When I lived in the French capital, my favorite place on Sunday mornings for shopping, and breakfast over a newspaper and grand crème was the rue Cler.
The street, in the 7th arrondissement, is a rue piétonne: a cobble-stoned pedestrian walkway. Here, you can amble leisurely looking into shop windows, a pastime the French call lèche vitrine.
And what shops! Cheese, meat, and fruit and vegetable vendors, pâtisseries, shops selling luggage, sweaters, shoes, vacuum cleaners, linens, and flowers. All of this compressed within a few short blocks. Except for the cries of merchants hawking their wares and the delivery trucks going in and out, unbelievably, there can be a quiet to the place.
At some point, tourists discovered rue Cler, or perhaps it was just me noticing them. So I began to stay away, at least until I was desperately hungry for one of my favorite pastries, which I hadn’t found as good elsewhere.
This time I didn’t notice many sightseers. Perhaps it was off-season or maybe it was just me.
Even in spring and summer, rue Cler is a good location, within easy walking distance of those ‘must-see‘ sights: L’École Militaire, Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower.
Walk over, too, to the Musée du Quai Branly – the work of architect Jean Nouvel – devoted to indigenous art from Oceania, Africa and the Americas. The gardens, designed by Patrick Blanc, are worth a visit in their own right.
Still, for me rue Cler is really about the food. There are several cafés and bistros along or near it.
Le Petit Cler – technically an ‘annex’ of La Fontaine de Mars, a more upscale restaurant around the corner on the rue St. Dominique – is a good example of bistronomie. It’s perfect for reasonably-priced and good food, especially if you like to eat light.
Another good spot around the corner is Bistro St. Dominique, with an understated elegance. And for breakfast, there’s Café Constant. The atmosphere is laid back, the café crème is strong and frothy, the croissants close to perfect, and you can spread Christine Ferber’s artisanal jams on your tartine to your heart’s content.
Which are your favorite places for breakfast in Paris?
All images courtesy of Olivier Thieule