Visit Paris like a bohemian. Eschew the swells, the faux art nouveau, the posers and the limousine liberals. Visit Paris like Oscar Wilde and Hemmingway visited Paris.
In fact Oscar Wilde’s last home in the 6th arrondissment is my first recommended hotel for you. You will be settled in at graceful rue des Beaux Arts just off rue de Seine, one of our primo favorite streets in all of Paris. L’Hotel is quintessential French and features its highly favored starred Le Restaurant. And L’Hotel’s location on the Rive Gauche is ideal. For example, you’re about a 4 minute walk to Pont des Arts footbridge that allows you to cross the Seine to the Cour Carree of the Louvre.
You need only roll down the street for some of the best eating in Paris. We recently had the opportunity to meet and speak with New Zealander Drew Hare, who Debbie and I kiddingly refer to as the unofficial mayor of rue de Seine. When you meet Drew, as you will (he is always in residence at one of his three outstanding rue de Seine eateries), you will quickly see why we have tabbed Drew, a gregarious and pleasant gentleman, mayor of Rue de Seine. If you have time, he will give you the top-down story about how he and partner Juan Sanchez have become two of Paris’ most revered and successful restaurateurs.
We first meet Drew while Debbie and I were having lunch at the bar (the way to go) at Drew’s Fish la Boissonnerie at 69 rue de Seine. Ollie, the English bartender, who appears to know every local’s life story, helped make a fine time even finer. Needless to say the house specialty was fish. While eating, we couldn’t help noticing the non-stop line in front of a little place named Cosi located directly across the street. In the past we had previously noted the regular lines and were puzzled as to why. Well, Drew quickly filled us in. It turns out that Drew and Juan own Cosi as well as Fish la Boissonnerie. The mystery was solved with three words from Drew—focaccia-like bread! In that we had some focaccia with our lunch, we already had a good idea why. Made-to-order foccaci sandwiches are stuffed with fresh from the market veggies, cheese and jambon fillings and are a huge hit with local sandwich aficionados.
As we were getting ready to settle up, Drew and Ollie mentioned that we might like to return that evening for dinner at Semilla, next door to Cosi. We did and glad is an understatement. This mellow bistro is filled with locals and visitors like us on the advice of Drew or Ollie or perhaps the one and only Patricia Wells. Do not venture to Paris without a full day’s scrolling of Patricia’s website. OK then, three awesome Drew Hare establishments literally within an eight iron shot from your commodious accommodations at L’Hotel.
Rue de Seine is an open air market street loaded with markets and shops that you will want to check out, whether for a glass of Cote de Rhone or a French draft 1664 beer at Le Palette, a café-bar frequented by Hemingway and Picasso as well as Jim Morrison. You’ll want to stop by Da Rssa for, among many other delicacies, some of Spain’s finest Jamon Iberique de Bellota, to nosh there or take on a picnic. Across the street, you can pick up a rotisserie chicken (hopefully Breese or Landes, but a red label notation is a must), or a bottle of Côte-Rôtie or Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Juan Sanchez’s fabulous wine shop around the corner from Semilla and Cosi. As you can see, Rue de Seine is a great ‘hood.
I am just getting started with my 6th arrondissment intelligence for you. In front of part five in my 2013 Paris series, I would have you consider Hotel Lutetia, but be forewarned: this illustrious belle époque hotel is slated for renovations soon. Des Saints Peres and Hotel St. Germain-des-Pres are other fine options in the arrondissment of Paris’ original lost generation—the 6th.
P.S. To ice the cake on a potential visit to what is simply the most fascinating city in the world, I advise you rent on your Apple TV ( a lifesaver if you have grandkids) Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Julie & Julia, featuring Meryl Streeps’ astonishing performance as Julia Childs.