Friday, April 30, 2010

JNSQ FF - The sun is an uppity B, Paris DNA and the blog world's favorite terraces

The sun is being one uppity little B. Come. Go. Hot. Cold. It treats me like a bad boyfriend, the kind I want to make out with one day, and kick in the balls when I see him caressing some other country the week after.

"MAKE UP YOUR DAMN TÊTE!!!!" I want to scream at it most of the time.

All this week it was kissing MY face, but it's going to abandon me again this weekend. (Just when I planned a picnic in Luxembourg Gardens, of course.) I'm sure that in a few days it'll come crawling back my way, making me smile and trying to get on my good side until Italy swaggers by. (What does that olivey country have that my pale skin and freckles don't, huh?!?!)

If we're being honest, I've really no right to complain. Summer came early here. It's been spoiling us all for weeks and now I'm whining about a few passing clouds? This city is breathtaking even under the cover of its gray fluff. Not like Wisco, the clouds there look more like a tinted windows than the colorful puffs I see meandering across Parisian skies, mingling with its proud monuments.

And what goes best with sun? In a word: Terraces.

Parisian terrace lounging is as ingrained into the society as their love for wine and feeling superior. It's been a cultural must for literally hundreds of years (Merci, Café de Flore!)

I'm assuming that at this point, enjoying an afternoon on a terrace is no longer a simple pleasure, but instinct. It's weaved into the Paris DNA. I suspect it began as a survival tactic. Yes, that's it. Paris will eat you alive if you don't occasionally drop by a café and pay too much for your drink and leave too little tip to be treated half as well as you would be in the Midwest.

Like any good little expat, I've adopted the tradition without hesitation. People watching from my shaded perch is one of the things I miss most when I head stateside. Sure, my native Madison has cafés, some quaint ones along State Street too! But, they will never replace Paris' wicker chairs and snooty staff.

Without further adieu, this week's JNSQ FF : "What's your favorite Paris café or restaurant with a terrace?"
ps - this week's answers were right on the effing money, top notch ladies, thank you so much! Everyone reading this... check their blogs for even more genius at work!

"My regular haunts are closer to home..." -Meg Zimbeck
There are plenty of lovely terrasses in the center of Paris, but my regular haunts are closer to home in the far-flung 19th arrondissement. In addition to being nearby, these three all have a young and interesting clientele, plenty of sun, zero car traffic, and (sometimes working) wifi. 

28° Est (photo here). The cafe itself is basically a cinder block and the interior is sad. But score a seat on the terrasse, or better yet on the roof deck over looking the Bassin, and you're golden. Don't be tempted by the food here - it's not good. Stick with the drinks.

Bar Ourcq (photo of boules in front of the bar here). Like 28° Est, Bar Ourcq is also located on the Bassin de la Villette - a beautiful spot where the Canal Saint-Martin widens out up north. The interior here is cute, with free wifi and good music, but the real attraction is along the water. Hundreds of people come here on warm evenings and weekends, buy beer in plastic cups, and take them to sit along the water's edge. The bar also loans out folding chairs and sets of boules, so you'll find tons of young people here playing in the dirt. 

Rosa Bonheur (photo here). This cafe/restaurant inside the Parc des Buttes Chaumont has attracted a lot of attention this year and for good reason. The setting couldn't be prettier, sitting under the leaves with a view out over the hills of the city's most jaw dropping beautiful park. Food on offer too, from tapas to roast chicken.

"I am fickle at heart..." - Doni Belau
I must say that my favorite terrasse at this very moment, meaning I’m open to suggestions as I am fickle at heart, is the gorgeous outdoor dining area at the Maison de l’Amerique Latine on the Boulevard St. Germain. Lunch here makes you feel like a “real lady who lunches” and their huge outdoor garden behind the exquisite Hotel Particulier which houses the cultural institution is simply divine. The food (think fancy salads, fish, etc) and the service are elegant and on a spring or summer day, this location absolutely cannot be beat. Plus after your long lunch with some rose perhaps, you can tour the galleries to see their latest art exhibit. Expect to pay to feel so terribly chic and elegant but the Maitre-d is the kind who makes you feel special even if you ride in on one of those razor scooters as my friend did!

Maison de l'Amerique Latine, 117 boulevard Saint Germain, 7th, Tél.: 01 49 54 75 10. Mo Rue du Bac or Solferino, Lunch menu 40 Euros, Dinner menus 50 Euros, 79 Euros. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Reserve ahead.

"on a nice night, it's magical..."
- Rebecca Leffler
CAFE DE LA MAIRIE - best people-watching ever
CAFE DE FLORE - best people-watching ever (ok they tie)
LA PALETTE - when I want to run into everyone I've ever met ever in life.
CAFE CHARLOT / LE PROGRES - because I love me some French hipsters.
LUXEMBOURG GARDENS chairs - because they're free.
HOTEL AMOUR - their garden terrace - go for a drink, not for the food, but on a nice night, it's magical.

"P-A-R-C M-O-N-C-E-A-U..." - Ashleigh T.
My favorite summer terrace is spelled P-A-R-C M-O-N-C-E-A-U. Why? Because I can throw a bottle of wine, some wine glasses and my ratty park blanket in a tote and be there soaking up the sun in about 5 minutes. Runners up, and only because of the distance that separates us, would be: Champs de Mars and Buttes Chaumont (Sorry Montsouris and Luxembourg, but you are just too far from home and Tuileries, you are too full of tourists!)
As for actual cafés with a terrace, as long as the sun is shining, I'm not picky!

