I have been to Paris before on a number of occasions but this was so long ago that most details had sadly evaded me. I remembered the Eiffel Tower, of course, and the Centre Pompidou. The Louvre and the banks of the Seine. And of course the overall flair of the city that is so teeming with life yet always finds the time to stop in the middle of whatever everyone was doing and shamelessly indulge in the finer things in life.
I remembered the grand, tall buildings along the shaded boulevards, the suicidal drivers and, even worse, the scooter riders. I remembered the masses and masses of tourists and the general crowds, no matter where you went. The vibrant atmosphere during the day and at night.
What I shamefully forgot was how lovely those little cafés are that can be found at every other corner. Each one of them with their own distinguished look and feel. The proud waiters, dressed in a starched white shirt and black pants, not exactly arrogant but not too friendly either. With a confidence that can only come from someone who takes pride in their job. The menus that promised a handful of really simple yet wonderfully delicious dishes.
I also forgot about the French ways of having speciality shops for each single desire – the fromagerie specialising in cheeses, the wine shop, the expert in fois gras. I forgot that food actually looks organic in a French shop window – with feathers and duck feet still attached to the carcasses. The variety of cheese alone that you can find here, conveniently shaped into bite sized little balls as appetiser or dessert for your next dinner party.
Alas, all this I re-discovered eventually on the Île Saint-Louis right in the heart of the city centre. This little quarter is located on a Seine island right next to the Île de la Cité which is much more famous since it’s the place where you will also find the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. From here it’s just a short walk across a bridge to the Île Saint-Louis, yet a good portion of tourists will fail to discover this little island. What a shame. Or maybe quite the opposite, how fortunate!
This is not to say that there are no tourists here at all, but it is certainly less crowded than its famous neighbour and it has this very special Parisian feel to it which really made us fall in love with this place. So much so that I couldn’t resist the urge to re-visit the island every single day of our stay in Paris, each time to explore a different restaurant. Be it Le Saint Régis, Sorza or Café Med, not in one instant were we disappointed by our spontaneous choice of restaurant or meal.
And then the shops – a stroll along the only main street of Île Saint-Louis is a feast for the eyes. So much to see, so much to discover! Clever, modern designs, and then again vintage items, carefully curated by the shop owners. Food you’ve never seen before in your life and that is just urging you to buy them and taste them and be surprised by the explosion of new flavours in your mouth.
The feeling of a close-knit community surrounding you, thanks to the rather secluded location on a river island, with no through-traffic along the narrow main street of Rue Saint-Louis en L’Île… surrounded by water to all sides.
In the end, this place turned out to be our most favourite location in Paris. More quiet than other parts of Paris, with excellent food, and a distinguished, quite romantic Parisian feel.