In inimitable French style, a weekend in Paris should be worked around meals. Plan your brunch, aperitifs, late lunch, afternoon chocolat chaud and supper – preferably some of these booked in advance – and the rest of le weekend’s activities such as shopping, galleries and l’opéra will slip nicely into place.
Eating out in Paris
With the claim to have ‘the cheapest wine list in France’, François Clerc’s Les Bouchons restaurants should be the answer to every Paris-bound oenophile’s dream. Les Bouchons du XVIIe is the place to try Roederer Cristal. A young vintage of this elegant, legendary Champagne, with a velvety Priéuré-Lichine from a good 1990s vintage and a full-fruited Pouilly-Fumé could give you change from 1,000FF (£96). With a wine experience like this, the food can come as an afterthought. (Other Les Bouchons restaurants, with diverse wine lists but with equal claim to cheapness, are found in the 5th, 8th, 15th and 16th districts.)
For a more casually dressed wine-centric affair, Juveniles is a must. Proprietor Tim Johnston’s passion for the rustic delights of l’Hexagon and beyond is as refreshing as his list’s palate-cleansing Jurançon sec.
Les Bouchons du XVIIe, 22 rue de la Terrasse, Paris 17th; Tel: +33 1 42 27 31 51.
Juveniles, 47 rue de Richelieu, Paris 1st; Tel: +33 1 42 97 46 49.
Shells and shopping
A stroll along Boulevard Saint-Germain takes in haute-couture, high-brow reading and, of most importance to the present collector and hédoniste, the candle and scent shop of the moment, Dyptique. It is also a hot spot for oyster lovers. An alternative to the chic and often booked-out Hôtel Lutetia, le Bar à Huîtres is a more relaxed venue for seafood fans. An indication of this are the ceiling-to-floor seashells which you see as soon as you go in.
Here, a panaché de 36 huîtres (shared with fellow gourmands, of course) is perfectly matched by one of the cheapest whites on the list – a Bourgogne Aligoté from Domaine Felix with its creamy, flinty flavours and lifted fruit aromas, at under 100FF (£9.60) a bottle. And if you’re exhausted from walking and shopping, welcoming ‘nibble’ food – walnuts on entry and rillettes de porc at the table – will sate the pre-service gastric juices.
Hôtel Lutetia, Boulevard Raspail, Paris 6th; Tel: +33 1 49 54 46 00 www.hotellutetia.com.
Le Bar à Huîtres, 33 rue Saint-Jacques, Paris 5th; Tel: +33 1 44 07 27 37.
Dyptique, 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris 5th; Tel: +33 1 43 26 45 27 (Open Monday to Sunday, 10am to 7pm).
Art and L’Art de Vivre
Combine a trip to Paris’ most famous art collection with a leisurely brunch in cool Parisian style at Le Café Marly in Le Palais du Louvre (Cours Napoléon, 93 rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st; Tel: +33 1 49 26 06 60). Ponder the controversial pyramide over a croque monsieur with an equally toasty glass of Veuve Clicquot. Then take a quick constitutional down the rue de Rivoli for a civilised afternoon tea at Angelina’s. This salon de thé – or, maybe, salon de chocolat chaud for devotees of its heavenly hot chocolate sauce masquerading as a drink – has been serving tea to Paris society for more than a century.
Le Café Marly, Cours Napoléon, 93 rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st; Tel: +33 1 49 26 06 60.
Angelina’s, 226 rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st; Tel +33 1 42 60 82 00.
To get a feel of the Paris of Parisians, take a break from the cosmopolitan quartiers and tourist drags and go for a Sunday morning stroll to the street market – le Marché d’Aligre* – in the Bastille, the newly-hip place to browse (or be seen browsing). If it’s raining, head for the covered market, le Marché Couvert Beauvau, where you can breakfast on the hoof of pain d’épice (try the lavender!), or taste various cheeses, cold meats and an olive or two.Just a cork’s throw down the backstreets, an honest rosé at an equally honest 10FF (96p) a glass at Le Baron Rouge will refresh the palate after all that market-fare sampling. You can fill up on oysters here too. Bottle recycling has taken a twist at Le Baron – queues form throughout the day at the proprietor’s casks for refills of simple, pleasing French wines.
* Best to visit markets early mornings, especially at weekends.
Le Marché d’Aligre, off Place d’Aligre, Paris 12th.
Le Marché Couvert Beauvau, adjoining Marché d’Aligre (Open all day Tuesday to Sunday).
The local wine
The usual French holiday staple of a visit to neighbouring vineyards and sampling of local wines may not be the most obvious agenda for the visitor to Paris but vines are grown in this city, and Parisian wines available to buy. The metropolis counts no fewer than nine vineyards within its walls, not to mention those within the environs of the Ile de France.Montmartre (Rue St Vincent) is home to the most historic, which dates from Gallo-Roman times. Vines thrived here in the Middle Ages, when vignerons heavily outnumbered artistes. After falling foul of developers in the 19th century, it was reborn in the 1920s, when a handful of Bohemians made a stance against residential expansion by planting vines. This vineyard is planted mostly to Gamay now, but others in the city, like those at Parc Georges-Brassnes and Belleville, favour Pinot Meunier, with Pinot Noir
and Chardonnay the respective supporting cépages. In early autumn each year a vendanges festival is held in Montmartre. For details of this, and opportunities to buy the wine (which is traditionally sold with an original work by a local artist), contact the local mairie. A festival of wine – Fête des Vignes – showcasing wines from all over Paris, is also planned for 10th June this year.
Mairie, 1 Place Jules Joffrin, Paris 18th; Tel: +33 1 53 41 18 18.
Fête des Vignes, Quartier de Montmartre, Paris 18th; Tel: +33 1 40 71 76 00.