College Town Tours: The Best of Paris, France

The charming Île St. Louis in the center of Paris.

For the French in particular, food represents a mentality. As one saying goes, “in the US one eats to live; in France, one lives to eat.” Taste, to the French, is a key part of the good life. The French are obsessed with food, and rightly so: it’s not only a biological need, but an art of living. Paris isn’t like other cities. Sure, as the capital, she is conceived of as a symbol of France and her people. But the beauty of Paris lies in the mix of tradition with trend.

Of course you will find, and enjoy, classic French dishes in Paris, such as boeuf bourguignon, crepes, cheeses that make you want to cry tears of joy, and unforgettable baguettes that make you wonder why you buy sliced cardboard from commercial American grocery stores. But the excitement of Paris lies in the hunt for the new market, the new restaurant, or the latest iteration of food culture. With the classic bistros and brasseries you’ll find wine “caves”, neo-bistros, “bio” or organique restaurants, hidden bars, and more.

France is known for rich sauces, complicated preparations, white tablecloths and elegance. You can find that there, if you wish. But don’t forget that the farm-to-table movement that showcases ingredients first and foremost was pioneered in France by celebrity gardener Nicholas de Bonnefons. It was he who said, “Let a cabbage soup be entirely cabbage. . . and may what I say about soup be a law applied to everything that is eaten.” I would argue that some of the best food Paris has to offer lies in stellar ingredients—ingredients you can have access to with as little as a subway ticket. Don’t shy away from establishments that aren’t explicitly “French” in name, style or fare. Falafel, pizza, and a sneaky taqueria-meets-speakeasy are all worthy of a visit. Be an urban explorer, seeking out history as well as innovation. Your stomach will thank you.

**SCK Picks**

Best Coffee
Merce and the Muse
1 bis Rue Dupuis // 33-9-53-14-53-04

No one comes to France to drink coffee. That said, some of the attempts at the drink are abysmal. Merce and the Muse lured me in after I read an article on My Little Paris that compared it to a Greenwich Village coffee joint. The owner is noticeably American—hails from DC/ New York—yet she has gained quite the local following. Among the fellow diners were two hipster dads and their adorable two children (no, not a couple, though I did find myself caught in the midst of a gay pride parade later that afternoon). There was one choice for brunch—oeufs, healthy-looking bread, local jams and vibrant greens. I stuck with java, and chose a cappuccino that is somehow infused with sugar as it brews, making for a caramelized taste. Happy Sunday.
Must Order: Cortado and a Rice Krispy Treat with Dried Cranberries

Best Tea
Café et Thés Verlet
265 Rue Saint-Honore. between Rue Saint-Anne and Rue des Pyramides.

At Café et Thés Verlet, tea is the main event. You won’t see many hipsters and people watchers here—the man behind the counter didn’t speak English, which was a plus (imagine that! speaking French in France). Here, you choose your exotic coffee beans first and the type of coffee drink second. So drop your skinny vanilla latte and come get serious with coffee. among the few, well selected snacks are a host of dried and candied fruits. a smile and polite request let to a bag of crystallized ginger on the house. score.
Must order: Mokalbori tea or a vanille noisette

Best Commercialized Tea
Kusmi Tea
25 rue Danielle Casanova, Paris // 01 42 60 24 97

What is it with the “ks”/ “kus” words that make products so attractive? Ksubi jeans, Kusmi Tea (there were more…). These teas come in a psychedelic rainbow spectrum, individually as well as in cute packages with themes like “detox” or “love”, and make fabulous gifts.
Must order: Detox tea for yourself and gifts for your quarter life friends.

Best Open Air Markets (Tie)

Blvd. Raspail Marché Bio (organic)
Blvd. Raspail market is in the 6th, between Rue de Rennes & Rue du Cherche-Midi, every Sunday morning

After long deliberation, I finally settled on dried mangues from Cameroon and une tranche du pain aux fruits secs. Samples of kiwi jam, cantaloupe and strawberries came at no cost. Some of the items you might encounter/ be seduced by include mini quiches, liquid chocolate, hand-crafted pasta, turkey birds, roses, dried figs. Who needs coffee when you can have a glass of orange juice squeezed right before your eyes? perfect accompaniment to homemade jams, with flavors like orange carrot, kiwi, and cantaloupe. smeared on baguette. This Raspail market is located close to the posh St. Germain neighborhood in Paris’ 6th arrondissement. Sunday shopping is a family affair—impeccably dressed mothers and fathers bring their equally chic children to the market, teaching them the importance of taste from an early age.
Must order: Pain au Fruits Secs (a delicious bread with dried fruit, hazelnuts and almonds)

I nearly OD'ed on salted caramels so kindly offered by this market vendor at the Marche President Wilson in the 17th arrondissement.

