Le "Lèche-vin" (=lick wine) is a bizarre and noisy bar, near rue de la Roquette, Bastille. The place is frequented by locals, including La Sorbonne rugby players because of its cheap pints of lager (4.10 euros) and the friendly atmosphere. But what makes it interesting is his "décor". Thousands of crucifixes, yellowed pictures of former popes, religious paintings are stuck absolutely everywhere in the bar... except in their gloomy Turkish toilets where every single space is filled with porn pictures. An hilarious experience!
Tel. 01-43-55-98-91, at 15 rue Daval 75011, near Métro Bastille.
This exquisitely built chapel, contains some of the most beautiful and historically important stained glass windows in the world. Architecturally it
gained enormous acclaim for being the first ever building to use so much glass in its structure. People expected it to collapse. yet almost a millenium later it remains one of the most grandiose establishments imaginable. As well as its own merits it gains ironic value for being placed within the police headquarters
of Paris. Providing an interesting juxtaposition of state and church within a secular country.
Sainte-Chapelle is extremely central, only 200m from the ile de Notre Dame on the right bank.
Just as you can't not visit the Eiffel Tower, you can't not dine at La Coupole when you're in Paris. Ridiculously big (some say the biggest restaurant in France), noisy, brash, overly lit, and the food ain't the best (though it's certainly not at all bad) - but these are all the very reasons why you have to go there.
Every famous Parisian has passed through its doors at some point, from Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to Jean Cocteau and Ernest Hemingway, and though its best days are certainly behind it, it's well worth dropping in, especially as it's open until 2am.
When I was there, we dined next to an odd couple - a poorly dressed old Italian man with a stunning combover and his porcelain-doll-like young companion - who helped us to choose from the menu, and then spent the rest of the night whispering sweet nothings to each other. Inevitably we ended up picking a seafood mix of langoustine, oysters and salmon, washed down with a couple of cracking bottles of white.
The waiters were also uncommonly friendly and generous about our stumbling attempts to order in French. Oh, and the profiteroles were great. You'll leave feeling fat, which is as it should be.
108 blvd de Montparnasse; Tel: 01 43 20 14 20; Metro Vavin
When in Paris there is absolutely no excuse not to get a little lightheaded on a glass or two of wine before lunch. To which end, drop in at Le Baron Rouge around 11am, order some bread and pate and tuck into a little red. Or white. Or both.
Le Baron Rouge is a new-ish but old-fashioned bar, with upturned barrels dotted about the place for you to stand around, and a fine selection of wines. One of life's pleasures - wandering off afterwards for a stroll and a long lunch.
It's also open in the evening, and can become quite busy.
1 rue Th. Rhoussel; Tel: 01 43 43 14 32; Metro: Bastille
Stunningly beautiful decor and fabulous music. Come and have just the one drink, unless you're loaded, and take in this Parisian beauty. And buy a cd on the way out. La Suite is highly recommended.
239 rue St-Honore
Telephone: (00 33 1) 4244 5000
Nice was far too expensive, and I refuse to be ripped off. So instead of going to the clubs, we went to the beach. Busy with young Italians predominantly; the place is buzzing.
Buy a beer from the guys strolling along with coolboxes ... they sell more than just beer. Chill out and watch the skinny-dippers taking on the sea.
This became a nightly thing to do for us. And the highlight of the night: the ferry coming into port every 11pm. Watch, smile and say nothing as the big waves clear the front of the beach quick-smart. Classy.
The Canal St Martin, as featured in Amelie, is a green lung through the eastern side of the city with its entrancing bow shaped, green bridges. Cross over the Place de Stalingrad to continue into the Bassin de la Villette. Very romantic by moonlight.
Start off from metro Stalingrad
One of the best restaurants in the world, La Tupina consistently wins plaudits, but remains incredibly good value. You're likely to see owner Jean-Pierre Xiradakis cooking doorstops of beef over an open fire. And the wine list is more like a book, and handwritten.
6 Rue Porte de la Monnaie; tel: 5 56 91 56 37; www.latupina.com
A very relaxing place. There are Parisians who go there to take a nap, and you won't pay more than a euro to enter the garden.
77, rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris (VIIe); tel: 01 44 18 61 10;
Métro (13): Varenne, Invalides ou Saint-François-Xavier;
R.E.R (C): Invalides;
Bus: 69, 82, 87, 92;
A great vegetarian restaurant - not something easy to find anywhere, let alone France.
There's no menu, just whatever they bring you - usually five courses, strictly veggie. No hard choices! And good value too.
Probably need to book ahead for evenings.
4 bis, quai Papacino, +33 4 93 56 25 27
Arguably one of the world's most famous opera houses. On its busiest night, I decided to gamble and walk in ten minutes after the start of the Saturday 7pm performance of (...I honestly can't remember, but it featured a nun who had renounced her vow of celibacy and was sung in German...).
I asked, using my basic French vocabulary for the cheapest ticket available. Three minutes later, I was in the 'Gods', in a packed Bastille, watching opera with Paris glitteraty ... for €5, yes FIVE EUROS. It was fantastic. I recommend anyone gambles!
