Friday, 18 December 2015

Free Self Guided Diving Map of the Top Dordogne Medieval Villages

This route explores the department of Dordogne in the Aquitaine region of France.

The Driving Route will take you to some of the top medieval Bastide villages and Castles of the 100 Years War in the Dordogne Region of France

During the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) the Dordogne region was the theatre for numerous struggles of possession, influence and occasionally battles between the English and French monarchs and Dukes. As a result there are over 300 bastide towns and castles in the region.

Bastide towns are fortified towns that were built in the 13th century, by both the English and the French, to encourage settlement of areas before the Hundred Years War to lay claim to the surrounding countryside over their enemies. As a result, the towns were created with defense in mind and have a fortified perimeter, a geometric patterned streets around the central market square with narrow alleys between the houses all for aid of defense of the town from attacking forces.

This Self Guided Drive takes in some of the most famous Bastide towns and Castles in the Dordogne. The starting point of this drive is Sarlat (Sarlat-la-Caneda), and continues to Domme, La Roque-Gageac, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and finally Beynac-et-Cazenac. Straight driving this route will take about 45min.

Sarlat-la-Caneda possesses one of the highest concentrations of Medieval, Renaissance and 17th century buildings in France, thanks predominately to a conservation law passed in 1964. The town is also famous for one of the best markets in all of France, which takes place every Saturday where the produce of the season is for sale, horses, poultry, foie gras, nuts, truffles and so much more. Another highlight of the town is the Cathedrale Saint Sacerdos. The church was originally part of a 9th century Benedictine abby but over the centuries has been expanded, renovated and rebuilt in a mixture of styles to create a unique structure that not quite Gothic, Renaissance nor Neo-Classical but a mixture of all. During the Hundred Years War the town was loyal to the French crown, which shows in its wealth and quality of its buildings from that time.

Take the D46 southwards and cross the river at Vitrac, to Domme

Domme is a fortified Bastide town that sits upon a rocky hill-top beside the Dordogne River. It saw its hands change side many times during the Hundred Years War, but it still retains many of it defensive structures. To understand these elaborate defenses all you need to do is to take a look at the impressive fortified stone tower gates, Porte des Tours, which guard the main entrance into the town, to see the lengths rulers needed to take to protect their holdings.

Leave going west through Domme on the D46, cross the river and turn left onto D703 to La Roque-Gageac

La Roque-Gageac is an interesting and unique village as it only has one road. The golden-stone houses seem to be built out of the steep cliffs on one side of the road and are reflected in the placid river on the other. The town was built as a port and way-point on the Domme River.

Continue on the D703 and turn left onto D57 direction Catelnaud-la-Chapelle/ Chateau de Castelnaud

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle is a town built around the Château de Castelnaud. Chateau de Castelnaud is a 13th century castle, once owned by Richard the Lionheart, who spent much on his life in this area of France protecting his land holdings, inherited from his mother, in the Aquitaine region. The Chateau is a medieval fortress overlooking the Dordogne River. It was erected to face its rival across the river, the Château de Beynac.
During the Hundred Years' War, Chateau Castelnaud owed their allegiance to the English Kings. Today the Château is a museum of medieval warfare, featuring reconstructions of siege engines, amour and weaponry.

Retrace D57 to D703 turn left direction Beynac-et-Cezenac/ Chateau de Beynac

Beynac-et-Cazenac is a fortified village surrounding a precipice upon which is situated the Chateau de Beynac. The castle was built from the 12th century onwards. On one side there is a sheer cliff face which was sufficient to discourage any assault from that side, the remaining defenses were built up on the plateau: and include double crenellated walls, double moats, and double barbican. At the time of the Hundred Years' War, the fortress at Beynac was in French hands. Currently the Chateau is being restored to recreate this medieval time with its great halls, torches and period furniture.

Straight driving this route will only take about 45min but allow yourself the entire day to stop and admire what the towns and castles have to offer you.

Here is the route as shown on Google Maps

Monday, 30 November 2015

The best kept secret in France- the Aquitaine Region in the South West corner of France

Not too long ago, one of our clients made the comment that the Aquitaine is one of the best kept secrets of France. Only for some though, for centuries the Europeans have been visiting this region and it has only been lately that North Americans are beginning to discover it.

The Aquitaine Region has had a turbulent history leaving the region a rich architectural and cultural heritage. From the Médoc to the Pyrenees, the southwest region of France boasts one of the most diverse landscapes in Europe. The Atlantic and the Pyrenees form natural borders for this interesting region, while the rest is made up of the rivers and valleys of the Dordogne. These natural borders have allowed the region to retain its traditional qualities. It is far from provincial here though, for the region boasts its own style and sophistication.

The Aquitaine is the south of France at its best. A region full of beauty, wide open spaces, sports and activities, heritage, interesting towns and cities, sumptuous wines and gastronomy, events and festivals and much more welcome the visitor.

