The  Metro Bistrot


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(A Moveable Feast)
More than seventy years ago, on 25 August 1944, Paris was liberated by the Americans, and Hemingway liberated the Ritz Bar!

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. --Ernest Hemingway

When you go to Paris

                  Jay Livernois eating at Le Train Bleu in Paris in the 80s.

Today's Paris as a Moveable Feast
by Jay Livernois

These recommendations come from thirty-five years of experience: traveling to (1st visit 1977; last, November 2012, and my next visit cannot be soon enough) and living in Paris (a room in the 19th from 1985-1994).

Where to Eat

1)      Vaudeville, 29 rue Vivienne (Paris 2nd district)—an art deco brasserie right opposite the French stock market (la Bourse). This is where you should order a cold seafood platter. Their fresh foi gras sautéed with figs is to die for, if they have it. The décor is original art deco. Tel. #01 42 33 39 31 

2)      Bofinger, 5-7 rue de la Bastille (Paris 4th district)—this is considered the landmark brasserie of Paris. It is certainly the oldest, founded 1864, and some consider it the best, even though it is part of the Brasserie Flo chain. The décor is original art nouveau. Tel. #01 42 33 39 31

3)      Chez Jenny, 39 boulevard du Temple, place de la Republique (Paris 3rd district)—this brasserie is the least expensive and very good. It is Alsacian and decorated with panels of wooden carved village scenes of Alsace (German speaking province in eastern France). Don’t hesitate to order their house wines; they are good and relatively inexpensive.

4)      L’Européen, across the street from the Gare de Lyon (Paris 12th district)this has become one of my favorite places to eat for quality and price. The white Macon is a steal and their scallops divine. Tel. # 01 43 43 99 70 

5)      Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, 20 Boulevard Diderot (Paris 12th district)it is on the second floor in the station with a bistro below but go upstairs to the restaurant if you have the time and money (now very expensive--i.e. 105 euros for a lunch menu. It is a spectacular place and has been designated a monument of France. If you do go, order the roast lamb which is carved and served from a cart, and is another level of good, accompanied by scalloped potatoes flavored with a hint of garlic. Call ahead and make reservations. Tel. #01 43 43 09 06

6)      Chez Vong, 10, rue de la Grande Truanderie (Paris 1st district)—this is considered by some to be the best Asian (Chinese / Cambodian) restaurant in Paris. I would be one of them. It is located just off rue St. Denis (where there are shops filled with erotica) on a small street near the old Les Halles. Order the steamed shrimp dim sum and then the five perfumed duck with a bottle of the Sancerre rosé. M-P and I liked this duck so much, we ordered another portion of it instead of dessert. However, this last trip (July 2016), we tried their frog legs; simply the ). They have a massive Buddha carved out of butter but do not serve it! Tel. #01 40 26 09 36

7)      Relais Louis XIII, 8 rue Grands Augustins  (Paris 6th district)—only for lunch and just order the prix fixte menu. This is the place where, if you ask, they will show you their collection of chastity belts downstairs; the rarest being a male one from the 17th century worn by the Scottish Guard hired to protect the Royal Princesses; it seems the belt was to protect the Guard from the princesses and not the other way around. It is expensive even for lunch, but worth it. Tel #01 43 26 75 96

If you go to the 7th to see the Eifel Tower, you will be near two restaurants which used to be good, but I fear now have changed through fame and new owners. You still might want to check them out. They are: Thoumieux, 79 rue St Dominique (sold and remodled) and La Fontaine de Mars, 115 rue St. Dominique (the Obamas favorite when they are in Paris). 

Where to Drink

1)      Le Cool which used to be Bob Cool Bar, 15 rue des Grands Augustins (near the Relais Louis XIII; metro St. Michel or Odeon)—it really is cool and owned by a friendly and attractive young French woman, Helene, who started as a bartender at Bob Cool; one night I drank too much with her about a decade ago. It is still a place for expat artists, so you might even buy some art while having a drink. Any Americans I take there love it, and Helene.

2)      Les Deux Magots, boulevard St. Germain des Pres (metro St. Germain des Pres)—popular with tourists but a great scene and a place to be seen. Here you might find out what all the yelling about Paris is. Order a poire or other eau de vie after a great meal at one of the restaurants suggested above.

3)      Pharamond, 24 rue Grand-Truanderie—this is a restaurant which used to have a Michelin star. Go there to eat (the food is reasonable and good, and the décor is genuine 19th century) but the real prize is to have a glass of their 1910 marc (bottled in 1913) for about 20 euros.

Museums (check opening times because each are different)

1)      Louvre—huge and one of the top 3 or 4 museums in the world. You could not see all of it in a lifetime. So focus on the Egyptian collection, the Roman (especially the Bosco Reale treasure—Epicurean silver discovered near Pompeii) and Greek (interesting erotic scenes on drinking cups), and Renaissance painting.

2)      D’Orsay—a museum with the most popular art from the 19th and early 20th century.

3)      Guimet, 6, place d’Iena (Paris 16th district)—the best Asian museum I have ever seen. Go to Chez Vong afterwards.

I would not recommend the Picasso museum or the other myriad smaller or less celebrated museums, only because you probably will not have time.

What to Go to which is Not a Museum

1)      Notre Dame

2)      Shakespeare and Company—across the river from Notre Dame—if you just have to have a good English book, and it is its own little precious scene filled with slumming anglophiles and modernist romantics still caught in a fantasy of 1920s Paris.

3)      Parc des Buttes Charmont (Paris 19th district)—the most romantic park in Paris, if you like parks.

4)      Pére Lachaise (Paris 20th district)—Paris’ necropolis, but visit not only the grave of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde. There is also the grave of Victor Noir, which has become an erotic shrine preserved and defended by the women of Paris, Isadora Duncan’s, Apollinaire's, Marcel Proust's, and Jane Avril's and others of interest.

Jay Livernois at the tomb of Marcel Proust in Pére Lachaise in 1987.

What to Buy to Bring Back

1)      A bow tie or pocket square from Charvet's at the Place Vendome (if over 30)

2)      Cuban cigars (even if you don't smoke)—sold in any cigar store

3)      Clothes in and around rue St. Denis (if under 30)

4)      Havana Club Rum at the duty free shop at the airport when flying out of Paris


1)      Underwear from the little store near the old Opera (Garnier) or from a Printemps store

2)      A small work of art or print—sold in outdoor kiosks along the Seine

3)      Clothes in and around rue St. Denis (if under 30)

4)      Eau de vie (wild raspberry, mirabelle, or poire) at the duty free shop when flying out of Paris

Oh yes, and for any gender or taste, the Parisian erotica stores are worth a peek if not a visit.

If you take and enjoy any of the suggestions above, you will always have Paris and Paris you.

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