Friday, 27 April 2012


Plan the perfect day in the French capital, says Emma Hurst

Written by Emma Hurst

More and more of us are now travelling across Europe by train. So if you’re passing through Paris’s Gare du Nord station en route to more distant climes, it makes sense to plan a 24-hour stopover. But where to start?

Well, be realistic. With Gare du Nord handily located on Métro line 4 (you can buy a carnet of Métro tickets at St Pancras before you leave London) it makes sense to head for the Left Bank and a hotel in Saint-Germain-des-Prés or the Quartier Latin. The glories of the City of Light be on your doorstep and the cross-town trip next day to your
connecting station – the Gare de Lyon or Gare d’Austerlitz – will be simpler.

After checking into your hotel, go for a leisurely late lunch at La Cigale Récamier (4 Rue Récamier). It’s the kind of place where older men conduct discreet liaisons over filet de loup and chilled Brouilly, and politicians hatch bloodless
coups. The restaurant’s signature soufflés are not to be missed. Book well in advance to eat on the covered terrace.

Paris is the city for strolling, sowalk off your meal in the Jardin du Luxembourg, getting there via the pretty back streets of Saint-Sulpice. Located behind the Marché Saint-Germain, on Rue Princesse, is The Village Voice Bookshop, where you can banter with knowledgeable American owner Michael Neal.

Just around the corner is Gérard Mulot (76 Rue de Seine), a bakery famed for its buttery croissants. Stock up on
miniature éclairs and macarons.

As time is tight, forget cultural monoliths such as the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. The more manageable Musée de
Cluny (6 Place Paul-Painlevé) is close at hand, crammed with stunning medieval treasures, including the 15th century Lady And The Unicorn tapestries.

From here, it’s a hop and skip to the Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame cathedral. If the tourist scrum is disheartening, do a quick outdoor circuit (the newly-restored gargoyles are snarlingly impressive) and cross the Pont Neuf for drinks at the belle époque Café Le Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain). This former watering hole of André Breton and Jean-Paul Sartre is still patronised by the French intelligentsia.

After a large lunch, it’s fun to dine at a bustling brasserie or small bistro. Chez Fernand (13 Rue Guisarde) serves a
classic boeuf bourguignon and a simple but delicious green bean salad; located on Rue de Seine is one of the more stylish (and reasonably priced) fish restaurants in Paris, which just so happens to be called Fish. Alternatively the ritzier eateriesof Montparnasse have not lost their magic. La Coupole (102 Boulevard du Montparnasse) and La Closerie des Lilas (171 Boulevard du Montparnasse) do ludicrously large platters of fruits de mers.

With a few hours before your train departs, try to make time for breakfast in the Saint- Germain branch of Ladurée
(21 Rue Bonaparte). One of the most ornate patisseries in Paris, you feel sophisticated just walking in. The choux pastry blackcurrant and violet religieuses – best sampled in the shop’s pretty salon de thé – look like something Marie Antoinette might have worn.

From here it’s possible to squeeze in a last injection of culture at the Musée Rodin (79 Rue de Varenne; open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5.45pm). If there is no time to view the exhibition rooms, wander the formal gardens to view The Burghers of Calais and The Thinker. The sculptor’s saucier creations are Parisian romance made flesh, and there’s no nicer way, or place, to say adieu.

WHERE TO STAY …in Saint-Germain

Villa Madame is an elegant four-star hotel a few minutes from the Jardin du Luxembourg (from €161 for a double):
44 Rue Madam, 00 33 1 45 48 02 81,

Hotel Jardin de l’OdEon is efficiently run and reasonably priced, from €130, three-star hotel near the Théâtre de l’Odéon: 7 Rue Casimir Delavigne, 00 33 1 53 10 28 50,

Hotel Sainte -Beuve is a quiet hotel favoured by Americans for its crisp linen and well-upholstered furnishings (from €169): 9 Rue Sainte-Beuve, 00 33 1 45 48 20 07,

Hotel de SuEde is a clean and understated hotel. One of Saint- Germain’s better budget options (from €105): 31 Rue Vaneau, 00 33 1 47 05 00 08,

…and in Le Marais Hotel Bourg Tibourg is a former brothel turned hip hotel and a fashionista favourite. More pricey (from €250) but worth it: 19 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg, 00 33 1 42 78 47 39,

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