Whatever your interest, the Acquitaine has diverse activities, whether your interests are as an historian exploring the famous prehistoric caves of Lascaux, or medieval towns from the 100 Years War. The charming towns of Sarlat and Domme possess the highest concentration of medieval, Renaissance and 17th century facades of any town in France. Protected by law, the buildings form an open-air museum. As well, Sarlat, is famous for having one of the best markets in France.

The Caves de Lascaux can be found in this region, the most famous of the prehistoric sites.

Gastomics discover wonderful wineries and sophisticated bistros. Food lovers will enjoy the culinary specialties of the region – fois gras, truffles, fresh salads dressed with walnut oil and duck prepared a dozen ways. Wine connoisseurs have reached heaven. The vine has always taken pride of place creating a breathless landscape from Bordeau to Bergerac.

For the sport person, the French call their southwestern coast the Cote d’Agent because of the pristine beaches. Gleaming white beaches stretch for miles, perfect for surfing. As well, the finest golf courses are found in this region, having more than 50 to choose from. Pilgrim paths to Santigo de Compostela dating from the Middle Ages include age-old towns, villages and magnificent landscapes for you to hike and explore.

Friday, 27 November 2015

What is There to See in the Dordogne region of France

The South West corner of France in the Aquitaine encompasses the regions of the Dordogne, Lot and the Midi Pyrenees. Long fought over between the France and the English in the 100 years war the region is full of small, fortified, walled hill top towns and enchanting castles. Home to the wines of Bordeaux, Foie Gras and Truffles the region has become known as one of the cradles of French gastronomy. Adding to this appeal are fruit orchards bursting into bloom in the springtime and autumn sets the wooded landscape ablaze with colour, scattered with prehistoric sites and the Rivers of the Dordogne and Lot flowing through this landscape make a beautiful holiday destination any time of year.

In this well- loved part of France, the river nourishes the region in every way; lush green pastures support numerous traditional farms and bountiful vineyards, while the beautiful scenery it has carved through the limestone plateau is pocketed with thousands of caves and grottoes.
The stretch of the river Dordogne downstream from Souillac to Limeuil is the most beautiful, further downstream the area flattens out into the vineyards of Bergerac. Smaller rivers such as Vezere run into the Dordogne and they, too, have very attractive small valleys. The countryside along the river Lot is more rugged upstream from Cahours, while to the west of the city the valley widens to accommodate vineyards

History begins with prehistoric man who established himself in the Vezere valley around Les Eyzies where today you can visit the best examples in the world of cave paintings and artifacts. Many of the grottoes and caves are open to the public.
The Middle Ages saw this region under English rule and as centre-stage for the Hundred Years War 1337-1453, fought between the English and the French for control of this part of France. The legacy that survives is a wonderful collection of fortified castles perched on hilltops such as Beynac, once held by Richard the Lionheart, and Castelnaud, which watch over each other across the valley to this day. There are marvelous, walled fortified ‘bastide’ towns with arcaded squares which cling precariously to the rocky outcrops and are amongst the ‘plus beaux villages du France’,
The traditional architecture of the Perigord is a constant delight: honey- coloured stone, mellow red-tiled
roofs, some still with the traditional stone ‘lauze’ tiles and on the grander buildings many ‘pigeonnier’- pigeon towers and turrets.

As elsewhere in France, there is plentiful food and drink for the connoisseur in the Dordogne and the region has established a reputation for being one of the cradles of French gastronomy. Here you will find some of the richest and best pates, sometimes with truffles, the famous “confit” (meat cooked in its own fat, usually goose or duck), foie gras, traditional lamb dishes, game in season, marvelous mushrooms, notably “cepes”, black cherry clafoutis, gateaux aux noir and delicious walnut treats, the walnuts themselves and all manner of fruit; cherries, plums, peaches, pears, apricots etc.
The best local wines come from around Bergerac and Chaors in the valley of the Lot. The local sweet dessert wine is from Mantbazillac, south of Bergerac. The Bordeaux vineyards are within drivable distance though allow for a whole day. There are also local “eaux du vie” made from walnuts, hazelnuts, and plums.

Bordeaux is the fifth largest city in France and has been focused on the wine trade for centuries. In the 18th century the old town of Bordeaux went through a re-development to give the waterfront a classical look. Built during this time is the Grande Theater, with its classical lines, grand staircase and acoustical sound has it considered to be one of the finest in France. The old quarter is also where the fashionable boutiques and cafes of Bordeaux are to be found; as well the Maison du Vin, which gives information on winery tours.

St- Emilion to the wine enthusiast is the mark of a fine red wine, but it is also a medieval village in the middle of the wine growing region where there are many private wineries, which invite you to go for a tour and “le gustation” ( a wine tasting) in their cellars.

Rocamadour was built into the side of the cliffs in the 12th and 13th centuries hanging high over the Alzou canyon . During this time these churches and shrines were one of the most popular places of pilgrimage, where over the last nine hundred years countless pilgrims have ‘climbed’ the 216 steps of the Great Staircase to the holy city on their knees, to pay homage at the mystical shrines housed in the middle of seven outer chapels. The site is still a holy shrine but is also a popular tourist destination and is France’s second most-visited tourist attraction, after Mont St Michel

Condom is the center for Armagnac trade. Armagnac is one of the world’s most expensive brandies of which only a small portion ever leaves the country. It is for sale at many small independent producers in the town.
St-Cirq-Lapopie. Considered one of France’s prettiest villages it has a 15th century church and wooden framed houses built into the cliffs above the river Lot.

