Affordable Europe: Dining wisely in Paris
Alexander Lobrano is Gourmet’s European correspondent and has just published Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 102 Best Restaurants. He recently told us that, "even with the dollar in bad shape, it's still possible to eat extremely well in Paris for modest prices." Here are a few of his general suggestions, and then some specific addresses. Bon appetit!
1) Skip pricey hotel breakfasts. If breakfast isn't included in your hotel rate, head for a corner cafe instead. For small splurges, I suggest Ladurée on the rue Royale in the city's heart and Angelina on the rue de Rivoli. Both serve breakfast.
2) It's fine to ask for tap water. By French law, all restaurants are obliged to bring you a "carafe d'eau" if you ask for one. Bottled mineral water only boots up your bill, and soft drinks are pricey.
3) Drink house wine. In France, these are usually quite good. And happily, more and more restaurants are offering wine by the glass and the carafe as well as by the bottle.
4) Picnic! It's a great way to save some money and also have the fun of visiting one of Paris's wonderful outdoor food markets. The Marche d'Aligre in the 12th arrondissement has great prices and is open every day but Monday.
5) Go ethnic! Paris has two large Asian neighborhoods—in the 19th arrondissement and the 13th arrondissement behind the Place d'Italie. Both of them teem with great-value restaurants, including one of my favorites, Le Bambou, which serves delicious, home-style Vietnamese cooking. Another Vietnamese gem is Au Coin des Gourmet, 5 rue Dante, 5th arrondissement. (Bonus tip: Asian restaurants are among the few in Paris to often offer buffet-style eating. The phrase to look for if your hoping to come upon a buffet is, a volonte, which roughly translates to help yourself.)
6) Skip restaurants with a view. They charge a premium. Go to places with good atmosphere but not necessarily great window views. Here are a couple of such romantic spots that won't be total wallet-busters: Josephine-Chez Dummonet, 117 rue du Cherche Midi, 6th: Just the kind of old-fashioned Paris bistro that's made for hand-holding on the Left Bank. Mon Vieil Ami, 69 rue Saint Louis en l'Ile, 4th: Delicious modern French bistro cooking at this stylish place on the pretty Ile Saint Louis. Walk home afterwards along the banks of the Seine. For both of these restaurants, reservations are recommended.
7) Lunch early. Plan to have your main meal at noon when many restaurants offer extremely good-value, prix fixe lunch menus.
Some of my favorite, "good buy" restaurants in Paris
(Find more in my book Hungry for Paris.)
Itinéraires, new, 5, rue de Pontoise in the Latin Quarter.—Talented young chef Sylvain Sendra has just moved to this pretty dining room from his tiny and very successful restaurant Le Temps au Temps in the 11th. Wonderful market-driven cooking, i.e. changes almost daily and follows the seasons.
Le Petit Pontoise, 9, Rue Pontoise in the 5th arrondissement—Friendly service, fair prices, delicious French bistro cooking.
Bistrot du Dome, rue Delambre, 14th arrondissement—This is the lower priced annex of the v. expensive Le Dome, one of the best fish restaurants in Paris.
Two other great picks:
Le Mesturet, 77 rue de Richelieu in the 2nd arrondissement.
La Ferrandaise, 8, Rue Vaugirard, 6th arrondissement.
Our Affordable Europe series.
