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Working as an au pair in Paris, Poppy Pearce explores the city in her free time. She documents her favorite finds – exhibitions, restaurants, boutiques, day trips – in an exclusive Bonjour Paris column. Find previous editions here.
Every winter, I forget how much I long for spring. The first morning of this year when I awoke to the combination of birdsong, a warm breeze, church bells, and sun, was a very good morning indeed. It’s no secret that sun exposure boosts serotonin levels and counteracts depression, and since the sun has emerged from its winter hibernation, I’ve definitely had more of a spring in my step. So, to further boost our serotonin levels and elevate our moods, April’s edition of Poppy in Paris will be focused on light, positivity, and the great outdoors.
Restaurant of the Month
54 Rue de Seine, 6th arrondissement
Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés (line 4), Mabillon (line 10), and Odéon (line 4 and 10).
This month I’ve been fortunate in terms of the number of incredible restaurants I’ve tried. So it’s been a difficult choice to narrow it down to one pick for this column. Yet there’s one that really stands out.
I walked past Freddy’s on my first week in Paris, strolling down the beautiful Rue de Seine through the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and towards the river. The happy sounds of people chatting and chuckling away created such a fun ambiance I was sold. I wrote down the name of the restaurant to remind myself to return, and seven months later I finally took the opportunity to dine there when one of my close friends came to visit.
The cornerstone of our friendship is food. Our best times together are spent exploring new culinary delights at food markets in London, music festivals, and the small seaside towns near our university in Devon, England. So her Paris visit was the perfect time to go to Freddy’s.
The seven-month wait did not disappoint.
The interior is cozy and intimate with barstool seating surrounding the bar and open kitchen. There are dried flower arrangements on each table, and the light reflecting off the bar’s many bottles casts a lovely light. To start, we each had a crisp glass of rosé, while we scanned the menu written on the kitchen’s blackboard walls, and watched the chefs cooking.
The concept- one that I find really appealing- is small sharing dishes with wine. There are no “main” courses; instead you get to try a variety of flavors as you share an array of plates with your dining companions. We ordered the beef tataki and salmon fillet, along with courgette fritters, cauliflower tempura, and soya-glazed oyster mushrooms. The attention to detail on each dish was exquisite, and the flavor even more so.
Open every day from midday until midnight, the restaurant ticks all the boxes. And with the soft spring breeze drifting through the restaurant, it’s especially appealing.
Cafe/Bar of the Month
5 Parvis Alan Turing, 13th arrondissement
RER: Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand (RER C)
Metro: Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand (line 10), Quai de La Gare (line 6)
Housed inside Station F, the world’s largest startup incubator, La Felicità is technically a food court run by the iconic Big Mamma group. But it offers a variety of entertainment. I first visited the venue in the 13th arrondissement when meeting my friends for a night of hilariously fun karaoke. I have since returned on three more occasions to make the most of all that the 4500m2 space has to offer. Within the food hall, there are an impressive eight kitchens, three bars, and two cafes offering a variety of Italian cuisine and street food. I have eaten an incredible focaccia pizza, a delicious crispy chicken burger, and even a luxurious truffle pasta. And drinks include artisanal beers and over 15 cocktails.
The interior of La Felicità is flooded with plants suspended from the ceilings, giving the illusion of an outdoor venue. Mix and matched carpets line the floor, and a disused train in the middle of the floor hosts the Dolce Vita dessert bar. Special mention also goes to the groovy toilets.
They have a brilliant monthly program with DJ sets every Friday and Saturday, and live performances throughout the week. Musical genres range from hip-hop and RnB to reggaeton and soul. The space can accommodate up to 1000 people at one time, meaning there’s always a buzz.
Parents – this one’s for you! Every Sunday is Kid’s Day, with kid-friendly workshops and childcare on sight, meaning you can sit back, relax and enjoy a well-deserved cocktail and pizza at the end of your week.
No reservations are needed, and food is ordered directly from each food stall, making it a relaxed and sociable environment. Even dogs are welcome.
Exhibition of the Month
Hanami, Parc de Sceaux
RER: Sceaux (RER B)
Website: Domaine départemental de SCEAUX (hauts-de-seine.fr)
Exhibition page: Rendez-vous sous les cerisiers en fleurs – Domaine départemental de SCEAUX (hauts-de-seine.fr)
Hanami is the traditional Japanese custom of appreciating the beauty of blossom trees from their first bloom in late March, to their final falling petals in early May. In Japan, these cherry blossom trees are known as Sakura, and the annual celebration fetes spring’s return while conjuring prosperity and life’s ephemerality.
To marvel at this age-old tradition without taking the 13-hour flight from Paris to Japan, simply head to Domaine de Sceaux for the annual cherry blossom festival. Take the RER B train, and disembark at the stop called Parc de Sceaux. The park boasts an expansive orchard of blossom trees, and a trip here is free to enjoy. (See our recently published photo essay for more details.)
