A lot of people asked what I could possibly do for seven days in the City of Love by myself. Those people clearly don’t know me very well because I obviously took photos, ate like a crazy lady, and walked/cycled for hours and hours (I bought a week-long Vélib pass which I HIGHLY recommend if you want an efficient way to explore while justifying the three pastries you ate for breakfast).
Even in Paris, many people were surprised that I ventured there alone, which struck me as interesting because it was never something abnormal to me. True, my French is garbage – I swear the only thing I learned from Duolingo is “Je mange un croissant” – and I can pass for 22 – which means discounts at the museums #holla – but discovering the unknown is one of my favorite things to do. When riding solo, I have no whims but my own. It sounds selfish, but in the land of FOMO known as San Francisco, not having to commit to anyone but oneself is a rare occurrence. And so I embraced the adventure here, whether that meant taking the wrong train to Versailles or eating nothing but Nutella street crepes for an entire day.
The other enlightening thing about traveling alone is the impending opportunity to meet new and interesting people. At Café Constant, a popular restaurant a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, I befriended a group of elderly Iranian-French gentlemen who were amused (I think) by my giant SLR camera and banter with my server. They commented on my bandana (“You’d be in jail if you wore that in Iran”) and although the menu was in English, guided me through the entrees and I was not disappointed. A shrimp puff pastry tart with greens and a light foamy cream sauce accompanied by a glass of Côtes du Rhone – boam.
According to my new friends, the owner, Chef Constant, is well-known in Paris and has two more restaurants, although this cafe is the most affordable and delicious.
Another restaurant favorite was a gem tucked away on an alley in Montmarte – Le Bal Café. This was a recommendation from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks; when I saw her photos, I knew I had to visit.
The restaurant seres well-executed British food in a bright setting. In true Paris fashion, it is adjacent to a photography gallery and bookstore where you can browse through old cookbooks and random editions on various topics. While the place seemed to be full of locals, it’s a great place for out-of-towners because almost everyone who works there is from the U.K. and speaks English. Moreover, American oldies tunes play in the background, enhancing the cozy appeal (I ate my meal while silently singing along to “If You Like Piña Coladas”).
As it was raining when I dined there, I had a leisurely lunch of mushroom soup and merlu, a type of cod served with orzo and braised greens. Of course, a glass of wine was necessary.
I honestly don’t know if I can ever eat lunch without wine again. And I don’t know if I can experience a 2-hour lunch on a Wednesday afternoon without any qualms at all ever again. Those are circumstances for Paris and as Jimmy Buffet croons, getting caught in the rain.
“I’m the love that you looked for, write to me and escape.”
- Café Constant (139 Rue Saint-Dominique, Tour Eiffel)
Order: Any of the entrees with a glass of wine
- Le Bal Café (6 Impasse de la Défense, Montmarte)
Order: The 3-course meal finished with a Belleville espresso, a local coffee roaster.
- Marché de la Bastille (Boulevard Richard Lenoir, Bastille)
To-Do: This farmer’s market happens every Sunday at the Bastille. Take time to peruse the aisles and pick up bread, vegetables, and more for brunch
- Bonus: Vélib Pass
Buy a pass online and activate it when you arrive in Paris. It’s a little tricky to find the right activation station, but all the locations are online so take note of whatever is closest to you. There are bike stands literally everywhere in Paris so picking up and dropping off cycles is super easy.