Friday, July 14, 2017

Return to Paris

From the Irish Times:
Philippe is one of a plethora of restaurants and cafes along Le Carreau, in this now increasingly popular quartier for Les Bobos (French hipsters) in HoMa (Haut Marais). We lived here a few years ago, when such an American acronym would have been deemed as impossible as the existence of a vegetarian restaurant, but this weekend we found tea houses, gourmet burger bars and even vegan pizza on offer in the area. Times change: there are fewer tourists in Paris, waiters speak smiling English with enthusiasm; needs must. We lived on Boulevard Voltaire, along the axis of protest between Place de la Republique and Bastille, just along from Rue Oberkampf. Happily the area is visibly shaking off the legacy of events and getting on with its vibrant multicultural life.

Up the left below the hill is the beginning of Canal Saint Martin with its wonderful wrought iron footbridges, Hotel du Nord of the movie fame, and Quai de Valmy where Chez Prune is the perfect spot for a cafe. Meccano Bar and Cafe Charbon on Oberkampf are still drinks and brunch meccas for the Bobos, along with tons of new establishments to sample as you meander toward Père Lachaise Cemetery to visit the lipstick kissed grave of Oscar Wilde, as well as those of Simone de Beauvoir and Jim Morrison.

The canal heads somewhat disappointingly underneath Boulevard Richard Lenoir, a mostly dull perfunctory residential and commercial stretch, on its journey to emerge magically as a basin beyond Bastille. But, the stretch is host to the best markets in Paris. Thursdays and Sundays it has the city’s biggest fresh food market; perfect for Air BnBers, aparthoteliers or just a picnic. Occasional Sundays host the brocante or random antiquities market. (I got an ancient Paris Monopoly there.)
The magnificent Place des Vosges, one of the oldest squares in Paris, is just off the other side of Boulevard Beaumarchais; perfect for eating your picnic fare in the garden of the Sun King. You are now deep in super-chic Le Marais, the pre-revolutionary marsh area.

While there, pop into the cour of the Hôtel de Sully or head back along the chichi boutiques of Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and take a right up to Rue Thorigny and the Musée Picasso. If you hit peak-art, and happen to have table tennis bats with you, head around the back to the small park on Rue Vieille du Temple with a permanent ping-pong table. So you can slice a serve while eyeing Picasso’s goats between the horns. (Go Sports on Place de La Republique sell table tennis sets.)

Boulevard Beaumarchais surely deserves the most improved award for an artery in the area. ‘Merci’, the eclectic, expensive yet philanthropic boutique shop and cafe has raised the bar and others have followed. Grazie and Le Beaumarchais (original!) are terribly trendy and this new brunch thing has really caught on. Américains indeed.

I mentioned vegetarian restaurants because, as the partner of a veggie, we both still have memories of being a) politely but firmly ushered off a premises after an enquiry for veggie food, and b) refused a request for the meat dish without the meat but with the gratin dauphinois. Non.

The latter incident happened in Le Clown Bar, where Beaumarchais and Rue Amelot connect. It seems highly unlikely to occur now since it reinvented itself in 2014 with a new modern hipster French menu, an example of the increasing gentrification of the area.

Next door, Le Cirque d’Hiver, the permanent winter circus run by the Bouglione family, defiantly survives the digi-entertainment age. Le Cirque bar also remains, where fully made-up clowns can be seen enjoying a quick break from the ring, with a verre and a smoke, their giant shoes crossed over. We enjoyed an evening glass next door outside the new Pasdeloup cocktail bar, where they serve popcorn and cauliflower pierogi, if you don’t mind. (You get the trendification picture.)

We noticed the traditional alimentations or corner groceries are rapidly disappearing to be replaced by wine delicatessens and galleries. All this gentrification is offset by the fact that cheaper accommodation is now a real thing. Smaller cheaper hotels are noticeable and let’s face it, you don’t really visit Paris to stay in your room or have the tepid coffee and bouncy croissant petit dejeuner. (Read more.)

Meanwhile, the Hotel de Crillon is open for business. More HERE. Share

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