Hipster Paris: A Weekend Trip
Paris, je t’adore
Paris holds a special place in my heart: it was my first major international trip; I studied abroad there in college; and in many ways it’s tightly woven into my family history. If I go too many years without a visit, I get the shakes.
Over the course of my time in Paris, I’ve been to the major sites and museums numerous times. You know – Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens, the Champs-Élysées, l’Arc de Triumphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Musée d’Orsay, and Sacré-Cœur – just to name a few. You could spend a lifetime exploring these places. And you could do nothing but eat at classic Parisian bistros. And we did some of that on this trip. But this time – I wanted to see Paris a little differently. I asked myself, “does Paris have hipsters? Where do they live? Where do they eat?”
The Hipster Side of Paris
Where We Stayed
By following the hipster breadcrumbs, we settled on staying in the 11th Arrondissement. I’m sure there are other neighborhoods with hipster tendencies. But, the 11th is also adjacent to the 4th (Le Marais), which I love. It’s where I lived during my semester abroad. I suppose it might still qualify on the hipster scale, but more like Park Slope than Bushwick (sorry – that’s an obnoxiously Brooklyn-centric comparison, but I’m not sure how else to explain it.)
Side note: if you, quite reasonably, ask yourself “why is the 4th right next to the 11th?” – it’s because the numbers start in the center and spiral out from there. That pretty much sums up the French theory of the universe, actually: relevance is measured in distance from the center of Paris.
So, anyway – we booked an Airbnb on Rue Voltaire near the Voltaire/Leon Blum Metro station. It was on the top floor of a lovely, classic building with a little patio. Even the hipsters in Paris are chic. We welcomed ourselves with wine and cheese. Truth be told, I’m not a very good Francophile in that I’m not particularly into wine or cheese. But, when in Rome.
Where We Ate
The general principle for this weekend was to seek out a modern but affordable version of French cuisine. We wanted to pick places where we might be regulars if we lived in Paris.
We knew we wanted to go to Au Passage. It came highly recommended. It was little crazy trying to get a table, though. They didn’t have any reservations available, but they apparently take walk-ins for their second seating at 9:30 p.m. (this seemed to be a thing at other places, too.) So, we took our chances and waited for a table. We eventually got seated, and we weren’t disappointed. The space itself is fairly simple, and you might be tempted to think the food would be average. But, the food was really special. The one dish that particularly stood out was the lobster bisque. It was super simple, but the flavor was out of this world. And they had really decent French IPA.
Another highlight was Clamato. We decided to try lunch here, as we couldn’t get a dinner reservation and didn’t want to risk missing it. It’s mostly seafood, and it was excellent. We had a carpaccio of some kind of white fish that melted in your mouth…mmm. The space was lovely, too: mint green accents; reclaimed wood. My kind of place.
The night we arrived, we went to Yard. It’s on a small street right near the Père Lachaise Cemetery (where I hadn’t been since 8th grade when we thought we were so cool for going to see Jim Morrison’s grave.) We were pretty late, so they weren’t able to offer us the full menu. But, we ordered off the late-night menu, and it was solid. I gather that a new chef is now there, but it sounds like they’re still serving up good food.
While exploring le Marais one day, we stumbled into having lunch at the Breizh Café, a cute little crêperie and cider bar. The place was a tiny hole in the wall, but we were able to sit and enjoy the meal. It was a good intermediate option between a full-blown restaurant and street food.
Where We Drank
I’d read that the area around the Canal Saint Martin was hipster-y, as well. So, we decided to head over that way one afternoon. I’d come across a review for the Comptoir General, which sounded appealingly odd. And it was. I’m not even sure how to explain it. There was old movie paraphernalia as you walked in. Then, you walked into an indoor courtyard with a jungle-like feel. There was a room filled with global curiosities. There were multiple bars, one of which was tiki-themed. None of it made much sense, but it was fabulous.
Word on the street was that the French might be getting into the beer game. And I found one craft beer bar out in the 20th Arrondissement, Les Trois 8. It was exactly what we were looking for – a French hipster beer bar. The bartender was very friendly, although it seemed that the nuances of beer were a bit new to him. It sounds like a few other breweries have popped up in Paris since our visit. I’m so excited to go back and check them out.
I have to admit that I took most of the pictures of this weekend on a iphone that wasn’t properly backed up before I replaced it. Yada, yada, yada…I don’t have many pictures. I guess I’ll just have to go back soon 🙂