th and 15th districts. 35 rue de Vaugirard 75006   +33 01 45 44 48 90 www.sadaharuaoki.com

exquisite candy

To learn more about how to enjoy Paris bakeries go to the first two blogs in this series.  You can read more about how to find the best Breads and get an overview of how to choose a great bakery here.

As always enjoy!

Jules