Cahors is almost surrounded by the river Lot the town’s landmark sight is the Pont Valentre. This fortified six arched bridge was built in the 14th century, took over 70 years to complete.

Sarlat-la-Caneda possesses one of the highest concentrations of medieval, Renaissance and 17th century buildings in France, thanks predominately to a conservation law passed in 1964. Sarlat is the regional capital and has a wealth of tradition and history, faithfully restored to its seventeenth century magnificence, with, medieval houses and winding streets lit by gas lamps. The town is also famous for one of the best markets in France. It takes place every Saturday where the produce of the season is for sale, horses, poultry, foie gras, nuts, truffles, and much more

The ancient capital of Perigueux is another highlight, rich in monuments, with both Roman and Medieval remains and rich in gastronomy with foie gras and truffels being the local specialties. The town is made up of 3 distinct areas. The Cite, the old Roman town, Le Puy St Front, the medieval quarter surrounding the cathedral and the new modern area. The roman ruins hold a 85ft tower an amphitheatre and the remains of a temple to Vestuna. The medieval quarter began to prosper in the 12th century when Perigueux became a stop for pilgrims travelling the route to Santago de Compostella. The cathedral is a unique design of 5 white domed roofs and is built on a plan of a Greek Cross, an unusual design in France.

Monpazier is possibly one of the finest preserved bastide towns in the area. Founded by Edward I, in 1285 king of England and duke of Aquitaine to claim the area. The town is constructed on a north south axis with east west transverse streets dividing the town into blocks for easy defense. The Place des Cornieres, the town main square, mirrors the towns layout has a covered market with antique weights and measures

Grotte de Lascaux, the world-famous cave art of Lascaux, was created by prehistoric man around 25,000BC, can be found here. Discovered by accident in 1940, it holds prehistoric cave paintings of bulls, deer and other symbols, which cover the ceiling and walls of the cave. The original cave is closed to the public for conservation reasons, but the full sized replica is well worth a visit.

Amongst the most visited is the amazing Crystal Cathedral cave at Proumeyssac (where you can be lowered down into the depth in a basket, if you’re feeling brave,) and the Padirac caves, where you are taken by gondola, along an underground river, amongst glistening stalactites and stalagmites

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The History behind wearing the Poppy on Remembrance Day

The tradition of wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day stems directly from the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrea.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea was a Canadian physician, whom at the time was located at, what is now, the Common Wealth War Graves Essex Farm situated just north of Ypres (Iepre in Flemish), Belgium during the First World War

the field dressing station at Essex Farm

On the 22nd April 1915 the Germans launched the 2nd Battle of Ypres with a gas attack. This was the first time that gas had been used as a weapon.
During the battle McCrae was running a Field Dressing Station on the main road between Ieper and Boezinge. The local farm had been nicknamed Essex Farm and it was this name that was eventually to be given to the cemetery, which had grown up alongside the Dressing Station.
As the battle reached its height with the secondary attacks against the Canadian positions, the Field Dressing Station ended up even closer to the front line.
On the 3rd May 1915 McCrae composed one of the most famous and popular poems to come from the war, in response to the death of his friend the day before.

'In Flanders Fields'
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Essex Farm Cemetery monument to John McCrea

John McCrea died suddenly on January 28th 1918 in France in a British Field Army Hospital from a self-diagnosed case of pneumonia, brought on from chronic asthma and the lingering effects of the German gas attack. He is buried in the Wimereux Communal Cemetery, just south of Calais on the coast of France

In 1918 Moina Michael, an American war secretary with the YMCA, was deeply moved by McCrae's work and it was she who first wore a poppy as act of keeping the faith. Others that she had bought she sold to friends, giving the money to Servicemen in need.
In 1920 Madame Guerin from the French YMCA, inspired by this idea, suggested that artificial poppies should be made and sold to help ex-Servicemen and their dependants.
The idea of mass producing poppies and selling them as a charity was put to Field Marshal Earl Haig in 1921 and he agreed with the idea. Thus the Royal British Legion's annual Poppy Day was brought into being and so too for the veterans groups throughout the Commonwealth.

Friday, 30 October 2015

What is the best way for getting around Paris?

The best way to get around Paris and the ile de France is still to take public transport. Paris has a very extensive bus, Metro and RER network.

The metro has a total of 14 different lines with 372 stations. The system has been set up that there is a metro station within 500m regardless of where you are in Paris, and sometimes multiple stations within a few hundred meters. Each metro line is identified by a number, colour and a final destination, so you are able determine which direction you are traveling. Most service runs from 5:30am and the last train leaves between 12:35 and 1am.
A green ticket is valid for use within Paris cost €1.60 or €11.40 for a book of 10 tickets and is valid for a 2 hour period regardless of the number of transfers you make, but you cannot change from the metro to a bus or the RER.

