The Streets of Paris (Part 1)

By Judy Berman

Pastries, baguettes, quiche ... oh my!
Pastries, baguettes, quiche … oh my!

We were looking for that Goldilocks’ travel experience – where everything is “just right,” and you don’t wind up in a stranger’s bed.

On our first night in Paris, however, we came uncomfortably close to the latter. Or so a hotel guest thought when he heard us try to unlock our hotel door, which was next to his. He kept saying: “You have the wrong door.”

The confusion was quickly resolved … but, poor guy! I think my husband and I woke him up.

Hotel des Grand Ecoles, Paris
Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, Paris

The next morning, we were ready to do some leche-vitrines (“lick the windows” or “window shop”). We’d bid the merchants “Bonjour” (Good Day) – although, they often were the first to greet us warmly and wish us the same as we entered their shops.

Our French is minimal, but any language barrier we encountered was easily overcome by a little patience. Also, many Parisians we met spoke English as well as French. (At Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, where we stayed, their staff is fluent in six languages.)

Breakfast and lunch was easy, tasty – and inexpensive. We just went to La Parisienne. It is a Boulanger Patissier (a bakery where master craftsmen are inside) down the street. “Café” (coffee) is understood in many languages, and the display case made it easy to point to what we wanted. The problem was we wanted it all – croque monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese, with the cheese outside the bread), quiche, baguette and pain du chocolat (a lighter-than-air croissant with chocolate).

Our dining experiences in the City of Lights have ruined me for all other food – forever. I swear!

It can be a challenge to please the palates of eight people. But our daughters, sons-in-law, and our two grandchildren were each delighted with the menu choices, prices, presentation and service where we ate.

Bon appetite (Enjoy your meal) - We all did.
Bon appetite (Enjoy your meal) – We all did.

We’d no sooner stop swooning over Le Volcan restaurant’s excellent blend of flavors in its Boeuf Bourguignon than we’d be wowed by our next meal at Bistrot l’Epoque. My chicken with carmelized onions and apples was delicious, but I couldn’t wait to try their crème brûlée. The rich custard with its carmelized top was decadently creamy. These were just two of the many excellent restaurants right near our hotel.

That look says it all - dessert was excellent!
That look says it all – dessert was excellent!

After all that scrumptious food, you’d think we’d be ready for a weight-loss program. Parisians have one built right in. It’s called walking, and we did a lot of that. We hoofed it to and from the Metro or just meandered to sites around the city. For miles. Every day.

And, at night, we had an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) from the front of the Pantheon near our hotel. Our six-day stay went by too fast.

Mother and son enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower at night
Mother and son enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower at night

“A bientôt,” Paris, which means “see you soon”..  (I hope.)

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon
View of the Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon

(Coming June 29, Part 2, a photo essay)

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original

Main photo: La Parisienne – is a Boulanger Patissier (a bakery where master craftsmen are inside, there are no premade goods). It is where we got many of our breakfasts, lunches and wonderful desserts

Photo: Hotel des Grandes Ecoles

Photo: Dinner at Bistrot l’Epoque. Every place we ate at was just excellent

Photo: Connor over the moon about dessert at Bistrot l’Epoque

Photo: Danielle and Connor viewing the Eiffel Tower

Photo: View of Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon, near our hotel

Video: Patricia Kaas – Les Moulins de Mon Coeur (The Windmills of Your Mind) – lyrics in French and in English – song is from the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair.”  

  1. Un boulanger, un patissier, are people . Une boulangère, une patissière, are their female counterpart . But a shop is une boulangerie, une patisserie .
    If you read “Boulanger-Patissier” on the shop it means it’s supposed to be a real craftsman inside, instead of pre-made stuff .
    When you write “Main photo: The Boulanger Patissier where we got …”, it’s unproper . The shop is called “Boulangerie Patisserie” .

    1. Thank you for the clarifications. As I stated, my French is not very good and I took the name off the top of the shop that was in the photo. But I will add that there are master craftsmen inside as they had an award for that on their window.

  2. I hear so many complaints about the French being rude and unwelcoming to visitors. Thank you for presenting the other side — I knew there had to be one. And I’m glad you had a memorable family trip. No doubt you’ll all be talking about it for years.

    1. Before our first trip to France in 1997, a friend joked about how I should be prepared for how rudely the French treat Americans. Happy to say we never experienced that and this is our fourth trip to Paris.

      I will be talking more about our trip in upcoming posts. We did have a lovely time. Thank you for writing, Charles.

  3. My only visit to Paris was during the summer of 1970, Judy, and an elderly couple mistakenly tried to get into our bedroom! They tried and tried, and since both were hard of hearing they kept getting louder and louder! Your post reminded me of that night, and now I want to go back!

    1. Hysterical, Marilyn. Once we got the confusion sorted out, Dave and I found ourselves laughing about it. We did have such a great time. Go back. You’ll be glad you did.

  4. I’m glad you had a great trip, Judy. I can tell you really enjoyed yourself.
    Did anyone give that boy refill? He looked to me like he could have handled one more bowl. 🙂

  5. How wonderful! Enjoying a trip with the entire family– marvelous! Life is full of such fascinating adventures–yes, and then, even great food! I am with you on the chocolate mousse! I think it is marvelous that you are so courageous to write French–I read it a bit, but I have never gotten to the written stage–I think any attempt at a language different than our own, is admirable! Bravo! Great writing!

    1. Jane, you wrote about how sad it is to see people texting when they’re missing out on talking to someone right there with them. One of the joys of this vacation is we had a week free from e-mail, the internet, TV, etc. Absolutely freeing.

      My go-to dessert is creme brulee. I also love chocolate mousse. French and Italian food are my favorites. Let’s face it, I love food. 🙂

      On writing French, if you’ll check one of the comments above, you’ll see that I got it wrong. But I’m always willing to learn – so the advice was appreciated.

  6. Thanks for the great trip and the precious memories we’ll cherish forever. I agree that Parisians are friendly and that they went above and beyond in their service. Something small like letting me take a spoon from the restaurant and return it the next day, so I could eat my dessert at our hotel, was memorable. I can’t think of any restaurants that let you take their silverware home in America. Maybe I’ve just never asked?

    1. Danielle, I’d forgotten all about that Parisian restaurant owner (?) loaning you a spoon. (As I recall, your hubby returned it that same night.) That gesture was gracious … and most unusual. I’m glad you enjoyed the trip as much as we did.

    1. I am delighted for you, and wish we could return. It all goes by so quickly. Enjoy. You will have a wonderful visit. If this is your first visit to Paris, savor the magical experience. So much to see, do, taste. 🙂

  7. I agree with Danielle, thank you for the wonderful memories…it was such an amazing experience. I am so glad that the whole family was able to go and we have great memories and pictures to share with everyone else.
    Vern was telling someone the other day how nice the people were in Paris, especially with our limited French. He thought it was very nice of them to take the time to help us understand and get our orders right. It is sad that a few people may have experienced rude behavior and they label the whole country.

    1. I also am glad that we were able to be together on this trip. We had a great time as well. I think when people try to learn the language and culture of the country they’re visiting that it is appreciated. Yes, I do think the French get a bad rap. The folks we met were very helpful and friendly.

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