A Weekend in Paris, Part II
After my wife Emily and I chose our hotels, it was time to get down to the business of exploring Paris proper. Here’s how we spent our first day.
Morning: Meandering in the Marais
Paris is a city built for walking, and the best place to indulge in the peripatetic pleasures is in the meandering streets of the Marias. I set off early to enjoy the morning light that bathes the narrow streets as the district comes to life, and after a pain au chocolate and a couple of café crèmes, Emily joined me for a couple of hours of casual browsing, popping in and out of shops, exploring hidden courtyards, and soaking up the local vibe.
Lunch: Le Dome du Marais
We had lunch at Le Dome du Marais, housed in a former pawn shop with a gorgeous glassed-in conservatory attached to a magnificent three-story rotunda with a circular glass skylight. The strong colour palette of black and white combines with the rich materials (wrought iron, mahogany, velvet) to create an elegant, sophisticated atmosphere. Enjoy heaping plates of smoked salmon and decadent combinations like homemade foie gras with white miso paste while drinking chilled Chablis.
Belleville is the Parisian equivalent of Brooklyn—still a bit rough around the edges, populated by artists and hipsters, side-by-side with immigrants and indigents, but rapidly gentrifying. The best way to explore it is by foot, and the best way to explore by foot is with a Soundwalk loaded into your phone or mp3 player. Soundwalks are hands-down the coolest audio-walking tour that I have every encountered. Narrated by local characters (some famous, some not), they take you on a richly experiential and deeply authentic tour of a neighbourhood, following the narrative arc of a storyline, and pulling you into the drama until the line between story and reality becomes hard to distinguish. The Belleville Soundwalk starts at the iconic Café Charbon on the bustling Rue Oberkampf and then meanders through the hidden alleyways of this eclectic neighbourhood for about 90 minutes.
Evening: Le Sergent Recruteur
I take my food very very seriously, so deciding where to spend a precious evening dining in Paris requires endless research and agonizing. I have a trusted circle of fellow gourmands who I have cultivated over the years, and one of them put me on to Le Sergent Recruteur, recently re-launched under the guidance of Michel Bras protégée Antonin Bonnet. I made a reservation online long in advance (how unFrench!), and when the time came, we took a beautiful evening stroll from the Place des Vosges across the bridge to the Ile Saint Louis. The main room, which was formerly a tavern for about 600 years, has been re-invented as a sleek and chic temple of modern gastronomy. There is no menu, and once the staff has ascertained if there is anything to be avoided, the procession of extraordinary dishes built around whatever is fresh that day in the local markets begins to unfold. Whether it is razor clams perched on white asparagus, seared scallops with carrot purée, sea urchin with butternut squash, or pithivier with black truffles, everything is beautifully balanced, highly inventive, and cooked to perfection. Currently a Michelin one-star, its brilliance would easily justify three.
Part III: In Deep in the Marais
A day (and a meal) like this is tough to top, which is why we decided to take a different tack for the second day of our Weekend in Paris.