September 16, 2011. What a day. Six or seven hours of Walking around one of the greatest walking cities on the planet. A few more hours for Eating in one of the world’s great food capitals. Fifteen miles. 24 kilometers. More than 2,000 calories burned.
A Walk that takes you to nearly all the must-see sights. To or near hundreds of wonderful places to eat. I’ll tell you where you can cut short this expedition. Make it an eight-mile/thirteen km, half-day stroll. But you really should do the whole thing. The distance may sound daunting at first. But it’s all in a day’s eating.
Which begins on the Right Bank at Angelina, also known as Maison d’Afrique. For the hot chocolate. Dark and thick. Almost like hot fudge. You get a big pot of it. Along with a bowl of whipped cream to mix in. Not Cheap, but it’s enough for two for seven Euros. Hey, this isn’t my usual breakfast either. But nothing says Paris to my mouth like this hot chocolate. Except for the chocolat amer ice cream at Berthillon. But that’s not for three miles.
These first three miles are visual action-packed. Through the Tuileries Gardens to the Louvre. On to the Palais Royale and its gardens. Over to the old Paris Mercantile Exchange, the Bourse, the corn exchange 500 years ago and now the Chamber of Commerce headquarters. It’s opposite the site of the former Les Halles, the produce market for nearly a thousand years. Now it’s a modern urban park with an underground shopping center. With a Starbucks in case you skipped Angelina’s and really just want a grande mocha. Just kidding.
A few blocks farther east to the Pompidou Center, the National Museum of Modern Art in a very modern building. Just 30 minutes into the Walk, but we’re definitely not in the Louvre anymore. Then south to the river, cutting across the lovely, small Parc de la Tour Saint-Jacques where the 600-year old bell tower has outlived the rest of the church.
Across the Seine on the Pont Notre-Dame to the Isle de la Cite and onward to and around the quietly spectacular 800-year old Notre Dame Cathedral at the east end of the island. Through its small park, then over a narrow strait via the Pont Sant-Louis to the neighboring island, Isle Saint-Louis.
Continue east for less than five minutes to that great temple of ice cream, Berthillon Glacier. I know, you’re just 60 – 90 minutes, three miles and 400 burned calories into The Walk. But this might be the best chocolate ice cream in the world. I always go for the amer, the bittersweet version. Hey, you can always get the sorbet version. Not so creamy, but the flavor’s identical. Wildly intense fruit sorbets, too, if you feel better about that in the morning.
Two hours to the croissaint
4.5 miles (7 km) to the next official snack. Continue east and cross the Seine again via the Pont de Sully. Up Blvd. Henri IV to the Place de la Bastille and the July Column. If you skipped the ice cream as a matter of principle and it’s Thursday or Sunday, continue north for two blocks to the Marché Bastille, the local Farmers Market. Pinpointed on the big detailed Google Map I made for you. Then back around along the marina to Pont d’Austerlitz and across the river to the Left Bank.
Meander a little less than a mile through the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes. It’s been a beautiful botanical garden for more than 400 years. A zoo for about 200. 58 acres of biodiversity. Then a mile or so along tree-lined streets to the gorgeous Luxembourg Garden. Walk at least a mile to explore the pathways.
Then walk a half-mile to the Abey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The oldest surviving part was built 1,500 years ago. It’s around the corner from Paris’ two most famous outdoor cafés, Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. Make believe Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are at the table next to yours. It’s OK to snack here for the vibes, but not for the food.
For that, you walk two blocks to Ladurée. Where you have a definitive croissant. Or a pain chocolat, the chocolate-filled one. Or the almond-covered one. Or the chocolate filled and almond-covered one. C’mon, how many times do you walk and eat your Way through Paris? By the time you walk in the door, you’ve already walked 7.5 miles and burned more than a thousand calories. And you’re only at the halfway mark. The day is young.
To the icons
2.5 miles west along the river and past the Musee d’Orsay and the National Assembly. Now south through the Esplanade of the and Hotel des Invalides. A half-mile along the Rue de Grenelle. Two blocks of terrific markets at the intersection of Rue Cler. In case you skipped the croissants and saved yourself for fresh fruits and vegetables and very, very good bread and cheese.
And now the magical mile through the Champs de Mars and right under the Tour Eiffel. Really. Whether it’s your first time or your hundredth, this is a totally cool structure.
