Sunday, June 27, 2010


In less than a week, Kate and I are going to Paris for vacation. I have never been before, Kate has been several times and (thank God) speaks French. Does anyone have any suggestions on things we have to see or do? We're hitting the usuals, of course, but I'm curious if anyone knows of any gems off the beaten path (or good restaurants/cafes).


  1. Maybe it's a little lame to go to an American-originated spot after traveling across the Atlantic, but Shakespeare and Company would be a cool place to say that you've been.

  2. Visit the old Les Halles; it is the site of what was a roughly 800 year old food market.

    Find a restaurant where regular Parisians eat. Don't be afraid to eat something you've never heard of.

    Take a tour of the Parisian sewers.

    Visit Les Invalides.

    If you have a chance to get out of the city a bit visit the Douaumont ossuary.

  3. 1. Article I thought you might find interesting:

    2. Have lunch at expensive places and eat cheaply for dinner. The best places for cheap food are in small shops in neighborhoods. The ethnic foods (Indian, Pakistani, Moroccan, etc.) far surpass anything in the US and are very cheap. Go to a traditional bistro and have the classics (steak frites, choucroute garnie, etc.). Try at least 1 3 star Michelin if the budget allows...(lunch). (I like Guy Savoy or Pierre Gagnaire). Many of them may be closed for the summer though. Reservations are a must and check the dress code.

    3. Eat as much cheese, butter, and bread as you can. It is unreal how much better these are than in the US.

    4. Drink vin rouge and vin blanc by is cheap and although high end wine is much cheaper than in the US, the cheap stuff far surpasses cheap stuff here.

    5. Walk. Don't take the metro...Paris is the best walking city in the world and it is worthwhile to walk everywhere esp. Monmarte.

    6. Spend the time to sit and read over a bottle of wine in a cafe. Great people watching and you will get a chance to experience the Parisian pace of life. Get a table near one of the park entrances.

  4. Thanks - great suggestions.

    And thanks for the article too - I saw that this morning. I don't know if you've followed the discussion of that essay by Kartik Athreya, but this fits in perfectly for that (even though Samuelson doesn't mention him by name). I think I'm going to let the blogosphere chew on the essay a little longer, and then repost all the responses and my own thoughts on what Ahtreya had to say tomorrow morning (I emailed him about it and he sent me a response, which I think I'll share too (is that kosher, people? I don't know... maybe it is - maybe I won't share that. it's not like he's really a public official or anything where frankly I could care less about sharing correspondence).

  5. From Tyler Cowen: He has some similar advice...

    1. A few of the best restaurants are Pierre Gagnaire, Taillevent, Le Cinq, and perhaps Guy Savoy. Most critics might put Gagnaire as number one.

    2. Michelin "two-forkers" are quite good, but you must book to get in. In general you can't get a seat in a decent Parisian restaurant unless you either book or show up at opening. If you are wandering around looking for good food at 8:30 p.m., or for that matter 1 p.m., you are unlikely to do well.

    3. In The Louvre, spend an hour in the Poussin room and also obsess over Watteau's Voyage to Cythera.

    4. In Musee d'Orsay, gaze at Courbet's Origin of the World (sorry, I can't link to the image on a family blog but do Google it) and Puis de Chavannes, in addition to the usual delights.

    5. Go see the medieval tapestries at Musee Cluny.

    6. Spend a few hours walking the main roads of the Left Bank. Start at Invalides and take the major arteries through to the Islamic Center. Walk, walk, walk.

    7. Watch The Triplets of Belleville and spend hours walking through the (rapidly gentrifying) working-class neighborhoods of the Right Bank. The Metro is splendid but it robs you from seeing the greatest walking city on earth (Buenos Aires is number two). Don't take it. Walk, walk, walk.

    8. Go into a good cheese shop and spend $40. Focus on the weirder cheeses. Buy the non-pasteurized delights. Sit down with a baguette and some fruit as well, finishing the meal with small squares of outrageously priced dark chocolate. Throw in a sausage for good measure. Keep the cheese leftovers in your room at night and eat them for breakfast the next day. And the day after that. See how many days they will keep, you will be surprised.

    9. Rue de Bussi and thereabouts has a convenient collection of cheese, fruit and bread shops, and it is in an excellent part of the Left Bank.

    10. Internet Cafes are hard to come by. You must rely on the dumpy area near Centre de Pompidou. I find Paris to be the hardest city to blog from.

    11. See a "world music" concert from Algeria, Madagascar, or the Congo. Or try contemporary music at IRCAM.

    12. Here is my previous post My Favorite Things French. Douse yourself in Godard films before going. Start with Breathless, Band of Strangers, and My Life to Live.

    13. If you want to read recent French social science (if you can call it that), try Bruno Latour's We Have Never Been Modern, Jean Baudrillard, Alain Badiou's Metapolitics, and Gilles Deleuze's Anti-Oedipus. Don't get too upset if these books only make intermittent sense. At least they are alive. For a recent hit novel, try Houllebecq's The Elementary Particles.

  6. One more thing....if you haven't seen it, drop by the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa. When I was last there I still had never seen it, mostly due to hating to do the traditional touristy things and especially resenting the hordes of people who rush through the Italian Hall of Masters between the velvet ropes that keep them separated from those trying to enjoy the works. In an idealistic way I didn't want to be one of those people who traveled just to check something off a list. I finally went down the hall during a brief lull in the crush of people and checked it out. I was surprised by how small it was, by how technically unremarkable it is, and by how little it stirred an emotional reaction. I wanted to hate it and everything it stood for, but I couldn't. I had the strongest visceral reaction to it. It is the most compelling piece of art I think I have ever seen. I really cannot be explained or reproduced. Although small, it dominates the room completely. No reproduction can capture whatever it is that is so intriguing. I still do not think its good, but I am glad I saw it. I have been far more impressed and awed by many other pieces of art. The only thing is I wish is that the wing where the code of Hammurabi is open just one time when I am in Paris!!


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