On my last day in Paris, I decided to treat myself: lunch at the famed Les Deux Magot (6 place Saint Germain de Pres), once a placed frequented by French intellectuals.
However, on my arrival for lunch and after a morning’s walk in the rain, and quickly noticing the already seated diners – I’m suddenly intimidated! They all seem to be dressed in the finest couture. Feeling myself decidedly out of place, dressed in a wet parka, slightly soiled jeans and mud-covered hiking boots, I stop just some 2 or three metres from the door and veer off. “I can’t go in there looking like this”, I thought.
Instead, I head for Cafe Le Petit Pont, just across from the Notre Dame. If I can’t lunch at the famed Les Deux Magot, then I might as well compensate myself with at least a better view.
Cafe Le Petit Pont (1, rue du Petit Pont) is a bit of a tourist trap. It’s literaly where no one can miss it! Even the Shakespeare & Company bookshop is just right next door (the aging George Whitman, founder of Shakespeare & Co., actually walked past me as I took a sip of my cheap bordeaux). While popular with tourists, some locals, too, are there. This place is busy at virtually all hours. As their business card says, “non-stop le week-end”!
I figured that I was probably saving a few euros here than by being at the other place, so I don’t hesitate. For starters, I order frogs’ legs (what else?) and for mains, I settle for beef stew (apparently, as it says on the menu, the cook brings to me the finest in French cooking). Well, I just couldn’t wait.
The frogs arrived first, of course. My initial tasting tells me they’re like fish! A few more bites later, I change my mind and now I think these frogs taste more like chicken. Sauteed to perfection and with a liberal amount of sauce, the frogs are sufficiently enjoyable, if only at least for their novelty to the pallet. As I finish them off, the waiter delivers my main – the beef stew. This one comes with spaghetti pasta that tasted as if it was already a day old. I’m disappointed. The beef, too, was nothing special. What is this so-called French cooking all about? Still, I persevere and being civilised I finish off the plate.
With a little espresso to complete, all up I got slugged for €30. Not too bad, I thought, but it seems that I was really paying more for the view.
And here’s a recommendation for a little bar with some good funky music. Le Caveau des Oubliettes (52 rue Galande) is a tiny pub where the basement has been transformed into a second bar and jazz venue. It’s so small that some folks are piled out onto the staircase during a performance. But no one seems to mind; the French are far too patient. Cool young crowd without the pretentious atmosphere.