The extensive bus network is also a great way to travel within Paris, though it sometimes can be overlooked by the visitor. Often the bus travels to your destination with one bus versus changing metro trains multiple times. Tickets for the bus can be purchased on the bus from the driver, or you can use the same green ticket that you would use from the metro. Maps of the bus route can be obtained from the Tourist Office or most metro stations.

The RER is the local trains, which serve the immediate outskirts of Paris. In some cases you are able to travel within Paris with a green metro/bus ticket but if you wish to travel outside Paris on the RER you will need a special orange RER ticket. You can purchase these tickets at any RER station before you board the train.

One important factor to note is that to exit any of the RER and metro stations you must use your ticket. If you are caught without a valid green ticket for the metro or a valid orange ticket for the RER you will be unable to exit the station and you can be fine heavily.

If you are staying in Paris for longer you can get a 7 day Metro Pass. You will have to have a passport sized photo in order to be secured to the pass at certain Metro stations only

A new alternative means of transport is the Velib
On July 15, 2007, the city of Paris debuted a new self-service "bicycle transit system" called Velib’ which means “free bike” in French. Parisians and visitors alike are able to pick up and drop off bicycles throughout the city at 750 locations—offering a total of 10,648 bikes. By the end of the year 2007, there will be a Velib’ station approximately every 900 feet for a total of 1,451 locations and 20,600 bikes.
To gain a Velib though you will need a credit card to purchase a velib card at any of the stands. You can then select a one-day card for 1 euro, a weekly card for 5 euros or an annual one for 29 euros.
The card will then allow you to access the bicycles. On any card you are allowed to ride for the first half-hour for free. An additional half-hour is charged a supplement of 1 euro, 2 euros for another 30-minutes and 4 euros for every addition half-hour after that. Example: a 25 minute trip = 0 euros, a 50 minute trip = 1 euro, an hour and 15-minute ride = 3 euros.
Each Velib’ parking station will be equipped with muni-meters to purchase the velib passes and to pay any additional charges once the bike is dropped off. The Velib’ meters will also provide information on other station locations.
For more information about the specific locations of the Velib’ stations visit: (French language only)


Is Paris burning? Maybe. The City of Light's restaurant scene is certainly hot. Few other places have a comparable concentration of talented, highly trained chefs and demanding eaters inspiring one another. These days many of the top-end culinary artistes preside over Paris's palace hotel kitchens such as Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée, Pierre Gagnaire at The Balzac, Philippe Legendre at the George V, and Jean-Francois Piège at the Crillon. Meanwhile, a younger generation led by Yves Camdeborde of Le Comptoir du Relais is busy forging cuisine gastronomique and traditional bistro fare into the lively, enlightened style insiders call "bistronomie." It's served at reasonable prices in casual settings from the Left Bank to the Bastille neighborhood. A newfound respect for diners, too, is literally in the air: Purist Parisian restaurateurs have broken the tobacco taboo with a self-imposed ban on smoking.


32 Rue Saint Marc, 75002 2nd Arrondissment
Metro: Richelieu-Drouot
Tel: 01 42 96 65 04
For years a seedy neighborhood bistro, Aux Lyonnais is a case study in turning pigs' ears, snouts, and trotters into a silk purse. When Alain Ducasse took over in 2003, he wisely left intact the circa 1890s off-yellow walls with their tall mirrors, tile floors, and wooden tables with iron legs. He trimmed the menu to fit a page, and radically lightened the gutsy Lyonnais cuisine, keeping the variety meats, stewed suckling pig, braised shoulder of lamb, and the classic soufflés and île flottantes. You might not be able to hear yourself think over the convivial noshing of serious French eaters and itinerant gastronauts, but you won't mind, especially if you're chowing on the fried pork rinds and tangy potato salad with garlic sausage on the daily 28-euro prix-fixe menu—a bargain by Paris standards. Miracle of miracles, the pike dumpling—these can be downright leaden—practically levitates in its crayfish sauce. And the old Lyonnais standby of pears poached in Beaujolais, usually lumps of slippery fruit in gluey purple sauce? Here you get one easy-to-eat, lightly winey pear sliced and garnished with a scoop of fromage frais ice cream. Book ahead.  Closed Sundays and Mondays.


151 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 6th Arrondissment
Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Tel: 01 45 48 53 91
This clubby, perennial brasserie in the heart of Saint Germain is almost as famous for its cigar-smoking habitués and standoffish service—newcomers are often banished to the second floor, instead of being seated in the beautiful Art Nouveau ground-floor dining room—as it is for its scene. The food (after 126 years in business) is better than it used to be, and service is now at least polite and sometimes even charming. While the old-fashioned cooking is to be prized more for its homely authenticity than its gastronomic ambitions, you can eat well here, especially if you stick to basics: pâté en croûte, "Bismark"-style herring (fish poached in white wine and herbs and garnished with juniper berries), sauerkraut with ham and sausages, and classic salmon with sorrel sauce. The restaurant is open until 2 a.m., but if you're interested in people-watching, go for lunch, when it's frequented by an odd and sprightly mix of politicians, editors, fashion people, and the occasional movie star.