Marché President Wilson: produce, salts, caramels, posh clientele
On avenue du Président Wilson between Place d’Iena and Rue Debrousse, Paris 75016

This market is technically in the 16th arrondissement, but close to the residential-heavy 7th. You’ll instantly be greeted with a cacophony of “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur, plaisir de vous voir aujourd’hui.” Fruits, Vegetables and fresh-picked flowers abound—and don’t miss the stall of exotic vegetable stall operated by Joel Thiebault, supplier to Paris’ haute food scene. Fishmongers drive down from Brittany and Normandy, and there are even some Italian vendors showing off fresh pasta and sauces. My favorite seller is a grandfatherly type who makes his own secret salt mixes hand packaged in colorful sachets, with names like “Secret Salt Baby” and “George Clooney” (not the real names, but his chosen ones for foreign clientele). He snuck me a salted caramel free of charge, made from his own salts. Incredible. Not to mention he flashed a peace sign when I took his picture—so much for the “French are rude” stereotype!
Must order: Le caramel au beurre sale, or salted butter caramels. Out of this monde.

Best Crepe
Breizh Café
Breizh Café, 109 Rue Vieille du Temple// 01 42 72 13 77

Sure, crepes are a French cliché, but how could you come to Paris and NOT seek one out? Crepes can be sub-par, just ok, or fabulous. At Breizh Café, they are heavenly. Bertrand Larcher opened his first café in Cancale, Brittany, then opened a few more in Tokyo with his Japanese wife, and finally moved back to France to open a location in the Marais. All crepes are make with the best organic flour and ingredients—butter and eggs fresh from Breton, unpasteurized gruyere, and even homemade caramel. There are galettes (usually savory crepes made with buckwheat flour, though sweet crepes can be ordered in this style) and the type of crepes you’re more often to see dans la rue. To wash down your plate of heaven I suggest hard cider, served in a cute little cup (and, in my case, poured by a delightful waitress wearing a St. James top). Another house specialty is “lait ribot,” which is sparkling fermented milk. I know I’ll be back, and when I am, I’ll have to try this spiked milk. The combo of a sugar high and fermented milk just might inspire you to head over to Vanessa Bruno and actually buy something. warning: I don’t endorse tipsy shopping. its dangerous.
Must order: A galette (a savory crepe made with buckwheat flour) and a lait ribot (slightly sparkling fermented milk…take my word)

Best Falafel
L’As du Falafel
34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris

When I first got to Paris, i tried to be badass and defy French stereotypes by NOT getting a crepe upon arrival. Instead, I hopped on le metro and headed straight to Le Marais to hit up L’As du Falafel. Just what I needed to power through jet lag. At world-famous L’As du Falafel, choosing whether or not to sit “sur place” (as opposed to grabbing that fluffy falafel pita “à emporter”) is all a matter of preference. Would you prefer to live the street culture, clutching your dripping pita like this season’s IT bag while you scope out the happening Rue des Rosiers, and truly embrace the “flaneuse” lifestyle? Or would you rather do it YOUR way, by ordering the “assiette vegetarienne” and take part in a sort of foodie deconstructionism? This week, I was feeling the latter. The ruggedly handsome Israeli men inside might have played a minor role. Just a minor one.
Must order: Pita Falafel or Assiette Legumes (which, have no fear, comes with the pillowy pitas)

Best Cupcake
23 Rue Rambuteau, 75004 Paris // 01 40 29 02 44 ‎

Crumbs addicts, don’t you fret. There’s a new cupcake store in town, and it might just rival the NY institution (though not Two Little Red Hens…that still takes the cake in my book). You won’t see any “Colossal Crumb” cupcakes in this joint—those 6.5 inch fatties would be considered vulgar in France, most likely. These mini treats looked scrumptious. I didn’t sample, but I’ll be back to try the citron meringue or poire caramel. There’s also cheesecake, if ça vous tente. (if that tempts you).
Must order: Speculos Swirle cupcake. Speculos is like nutella gone blonde. And you know what they say…blondes do have more fun. Need I say more?

Best healthy[-ier] lunch spots (Tie)

Bob’s Kitchen
74 Rue des Gravilliers, 75003 Paris// 09 52 55 11 66

Bob’s Kitchen is the cousin to Bob’s Juice Bar—only bigger, with table service, and a happenin’ Sunday crowd (Le Brunch phenomenon caught on a bit late in Paris, but it’s alive and well). There’s no detailed website for this joint, so I hadn’t consulted the menu beforehand. And I’m glad I didn’t. I simply looked to my left, spotted a colorful bowl of salad with small cornbread slivers, and ordered the same thing (it happened to be called a “Vegetable Stew,” but it was more like a hearty, roughly chopped salad. Oh avocado, how I’ve missed you). Sriracha, brown cane sugar, old school salt and pepper shakers and mason jars were already on the table. Simple and to the point. I tore myself a piece of the communal paper towel (don’t grimace, it was clean), ordered a freshly pressed juice, and pretended to read Ionesco’s Rhinoceros while secretly eavesdropping on the fashionable twenty-somethings next to me, and admiring the beautiful young man across the table…that is, until I realized he had a boyfriend.
Must order: Stew Bowl (less of a stew, more of a salad smorgas) and a Smoothie 100% Bio

Rose Bakery
There are multiple locations, but the Marais Rose Bakery is at 30 Rue Debelleyme // 01 49 96 54 01

Rose Bakery is the brainchild of an Englishwoman, Rose, and her French husband Jean-Charles. Lunch or brunch here is well worth the wait, especially if you are looking for something fresh, vegetarian-friendly, and balanced. My favorite order is the daily assortment of salads, which may include caramelized fennel, chickpea and eggplant, curried cauliflower, broccolini, etc. Their square savory tarts and pizettes are always baked fresh, and the bread is made by famed break maker Poujauran. What Rose Bakery got noticed for are their cylinder-molded individual carrot cakes, which are to die for.

Best Taqueria/ Hidden Bar Hybrid
52 Rue de Saintonge 75003 Paris // 01 42 74 41 28.

When you first walk into Candelaria it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped into a subway car during rush hour—only it smells a whole lot better. You must be bold and push your way through the counter, where you shout our your order in French, Spanish, or English. A tostada with stewed chicken or queso fresco (it’s the real deal), guacamole, and Dos Equis and you’re all set…for a moment. Until you snag a freshly made brownie. A rainbow of hot sauces stand defiantly on the counter, daring you to make your mouth so hot you’ll just have to run to the hidden bar through the doorway. Wait, a hidden bar? Yep. Pass the threshold and you’ll find a suave lounge serving inventive cocktails to a creative and lively crowd. The Santa Margarita (Tequila, agave, hibiscus, vanilla, lime) is sublime. Try to blend in with the Parisians, but if you can’t beat those quarter life American urges, go ahead…get the punch bowl. Oh, and did I mention Sunday cocktail brunch?
Must Order: Tostada and a Santa Margarita

Best Cafés for Studying (Tie)
Le Bal
6 Impasse de la Défense 75018 Paris // 01 44 70 75 51

After an unanticipated stroll along what is apparently the erotica-shop street in Paris (or what at least used to be), I was relieved to find La Bal café. I contemplated ordering the “Welsh rarebit, salade” which the pretty hipster barista described as a sort of croque-monsieur without ham or a spicy cheddar grilled sandwich, but I was soon swayed by a glance at the treats table. The lemon curd raspberry muffin was calling my name (as we joke in class “ça vous tente?”…and it did). The warm cappuccino came decorated with a heart. After passing businesses with names like “Pussies and Mango Show X”, I found the little heart of foam to be charming. Le Bal is a mélange of an art gallery, art bookstore and hipster-chic café. It dedicates itself specifically to art of the image—photo, video, cinema, and new media. As the director/ president Ramond Depardon   puts it, the dream is to open a space of “exhibition, confrontation and interrogation in the place of an old dance hall.”
Must Order: Chocolat Chaud Valrhona, Tarte chocolat-caramel