L'Opéra de Paris-Bastille, 120 rue de Lyon 75012 Paris France ... It's at the Bastille!
French holiday park designed for families with younger children. Not really suited for singles or romantic couples. Fifth visit this year (over 15 year period). Have been to many others but this is still the best.
While many parts of central Paris are exclusive, beautiful but unrepresentative of the vibrant ethnic mix of today's France - Belleville is where it's at. You can arrive here by métro at the station of the same name, but I prefer to get off at métro Pyrenées and walk along to the top of rue de Bellville. At the top of this steep hill, you can see the Eiffel Tower (time it on the hour and you will see it sparkle in the distance).
Walk down the hill and you will soon pass a house upon whose steps Edith Piaf was born. A little way farther down, make a left onto rue Piat. Fifty metres down on your left you will come to a belvedere with a great view of Paris. It overhangs the Parc de Belleville, a stretch of green in this urban area.
Go back onto rue de Belleville and keep walking down hill. You will pass an increasing number of Chinese restaurants. Continue till you reach the busy crossroads where you will find Belleville metro. Cross the boulevard de Belleville (there is a twice-weekly foodmarket here, which is worth a look at) and if you are hungry, stop off for a reasonably-priced Chinese meal at the Belleville Institution Le Président. Walk down rue du Faubourg du Temple and take in the hustle and bustle of the Chinese supermakets, cafés serving thé à la menthe where you can smoke 'la chicha' (waterpipe with flavored tobacco) and many discount fabric and clothes shops.
You can end this walk at métro Goncourt, or continue on to the picturesque and arty-trendy Canal Saint Martin.
Start from métro Pyrenées
This walk crosses the east of Paris from the Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes. You are transported to a space in total contradiction to the urbanity surrounding you. This walk provides a breath of fresh air, but unlike a park, this is a narrow-ish walk-way surrounded by trees and plants that takes you up on viaducts and above buildings (only one storey up) and sometimes in tunnels, for a distance of 4.5 km.
In addition to providing you with some greenery, it allows you to journey among the trees, instead of among cars (as there are numerous access points along the way), and to see houses and apartment blocks in a way that is impossible from street level.
From the Avenue Daumesnil to the Bois de Vincennes (access by staircases and lifts along the way)
Métro : Bastille (Lignes 1,5, and 8)
One of world-renowned chef Joel Robuchon's new ventures, the principle being: no reservations, small-sized dishes, bar seating on high stools, design.
His aim is to provide top-quality food without the fuss and pomp of the traditional gastronomic restaurants. The food is delicious (not if you're on a diet though, but it's worth breaking your diet for), presented impeccably and portions are small (tapas-style). The restaurant is aiming for a trendy, design look (all black and red, from the stools, bar and crockery to the clothes the staff wear), with muted lights. Diners are seated at a u-shaped bar, and so it is ideal for couples (more than that, and the conversation would be difficult).
The only issue is that they take no reservations. You can turn up from around 18.30 and they will tell you when you will have a table. Be prepared to dine late (my brother and I ate at 23.00!). As there are no nice bars to wait at, I recommend you walk about ten mins up the Boulevard St Germain and have a drink at the mythic Cafe de Flore or Les Deux Magots.
I recommend taking any dish served with the mashed potatoes (only an accompaniment, but absolutely divine - think butter with a bit of potato). And the poached egg in girolle soup was delicious.
5, rue Montalembert
Metro: Rue du Bac (Ligne 12)
Bed and breakfast (Chambres d'hotes). Beautiful house. Formerly priest's residence. Church nearby with working (twice a day) bells. Lovely garden and interior. Stay in suites of rooms that sleep up to six people. Cost for four people for three nights b&b £234. Evening meal (highly recommended) 16 euros. Clean and extremely comfortable. House has good ghost. Home made mure or pommeau (or both by the fire before dinner). Hostess Claudia Lacroix is a brilliant cook. Nothing too much for this hospitable, helpful, fiercely independent, interesting woman. Good conversation, local gossip, plentiful interesting local information. Perfect environment in which to relax with friends. Lots to see (William the conquerer's birthplace in nearby Falaise), too.
Claudia La Croix 02 33 36 03 96
Caen or Argentan station.
In 1786 real estate was scarce in Paris, and overcrowded cemetries were too valuable to leave to the dead. The government decided reclaim the land by moving the bones to the empty underground limestone quarries at the edge of the city. By 1860, 5 to 6 million skeletons had been moved and arranged into mounds and macabre designs.
An unassuming black door opposite Denfert-Rochereau Metro station takes you to the underground passages.
On the opposite bank of the Rhone, this perfect little village is stuffed with amazing Medieval buildings.
For just over €6 you can get an "Avignon Passion" pass ticket which gives you entry to a monastery, a fortified tower (with the best views of Avignon and the Pont Saint-Benezet, the latter being the correct name for "Sur la pont...") a castle, an abbey garden and three other ancient gems.
The village square has several good bar/restaurants serving reasonably priced local dishes (about €8).
From Avignon cross the Rhone on the bridge signed "Ile Piot", turn right on the far bank and follow signs for Villeneuve a few hundred metres along.Map: tinyurl.com/ys3mhj
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