Friday, April 6, 2012
Springtime in Paris - Ile St. Louis & St. Germain
In an effort to take things easy their first day in Paris, Joe met his parents at Charles DeGaulle airport and helped them navigate the Metro to Ile St. Louis. After getting them settled into the apartment, we ventured our for lunch and went to a really cute bistrot just down the block - Les Fous de L'Ile. The place had been packed the day before, mostly with locals, so we thought we would give it a shot. We enjoyed a great meal that included veal in mushroom sauce, pork cheek in a burgundy sauce, cod in a lemon sauce, and cheeseburgers for the kids. It was also an introduction to a typical European lunch - long and somewhat at the mercy of when the food is delivered to the table. Tables are served as the plates are completed, not held until everyone's plate is ready. This can be a bit inconvenient for those left waiting, but it has been pretty common for us. The service was friendly, though, which always helps smooth over the cultural differences!
After lunch, my in-laws headed up the stairs for a nap. That night we had reservations for a great little crepe restaurant located in the St. Germain area of Paris. From Ile St. Louis, you walk through the Latin Quarter, also a great, lively area of town, and manage your way parallel to the Seine. Not having been to this restaurant before, it did take a bit of time to locate. Little Breizh is located on a tiny street and has maybe 15 tables or so. I am a huge fan of TripAdvisor and this restaurant was listed as the #3 recommended restaurant in Paris. Now, I'm not sure what the deal is with TripAdvisor in that it does not really take into account the number of reviews the restaurant receives, only the rating. So, a restaurant with only 20 ratings of 5 stars can be ranked really high compared to one with hundreds of ratings but only an average of 4.5 stars. In any case, I have learned to dig through the details and often (once you have dismissed the ridiculously expensive Michelin starred choices that are often high on the list) you can find a diamond in the rough lingering in that top stratosphere of restaurants. Luckily for us, this was the first of a couple such finds we enjoyed on our trip. Little Breizh serves crepes in their traditional Brittany flair - buckwheat crepes with hearty fillings and generally served with a crisp cider (yes, the alcoholic variety). It was also a restaurant filled again with mostly local Parisians enjoying dinner out with their partner or family (I say this since I would venture to say we were the only Americans there that evening.) Joe and I ordered the scallop and bacon filled crepes, while the kids and MIL ordered the breakfast version with bacon and eggs. My FIL ventured to the more traditional goat cheese and honey filled, though I'm not sure he would order that version again. It was on the more adventurous side for him, though I think I would order it next time since the salad we ordered to accompany the crepes was very similar - they used a similar crepe as the "croutons" for the salad. For dessert, the kids opted for the gelato at the Amorino location down the block from the restaurant, while Joe and I splurged for the dessert crepes - Choc and Croc for me (basically chocolate and carmel) and a create-your-own apples and rum for Joe. Both were wonderful.
Following dinner we took a stroll through St. Germain on the way back to the apartment. Ironically, Joe and I had been chatting earlier that day about this jazz band we had seen on our 10th anniversary trip to Paris (9 years ago) who used to perform on the bridge that links Ile. St. Louis with the Ile de la Cite (the island where Notre Dame is). We would spend an hour or so almost each night we were there listening to them and talking about how much my FIL would love them. Well, not two blocks from the restaurant we heard jazz music coming from what appeared to be a street band tucked between a couple of cafes and in front of a closed store front. Sure enough, it was the very band we had seen 9 years earlier. We must have spent a good hour listening to 1930-40's music, and the FIL knew every single one. We left awhile later with copies of both of their cd's that they were peddling. Joe and his dad listened to them as soon as we got back to the apartment. Needless to say, the trip was off to a great start - great dinner, wonderful music and a wonderfully lively city to entice the family.