But keep going, right back across the river via the Pont d’lena to the Right Bank and the Trocadero gardens. You’re at eleven miles (17.5 km) and walking. Just a mile and a half north to the Arc de Triomphe. Another mile along the Champs Elysées. A quick loop around the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. Back across the Champs Elysées and Place de la Concorde.
The Final Stretch
Up the Rue Royale to – or past – the original Ladurée. Baking legendary breads and pastries since 1862. Just in case you skipped the one on the Left Bank. Now move on, past the Church of La Madeleine. To the Opéra. And, these days, the Apple Store. On to the Place Vendôme. Walk right across the middle to the soaring 150′ column. And right out the south end of the plaza.
You’re 14 miles along the Way and you could continue straight back to the Tuileries Gardens. But I’d take a right on Rue de Mont Thabor and take a look at the menu in the window of Le Soufflé. After 50 years, they’re still rising and never falling. A quintessential Paris meal. The three-course soufflé menu (honest) is 30 Euros. A deal by local standards. Think about it.
Then walk back to the Place de la Concorde. The center. Gaze down the expanse of the Tuileries and the Louvre. Across the Seine to the National Assembly. Up the Champs Elysées. And contemplate the hundreds of restaurants and bistros you’ve walked by. Fifteen miles of them. It’s dinner time and you’ve burned more than 2,000 calories. Bon appétit.
Let’s Do The Math
A brisk 30-min walk will burn about 200 calories; an hour, 400. If you do this a few times a week, you’ve got a good routine going. If you take an all-day walk like this one, you’ll have a blast, eat great stuff and burn more than 2,000 calories along the Way. (FYI, 3,500 calories = 1 pound.)
5K Run: about 350 calories (about 30 min. at 6 mph). Cycling one hour on the Tour de France: 1,100 calories (20 mph/32 km/h).
Every Thing is Everything
“Walking is the best possible exercise. The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk. But divert your attention by [appreciating] the objects surrounding you. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”
– Thomas Jefferson
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
Put the Ate in the Walk
Paris in a mouthful
Berthillon makes the best ice cream and sorbet. Maybe the best in the world. So smooth. And with the most intense and perfect flavors. Strolling around the Isle Saint-Louis licking a chocolat amer cone is the best.
Ladurée is legendary for its colorful macaron cookie confections. But you’ll want every single thing you see in the expansive glass patisserie case. And there are hundreds. Don’t worry. It’s all great. Go with your gut. In moderation.
Androuet is to cheese what Ladurée is to pastries. They have everything. Hundreds and hundreds of cheeses. From every little village in France. And beyond. All in perfect condition. Just walk in, inhale, taste a few. And walk out with the centerpiece of your picnic. Three blocks from the Ladurée in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Where you get the baguette.
These restaurants are the real deal. No tourist traps. Not the most haute, best or brightest in town. Because you’d spend a minimum of 200 euros per person in those places. In these, you’ll eat very, very well. And know you’re in Paris. They’re all within ten minutes of The Walk’s pathway.
Au Pied de Fouet in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. Entrees for 10 euros. Starters and desserts for 3 to 5. Really. Wonderful lentil salad or a generous slice of pâté de campagne for 3 euros. A salmon filet for 9. Tarte Tatin for 3.
Au Bascou, north of the Pompidou Center. Chef Bertrand Guéneron left the three-star Lucas Carton to open his own place. Definitive Southwestern French and Basque cuisine. Cod, chorizo and “crystallized” vegetables. Fried cod with curry and coriander. Shrimp with crispy vermicelli. Basque ham.
Bar des Théâtres, reasonably priced despite its expensive address on Ave. Montaigne right across the street from the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. Steak tartare. Or anything with sauerkraut.
Les Papilles near the Luxembourg Gardens. Classic French. A big four-course meal for 44 euros. No choices. A different fixed menu each night. Hope for the braised breast of pork. A big, fairly priced wine list.
Le Petit Pontoise a great neighborhood restaurant if your neighborhood is the Latin Quarter. Just off the Blvd. Saint-Germain, two blocks from the Seine. Classic. The duck and any of the first courses.
Le Soufflé After 50 years, they’re still rising and never falling. A quintessential Paris meal. The three-course soufflé menu (honest) is 30 Euros. A deal by local standards. Local is two blocks from Place Vendome and the Ritz Hotel. A minimum of twenty soufflés choices.
L’As du Fallafel. Wait on line with everyone else in town for the falafel and the fried eggplant. Even the curry. OK, not French. Israeli, sort of. But a Better Cheaper meal in an expensive city. Eat well and plenty for 5 euros. Count ’em. Five.