October 26, 2005
Friends! I need your advice!
A week from today, we fly off to the longest vacation we've ever taken together. (Hm. I think it's the longest vacation I've ever taken, period.) We're headed out for 2.5 weeks, split between Barcelona and Paris.
I do so hope you'll tell me your favorite things about these fair cities - if you were going, what would you do? Your favorite spot? Restaurant? Bar? Museum? Fill up the comments, send me an email - I want all of your thoughts in my little book when I go.
(So far, my favorite piece of advice for Paris: "Try to catch a moonrise from the top floor of the Pompidou".)
Oh, the pain au chocolat, the jamon e queso, the boquerones. The Gaudi and the art and the air of something different. I love exploring a new city, hearing their secrets, teasing them out, wandering until I find magic. I can't wait to see what these two want to tell me.
Posted by shock at October 26, 2005 08:36 AM
I have no advice, as I haven't yet been to either (and that is so, so terribly wrong), but knowing you two you will flow where the most perfect momments are ... and eat and drink your way through them, bwa ha ha ha!
Have an unbelieveable time! 2+ weeks is totally the way to go.
Nebber made it to Barcelona, but was in gay Paris a year and a half ago...
-go someplace and drink french hot chocolate
-eat at Le Epicere (The Spice Rack) which is tucked away somewhere in Le Marais, iirc
-eat at Le Loup Blanc (The White Wolf)
(2nd Arrondissement, Rue Tiquetonne No 42)
-I've written to my friend who lives there for the most fabulous fish restaurant (and cognac! such cognac they have!) that he took me to. A friend of his is one of the owners...
ohhh Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in the whole world.
There was one place with hot chocolate that was head and shoulders above anything else I'd had in Spain (or anywhere) but the name is escaping me. I will check my notes and see if I can find it.
Don't miss the Dali museum in Figueres, it's an easy train ride from Barcelona and it's fantastic.
Ditto Monserrat. I hardly remember the monastery itself, but the ride up the mountainside is truly awesome.
The Picasso museum is pretty good as I recall.
There's a giant produce/meat/etc market on the Ramblas that you will love, go there to get picnic supplies for day outings.
Placa Reial gets EXTREMELY SEEDY after the restaurants close, say 3-4 am or so. You may get mugged if you hang out.
Next time I'm there I'm going to definitely see a show at the Palau de Musica Catalana... I don't know how into that sort of thing you are but I think for the environs alone it would be fantastic.
You are going to have such an amazing time!
Here is the rest of my details for Paris:
(pasted directly from my friend Christophe's email)
10 place Constantin Brancusi
+33 1 43 22 09 01 - Booking recommended!
Subway station: Gaîté, on line 13 (4' walk from there)
http://www.la-cagouille.fr/ (homepage includes a local map to it)
They might mention, once there, that the place comes recommended by Christophe Porteneuve, a friend of the boss's, whose firstname is André.
If the guy is there, that could help (like a free glass of champagne or cognac, who knows).
This may well not be to your tastes, but...
The best thing I did in Paris was walk through the Paris Catacombs. It is near the Denfert-Rochereau Metro stop in the Montparnasse section of town. Let me know if you want more detail, or would like to see some photos.
Go to the Ilse Saint Louis and find (i) one of the world's best ice cream stores and (ii) one of the world's best fossil shops.
Buy brie, a baguette, seasonal fruit and an apple galette. Eat.
Dude. BERTHILLON ICE CREAM. Go. Every. Day. Not far from Notre-Dame on the Ile Saint-Louis. There are many places on Ile Saint-Louis that sell Berthillon, but go to the original store on Rue Saint-Louis-en-L'Ile - more flavors. Wander into the neighborhood and look for the line. Try the burnt caramel or the earl grey or one of the sorbets. Get the three scoop cone from the takeout "glaces et sorbets" window, you will thank me later.
Also. Mariage Freres, a tea house in the Marais. (On Rue du Bourg-Tibourg in the 4th) Go up to the comptoir des thés, smell all the wonderful teas and bring home a few. My favorite is the Marco Polo. Even non-tea-drinker friends begged us to bring bags of Marco Polo back in our luggage.
If you can find it, there is a tiny restaurant called Le Sot l'y Laisse (pronounced le-soh-lee-less) in the 11th at 70 Rue Alexandre Dumas (very close to the Alexandre Dumas metro station). The name of the restaurant is quite literally "The Fool Leaves It", and is both the name of a specific part of a chicken and a reference to how good the food is. Tiny. Charming waitstaff. A little smoky maybe. But definitely out of the way. Then walk a half block up to the Metro (bar, not station) and have a drinkie!
If you have a chance, visit one of the roving outdoor farmer's markets that happen all over Paris in the mornings. Unlike markets here, they have butchers, bakers, fresh fruits, scary stinky runny delicious cheeses, and prepared foods like quiche and roast chicken. It's very inexpensive, especially compared to eating at a restaurant or cafe (we paid many many visits to the stand near the Alexandre Dumas metro stop selling an entire quiche for 5 euros). Ask around about the local Marché Volant (temporary market), Marché Biologique (organic market) or one of the permanent markets near where you're staying. Go in the morning and get breakfast!
Lastly, you must go to the China Club, down an alleyway called Rue Charenton right off the Bastille (in the 12th). The fumoir upstairs is beautiful and very romantic and, yes, also smoky. But this is Paris and you can't avoid smoky. Get a drink, pretend you're in colonial Hong Kong, and try to get tickets for the jazz show downstairs if you're there on a Friday or Saturday.
If you do go to the Pompidou, watch your bag. Beaubourg is one of the sketchier places I've ever walked through, and that was at four in the afternoon. I much preferred the roof of the Institut du Monde Arabe (worth seeing just to see the giant camera aperture windows and drink some mint tea), though it's not open late and you have to submit yourself to a metal detector to take the glass elevator to the top.
Avoid at all cost the Champs-Elysees, Pigalle, the top of Montmartre, and any restaurant or cafe within walking distance of the Seine. You will be overrun with tourists and tourist traps, you will pay too much for bad food, and the waitstaff will live up to the rude French stereotype because they think you, too, are one of those horrible German tourists. Or English tourists. Or American tourists. After they give up on guessing, they will thankfully ignore you, instead of pointedly sneering in your direction.
Like pretty much any city, if you avoid tourist areas, you will find the locals to be polite, kind, helpful, and very excited to share with you their food and wine and stories. "Excusez-moi, mon français n'est pas bon..." will actually get you a long way!
Strange how whenever I go somewhere all I remember is the food and the nice people serving it to me. I want to go back to Paris and stay next time.