48 rue Saint Georges, 9th Arrondissment
Metro: St George
Tel: 01-42-85-26-01
Tucked away in a quiet street in the rapidly gentrifying 9th arrondissement, this small dining room is casual chic and a perfect place for real French comfort food from talented and occasionally mercurial chef Olympe Versini. Her menu, including chestnut-flour galettes with coddled eggs, marinated sardines, roast shoulder of lamb and Paris-Brest, are a charming miniature dictionary of the reasons the world loves French food.


117 rue du Cherche Midi, 6th Arrondissment
Metro: Sevres- Babylon
Tel: 01-45-48-52-40
The third generation of the Dumonet family now run one of the last and best of Paris's old-fashioned bistros. A charming Left Bank address with its amber-colored walls, elaborate moldings, serious waiters, and a sophisticated crowd. Go there for an anthology of traditional French bistro dishes, many of which are served in half portions, including terrine de foie gras; lamb's lettuce, potato and black truffle salad; tournedos Rossini; andouillette; boeuf bourguignon; and Grand Marnier soufflé.


54 Boulevard de La Tour-Maubourg, 75007 7th Arrondissment
Metro: La Tour-Maubourg
Tel: 01 47 05 89 86
Cool jazz on the sound system, a sunny veranda, and a tapas bar: That's how Jacques and Catherine Lacipiere—the husband-and-wife team also behind Au Bon Accueil (14 Rue de Monttessuy; 33-1-47-05-46-11)—have reinvented this former Burgundian bastion located within a Champagne cork's flight of the Eiffel Tower. Catherine greets guests and takes orders at lunch; Jacques does the same at dinner. This is pure market cuisine, the daily changing menu punctuated by fabulous wild fish, wild mushrooms, and seasonal game. To start, try escabèche of mackerel with capers and parsley sauce or succulent boned quail with a perfect soft-boiled egg on a bed of fresh spinach. Follow with thickly sliced pan-fried calf's liver with coarse salt and roasted shallot, or an intensely flavorful Bresse hen cooked in its own juices and served with dreamy mashed potatoes. At lunch expect politicians, journalists, and museumgoers (from the Rodin and Invalides), and at dinner, chummy regulars: a mix of ladies in designer jeans and pearl necklaces, gentlemen in blue blazers.  Closed Saturdays and Sundays.


11 Rue Treilhard, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: Miromesnil or Saint Augustin
Tel: 01 45 61 09 46
At a time when many new restaurants in Paris spin on a "concept" or gimmick, chef Dominique Bouchet's eponymous spot next to the Marché de l'Europe upholds the time-honored theme that's made it a word-of-mouth success since it opened in 2004: excellent traditional French cooking. Better still, superb dishes such as roast sea bass on a bed of fingerling potatoes mashed with vanilla-perfumed olive oil, capers, and lemon, and a charlotte of crab, avocado, green apple, tomato, and fresh mango are served by cheerful waiters in a comfortable dining room with ebony-stained wood tables. Desserts are homey—a white peach simply poached in vanilla syrup and served with Champagne granita, for instance—and even the least expensive wines are great drinking.  Closed Saturdays and Sundays.


3 rue de Montfaucon, 6th Arrondissment
Metro: Mabillon
Tel: 01-44-41-10-07
Near the Marché Saint-Germain, this cheerful little hole in the wall looks like a miniature version of the sea shacks that make eating in Brittany so much fun. They only serve oysters and shrimp (and the occasional fish dish) along with a great assortment of white wines. This simple formula pulls a friendly, wordly crowd of book editors, politicians, shopkeepers, and fashion types for a simple-but-delicious feast.

8.      L'ARPEGE

84 Rue de Varenne, 75007 7th Arrondissment
Metro: Varenne
Tel: 01 45 51 47 33
In 2006, chef Alain Passard's L'Arpege turned 20 years old and, with the reconversion of Alain Senderens's Lucas-Carton, this pear-wood-paneled property in the embassy-studded Seventh Arrondissement might now be the most expensive table in France. Passard is brilliant and idealistic in his maverick way: In 2002 he created his own strictly organic kitchen garden to supply the restaurant, at the Château du Gros Chesnay about 150 miles southwest of Paris. But he's also quixotic. Several years ago Passard renounced red meat in favor of a menu that stars vegetables, fowl, and seafood. Yet because Passard is such a gifted technician, the cuisine's parameters never feel limiting. Deceptively simple dishes, such as a rich, mustard-based gazpacho with ice cream and heirloom Haut-Maine chicken with cabbage, squash blossoms, and baby root vegetables, are breathtaking. Passard's most famous dessert is the tomato roasted with 12 spices, invented in 1986 and on the menu again 20 years later, but the chocolate mille-feuille du mendiant with herb ice cream is just as impressive. The catch? The prix-fixe dinner menu currently runs 340 euros per person without wine (add at least 100 if you order à la carte), making the 130-euro "pleine terre pleine mer" lunch menu sound like a real bargain.  Closed Saturdays and Sundays.

