|by Meg Zimbeck||Food + Drink, Landmarks and Monuments, Museums, Wine, France, Paris||55|
The self-proclaimed largest museum in the world, the Louvre packs more than 380,000 objects into a sprawling space of 650,000-square-feet, and it simply cannot be seen in a day. That doesn't stop people from trying, of course. You can easily spot the overexerted: They're the ones yelling at their spouses, sprawling glass-eyed on the benches, and crying to themselves behind the statues.
It doesn't have to be this way. My advice for not losing your head at the Louvre: Bite off a reasonable chunk—only one major department per day—and pad your belly with plenty of great food and drink. Here are some favorite places to stop before and after your visit:
Coffee or Hot Chocolate
Le Fumoir On the east side of the Louvre, this café has an old wooden bar that was salvaged from a Chicago speakeasy. Leather sofas and polished bookshelves add to the gentlemen's club vibe, but girls—and dogs—are also welcome. Their "late breakfast" menu of fresh juice, toast, and a hot beverage is available until noon for €7.60 ($9.50). 6 rue de l'Amiral de Coligny, 1st arrondissement, 011-33/1- 42-92-00-24.
Angelina's In the covered arcades on the north side of the Louvre, this gilded belle époque teahouse serves the best hot chocolate in town. Angelina's chocolat chaud l'Africain is thick and rich, served in a porcelain pitcher with unsweetened whipped cream on the side. With a cup of that and a dessert (the Mont Blanc has a devoted following) you may have enough sugar to make it through the Denon wing. 226 rue Rivoli, 1st arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-96-47-10.
Wine and Nibbles
Café Very The same gardens that once hosted the guillotine are now home to strolling couples, laughing children, and great spots to relax. Public drinking is allowed in France, so many people bring their own wine to enjoy in the outdoor chairs. But those who don't want to lug a bottle through the Botticellis can grab a spot at Café Very. The outdoor café serves drinks and light meals created by chef Gilles Choukroun. Jardin des Tuileries, 1st arrondissement, 011-33/1-47-03-94-84.
La Garde Robe Delightfully informal, this is one of the few wine bars in Paris where you can stand at the counter, chat up the bartender, and simply enjoy a glass. Table service is also available if you need to rest your feet. Every drop here is organic, untreated vin naturel, and there are delicious snacks that include a sharable board of cheese and charcuterie. 41 rue Arbre Sec, 1st arrondissement, 011-33/1-49-26-90-60.
An Affordable Meal
Juvéniles A wine bar like la Garde Robe, but the sort where you can (and must) settle in for some real cooking. Juvéniles is owned by an outlandish Scotsman who dares to mix New World wines in with his French selections. The food is hearty and delicious, costing between €20-30 ($25-38). Reservations are a good idea. 47 rue de Richelieu, 1st arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-97-46-49.
L'Ardoise On a quiet street behind the rue Rivoli, this traditional French bistro is one of my fallback recommendations for visitors. Their €33 ($42) menu allows you to choose three courses from a long list of options. There's grilled steak for those who are taking baby steps with French cuisine, and roast pigeon for the more adventurous. They also serve dinner from 6:30pm: that's seriously early by French standards, but it's often the time by which famished foreigners are ready to eat. 28 rue Mont Thabor, 1st arrondissement, 011-33/01-42-96-28-18.