Off the beaten Path: Bastille, Paris
We found ourselves in Paris, for the August long weekend. During a heat wave. The city was sweltering. Hot.
So, instead of rushing around, trying to see all the sights, it was a weekend of slow perusing, or as the french call it, practising the art of flâneur. A very pretentious word for one of my favourite pastimes: Wandering and observing!
We stayed in Bastille, an old furniture making faubourg, that was once the border between between central, moneyed Paris and it’s working class suburbs. Historically Bastille was set outside the city walls and very much a working quarter.
Today, Bastille is a vibrant Parisian suburb and the workshops long gone, replaced by independent boutiques, old school cafes, chi-chi bistros and funky bars.
Vibrant. Nonchalant. Cool with a slight edge
Bastille, is everything I love about Paris and Parisians. Old, character filled buildings, with all the history. Large wooden doors, paint peeling off walls and great big wooden shutters. Beautiful cafes, bistro’s and boutique shops jostle for space alongside traditional boulangeries, fromageries and brasseries. Tables outside filled with locals drinking coffee, having lunch or meeting for drinks after work.
Places of Interest around Bastille
Jardin des Plantes
A beautiful botanical garden, Jardin des Plantes, also houses the natural history museum and the oldest zoo in Paris. A great place, if you are in need of a bit of nature. Wander through the park, find a cool, shady spot for an al-fresco lunch, or read a book, away from the crowds.
Previously a disused railway, it is now a marvellously green, pedestrianised walkway, 10 meters above ground. A great way to walk the city. If you get tired, make your way to street level and peruse all the quirky shops and cafes beneath the walkway!
A bustling and lively food market, that has all your foodie and people watching needs covered.
Here you will find market stalls with awesome selections of fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world. The smell of freshly baked pastries floating by. Little stalls selling the most an incredible selection of traditional french cheeses and meats are also dotted around.
Cafes, Brasseries and shops surround this area making it a great way to spend a morning.
Restaurants/ Cafe’s/Bars in Bastille
Our mornings started at the Marché d’Aligre. Meandering past all the fresh fruit and vegetables, we made our way to the boulangeries for pastries and cafes for coffee. Seated outside, we watched as people went about their weekly shop. Pure weekend bliss!
Lunch at L'Ébauchoir was a foodie highlight. Set away from the crowds in a quiet street, it specialises in fresh, seasonal recipes that are deceptively simple and delicious. We arrived at 12pm on a Tuesday and got the first seats. Within 20 minutes, the restaurant was filled with Parisians, leisurely lunching, before heading back to work.
Chez Paul is old school french at it’s best. The portions are generous and the ambiance relaxed. The dishes are classics such as escargots, steak tartare. Entrecote and andouillette. Tarte tatin and profiteroles. Comfort food at it’s best!
We nabbed an outside spot at Le cafe des agnes, and spent our first night drinking wine and eating hearty french fair, on a pavement, in the heart of Bastille. We were surrounded by Parisians making the most of the intense heat. Summer evening perfection!
To Stay in Bastille
We stayed at the Color Design Hotel, which is set away from the crowds and revellers. A quiet and affordable, little hotel that is minutes away from all the action Bastille has to offer.
As always, I leave Paris inspired to live life a little more relaxed, a little bit more Parisian!
If you loved reading about Paris, here’s my Rotterdam Guide:
Want to travel with less stuff, read this minimalist guide to packing: