For a boozy, smelly, wordy, meaty trip...
October 30, 2011 3:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm headed to Paris for two weeks, and I need advice about alcoholic drinks to try, amazing experiences for a perfume-lover, Paris-themed books to read (and where to read them), long walks, and how to maintain a high-protein, low-carb "regime".

Alcohol: I want to try some special French drinks other than wine and beer but I don't know what to order (and when).
Perfume: Looking for some stores that would be friendly to a young person looking to test a lot and browse in peace. I much prefer small boutiques to department stores, and I am generally unwilling to spend more than 100€ on a single bottle. I enjoy small labels like Le Labo, CB I hate perfume or Byredo, plus hard to find classics.
Books: Particularly interested in novels set in a particular place that I could visit.
Food: I've been in France for a month already and if I see another baguette I think I'm going to hurl. Aside from self-catering are there any options for a high-protein breakfast? Where can I get a good deal on a steak or fish lunch? And where should I go for some great soup, particularly onion?
Thanks in advance!
posted by acidic to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (24 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm about to head out the door, but for fiction set in Paris, try some of Marcel Aymé's stories (the collection « Le passé-muraille », whose stories are mostly set in Paris, is a good place to start).

France is not particularly good for cocktails, though a lot of restaurants will have a house cocktail, usually modeled on one of the American classics. But you could try a kir (white wine plus crème de cassis) or a kir royale (champagne plus crème de cassis). Pastis (anise-flavored liquor, served with cold water that you use to dilute it), from Provence, is more of a summer drink by tradition, but you can order it now. There's a wide range of brandies, from the well-known cognac (and its less well known cousin, armagnac) to apple brandy (calvados, from Normandy) and various other fruit brandies (eau-de-vie de framboise - raspberry - and poire Williams - pear brandy - being my favorites).
posted by brianogilvie at 4:36 AM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Pernod or Ricardo. On ice. By the Seine. Have fun, possum!
posted by taff at 4:45 AM on October 30, 2011

Pastis (Richard, Pernod, 52, etc ) is generally drunk as an Aperitif before dinner.

after dinner as a Digestif I'd recommend a , Calvados, Poire Williams, Cognac or say a Marc (which is like an italian Grappa) I've had a champagne Marc that was rather tasty.
posted by mary8nne at 4:49 AM on October 30, 2011

Anna Gavalda Ensemble, c'est tout.
Muriel Barberry The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
Cara Black's mysteries are set in various locations around Paris.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:51 AM on October 30, 2011

Mary8nne and I both must have iPhones because it's "Ricard". Sorry.
posted by taff at 4:52 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh and it's 51, not 52. That's a drink. French and aniseedy, not unlike Ouzo. But nicer.
posted by taff at 4:57 AM on October 30, 2011

Perfume: Definitely check out the Patricia Nicolai boutique and lab at 28 Rue de Richelieu
75001‎ Paris. I believe a few other locations have also opened in Paris since I was there in June of 2009.
posted by anathema at 5:06 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like Suze, which is one brand name of a variety of bitter liqueurs based on gentiane. Salers is another brand in this category. Ask for it on ice. Also, although you won't find it everywhere, ask for Picon, which is a syrupy orange-based liqueur that you add to beer.
posted by tractorfeed at 5:30 AM on October 30, 2011

Alcohol: Try some Noilly Prat dry vermouth as an aperitif. You can now, once again, buy absinthe in France - so you could try that too. But don't plan much for the next day. Calvados is possible choice for after a meal.

Books: You might like "Life, a User's Manual" by George Perec - not so much for places you could visit - but for a very cleverly written evocation of life within a Parisian apartment block.
posted by rongorongo at 5:38 AM on October 30, 2011

You gotta go to Serge Lutens. You gotta.
posted by likeso at 5:38 AM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should visit Shakespeare and Company. It's completely fantastic.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:23 AM on October 30, 2011

For perfume you should check out Fragonard. It's right by Opera if I'm remembering correctly, and has its own museum and shop. They only carry their own label but they have a really lovely selection. It can be rather busy when tour groups go through, but they're also very lovely about letting you try a bunch of things. They carry perfumes, eau-de-toilettes, solid perfume, and soaps.

I really love Kirs and you can get any type of syrup you want in it as well. Another thing with blonder beers is getting some syrup in those as well, which I have never heard of in the states.

