One of my favorite things about traveling (aside from the actual trip itself) is planning for it. We generally get our tickets months in advance, and I spend those months reading websites, researching things to do and see, restaurants to go to…all that fun stuff that builds the anticipation. I do spend a lot of time on Trip Advisor, but it has been losing favor with me lately. The people (especially the “destination experts”) on both the Paris and Rome forum are getting really snarky. I used to find it helpful, but now it just seems that there’s a lot of “why don’t you read a guide book?” type of answers.
Still, most of the time, the recommendations/reviews have been accurate. Except for one. When I was researching the Paris trip, I came across a restaurant called REED in the 7th arrondissement. It was highly rated for the most part…a one-woman show (Catherine Reed) who does all the cooking and serving herself, with whatever she was able to get fresh from the market, in a small, cozy setting. Sounds pretty great, huh? I certainly thought so. (You know what’s coming, don’t you?)
We made reservations far in advance of our trip. Some of the reviewers commented that she was a stickler for not being late for your reservation, so we actually got there a bit early. I won’t bore you with all the details, but she pretty much treated us like crap the whole time. She was quite unfriendly, never refilled our water carafe, never asked us how everything was (it wasn’t good), gave us a different year wine that what was on the menu…and it wasn’t a cheap meal. For almost the whole time, there were only two other tables besides us, so it wasn’t as if she was very busy. We left without dessert or coffee, which for us is almost unheard of. I generally don’t like giving bad reviews, but I promised to be honest, so I will tell you to skip this place. So many other good places to eat, don’t waste your time or money here.
Speaking of better places, the next evening, we had a great meal that I still think about (and drool over) four months later. The restaurant was right down the street from our apartment, and we had walked past it a few times. Just the name and “logo” made me want to eat there:
The reviews were good (I looked on places other than TripAdvisor to be sure) and I made reservations online. From the second we walked in, the service was friendly and efficient. The decor was great…all sorts of famous paintings with dog heads instead of human. The only one that was missing was the one of dogs playing poker…we told our waiter they needed to get that one added.
Okay, I guess the pictures are actually kind of creepy, but it’s still a great restaurant! We started with warm goat cheese on phyllo dough (delicious), then had duck confit for our main course (outstanding), and topped it off with chocolate mousse (very good, but I wanted more duck confit!!).
As long as I’m confessing to all my food obsessions, I will also tell you that, if you like ice cream (and if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you), you really must go to Berthillon.
A few final thoughts on Paris:
- There are gypsies by all the major sites. They will immediately identify you as tourists and approach you, and the best thing to do is simply ignore them. Truly. Act like they are not there and they are not speaking to you (they will ask if you speak English). Make sure you’ve got a good hold on your belongings and simply walk away without acknowledging them at all.
- There’s a good bus and metro system, but we’ve never really taken advantage of it (there are a lot of stairs at most of the metro stations, which my mom cannot manage easily). However, you can also take the Batobus. This is a boat that goes up and down the Seine, making stops along the way. Look for the signs (pictured below) and buy tickets at any of the stops…it’s really a great way to get around (to places near the river, of course).
- Another great thing about staying in an apartment is shopping for food (I sure do love eating) at local markets that have fresh fruit, fresh pre-made meals (quiche, salads, etc.) and, of course, desserts! Here are a few of the things we bought and enjoyed back at our apartment (this also saves money):
- When entering into shops, you should always greet the workers/proprietor with a “Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur”. This is common courtesy in France (all of Europe, really) and will likely get you better service. When you leave, even if you didn’t buy anything, say “Merci, au revoir.”
- Learning to say just the basics like hello, goodbye, thank you, etc. will give you a much better experience. And really, if a Parisian came to the States to visit, we would expect him/her to try to speak English, wouldn’t we?
Those are my two (two hundred?) cents on Paris!