9.      L'ASTRANCE

4 Rue Beethoven, 75016 16th Arrondissment
Metro: Passy
Tel: 01 40 50 84 40
For fashionable foodies, a meal at this small, split-level dining room with silver-painted walls on a quiet residential street near the Trocadero is guaranteed Nirvana. In fact, some of the capital's most demanding gourmets insist there's no young chef in the French capital today who has more talent and imagination than Pascal Barbot. As proof, they cite the rapidity with which his creations find their way onto the menus at other restaurants, notably his much-imitated avocado and crab ravioli dribbled with almond oil. To have the pleasure of a meal here, you'll have to book a month ahead, but it's worth it to sample dishes such as mille-feuille made with thin slices of button mushroom sprinkled with verjus (fresh grape juice) and caramelized foie gras, or langoustines in an airy egg-and-beer batter with a colorful salad of romaine, begonia flowers, garlic flowers, and pansy petals. You never know what you're going to get with Barbot's set-price "Surprise" prix-fixe menus—but that only seems to add to the place's mystique. Expect a diverse, international crowd of assiduous gastronomes, often including a famous face or two.  Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.


5 Rue de Montalembert, 75007 7th Arrondissment
Metro: Rue du Bac
Tel: 01 42 22 56 56
Former three-star chef Joël Robuchon was hailed as the best French chef of the 20th century before he retired at age 50. Then, a few years ago, he returned to the limelight with this unlikely vehicle: a New York–style coffee shop cum tapas bar. Ironically, Robuchon wanted out of the Michelin rat race but received a star here in 2006 and a second star at his other Paris restaurant, a somewhat staid sit-down place in the 16th Arrondissement called La Table de Joël Robuchon. L'Atelier is innovative, totally nonsmoking, and fun, as long as you don't mind the counter-only service, high-rise stools, and lack of reservations—unless you want to dine when it's quiet. If you're a guest at the nearby Montalembert or Port Royal hotels, your concierge will be able to put you on the 8:30 p.m. "waiting list" and call you when your table is ready. Otherwise, odds are you'll wind up admiring the black and Chinese-red lacquer interior for an hour or more before ascending your stool. Begin with caviar, Spanish ham, or spaghetti carbonara, or perhaps an assortment of little tasting plates. This French take on tapas changes often but might include veal sweetbreads skewered with a bay leaf twig and garnished with creamy Swiss chard, or a tart of mackerel filet, Parmesan shavings, and olives. Then, go classic with a steak or opt for something more inventive like sublime cannelloni stuffed with foie gras and Bresse chicken.


1 Rue Maître-Albert, 75005 5th Arrondissment
Metro: Maubert-Mutualité or Saint Michel 
Tel: 01 56 81 30 01
This is three-star chef Guy Savoy's rotisserie-restaurant for the bold and beautiful, on the Left Bank across from Notre-Dame. The unusual interior successfully marries glass surfaces and angular tables and chairs in shades of gray, with centuries-old golden limestone walls, pumpkin-colored ceiling timbers, and a massive, ornate fireplace. On the menu is high-end comfort food—chicken, veal shanks, filets of beef, and monkfish spit-roasted at one end of the cavernous main dining room. Meats come with luscious mashed potatoes, spinach-and-mushroom gratin, or stewed carrots and onions. Desserts are simple but sumptuous: small water glasses filled with chocolate mousse, crème brûlée, and other creamy favorites. At lunch you'll mix with the suited set, but at dinnertime you may be excused for imagining you've stepped onto a fashion runway. Book ahead, especially for nonsmoking tables.



26 Rue Bobillot, 75013 13th Arrondissment
Metro: Place d'Italie
Tel: 01 53 80 24 00
More popular than ever, this contemporary bistro (opened in 1997 near the Place d'Italie), draws crowds because of the superb cooking of Christophe Beaufront and its extremely reasonable prices. The friendly chef and his sassy wife run the restaurant like a kind of open house—generating an aura of conviviality that encompasses regulars from the neighborhood along with many well-advised foreigners. The food varies according to season, but it's all great: cold spinach soup, fresh cod ravioli with a frothy shiitake mushroom nage, long-cooked duck thigh stew with turnips and a dash of piquant anchovy. Among the main courses, Beaufront's signature dish is still the succulent pig-focused pot au feu—off-cuts of pork, fennel bulb, and sweet potato, with side garnishes of cornichons, horseradish sauce, and deep-fried slices of ginger root—served on a plate flanked by a glass of its own flavorful bouillon.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.


92 Rue Broca, 75013 5th–13th Arrondissment
Metro: Gobelins
Tel: 01 47 07 13 65
The menu changes almost daily at this superb old-fashioned French bistro near Gobelins, but usually offers a mix of traditional, homey, primarily southwestern classics such as piquillos stuffed with brandade (whipped salt cod). Plus, there's classic creamy blanquette de veau and contemporary creations like braised rabbit with green beans or cannelloni stuffed with lamb and eggplant. Service is friendly, and the small, brightly lit dining room has the appealing atmosphere of a country kitchen, decorated with old irons, hand-cranked coffee mills, and knickknacks. Book far ahead.  Closed Sundays and Mondays.


