For our week in Paris, we booked an apartment from a website (link) that had been highly recommended. Other than the recommendation we had little else to go on, so we pretty much selected it by the 'close your eyes, spin the globe and point' technique. I'm usually not a risk taker in these matters, but for some reason I just had a good feeling about this apartment…
Luckily, my instincts were correct! Located in the 16th Arrondissement, our apartment was in an absolutely charming old building in residential neighborhood right off of the Champs Elysee. When we arrived (right after the infamous train ride), we were greeted by the building's manager- Imee, who also happened to be the caretaker of our apartment. Prior to our arrival, Imee had graciously stocked the kitchen with coffee, milk, eggs, butter and fresh fruit. What a welcome surprise!
The apartment itself was typical Parisian – hardwood floors in a chevron pattern, tall casement windows with wrought iron railings, and a stately limestone fireplace. The kitchen was bright, clean and with great appliances. There was a laundry room in the apartment (a blessing after a week in hotels!). The decor was very simple – mostly all from Ikea. Imee explained that the apartment is owned by a family from the DC area who first purchased the connecting apartment which we got to tour (think Versailles, but smaller) in the front of the building and then a few years ago, purchased the one we were renting, allowing for large parties to combine both spaces.
The first thing I wanted to do was go to the market to stock up and get a feel for the neighborhood. Imee offered to walk with me there.
As we walked she told me about the neighborhood. This cute car (my kids loved the 'matte black' paint trend) is parked in front of a former President of France's house (she thought Giscard d'Estaing, but wasn't sure). Mostly the people on the street appeared to be residents of the neighborhood, out doing their daily errands.
We turned onto this wonderful street which I would soon find out would be the source of the best food I had ever eaten…
The first place we stopped in was Bechu – a boulangerie like nothing I've experienced. From the first bite of croissant, I knew the bar had been raised, possibly shattered. This is where we got our daily baguettes –among other things! The boulangeries are open in the morning and then re-open in the late afternoon with warm, freshly baked baguettes ready to take home for dinner.
Further down the Rue des Belles Feuilles, we arrived at a bustling block with open store fronts displaying every type of food one could want. On this side of the street there is a fish market, a cheese shop and a gourmet 'take-out'.
So naturally, we had an incredible meal of poulet et pommes de terre, haricots verts, une baguette, and a cold bottle of Rose for our first dinner in Paris. This excursion became my daily ritual, and by the end of the week, the shopkeepers seemed to recognize me (I'm sure it was because of my lame French!), but if you ask me my favorite thing about Paris – this was it. This collective routine. Participating in it made my experience in Paris so special. That the stores are closed from 1-4 so that lunch can be enjoyed leisurely is a wonderful thing. That dinner starts at 8:00 or 9:00 is perfection, that it stays light until 10:30pm allowing for after dinner walks is heavenly.
Another delightful discovery was Brasserie Stella. Our as we called it, Brasserie Stellar. We ate our second night meal there after noticing how crowded it was the night before and then went back for our last night because everything was so delicious. I was so excited to order sole meuniere, but they were sold out so I had steak au poivre with bearnaise sauce instead and for dessert profiteroles. So good!
Brasserie Stella is located on Avenue Victor Hugo, which in my opinion was where the best shopping is to be found. Granted, we didn't do much – but the areas we did go to – Champs Elysee and St. Germaine de Pres didn't compare.
Now home for a little more than a week, I find myself missing not only our morning croissants, but the wonderful walk to get them as well as the smells and sounds of the crowded boulangerie and grocer. I guess that's what vacations do – provide a glimpse into the lifestyles and routines of others, and most importantly, a perspective on what we appreciate about our own.
Where do you stay in Paris? What other neighborhoods do you recommend? Has anyone been to Brasserie Stella? I would love to hear about others' Paris experiences, so please do let me know!