47 Rue de Babylone 75007 Paris// 01 45 51 50 47

Coutume is one of the latest additions to what many call the “boutique coffee scene” in Paris. Beans are actually roasted there in a top of the line espresso machine, where they are then siphoned through glass beakers that look like they are some sort of science experiment, before finally passing through a filter or 24 hour cold drip. Pastries come from the below-listed Patisserie des Reves, which are fittingly be served in glass orbs. Grab a cappuccino, a salad or a sandwich and work to the slow beat of the house playlist.
*Note: Coutume is a skip from both Le Bon Marché, a fabulous luxury department store, and the the best old-school movie theater in Paris: Le Pagode. Le Pagode is an old-fashioned cinema house with velvet chairs—the perfect escape for a rainy day.
Must Order: Cappuccino and the brunch special, usually eggs.

Best Gourmet Grocery Store
La Grande Epicerie
8 Rue de Sèvres 75007 Paris // 01 44 39 81 00

La Grande Epicerie is so much more than a grocery store. It’s a luxe food emporium. A cultural study. A work of art. A summary of French food in the moment, as well as the French take on other national cuisines (evidenced in their “États-Unis” section which features pancake mixes, Vosges chocolate and peanut butter). You will splurge here, but you won’t wake up with a shopping hangover the next morning. You can cut corners, like buying juice-boxed wine (only in France would that taste good) instead of the 12 euro mini “Pop” champagne. Get a flute of mini breads, hand pick some cheeses, explore the charcuterie and the prepared foods line. Take samples, smile, and melt. You’re in heaven.
Must Order: Mini bread medley and a selection of cheeses from the fromagiere

Best Bargain Grocery Store
Ubiquitous; check online for the closest to you.

Monoprix in Paris is kind of like Duane Reade in NY: ubiquitous, convenient, and unexpectedly good. Monop’ is a great economical grocery store: a no-brainer stop whether you’re planning a picnic, party, or hoping to spend less money on lunch. Buy a baguette from a local boulangerie and head here for crowd friendly spreads such as hummus, eggplant dip and soft cheeses and meats if you desire. The products and produce are generally good quality, and they tend to favor bigger local or national brands. It’s a surprisingly good find to stock up on gifts, such as kusmi teas, little jams, and other only-in-france products to bring home to your loved ones. They stock good value wines and liquors which can save you a lot of money compared to the fun, yet expensive, bars!
Must Order: Cheap Wine

Best Patisserie
Patisserie des Reves
93 rue du Bac. Metro 12: Rue de Bac. // 01 42 84 00 82

Claiming a favorite pastry shop in Paris is like claiming a favorite child. While you likely have a preference, it just feels wrong. That said, La Patisserie des Reves deserves a spot on this list because of its dream-like décor that blends space age fantasy with impeccable French quality and artisanship. Pastries such as le mille-feuille (a napoleon, or rectangular treat with alternating layers of puff pastry and cream) du dimanche and le St. Honorè (caramelized cream puffs placed in a circle on a tart crust and sprinkled with cream) are presented like specimens in a science lab under glass hemispheres all connected to the ceiling with pulleys and weights. Their crowned jewel is the Paris-Brest, a ring of choux pastry filled with a praline cream, sprinkled with almonds and confectioners sugar.
Must Order: Paris Brest.

Best Pizza
Pink Flamingo Pizzeria
There are 6 Pink Flamingos in Paris, but best is the one near Canal St. Martin at 67, Rue Bichat 75010 // 01 42 02 31 70.

For quarter life cooks, pizza cravings are hard to suppress. While there aren’t any late night pizza delivery services in Paris to my knowledge, there is a place that will deliver to the scenic Canal St. Martin. You place your order in the shop, and take a pink balloon with a number that identifies your party to the bicycle (velo) delivery man. Stock up on some cheap quality wine at Monoprix and you have yourself a quality meal. La Dante is your basic, Margherita pie. For something a little more special opt for the Obama (bacon and grilled pineapple…symbols of America and Hawaii?), L’Aphrodite with eggplants (aubergines) and hummus, La Bjork with smoked salmon and crème fraiche, or the Almodovar, a proclaimed “paella” pizza with chicken, shrimp, chorizo, and peas. My favorite is the Basquiat, which is figs and gorgonzola. A marriage made in heaven—and an aphrodisiac at that.
Must Order: Basquiat Pizza

