Electric Introductions to Paris. Plug-in Anywhere.
Updated: Aug 14
Meeting Paris is like going on a first date with that girl who is not only homecoming queen but who is also going to Harvard next year to study pre-med and art history and with a minor in performing arts because after all she did star in two high school musicals. You will either have the most incredible evening of your life or you will be instantly sized up, spit out, and possibly asked if you have an older, more mature sibling. So these are my recommendations for introductions (or re-introductions because Paris does give people second chances if you ask her in the right way) to ensure that you and Paris hit it off and so that you don't waste what could have been drinks and conversation with the most interesting girl you will ever meet.
Breakfast at La Petit Cler.
At this cafe, at an outdoor table second row on the left, I fell in love with Paris.
If you sit facing the street of Rue Cler, it's the stillness and the weather and the slate roofs and the Parisians and the Rue Cler breakfast with baguettes and jam and eggs and cappuccino.
Sit there and that little bing bing that you hear is your Parisian radar switching on.
Boulangerie Nelly Julien.
It's Boulangerie Nelly Julien for the first time walking into a bakery and ordering a baguette.
Into your camera bag or backpack it goes with the end sticking out just so because of course you keep baguettes with you I mean you're French.
A few times, at a few cafes, I've asked where in the hell did you get this electrifying baguette that proves it wasn't lightening bolts zeus was hurling to earth but the perfect snack and a few times those cafes have answered Nelly Julien.
Also pain au chocolat would love to meet your acquaintance here.
But be warned the chocolate inside will, by evolutionary necessity, grow you fangs, that you may drink of the chocolate lifeblood inside.
Blind watchmaker? More like blind pastry chef.
Le Petite Trouqet.
How about an introduction to dinner in Paris at Le Petite Trouqet, madame, monsieur.
Here you'll find emphatically French waitresses who will bring you an emphatically french menu on a chalk board that features emphatically French dishes done as if your emphatically French maman has spent all day waiting for you to come home.
I can think of no better introduction to emphatically French cuisine with a sense of emphatic friendliness.
Introductions ought to be done well and Paris radars need constant care and calibration.
Reading Books from Shakespeare and Company.
I offer next two quick places to read next to Shakespeare and Company. Let's face it, Paris wouldn't be the Paris that Paris is to me and all Americans if Hemingway wouldn't have written the same truth into Paris with The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast that he did into WW1 with A Farewell To Arms and in WW2 with For Whom The Bell Tolls. And one of Hem's favorite places was Shakespeare and Company. And though I've already paired it with a full blown travel-trail, right across the River Seine on the Isle de Cite are two little moments for you to share with a book from Shakespeare and Company. And why else did you come to Paris.
- Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation.
On the east side of Ile de la Cite is the Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation. From Shakespeare and Company, head east along Quai de Montebello for a stroll along the Seine and views of Notre-Dame and the little green stalls of street book sellers called Baquenistas (where Gill from Midnight in Paris found the journal that proved Picasso's girlfriend's love for him). A few minutes later, depending how long you stop at the baquenistas, take a left over the Seine at Pont de L'Archeveche and on the other side of the bridge, to your right, will be a little park with a stairwell that drops into the ground to the Jewish Memorial. I usually say that writers who say there are no words shouldn't be writers but the thing about writing about the Jewish Memorial is that once you step down past a window that is caged and is one last glimpse of freedom and the River Seine then in the darkness and the silence is a tunnel of endlessly-lit crystals. The problem with finding the right words here is that every light represents a life that the holocaust took from Paris and there are too many hopes and dreams and lives and disappointments and heart breaks never mended from which no writer could possibly choose.
After the Jewish Memorial I like to read Irene Nemirovsky on the quiet benches behind Notre-Dame because she is one of the lights down there and though when the holocaust stole her it stole from humanity another Charles Dickens or Leo Tolstoy or Jane Austen, when I read Irene in Paris, it didn't take her from me.
- Square du Vert-Galant.
On the west side of Isle de Chalet is a park called Square du Vert-Galant. From Shakespeare and Company, just head west along Quai Saint-Michel and then after a few minutes of baquenistas cross the bridge Pont Saint-Michel. The chapel Sainte Chapelle and it's stained glass is right here. Stop in if you like. Never takes long. But I take a left at the Seine along Quai des Orfevres.
About two minutes later, a stairwell takes you down to a walkway along the river, where you can do a little An American in Paris dance number if you like, and then just keep walking down along the Seine for about six or seven minutes until you reach the tip of the island just outside the park of Square du Vert-Galant.
You can go in the park if you want but if you stay on the river side of the fence you come to rocks that plunge into the Seine and there is a weeping willow that shades the rocks and under this tree open your book. There's a gate down by the river and if it's shut then oh well just go back up to the street and keep heading west.