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Matthew Phillips

consumer and producer of technology and culture

Paris Guide

Shopping

  • Compagnie

    Just as it's nearly senseless / impossible to name one or two of Paris's best venues for coffee/tea, it's silly to try to pick one bookstore of Paris's myriad variety as my favorite or the 'best'. Situated in the Latin Quarter, along some of the other most remarkable bookstores (in addition to the corporate behemoths Gilbert Joseph, with whom I have an appropriately French relationship of love/hate), Librairie Compagnie stands out for its interesting selection and regularly fascinating events (highpoint: seeing Rancière present his new book on the evening of my birthday). It's not architecturally grand or quaint - rather modern in fact, so if you're searching for a Shakespeare & Co type romantic bookstore, you're out of luck. But if you want to browse a fascinating range of books (in French) or drop in on a reading, this place is one of my top suggestions. Others: L'Arbre à Lettres & Tschann.

  • Marais

    If you're looking to window shop, avoid the Champs-Elysees and the Rue de Rivoli and dive into the Marais. There's literally everything here and while in the height of tourist season(s) the streets can reach the point of annoyingly-overflowing there's always a side street or alley to duck down into and explore. I've spent years aimlessly wandering these streets and I continue to find amazing things tucked away in corners.

Food

  • Boca Mexa

    Because it's just as senseless to select a handful of French restaurants out of the inexhaustible ocean of Parisian restaurants, I'm going to focus here on food that's relatively difficult to find and perhaps only desirable by expats. Boca Mexa is by far my favorite Mexican establishment in Paris, a category that's smaller than you'd imagine or I'd like. Best part: the hottest salsa they have available is actually quite intense: a rarity in France where palates tend to be a little more sensitive than in the Americas. Really amazing food, added bonus: if you go to their Mouffetard location, well, you get to be on Rue Mouffetard.

  • The Beast

    Besides Mexican food, something I'd often crave in Paris was BBQ. The Beast is the first place I had something that I could recognizably identify as BBQ as I understand it (full disclosure: originally from Georgia, so I have very strong opinions about BBQ). Really thoughtfully designed interior, though the layout can sometimes lead to bottlenecks in moving around the restaurant (a problem in a lot of Parisian restaurants with non-traditional floorplans). Fantastic food - really authentic (I believe if you look into it, the owner spent a good chunk of time in Texas & elsewhere in the US to get it right) and an appropriately large complement of whiskies.

Bars

  • L'Attirail

    Tucked away someplace you'd never look to find it, this bar was at least a weekly visit during my years in Paris. Where to start? Like I said, tucked away in the most innocuous spot imaginable, incredibly cheap (relative to how inflated Paris prices are) wine and beer, free potato wedges periodically throughout the night. Passport photos as the only wallpaper. The crowd seems mostly to be students, both Parisian and expat, the atmosphere/mood is incredibly low key and relaxed. One of my favorite bars in the world.

  • Le Pantalon

    Like L'Attirail, Le Pantalon is innocuously tucked away near the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter. While the Latin Quarter is fairly saturated with pub-like student bars, this place is completely different. Unfortunately, it suffers (like a lot of my favorite spots) from a lack of interior real estate, so things can get packed. Cash only, which is inconvenient - but all of these negative characteristics are outweighed by the charm of the interior - the front half seems unchanged for many decades, the back gives way to what appears to be an exterior courtyard, cobblestones, lightpost and all - but which is indeed inside. Spent many a rememberable birthday celebration here. A place I always manage to hit when in town, regardless how short of a visit.

Adventures

  • Do the Parks

    While I have slightly eccentric preferences when it comes to Parisian parks (I couldn't care less about Bois de Boulogne, I really love Montsouris), what's fundamental is Paris has some incredible ones. The view from Parc de Belleville nearly outshines the view from Montmartre, Buttes-Chaumont (as well as the surrounding neighborhood) is enchanting, Montsouris is unjustly ignored considering how lovely it is on a fall day. The larger parks have even more room for adventure: Vincennes & its associated bois are definitely worth a few hours to explore. The more urban parks (Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries) are perfect for picnics or midday refreshment after wandering around.

  • Musée national Gustave Moreau

    I'm especially fond of the historic-residence/museum combinations you find in Paris - other examples include Balzac and Hugo's homes which have been preserved alongside associated belongings and artistic work. But the Musée national Gustave-Moreau blows both of these other museums out of the water - architecturally, the interiors have been preserved and what interiors they are. I'd recommend checking out some pictures because despite my acknowledged skill with words I'm at a loss as to how to convey how marvelous some of the spaces are here. Combine the architectural marvels with the sheer number of amazing artistic works by Moreau on display here and I walked out of this place almost shell-shocked by all I'd seen and how long I'd been missing out.

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