Pont Neuf – Sunset & Evening Boat Cruise

Pont Neuf and Ile de la Cite
A Great Place to Catch a Boat & Enjoy Wine

Some spots on the world are well-visited because they’re magic. Pont Neuf and the Seine by night are two such places. (If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, the following is a great way to start your trip the first evening you arrive.)

First, buy your tickets for a night-time boat cruise on Vedettes Pont-Neuf. You can do this online (and often get a discount) or you can show up in person. (If it’s a tourist time of year like summer, be sure to get your tickets extra early, as the night-time cruises sell out fast.)

Head down to Pont Neuf before sunset, with a bottle of wine or champagne in hand. Because King Henri IV commissioned Pont Neuf, his statue sits atop the bridge, in front of the stairs that take you down to the boats and park below. Henri IV’s nickname was “Vert Galant,” (Green Gallant)– an allusion to his sexual powers and overall vigor. He was a “notorious romantic,” euphemistically speaking. (Allow that to inspire you for your evening as you see fit.)

Pont Neuf, in spite of its name meaning “new bridge”, is actually the oldest bridge in Paris. The beautifully carved faces seem alive, showcasing an exquisite range of expression. When commissioned over four centuries ago, the bridge’s architect/designer was asked to showcase government ministers and those popular with the court. In a fit of artistic pique that can still induce chuckles across the ages, a few condemned people and murderers were thrown into the gallery of faces. As is common, it’s hard to sort out the criminals from the statesmen.   

After studying a few of the bridge’s faces, stroll down with your vino to the tip of the Ile de la Cite, the island that really started the whole Paris thing way back before Romans, Franks, and the rest.  Sit back and relax while watching Paris go by, and you may learn one of the reasons why that song’s called “La Vie en Rose.” (The sky can turn an amazing pink, and this vantage point is perfect for getting a great vista of a Parisian sunset.)

Once the sun slips below the horizon, head over to Vedettes Pont-Neuf and board your boat. The French are masters at illuminating their public buildings and bridges. Paris, a city so beautiful by day, is 1000x more beautiful by night from the water that is its heart.

For boat tickets, cruise over to http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/

Best Fondue & Lively Atmosphere in Montmartre

Though often full of tourists of all stripes, the Refuge de Fondues still draws its fair share of French, and it is the French who are, in fact, the folks who took me here in the first place.

It’s popular with most everyone who visits, as the Refuge is an awesome and funny place. You will surely strike up conversation with someone next to you as, quite frankly, it is so packed, you have no choice. The proprietors also do what they can to keep the conversation and good times rolling. (Such as asking 10 people to stand up and move down one seat to accomodate a few other visitors, all while happily passing hot oil and molten cheese briskly around the room.) 

It’s only about 18 Euros for the entire menu which includes a kir to start, lots of good little appetizers, beef or cheese fondue (which is very very good hence the popularity), followed by your choice of cheese or fruit salad for dessert (though you can have other desserts) AND (why this is a supremely funny place) a baby bottle—yes—baby bottle full of white or red wine. Even if you don’t drink, you will walk out laughing. I have brought everyone who has ever visited me in Paris– of all ages– and they have all loved it. (There’s something very special about watching your parents drink wine from a glass baby bottle, which cannot be explained in mere words.)

If you have to wait to get a table or even if you don’t, go to the bar right next door and have a pre-dinner drink (“apero”). The cute little bar is a pleasant Montmartre haunt, typical of the many small, convivial bars that you can find throughout the neighborhood.

Get your cheese on at the Refuge de Fondues in the 18th, 17 rue des Trois-Freres (between rue Yves le Tac and rue la Vieuville), Metro: Abbesses or Anvers. You must make a reservation: 01.42.55.22.65.

Le Petit Prince – Wonderful Restaurant in Paris’ 5th

In a city where every street seems to reveal another culinary marvel, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the Search for the Perfect Neighborhood Restaurant when living in or visiting Paris.

Le Petit Prince is one of these Perfect Neighborhood Restaurants. Its wonderful menu and intimate Parisian ambiance remind you of how wonderful dining out can be, particularly in a place as wonderful as Paris.

I’ve been going here many times over the years, and sending friends even more times over the years. Everyone’s marveled at how good the food at Le Petit Prince is, and how special it feels to dine in a place that clearly represents the place you are visiting.

It’s slightly hard to find, but don’t give up – it’s well worth the effort: Le Petit Prince, 12 rue de Lanneau (5th arrondissement), Tel. 01.43.54.77.26, Metro: MAUBERT MUTUALITE

41 Buckingham Palace Road

 

There’s a dream of England that many of us have: wood-paneled libraries, a cozy fireplace, large comfy leather chairs, the most gracious service. You can find this at 41, a boutique hotel that’s located at the very prestigious 41 Buckingham Palace Road, just across from the Royal Mews.

The wood-paneled library/fireplace/leather chair area is 41’s  “Executive Lounge” where you take your delicious breakfast in the morning and your cocktails before supper or at the end of an evening. You will perhaps never feel as cosseted as when having a cocktail in front of the fireplace at 41.

The rooms are extremely spacious for central London, and very well laid out with all the right gadgets and amenities. (Business travel would be quite easy to handle when staying here.) The black and white color scheme is classic and contemporary, so you never feel like you’re trapped in one of those ghastly floral chintz nightmares that can often happen in elegant places in England. 

The 41’s beds are a dream, while the showers and deep tubs have amazing water pressure, perfect for rinsing off the city’s grime or getting a bath run quickly, so you can bring out your inner Churchill. (The former Prime Minister and maker of history made many critical decisions from the bath.)   

Aside from the wonderful location, the amazing lounge, and the nice rooms, it’s the people who work here who make the 41 truly exceptional. My husband and I were celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary and the staff did so much to make it special. Even if you weren’t celebrating a special event, the staff will go out of their way to make your stay seamless, anticipating your every need. The concierge will provide you with directions to a restaurant where you’re meeting friends (without your asking); the reception staff will help reserve the fireplace nook so you can have a cocktail hour at the hotel with your friends; the staff can get anything booked for you in London and beyond. All while being some of the most pleasant (and interesting) people you could hope to meet.

The 41 is well worth the price for making your stay in London truly memorable.  They consistently win a slew of awards, and each is well-deserved.

For more info and reservations, see 41 online @ 
http://www.41hotel.com/

Restaurant Samo – Awesome Korean

It seems strange to tell you that, if you are in Paris for more than 2 days, you simply have to go to a Korean restaurant. But Restaurant Samo is just that place.

Order the Korean BBQ beef, and you will be delivered a heavenly meal of marinated beef that cooks at your table, along with a variety of Korean pickles and vegetables. (Start with the potstickers, aka <<ravioli>> if you’re really hungry.) The food is fresh, the seasoning perfection. With a bottle of Bordeaux from the good, reasonable wine  list, you cannot go wrong.

1 rue du Champ de Mars (right off rue Cler)