Adventures / Drinks / food / Out and About

An American in Paris: Week Three In the Gilded City

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This is the third in a weekly series that will extend until the end of June. It will chronicle my travels in Europe and the interesting things I come upon or wish someone had told me before I left. The first five installments will focus mostly on Paris.

Paris has more gold leaf adorning its buildings, statues, and fence tops than I have ever seen in any city. According to an American ex-pat friend of mine who has lived in the city for decades, the residents pay for the regular reapplication of the stuff in their taxes. No wonder everything is so expensive. However, like I have been talking about in the past couple articles, there are ways to live cheaply and have fun. As in most cities, you just have to know where to go. This week I will look at bars and restaurants.

So far, I have found a couple interesting places for food and drink. Funnily enough, neither area has much in the way of gold leaf. The first is the Latin Quarter, which stretches through the 5th and 6th arrondissements and along side the left bank of the Seine. Depending on where you go, it is chock full of little restaurants and bars, representing cuisine from all over the world. Some are fancy and expensive but others are super cheap, so you just have to check the menu so you’re not surprised by the prices. Luckily, most places in Paris post their menu right outside the door so there’s none of that embarrassing sneaking into check the prices and slinking out again when you realize you can’t afford it. When I went, I hung out mostly around the area between the metro stops Censier-Daubenton [on line 7] and Cardinal Lemoine [on line 10]. By the by, if you’re craving Mexican food as my housemates and I were, check out BocaMexa. It’s closer to the Censier-Daubenton on Rue Mouffetard [which is a good street to wander up and down] and has pretty decent prices. It also has great food and was recommended to me as one of the best Mexican places in the city. There you can also pick up the salsas and tortillas that you cannot find in a normal supermarket here.

The other interesting area was, of course, the area around the Centre Pompidou. A little edgier than the Quarter, it still sports some interesting places, if not always the cheapest. If you go towards Rambuteau station from the Centre, everything will get very classy and upscale. However, if you go towards the Hôtel de Ville or Châtelet stations, things will get a little scuzzier and therefore cheaper. When I was over there I ended up on Rue des Lombards, which had some cool places and some rather entertaining people watching. I checked out Les Piétons, a Tapas bar that had delicious, if a little pricy desserts. I recommend the fantastic dolce de chocolate or the crème brulee as well as the margaritas and the flaming shots, which are more fun than alcoholic. The bartenders all speak Spanish so if you know any, be sure to whip it out. They loved it when my housemate spoke to them in Spanish and thought it was funny when I pulled out what little of the language I knew. The other fun place we found was O’Sullivan’s a little ways down the street. It sported the only dance floor I have found so far in a bar and was quite lively when we got there around midnight. It was also free to get in and open until 4 am, which is kind of rare in Paris.

Notes on restaurants and bars in general: The less seating there is, the cheaper the food. And often, it’s a lot cheaper to eat non-Western food like Chinese or Indian food.
Also, girls in bars get some serious preferential treatment, like free drinks or unlimited happy hour depending on the bar or the bartender. Sitting at the bar and chatting with the tender helps as well, especially if you’re in a small group of girls. But be warned small groups of girls are prime targets for French guys looking for some loving. And once French men get drunk they can be kind of aggressive in their attentions. If approached by one that you’re not interested in, do not engage and Do Not smile. Otherwise he will think you’re into him. I know it sounds mean, but just ignore him and he’ll get the message eventually. That’s not to say all French guys will try and get in your pants, some of them will just chat and buy you a drink or a rose. But just be clear if you’re not into them.

Tip of the week: When trying to order, remember that the French start counting on their fingers with their thumb, so when the bartender gives you the thumbs up, he’s not asking if things are good, he’s asking if you want just one drink.

Until next week, Abientôt!

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