102 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014 6th Arrondissment
Metro: Vavin
Tel: 01 43 20 14 20
If metropolitan bustle and an intriguingly diverse Parisian crowd are a vital part of your brasserie experience, this sprawling Art Deco–style dining room in the heart of Montparnasse is still hard to beat. Brasserie Lipp's counterpart in stature has all the local archetypes on display: the portly man with a nubile young woman (is it his daughter, wife, or mistress?); the carefully dressed old woman with a poodle in her velvet-lined bag; bawdy quartets of arty types; Japanese tourists so jet-lagged they can barely keep their eyes open; and French families from the provinces who are simultaneously intrigued and appalled by it all. The columns in the dining room were painted by the artists who frequented the place in its interwar heyday (and restored rather heavy-handedly when the place was bought up by a chain in the 1980s). The food's best at the simpler end of the menu, so choose basics such as oysters and shellfish platters, onion soup, quiche, sole meunière, or the famous lamb curry.


49 Rue de Belleville, 75019 20th Arrondissment
Metro: Belleville
Tel: 01 40 40 09 68
This sprawling, overlit, crowded dining room can be pretty noisy, but it's a great address for both fans of Asian cooking and anyone who's counting their euros. The voluminous menu here offers a generally excellent gastronomic tour of Asia, with dishes from Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and China. Popular with the local Asian diplomatic community, this is a great place to come in a group so that you can sample as many different dishes as possible. Don't miss the giant shrimp sautéed with ginger and chives or the tourteau au diable, a whole crab that's served in a sauce of coconut milk, hot pepper, and celery.


3 rue Jouye-Rouve, 20th Arrondissment
Metro: Pyrenees
Tel: 01 43 49 39 70
Chef Raquel Carena’s terrific cooking—a very personal take on French bistro fare that finds inspiration all over the world, including her native Argentina—has made this vest-pocket bistro in Belleville a favorite of French chefs, including Olivier Roellinger, Yves Camdeborde, Pierre Hermé, Joël Robuchon, and Alain Ducasse. What gets these boys excited are heart-felt dishes like Carena’s red tuna tartare with black cherries, Maldon salt, miso-and-malt vinegar, veal with eggplant ribbons—she skins eggplants and roasts their skin until it’s terrifically brittle and crunchy. Her desserts are terrific, too, including a bread pudding made with dulce de leche.


18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 11th Arrondissment
Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny
Tel: 01 43 72 24 01
With a friendly, arty crowd and wonderful food, this back-beyond-the-Bastille bistro would be well worth seeking out even if it weren't one of the best buys in town. Don't be put off by the slightly cliquish vibe—no one's going to cold-shoulder you; it's just that this place has a devoted following of regulars, all of whom seem to know one another. So settle into one of the moleskin banquettes, enjoy the snug dining room's flea market kitsch (including a chandelier that looks like it's made of melting ice cubes), and inspect the regularly changing blackboard menu. What's cooking depends on what's in the market, but typical starters include a wild mushroom omelet and sautéed squid with risotto, while mains run to perfectly cooked cod steak with chanterelles and guinea hen with bacon-spiked cabbage. Finish with the serve-yourself cheese tray or the chocolate ganache cake draped in pistachio cream.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.

18.  LE CINQ

Four Seasons Hotel George V
31 Avenue George V, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: George V
Tel: 01 49 52 71 54
No matter how good the food, a meal at a grand hotel restaurant used to be a yawn or, worse, a parody of obsequiousness. It's places like Le Cinq at Hotel George V that are redefining Parisian luxe as an epicurean dream nestled in palatial walls. The maître d' addresses you by name, and a discreet footstool appears from nowhere for your purse, newspaper, or hat. The decor befits a palace hotel, from the moldings and frescoed cupola to the gray-and-gold drapes and plush carpet. Chef Philippe Legendre's sophisticated cooking is exceptional in freshness, flavor, and inventiveness without being wild or fussy. The fricassée of meltingly tender small baby squid with langoustine ravioli comes topped with a dollop of mild harissa chili. Basil perfumes the thick slab of roasted cod with tiny braised artichokes on one side and a crisp, lemony raw artichoke salad on the other. Minced Nyons olives and pine nuts enliven the miniature rack of milk-fed lamb. For dessert, don't miss the ethereal gratin of raspberries, blueberries, and crème brûlée. At noon expect to see a business crowd peppered with traveling gourmets and blueblood regulars, and a global mix of foodies at dinnertime. Reserve far in advance.


129 avenue Parmentier, 11th Arrondissment
Metro: Parmentier
Tel: 01 43 57 45 95
Housed in an old épicerie, this popular bistro clocks a bona-fide Paris frame of mind that's created by a hip, young crowd. We can't get enough of chef Inaki Aizpitarte's inventive modern bistro cooking. Aizpitarte's menu changes daily but runs to dazzling dishes like salmon teriyaki with red fruites, pigeon with pumpkin, hazelnuts and chestnuts, and a can't-miss boulette de lait caillé rose (rose sorbet with buttermilk ice cream).