From the 12th to the 19th of April, a free guided tour will set off from the front of the Hanami exhibition at 10:30 a.m. each morning and lead visitors through the estate’s beautiful cherry orchard while recounting the history of Hanami in Japan.
On the 22nd of April, a different tour will take place around the grand chateau, shining a spotlight on the Asian-influenced art which stands proudly in the museum’s permanent collection.
The theme of this year’s Hanami celebration is manga. Manga is greatly popular here in France, with the country ranking as the second-largest manga market outside Japan. So there will be themed activities for both young and old alike on the 23rd of April. In the morning, Vivien Bimuala, an esteemed mangaka (manga author), will lead a workshop for 9 to 15-year-olds in the Quartier Japon cultural center, teaching them the historic technique of Japanese cartoon drawing. Later on in the day, hosted in the Old Stables of the estate, a workshop led by Ikuko Kato Enfroy, master of Ikebana and president of the chapter of the Ohara school “Yvelines Paris”, will introduce adults to Ikebana, Japanese floral art.
There are two additional photo exhibitions taking place over the coming month. The first, in conjunction with the trees, is presented on a series of outdoor panels showing Japanese poetry, emblems, traditions, and diagrams that celebrate Hanami. The second, titled “The Manga. A French Imagination”, explains how Japanese cartoons have been influenced by contributions from European countries.
Day Trip of the Month
RER: Provins (RER P)
If you’re looking for a charming and historical destination in France, look no further than Provins. This medieval town, located just 80 km southeast of Paris, offers a wealth of cultural heritage and well-preserved monuments that make it one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations. One weekend, when we miraculously found out that we all had a free schedule, a group of friends and I decided we wanted to spend a slow Sunday exploring this beautiful city.
At the heart of Provins lies its UNESCO-listed historical center, where you can explore the narrow cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered houses, shops, and restaurants. Be sure to visit the Saint-Quiriace Collegiate Church, the Tour César, and the Grange aux Dîmes to get a sense of the town’s rich history and unique architecture.
But that’s not all! The Provins Rose Garden is another must-see attraction, boasting over 3000 different types of roses from around the world. The town proved to be perfectly situated for the production and exchange of roses along the trade route between northern Europe and the Mediterranean. The deep pink and powerfully scented Provins rose was especially esteemed and even appears in the 13th-century poem “Roman de la Rose.” Provins still honors its past as a rose-growing community through the annual Provins Rose Festival in June which includes parades, concerts, and a range of rose-related events. Whether you’re a flower enthusiast or just looking for a peaceful spot to relax and enjoy the colorful blooms and fragrant scents, this garden is sure to leave you enchanted.
Exciting festivals and events take place throughout the year. For those who want to delve deeper into the town’s rich history and culture, there are also plenty of fascinating museums and exhibitions to explore: from the Provins Museum to the Museum of the Military and the Capuchins.
Food pick: We enjoyed a meal at Trattoria du Val, a rustic and authentic Italian restaurant located on the high street.
Hidden Gem of the Month
Jardin du Port de l’Arsenal, 12th arrondissement
Metro: Quai de La Rapée (line 5), Bastille (lines 1,5,8)
When I visited Paris last summer to meet my host family, the mother took me on a lovely walk through the Jardin du Port de l’Arsenal, which she nicknamed the “Secret Saint-Tropez of Paris”. Last week, when the sun reappeared, I decided to visit this harbor to momentarily transport myself to the South of France. Tucked away from the bustling Place de la Bastille, Jardin du Port de l’Arsenal is a tranquil garden in the 12th arrondissement that lines the southern end of Canal Saint-Martin where the waterway feeds into the Seine.
The military port known as the Bassin de l’Arsenal, which flanks the park, was formerly used for the building and maintenance of naval ships. Napoleon Bonaparte constructed the basin in the 19th century as a passageway between Canal Saint-Martin and the Seine River. Today, the basin still serves as a port for pleasure boats. Built in the 1990s as part of the neighborhood’s reconstruction, the Jardin du Port de l’Arsenal has since developed into a serene and scenic green space that offers a welcome respite from the city’s fast pace.
In June, Parisians relax on picnic blankets in this flowering canalside garden, sharing impressive wine and cheese spreads, like a scene from Claude Monet’s 1885 painting Le Déjeuner Sur l’Herbe. What better way to soak up the glorious spring sun than spending a couple of hours here, snacking on a picnic, having a drink, and watching the boats bob on the water?
There is also a playground for children and a petanque court for those keen on the sport. Entrances can be found at either 13 Boulevard de la Bastille, or at the stairs leading from the south side of the Bastille square.