Best Wine Bar
Les Papilles
30 Rue Gay-Lussac 75005 Paris // 01 43 25 20 79

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Les Papilles three times in my quarter-life, and each time I’ve left on a foodie high. Part wine shop, part gourmet store and part restaurant, Les Papilles offers a daily four-course menu displayed in rustic fashion on an old chalkboard perched atop the zinc wine bar. You select the wine yourself, and at less than 30 euros per meal, it’s a bargain. The menu is called “retour du marche,” or return from the market, and might on a given night include a creamy parsnip soup garnished with bacon and roasted hazelnuts, followed lamb stew served tableside in a copper pot with meat so tender you can cut it with a fork. Then might come a fresh chèvre—cloudlike and clean—followed by a yellow citrus custard topped with a sweet pistachio jelly. No day is the same, but odds are high that you’ll see the owner Bertrand Bluy, perched at the bar and tending to his patrons.
Must Order: Wine. The menu is set—but the wine cellar is your playground.

Best Macarons
La Durée
There are multiple Paris locations. The least crowded is 21 Rue Bonaparte 75006 Paris// 01 44 07 64 87

Cliché, but I’d have to go with La Durée. The two big contenders here are Pierre Hermé and La Durée. Despite La Duree’s recent opening on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which is part dream/part despressing globalization nightmare, it remains the queen of macarons. Ideal 4-flavor box: caramel au buerre sale, chocolat, rose, pistache. Give a box as a gift, and who knows what goodness will come your way.
Must Order: An assortment. You need to experience them all before choosing a fave.

Best International Bar
Bar Dix
10 Rue de Odéon,75006 Paris// 01 43 26 66 83.

Paris and Sangria. Not two words you often see in the same sentence. All the same, if…I mean when… you come to Paris, make time for a drink at Bar Dix, on rue de l’Odeon in the 6th. Walking downstairs into the cave of the basement was not unlike the descent into AD. But instead of fratty types and shitty keystone, there were French locals, international travelers, and ceramic pitchers of freshly made sangria. Ironically, the man behind the bar, which was decorated with various sexual postcards, was not at all sexy. Yet despite his white hair and pot belly, he made damn good sangria. Went a little wild with the 50-centime peanut machine (kind of like those dirty gumball machines in the states, only with perfectly salted peanuts), but no regrets. Friendly to the student/ traveler budget as well, at 11 euro a pitcher.
Words of Wisdom: if you leave the bar at 2am, don’t expect to hail a yellow cab like you could on the streets of New York. Waiting in a taxi line until 3 am is never fun. Until I find my Parisian petit-ami, find out how to rent a Velib bicycle with an American credit card, or steal a smart car, I better make a point of heading home before the metro closes.
Must Order: PEANUTS. So you can wash them down with more sangria.

Best Free Concert
Fête de la Musique

If you have any control over travel dates, aim to be in Paris the third week in June so that you can join Parisians for a night of musical revelry at the Fête de la Musique. This free event features free concerts of all types of music, famous artists to amateurs. You can listen to an organ concert and choir at a church, listen to a pick up band playing seventies tunes and hit up a rap concert all in the same night. And thanks to the late-running busses and subways, you can travel safely to all different neighborhoods without worrying about getting stranded.

Best Outdoor Bar & Dancing
Rosa Bonheur in Parc Buttes Chaumont
2 Allée de la Cascade 75019 Paris// 01 42 00 00 45.

Tucked away in the scenic Parc Buttes Chaumont is Rosa Bonheur, a self-called guinguette, or place to drink, eat and dance! On a Thursday, Friday or Saturday it’s not uncommon to see lines of fifty or even seventy-five people. Believe the hype. A friend and I were skeptical, but we braved the wait and boy did we reap the benefits. Dash to the bar to snag unpretentious small plates full of charcuterie or cheeses, and then bring that along with your drink—we recommend the house wine—to one of the outdoor picnic tables. Chatter and laugh in the garden setting and then give up your table to the next couple as you prepare to dance to the live DJ under the sparkling tea lights.

