My Paris Guide
Phew, I've been back almost a week and am just now able to compile some of my favorite places to go while in Paris. I'm starting with the neighborhood I 'live in' when I'm there.
Bastille (11th and a little bit of the 12th):
If you only go one place I suggest Monoprix. And you can do this in any part of the city since it's just the neighborhood grocery store. But what makes it amazing is that it doesn't only sell food (and french candy and wine and nutella, etc) but it has a stationery section, cosmetics and clothes and it's relatively inexpensive. If I had to compare it to something it's almost like a french version of Target but 1/10th the size and 200% cooler. My favorite things to check out: yogurt, cool graph paper notebooks, little cups, bras, scarves, garnier lotion (that they don't sell in the states), and shower gel (le petit marseillaise!).
These are all over, but my favorite is the one on the corner of rue de Faubourg St. Antoine and Ledru-Rollin.
Not far from here is the best daily flea market in Paris: Marche D'aligre. My grandmother has been shopping here daily for about 40 years. Plus there's a regular fruit and vegetable market there everyday. Check out the covered part of the market for a trip back in time and also tons of north african ingredients and fresh cheese and poultry. This blog goes a little more in depth on the subject.
(also, I LOVE these tables. they look all mid-century and cool but are really just cheap collapsible metal sawhorses that you can buy at any hardware store for less than $20. I considered trying to fit some into my suitcase. I mean c'mon, how cool are these legs?)
Then all up and down Rue de Faubourg St Antoine are new stores that are way fancier than the area's roots which used to be furniture makers and workshops and is now a lot of bars and expensive stores (you will also now find a Nike store and a Starbucks on this street). That said, I love this street, it's where my family has lived for ages. Try peeking into one of the courtyards. You might find something like this :
(this is 'my' courtyard, where I always stay and where my family lived back in the day. It was featured in this terrible movie, which I watched because it featured 'my' courtyard. Not worth it.)
With the history is the new:
25 Faubourg St Antoine
17 Faubourg St Antoine
Then pop down Rue de Charonne and find two of my favorite restaurants:
Chez Paul, a classic French restaurant for dinner with steaks and wine and gratin d'auphinoise!
And the Pause Cafe: good food, more neighborhoody, nice ambience and great interior. Lunches are pretty relaxed and dinners a re a bit more formal, but barely.
Just across from the Pause Cafe is the Cafe Du Peintre a classic Bistro that's great for lunch or dinner.
Also on Rue de Charonne are some of my favorite clothing stores, most notably Isabel Marant (just across from Chez Paul). She is a classic French designer who any woman in France knows of. She makes simple pieces that sometimes look a little vintage and her 'etoile' line is a little less expensive than the main line.
In general the 11th is a bit far to the East for most tourists looking to hit up the main sites in Paris. And although the area has picked up a lot (a lot!) in the last 15 years, you can still get a sense of how Paris used to be. Keep walking towards the 12th and you'll see it even more. A couple of other notes about the area:
• There's a big Sunday Market in the Place de la Bastille with more food than you thought possible. So when eveyrthing's closed go to the market and buy your meals for the day.
• Eventhough it seems touristy, it's actually really pleasant to sit in one of the cafe's in the Place and people watch. But be warned, you'll pay around $6 for a coffee, but you can sit there all day.
• If you're thinking of staying in the Bastille, you're in luck because line 1 of the Metro stops here giving you perfect access to most of the big guns: The Marais, Louvre, Tuilleries, Champs Elysees, etc.