Do you know that there is another river in Paris besides the Seine? Or why tons of sand are imported into the city every summer? Or a place where you can go for a massage, sauna, exfoliation, and tea room, but you might never think of it?
All of the answers can be found in the book Paris Insights: An Anthology, written by Tom Reeves. This book is a compilation of monthly newsletters sent out to his clients and others interested in Discover Paris!, his website that plans personalized itineraries. I had the pleasure of reading this anthology and learned so many new things about Paris. Each chapter is a former newsletter the oldest dating back to 2000, and the book is splashed with photos. The anthology is available on Amazon.com for $16.95 (b/w) and for $39.95 (color) at Blurb.com.
Although the book features any and all things Paris, I want to focus on a few places mentioned that make for great summer outings.
1. Le Dome Café
This café is in the Montparnasse quartier and was the frequent hangout of Man Ray, an American artist best known for his avant-garde photography. Ray came to Paris in 1921 running with the likes of Dada pioneers including Tristan Tzara, Marcel Duchamp and others. He also befriended Henri Matisse, Nancy Cunard, Gertrude Stein, and Henri Broca.
La Rotonde (105 boulevard du Montparnasse), a café just across the street from Le Dome, was another home for Ray, as well as, greats such as Picasso, Modigliani, Lenin, and Trotsky. These are the only 2 cafés left in the area out of the four that would have been in Ray’s circulation. Many of Man Ray’s works are housed at Le Centre Pompidou along with other well-known works from the Dada movement.
Le Dome Café
108 boulevard du Montparnasse
2. La Brûlerie des Gobelins
This place is not just another café, but an actual coffee house where the finest beans are roasted, packaged and sold to local endroits, including the upscale Hôtel Meurice. Jean-Paul Logereau, the proprietor of La Brûlerie des Gobelins, has been in the family business since the 1930s, and operating at this particular location since 1945.
Even though he supplies coffee to hotels, grocers, cafés, and other retail places, his passion is catering to the people of his quartier. He cherishes the relationships formed by walk-ins and loyalists. For retail, Logereau only sells Arabic beans, but he prefers Ethiopian blends. He also has Kenyan varieties, New Guinea, Haitian, and Central/South American available. So as you are walking around near Place Monge or Jardin des Plantes, listen for the sound of crackling beans roasting and the smell of gourmet aromas escaping the doors of La Brûlerie des Gobelins.
La Brûlerie des Gobelins
2 avenue des Gobelins
Metro: Les Gobelins or Censier-Daubenton
3. La Maison du Miel
Browsing the jams and honey in the supermarkets here, I was first amazed at how many different types of honey were available and how locally fresh they were. In co-ordinance with Parisian’s precision and importance placed on their cuisine, one should not be at all surprised to learn that there are at least 5 apiaries within city limits. The oldest apiary can be found in Jardin du Luxembourg. Founded in 1856, this 20-hive apiary also offers classes in beekeeping and tree cultivation for those interested.
La Maison du Miel is the oldest and just one of the few boutiques that specialize and sell this delicious nectar. Over 30 varieties of honey are sold here not just from France, but all over the world. The best part is you can goûter (taste) anything you want prior to purchase!
La Maison du Miel
24 rue Vignon
4. Drugstore Publicis
The word drugstore is rarely heard throughout Europe, as derivations of pharmacy or apothecary are more appropriate. However, this American cultural icon does exist along the Champs Elysées. This ‘drugstore’ is home to 2 movie theaters, a tabac store, a pharmacy, 2 restaurants, a gourmet shop, 2 caves – one of each for wine and cigars – a gift shop, a cosmetics counter, and a bookstore.
Upon entering this contemporary, modern-chic building, one will see the tabac store and the brasserie. Moving along, you will find temporary art exhibitions until reaching the gourmet épicerie, run by Alain Soulard, a protégé of Alain Ducasse. The wine cave offers a vast worldly selection, and one can attend free wine tastings every Thursday evening from 6-8pm. So if you are looking for Paris’ one-stop-shop this might be as close as you will come, as it’s hardly just a drugstore!
133 avenue des Champs Elysées
Metro: Georges V or Charles de Gaulle-Etoile
Along with the places mentioned above, Paris Insights also refers to other places featured on Le Best of Paris, including Angelina, Mariage Frères, Sacré Coeur, Luxembourg Gardens, Hediard, and the Jardin des Tuileries. This anthology holds the key to many historical and secret sites in Paris, so if you think you know this city in and out, I challenge and encourage you to read Paris Insights: An Anthology!