On a recent fall trip to Paris we booked a room at the Hotel des Marronniers right smack in the middle of the St Germain des Pres neighborhood, because of its location on the Left Bank and its proximity to the major art museums and sites. It was within a twenty-minute walk to the Louvre, the Museum d’Orsay, l’Orangerie, and Notre Dame Cathedral. We were going to spend four days in the city visiting art museums before taking an Avalon Waterways river cruise from the north to south of the country, which had side excursions to artists’ sties, many having to do with Monet and Van Gogh.
Soon after we arrived, I spread my map out on the hotel clerk’s desk and began asking Judith about sites we wanted to see in the neighborhood, and also those which were more far afield. The Museum Monet Marmottan looked like it was way far to the west, but Judith pointed to the nearby St. Germain Subway stop and explained that it was easy to get there by going west and changing at one stop. “The meeting for your tour of the artists’ village at Montmartre is also easy to reach by going north and then connecting to another line,” she said.
As soon as we began walking around the neighborhood we appreciated its riches—lots of art galleries, small cafes, even a smallish high quality Delacroix Museum. “Up the street and turn right”
Though the hotel had an attractive courtyard restaurant where breakfast was served—and other guest gave it high ratings—we decided to eat out in cafes. Two blocks away we discovered, a reasonably priced bakery so elegant that we were shocked to find out it was a chain with spots all over France.
As we wound through streets with art galleries we looked up to eighteenth and nineteen century buildings with markers for George Sands’ and Richard Wagner’s houses, strolled slowly through produce market on Rue de Buci, and found ourselves going south to St. Suplice Church, known for its Delacroix murals and a shroud which may have been used to wrap the body of Christ.
Whenever we were coming and going toward the St Germain Subway Stop we peered in at the famous cafes Les Deux Magots or Le Café de Flore. However, they were always too crowded with lines at the door. We had lunch at another quieter, out of the way Café Polidore, its walls lined with paintings by artists who paid for their meals by giving away their art.
Before dinner on the last night, we asked Judith which of the restaurants on a list we had researched via Yelp and guidebooks, was closest because we’d been walking all day and our feet were weary. “My favorite is not on the list,” she said. “It’s six doors down to the left.” That last night we had the best meal of our Paris stay, served by incredibly friendly waiters.