From the top: Statue of Liberty's crown may reopen
The National Park Service is considering reopening the Statue of Liberty's crown to the public, according to documents released by Rep. Anthony Weiner, of New York. Although the base, pedestal, and lower observation deck reopened to the public in the fall of 2004, the crown has remained closed since 9/11. The crown's current configuration makes it impossible to evacuate the area in the case of emergency. The NPS has asked companies for bids on fixing the crown so that it complies with building and fire codes. This move has a lot to do with declining tourism. Weiner, who organized a congressional hearing on the issue last fall, pointed out that there's been a big downturn in visitor numbers: 3.6 million people visited the Statue of Liberty in 2000, but six years later, that number had gone down to 2.5 million. Of course, while not being able to reach the top probably did cause some travelers to skip Lady Liberty, the increased security and related hassles involved in getting there probably have more to do with the downturn. And that's not likely to be going away. MORE ON NEW YORK CITY 50 Reasons You Love New York City
George Washington's boyhood home uncovered
Archeologists in Virginia made a timely announcement yesterday that they have located the remains of George Washington's boyhood home on a plot of land called Ferry Farm. The evidence reveals an eight-room, one-and-a-half story clapboard house, upscale for its day, that stood along the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg. Two outbuildings were also recovered: the kitchen and the slave quarters. No telltale stumps or other evidence were found of the (almost certainly made-up) cherry tree that Washington chopped down and could not tell a lie about. However, many mid-18th-century artifacts—including pieces of a Wedgwood tea set, wig curlers, and a pipe bowl with the Masonic crest—were found among the foundation, chimney, and cellars. Most of the house's wood was gone, apparently either used as fuel or reused for other buildings. Washington's parents and their six children moved to the farm in 1738, when George was 6. Augustine, George's father, died five years later, but Mary, his mother, continued to live on the farm until 1772, when she moved into town. Nearly a century later, the farm's land was used as a staging ground for the Union's troops during the Civil War—a trench of several hundred feet remains from those days, and the Union may have used the farmhouse as a temporary headquarters. The house's remains are part of George Washington's Boyhood Home at Ferry Farm, 113-acre National Historic Site. A recreation of the house as it stood in the 1740s is in the works.
New York City waterfalls: Focus on the bridge
Last month, we blogged about the New York City waterfalls art installation by Olafur Eliasson. The four waterfalls, located in the East River, were turned on last week—and we took a tour on Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises. We weren't blown away by the falls, but the cruise itself was refreshing. The views from the boat are tremendous, and it's a great way to remind yourself of the size and vitality of the city, with its vast skyline and many connecting bridges. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises has two-hour tours starting at $27 for adults or three-hour tours from $31 (on the latter, you'll go around the whole island—definitely worth the ticket price). You can also opt for Circle Line Downtown (the two cruise companies aren't affiliated), which has official waterfalls tours. Thirty-minute tours from Circle Line Downtown start at $10 for adults, or $25 for hour-long tours. To see the waterfalls for free, focus on the best of them, at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, on the Brooklyn side (see photo, above). You can walk across the bridge and catch a glimpse, or relax in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a tranquil escape inside the city with clear views of three great East River bridges (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg), and a close-up of the Brooklyn Bridge waterfall. Or, take the Staten Island Ferry, which runs daily with views of three of the four waterfalls, for free. Eliasson's waterfalls installation is scheduled to run through mid-October. PREVIOUSLY: New York City: Four giant waterfalls arrive soon Downtown NYC will gain new Whitney branch Museums: Murakami buzz in Brooklyn
The Smurf tour of Europe
The little blue cartoon characters from Belgium that befuddled adults and charmed children the world over are celebrating their 50th anniversary—sorry, Smurfday—this year. To mark the occasion, the Smurfs are touring European cities in anticipation of their grand Smurfday festivities on October 23. The schedule of upcoming cities on the Smurfs' Euro Tour is a secret, but you can track where the Smurfs currently are and where they've been on the Smurfsite. For each city visited, there's an online video documenting locals' reaction to the Smurfs' arrival. I personally can't tear myself away from this site, so let me be the one to tell you what it means to "Smurf" a city: In the middle of the night, the organizers drop off thousands of white vinyl Smurf figurines around city landmarks, say, subway escalators or a prominent fountain. The object is to decorate one of these Smurfs, take a picture of it, and upload it onto the site where others will vote on their favorite. At the same time, the organizers set up a temporary Birthday Expo in the city and fill it with Smurf paraphernalia and a celebrity-designed Smurf that'll later be auctioned off for charity. The website also promises tantalizingly vague things like "50 Smurf games" that can be played while the Smurfs are in town. Currently the Smurfs are in Warsaw and Budapest. If you’re roaming around Europe this summer, it's worth keeping your eyes open for white vinyl Smurf figurines—who knows where they'll pop up next? It's good (albeit baffling) cheap fun! And even if you aren't straying from your desk for the next little while, the Smurfsite, er, website is a trip in itself.