As a kid of 18 I thought that the Latin Quarter was something like late night Havana in the Batista era; little did I suspect on arrival that it was (then at least) a place of serious scholarship and student improverishment with plentiful cafes and Viet Namese places to hang out in. And the “left bank;” that surely meant Lipp, Le Procope and the Closerie des Lilas where Papa, Sartre, Simone and Camus hung out smoking fierce Gauloises and sipping cognac.
As it is today. Some things don’t change, blessedly.
The monuments in the 6th are still probably more thought of as restos than buildings, but one does have St Sulpice, St Germain and the Odeon that are all imposing. However, it’s probably the Senat and the Luxembourg Gardens that attract the most stares and visits. Sitting and listening to the countless (often American or Eastern European) groups performing in the shell in the Garden simply cannot be beat as a way to wile away a few hours.
As for art, anything goes, from strolling along the outside fence of the Luxembourg viewing the huge temporary photo exhibits to going to special exhibitions inside the Musee Luxembourg or the cave on the garden side that houses free shows that are unfortunately, quite variable in quality. The Delacroix Museum is a kind of fusty, chancy place but often fun as well.
Walking: what more than the Luxembourg can one want?
Coming back to food. There are really no grand old places in the 6th; restaurants like the Closerie des Lilas and Allard were certainly destinations for Americans in the 1960’s and ‘70’s and with the opening of the Bastide Odeon, cooking, especially regional cooking, advanced. But a lot of places have come and gone since then, with few setting their marks on the quartier. Until, until, until the last few years with the opening of Le Timbre, la Maison de Jardin, Ze Kitchen Galerie and most recently Yves Camdeborde’s Le Comptoir and La Ferrandaise. I rarely mention wine bars, but I must include the Caves Miard here, because of the depth of their wine selection and the quality of the ham, charcuterie, etc.
Going over to the 18th is one heck of a contrast from the left bank. My suspicion is that visitors darken its door for three reasons: (1) because they want to see Sacre Coeur and its views of tout Paris, (2) because they’re passing through en route to the St Ouen flea market or (3) because someone told them that the Abbesses/Rue Lepic market area was cool. All good reasons, but despite its reputation as the sinful, wild, artistic soul of Paris, in fact more people who were born in the 18th still live there than in any other quarter.
The only museum of note is that of Montmartre – which is fun if you’re interested in the history of the area, the Commune and Republic of Montmartre and some well-labelled items.
Walking; where else but up, down and on the Mont? My wife Colette and I had a practice the summer of the first year we lived here to go up and down the Mont after dinner (when it was still astonishingly light); inevitably we would run into someone we knew (it’s no longer only Rick’s that everyone comes to.)
Food; ah yes; the hill is kind of a wasteland, since no respecting lover of food would be found dead in a place around the Place du Tertre and I remain sceptical about Anaki Aizpitarte and crew’s (La Famille) talent/excess ratio. And while Beauvilliers used to be grand, it’s slipped under new hands; the Moulin de la Galette remains kinda fun; Au Pied de Sacre Coeur is astonishingly good for the price; and for Mahgrebian chow, head for l’Orientale, good and easy on the wallet.
But down in the valley’s where it’s happening. In the last couple of years, chefs have discovered that Olivier Morteau’s formula (a culinary desert, a bold chef and easy prices) works splendidly here. As a result we’ve seen a succession of new places that are traditional enough, bold enough and good neighbors enough, so that they’ve attracted a huge following of local kids (well, they sure look young to me.) These include L’Histoire de….., 2 Pieces Cuisine (aka 2PC) and the bizarrely lettered Le Tяuc.
My favorities among the new places in the 6th and 18th:
La Maison du Jardin
22 Rue de Vaugirard, 6th (Metro : Rennes, St Placide)
Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays
Menus 22 & 27 €.
Ze Kitchen Galerie
4, rue des Grands Augustins, 6th (Metro: Saint Michel)
T: 01 44 32 00 32
A la carte 30 €.
8, rue de Vaugirard, 6th (RER: Luxembourg, Metro : St Michel)
T : 01.43.26.36.36
Closed Saturday lunch, Sunday and Monday
Menu at dinner or 3 courses at lunch = 30 €, plus wine running 14-63 €.
Les Caves Miard
9, rue des Quatre-Vents, 6th (Metro: Odeon)
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Price depends on wines and charcuterie selected
14, rue Ferdinand Flocon, 18th (Metro: Jules Joffrin)
Lunch menu 29 €, a la carte about 35 €
2 Pieces Cuisine
65 rue du Ruisseau, 18th (Metro : Jules Joffrin)
T : 01.42.23.31.23
Only open at dinner, closed Sundays
Menu 26 €
58 rue du Poteau, 18th (Metro: Jules Joffrin)
T: 01 42 52 64 09
A la carte about 25 €
©2006 John A. Talbott