Best Concept Store
111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 75003 Paris // 01 42 77 00 33 Métro Saint Sébastien-Froissart

Even if you don’t plan to open your porte-monnaie in Merci, it’s highly advisable to faire du leche vitrines (the translation for window shopping in French is literally “window licking.”  The concept store Merci embodies that je-ne-sais-quoi parisien. You can enter, find a used book on history or design, sample little known French body creams, ogle exquisite Jerome Dryfuss bags, K. Jacques sandals and Isabel Marant Dresses and treat yourself to a simple yet delectable meal all in the same setting. I once came away with a cheap faux gold necklace with a charm of a French word I didn’t know the meaning of—and will not translate in this forum. Don’t arrive with expectations.

Best Eyeglasses Store
Eyes Pleasure
40 Rue Saint-Sulpice, 75006 Paris // 01 44 07 11 99.

Valerie Carlotti owns the best eyeglass store in Paris—and arguably the world. It should really be called an eyeglass experience. Valerie curates a selection of frames, both prescription and sunglasses, that you can’t believe—you can find what’s “hot” at the moment, but more importantly, you can get advice from the style maven herself about what frame is best for your face. When a beautiful, intellectual, petite blond who commutes to her studio in heels and a vespa tells you should buy pink Miu Miu frames, it’s hard to say no. Her store exudes a zen like feel, and even if you opt out of the eye massages that are offered upstairs, you benefit from the soothing digital display and mini library of books all about the eye—philosophies, studies, and drawings. If you’re in the neighborhood of St. Sulpice you must stop here, if only to meet Valerie. I’m still waiting for a New York branch…

Best Way to Work Off Too Many Patisseries
Bikram Yoga Paris
There are multiple Bikram Yoga Paris locations, but my favorite was in the Maris at 13 Rue Simon le Franc, 75004 Paris, France // 01 42 47 18 52. Right near Georges Pompidou modern museum!

Things are heating up in Paris—literally and figuratively. But that didn’t stop me from testing out Bikram Yoga in the Marais, a hop away from Le Centre George Pompidou. Always one for a deal, my friends and I saw an offer for a 10-day unlimited pass and pounced. The first was in French, and had an amazing energy. The second was led in franglish by a fit, charming man sporting a bikini with the English flag, who would use phrases like “open your chest like a blossoming flower,” or “fold your body in half like a Japanese ham sandwich”(don’t ask me what the latter one means, perhaps something was lost in translation?) I’m still on the fence about bikram. As great as the “energy” is, the smell of 40 sweating bodies and the sound of my neighbor slipping in his own perspiration is enough to make me run out of class after Shavasana.

Best Picnic and Running Spot
Parc Buttes Chaumont

You can’t be a true New Yorker until you experience Central Park. Sheep’s Meadow is a mecca of sorts for those lucky enough to visit. The words “Great Lawn” announce the arrival of spring and mark the countdown to summer. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an April weekend in the city than having an impromptu picnic with friends. Barefoot, lying on a picnic blanket, alert for the stray baseballs of the Yorkville little leaguers or impromptu amateur games. Relaxed. Parks hold a similar place in the hearts of Parisians. They may not officially belong to la patrimoine culturelle, but they ought to. Saturday afternoon I found my Central Park in parc Buttes Chaumont, in the 19th arrondissement close to my famille d’acceuil. Luxembourg Gardens is equally special, but it’s terrain and its parc-goers are noticeably less diverse. Before the picnic scene gets going—and actually on any weekday morning—I recommend jogging around this pleasant park. It’s hilly but manageable, and you can even jog across a bridge that resembles a mini- Golden gate.

The Parc des Buttes Chaumont was created by the architect Jean-Charles Alphand after Napoléon III decided to turn this former gypsum quarry into a beautiful garden. It opened in 1867, and ever since has been a popular neighborhood spot for family picnic, strolls, dog walks and runs. The perimeter offers a great running course that is quite hilly, and there are tons of shortcuts and inner paths to create your own unique trail.

Best Weekend Day Trips (Tie)
Fontainebleau and Vaux-le Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte: 77950 Maincy France // 01 64 14 41 90
Fontainebleau: 77300 Fontainebleau  France // 01 60 71 50 70

Pimp my school field trip: Paris edition. Today’s episode featuring chateaux Fontainebleau et Vaux-le-Vicomte. Sumptuous interiors, breath-taking facades, gardens that make you want to have lived the life of a French royal in the XVII century. Be a nerd, get the audio guide, and listen to everything you ever wanted to know about canopy beds, royal kitchens, and manicured gardens.

