PARIS, FRANCE. Paris is usually considered the end-all, be-all of vacation destinations, the epitome of luxury. Yet, if you do not know where to go, the French capital may not seem so glamorous.
During my short time in the city, I was fortunate to stay with a native Parisian, about ½ mile from the Gare du Nord metro station in the 10th Arrondissement. It was definitely not in the most desirable portion of the city, but it still had its charm. In fact, I quite came to like several restaurants, cafés and shops in the area.
On the corner of Rue Chaudron and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, Au Clairon Gourmand boasts traditional French cuisine, accompanied by an array of beers. You could order breads, from classic baguette with a crunch to darker and heartier breads, with jams and cheeses. Salads were also available with berry vinaigrettes and filled with fruits and nuts. The owner, an Algerian man, speaks a fair bit of English and will talk politics with you if you are up to it.
The exterior of the brasserie is lined with regular clients smoking, and other stylish gentlemen, holding conversation while leaning against the building. It truly provides you with the classic Paris you expect to see and definitely doesn’t disappoint. There are many more bars and cafés to try out in Paris, but I will come back here for the atmosphere for sure.
Across the street is L’Epi d’Or, a great little shop with delicious breads and croissants. Here, the bakers knead dough right in front of you, and the bread aromas meander all around you as you shop. There’s chocolate, pasta and more to make a scrumptious French meal. I picked up several baguettes; they were crispy but still had the perfect soft center, still warm from the oven. Markets like L’Epi D’or are a great place to save some cash while still visiting a luxurious city.
Paris doesn’t disappoint on food, I was able to assure myself while walking around other areas of the city, too. For a quick lunch, I can recommend Camille (24 Rue des Francs Bourgeois). Centrally located in the Marais, this restaurant has the same laissez-faire atmosphere as Au Clairon Gourmand.
Breads, cheeses, and an array of wines were continuously flowing to and from the table. My salad was drizzled with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette and topped with pears and flavorful pine nuts. The not-too-crunchy crème brûlée was a perfect finish to an excellent meal. The ambiance was also wonderful, with a not too crowded restaurant and dimmer lights, it felt comfortable. The service too was on par with quick and respectful waitstaff. All-in-all, Camille impressed me and you should definitely make a stop for a tasty dinner.
Paris, for me, was not as it is shown in pop culture, mass media, or your aunt’s anecdotes. It is a city just like any other, with its more dangerous parts and sometimes lack-luster facades, and yet, I had a wonderful time. The next time, I will leave the expectations behind.