Poire Williams or Calvados for after dinner is great as well.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:57 AM on October 30, 2011

Books: A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's memoir about living in Paris in the 1920s.
posted by chrchr at 8:29 AM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Drinks before dinner:
Monaco (beer, limonade, grenadine)
Demi-pêche (beer and peach syrup)
Lillet blanc (kind of fortified wine)
Martini blanc (straight dry vermouth)
The sidecar was invented by the bar in the Ritz in Paris
Kir or Kir royale
Any of the sweet wines, like Banyuls, Porto, coteaux de Layon, muscat, pineau des charentes
Suze or salers (bitter herbal)

After dinner:
Cognac or Armagnac
Eaux de vie (can be made from many fruits. I like eau de vie de prune and poire William)
Any other local hard liquor

With dinner:

You can order the drinks in whatever order you want, really. The order I gave above is what an average French person would do. Also, Mohitos are huge in Paris this year!
posted by ohio at 8:36 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Long walk? Try Père Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th arrondisement. No kiddin'', it's a must visit. Take the Metro to station Gambetta (it's a the top of the hill), walk into the cemetery and check out the great, the good, the infamous, and the Mur des Fédérés. For an incomplete list of who is buried in the cemetery Père Lachaise
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:49 AM on October 30, 2011

Book: Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard (lots of food talk, plus recipes). Also, like this blogger, for me happiness in Paris is a hot chestnut from a street vendor.
posted by gudrun at 9:34 AM on October 30, 2011

Darn autocorrect--it turned "passe-muraille" into "passé..." which is not at all correct.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:42 AM on October 30, 2011

Yeah, me too. My "arrondisement" should, bien sûr, be arrondissement.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:50 AM on October 30, 2011

Back from my afternoon outing. There are a lot of good suggestions here already. I'll second Mister Bijou's recommendation of the Père Lachaise cemetery as a place to walk.

Another good walk is the Promenade plantée, a walk which is almost entirely on a raised viaduct (former rail line) or paths separated from the road. It runs from the Bastille to the péripherique; you can continue from it into the Bois de Vincennes if you wish. The circuit of the Lac Daumesnil (in the Bois de Vincennes) is also pleasant.

The Canal Saint-Martin and the Bassin de la Villette to its north are also good places to walk, to people-watch, and to watch boats go by.

I'm also fond of just picking a secondary street and walking along it. If you start at République, you can get a nice walk by starting along the rue du Château d'eau (which starts northwest of Répubique on the Boulevard de Magenta) and following it westward. It will change names as you go (first, rue des Petites Écuries, then rue Richer, finally rue de Provence), taking you past immigrant neighborhoods, the Folies Bergère, and the Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps department stores. I biked most of this route today.

Or start by Saint-Eustache (near the Forum des Halles in the 1st arrondissement), and follow the rue Montmartre, which becomes the rue du Faubourg Montmartre and then the rue Nôtre-Dame de Lorette, to Blanche and the Moulin Rouge.

Following the Boulevard Pereire northeast from the Porte Maillol is also a nice walk; it takes you through a series of gardens situated between the lanes of the boulevard; after the place du Maréchal Juin, you can continue to follow Pereire (no gardens anymore, but quiet and pretty) to the rue Cardinet, then cross the railroad lines to visit the square des Batignolles.

On the left bank, a nice walk that will take you through a range of pleasant neighborhoods, all off the beaten tourist path, is to start at the Pont Mirabeau (RER Javel, Métro Mirabeau or Javel-André Citroën), visit the Parc André Citroën, then follow what is arguably the longest street in Paris*: the rue de la Convention, which becomes the rue de Vouillé, the rue d'Alésia, and finally the rue de Tolbiac, reaching the Seine again at the Pont de Tolbiac, near the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. From there, head to the library's esplanade and take the footbridge (the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir) over to the Parc de Bercy.

*The longest street which keeps the same name all the way is the rue de Vaugirard, but arguably, the series Convention-Tolbiac is one street that happens to change names.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:08 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Non-Blonde has posted a shopping guide to perfume boutiques in Paris on her blog. I highly recommend it.
posted by matildaben at 11:47 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Low Carbs: The Regime Dukan has had a huge impact in France over the last few years. A typical breakfast will have you reaching for the oat bran and sliced meat - absolutely not what you will find in a traditional cafe - but probably available in some hotels in Paris. The impact of the diet in France has been large enough to change food sales patterns on Thursdays - the day when Dukan suggests that all who have been on the diet previously momentarily revert to it.

Or - be like many French people and survive on a coffee only. It is probably unfair to say that this is made easier the 5 course meal consumed the night before and the 2 hour lunch coming up.
posted by rongorongo at 1:24 PM on October 30, 2011

I'm not sure if you are currently in the United States, but here is The Perfumed Court's list of fragrances unavailable in the US. This is your chance to load up! And I emphatically agree with likeso about Serge Lutens: You Gotta. It's your opportunity to buy a bell jar!
posted by apparently at 7:02 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs. Then visit Shakespeare and Co.
posted by kjs4 at 7:48 PM on October 30, 2011

I assume you know there are multiple places in Paris where you can mix your own perfume?
posted by troywestfield at 8:51 AM on October 31, 2011

« Older what do you think organizers are looking for in...   |   operation get laid by my birthday Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.