Best Kept Secret for Sight-Seeing
Notre Dame at night!

Prime time to view Notre Dame is at 9pm when the sky is transitioning from sunset to moonlight (yes, it stays light that late here.) The Seine’s quite picturesque at that time as well. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Not too far from Notre Dame is Shakespeare and Co. Stay tuned for a proper Ode to that gem of a bookstore. I tried to resist buying a book, since they were [mostly] in English, but failed.

Best Unique Workout
Water biking
4, CitePopincourt 75001 Paris. Metro: Saint-Ambroise // 01 43 38 96 84.

You read that right—not water-boarding. Leave it to Parisians to invent a workout that lets them a) wear bikinis and b) restore with fresh pressed juices and fruits afterwards. This urban pool workout blasts cellulite that you never knew existed on those lean, mean, Parisian thigh machines. Cité Popincourt let’s you bike your heart out under a large glass roof that adds a scenic touch to an otherwise grueling experience. But what a fun price to pay for your late night brie binge. The pool is heated. And did I mention bikinis? Speedos be gone. No swim cap needed, unless it’s Dior or so hipster there’s no label.

Bonus! Coolest “App”/ media to download before you leave
Paris: Soundwalk

While in Paris, I often turned to the internet to research snippets of Parisian life that’ll add some color to my trimester here—things off the beaten track. Uncommon. Organic. One night I came across a thing called Soundwalk. In a nutshell, Soundwalk invites you to experience a neighborhood of a city through the eyes of a local. In carefully and creatively produced Mp3s, an original voice leads you about the “quartier.” As the website describes, the character leading the walk recounts little Parisian anecdotes that amuse him/her and identify points of interest such as the bars where Sartre and Camus liked to stretch their minds, the favorite neighborhood of Gainsbourg, the bookstore where Marguerite Duras worked. The narrator guides you in detail, from the little table in the corner of a bar to the secret code of a door that will lead you to an unobstructed view of Parisian rooftops. A multi-sensory experience is created, forming a unique ambiance with the sound of footsteps, the hum of the city, the conversations with sellers and the music that flows sweetly in whatever pocket of Paris you find yourself. An intimate and poetic ballad in the whirlwind of Paris, Soundwalk “made its name by producing cutting-edge audio guides, mixing fiction and reality to provide an exclusive and poetic discovery of the city, on the bridge between Baudelairian stroll and cinematic experience”. Soudwalk is legit—it has won prestigious art awards, among them, the Dalton Pen Award in 2005 for the Ground Zero Sonic Memorial with Paul Auster (who happens to be one of my favorite authors). The Paris walks include Belleville, Marais, Palais Royal, Pigalle, and St. Germain de Pres.

Recommended Resources on Eating in Paris:

Alain Ducasse: J’aime Paris (An exquisite photo book for coffee-table Paris dreaming)
David Leibovitz, The Sweet Life in Paris
Clotilde Dusoulier,Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris (author of the popular blog Chocolate & Zucchini)
Eat.Shop.Paris (has evolved into “Rather” guides)
Le Fooding: The New Millenium’s answer to the more conservative Guide Michelin.
Paris by Mouth
Haven in Paris
My Little Paris (A newsletter that resembles Daily Candy)

Brooke Elmlinger, a junior studying French and the art of the dinner party at Dartmouth College, is guilty of spending NYC lunch breaks browsing urban farmers markets.

Originally posted on Friday, March 16th, 2012

7 Responses to “College Town Tours: The Best of Paris, France”

  1. Erica

    May 21st, 2012

    Great, great article!!! I read until the end first because I was a captivated reader but also because I wanted to see your bio. I am a foodie, grew up in Hanover, and I am currently studying abroad in Paris. I can’t even imagine how much fun you had coming here from Dartmouth (It just doesn’t compare, however, Lou’s will always be amazing) and frolicking around Paris. I have already been to many of the places on your list and then some, and through it all I’ve fallen in love with Speculoos…I absolutely LOVE this line: Speculos is like nutella gone blonde. Would love to chat further about your blogging for this site and food interests! (and of course talking about Hanover, if you like) – my email –

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