"I’m still in 'research mode'" - Forest C.

Great topic! With the recent lovely weather, I've been asking opinions on, searching for and trying different spots for terraces. I spent about 5 or 6 straight hours at a terrace on Montmartre last Sunday. In fact, it became a bit of a game with my friend and me. We were determined to “win” by staying longer on the terrace than any other customers. When we were finally kicked out at closing – but we were the last to leave. Winners! (wow….that sounds a little sad when I type it out!)

I’m still in “research mode”, but a few that are particularly standout:

- Hotel Particulier: You have to reserve, but once there you, you’re completely removed from the hustle and bustle of hectic Paris life and hidden away in an idyllic little garden.
- Le Diapason: It’s mainly a resto, but if you can manage to get a spot at the small bar (or feel like going for the nice food) the view from the top of this Montmartre hotel is killer!
-George V & Hyatt Plaza Vendome: Both of these fancy, swanky hotels have gorgeous terraces – but be prepared to shell out some cash to enjoy them!
-Hotel de l'Abbaye: I checked this place out in winter when they have a cozy fire blazing, but I noticed they have a super sweet and totally secluded garden terrace in the back, which I’m dying to try.
-Bateau El Alamein: A little boat deck terrace that is busting with pretty plants and flowers.
-Hotel Raphael: In full disclosure, I had a rather disappointing visit to the downstairs bar at the spendy Hotel Raphael. But, you can’t deny the superb view from the rooftop terrace.
-Hotel Amour: Like Rebecca mentions, this is a pretty little garden terrace perfect for an apero!

Vive le beau temps!

"The interior courtyard is divine, daaaarlings..."
- I Heart Paris

In ascending order of disposable budget:
My balcony – I love looking out onto the blue-grey Parisien rooftops whilst the sunsets, with beer in hand.
Pause Café – one of my fave cheap eats in Paris and has a great terrace to boot.
Rosa Bonheur – great vibe at this newly re-opened guingette in the middle of the Buttes Chaumont
Hotel Amour – as Rebecca and Forest have already pointed out, lovely little courtyard that’s great for an apéro
Mama Shelter – I love the contrast of the modern terrace and the disused railtrack it overlooks. Fab cocktails.
Café Marly – have a drink en pleine air whilst overlooking I.M. Pei’s pyramide and the grounds of the Louvre – maybe the best terrace view ever. I also quite like the food here, contrary to the rest of the world.
Costes – the interior courtyard is divine, daaaarlings.

"I'm not picky!" - Sion Dayson
Terrace? Who needs a terrace when the sun is shining? Bring a bottle and a blanket and head to Buttes Chaumont Park or the canal.

If you want an *actual* terrace, I'm with Ashleigh. I'm not picky! (though if someone knows of a terrace where a non-smoker will still be able to breathe, let me know!)

"I adore the cafés along and around Canal St. Martin..." - Lindsey T.
I agree with Sion. Any terrace will do provided there is an appropriate ratio of sun to shade! I adore the cafés along and around Canal St. Martin, where there is seating outdoors, on rue Cler in the 7th which is (supposed to be) a pedestrian only street, or even my local restaurant Les Petites Indécises which has lovely seating outdoors that lines the perimeter. I see many regulars there, with their coffees, newspapers and computers in the morning, and in the evening it's an awesome spot to have a drink or eat while it's still warm. Good food, good location, nice service. I think that's the winner for me!


  1. Great topic- a necessary prep for Parisian summer is always to update your list of fav terrasses. I definitely have a few places to add to my list- I tend to be the type (ie lazy) that sticks close to home.
    Just wanted to respectfully disagree about Wiscon clouds being worse than Parisian ones. I am from the far Northwoods and Parisian winters KILL me with the unending gray. I think that there is nothing better, or more invigorating, than a cold wisconsin winter day with piles of white snow on the ground reflecting the sun. And even when the clouds come, snow drifts are brighter than gray sidewalks and gray buildings and crowds of gray-faced Parisians dressed head-to-toe in black. So depressing. Ok, maybe I haven't lived through an entire WI winter since 1992 but still...

  2. Nicole,
    Ok the snow is great... But you've been away too long m'dear. I would still take the Parisian winters over Wisconsin ones. I like my fingers - I don't want them snapping off when someone gives me a high five while we're waiting for the bus. (Oh wait, that's right, I'd never get a HF here bc that's about as common as lighting your farts in france.)
    You're right about the head-to-toe black part as well lol. It's like a sea of black with little pink faces. Creepy in deed.

  3. isn't the name 25 est and not 28 est? it is one of my fave terraces too. great.

  4. Okay the actual snowfall is excellent... However you have already been aside too much time m'dear. I'd nevertheless consider the actual French winters more than Wisconsin types. I love my personal fingertips -- We do not would like all of them nipping away whenever somebody provides me personally a higher 5 whilst we are awaiting the actual coach. (Oh yea wait around, you heard right, I would in no way obtain a HF right here b . c . that is regarding because typical because illumination your own farts within portugal.

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