9 Carrefour de l'Odéon, 75006 6th Arrondissment
Metro: Odéon
Tel: 01 44 27 07 97
With his 1990s hit restaurant, the far-flung La Régalade, Yves Camdeborde was credited with reinventing the Parisian bistro. Now the cult chef presides over this irresistible neo-bistro—40 wooden chairs atop multicolored mosaic-tile floors, with wood paneling and yellow-and-red-trimmed walls—next to the Hôtel Relais Saint-Germain. A master chef and marketeer, the affable Camdeborde offers two distinct menus: bistro (or brasserie), from noon to 6 p.m. daily and until 10 p.m. on weekends; and on weekdays, the phenomenal bargain five-course "gastronomique" menu. Lunch service is sans reservations, meaning a daily free-for-all (come just before noon or after 2:30 p.m. for the best chance of scoring a seat), and dinner reservations book up months in advance. But it's worth the hassle for Camdeborde's wild cèpes molded with foie gras and flanked by whipped artichoke mousseline, and a neo-tarte Tatin dessert that merges apples and mango, with vanilla ice cream. The secret to getting a dinner reservation? Stay at the Hôtel Relais Saint-Germain, (9 Carrefour de l'Odéon; 33-1-43-29-12-05; or phone at about 7:30 p.m. on the evening you hope to go, and ask if, by some miracle, anyone has canceled. The magic word in French is désistement.

21.  LE DÔME

108 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014 6th Arrondissment
Metro: Vavin
Tel: 01 43 35 25 81
A quick scan of the prices at this luxurious seafood house in Montparnasse makes it hard to believe that Trotsky ever sat on the glassed-in terrace, reading the papers over a coffee. (He did, though, along with Brancusi and a variety of other arty types who lived and worked nearby in the 1920s.) Despite Le Dôme's thorough transformation from bohemian café to elegant restaurant, something rakish and distinctly Parisian still hangs in the air here. Perhaps it has to do with the clientele, which includes everyone from cabinet ministers dining with their mistresses to theater people, politicians, writers, and, yes, even an artist or two. What everyone loves are the ultrafresh platters of shellfish, including some of the best oysters in Paris, and an impeccable catch-of-the-day menu, including sole meunière, line-caught sea bass, and wild salmon. Regulars skip dessert in favor of the excellent Auvergnat cheeses that the owners, the Bras family, bring up from their home region.  Closed Sundays and Mondays in August.


17 Rue de Beaujolais, 75001 1st Arrondissment
Metro: Palais Royal or Bourse
Tel: 01 42 96 56 27
By many a twist, this restaurant, opened in 1760 has survived the French Revolution, industrialization, and passing culinary fashions. And despite his self-taught eclecticism, chef Guy Martin has won the Michelin three-star game. The setting is ravishing: chandeliers, plush carpets, and 18th-century mirrored and painted panels. At least one menu item nearly as old as the restaurant: the sublime mashed potatoes with oxtails and black truffles. Not so the rest of Guy Martin's cooking, which borrows inspiration from Japan, North Africa, and Italy more so than from his French Alpine homeland. Witness the sautéed John Dory perfumed with parsley and ginger juices or the tandoori-spiced frog's legs with parsley root jus. The desserts are surprising, too: roast mango and a ravioli stuffed with passion fruit cream and accompanied by coconut sorbet. Local businessmen and the art arbiters of the Ministry of Culture (also housed in the Palais Royal) fill the Grand Véfour by day, in part because it offers an excellent prix-fixe lunch menu. At dinner, expect to see a global mix of romantic couples and theatergoers with platinum cards. Book far ahead.


13 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 11th Arrondissment
Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny
Tel: 01 43 79 63 40
Bring a shoehorn with you—Le Temps au Temps is one of those cheek-by-jowl Paris places east of the Bastille where a dozen tables share space meant for six. But the service charms, and the bric-a-brac decor with a timepiece theme is fun. Best of all: Chef-owner Sylvain Sendra's extraordinarily good food utterly disarms. Endra comes from Lyon, but you won't find the usual fried tripe or pig snouts on his ever-changing menu. Instead, the meal might start with creamy, flavorful Jerusalem artichoke soup flecked with shaved foie gras and drizzled with pesto, then move on to baked ling cod with whole roasted garlic and tiny fingerling potatoes. A la carte you might find venison stew with wild mushrooms and luscious chocolate crumble cake in a moat of chocolate pastry cream, topped with raspberry sorbet and whipped cream. The downside: Word is out. Artists, architects, hipsters, pearl-draped matrons, and suits keep this neighborhood spot fully booked for lunch and dinner, sometimes weeks ahead.  Closed Sundays and Mondays.


Hotel de Crillon,
10 Place de la Concorde, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: Concorde
Tel: 01 44 71 16 16
In 2004, at the age of 34, chef Jean-Francois Piège left Alain Ducasse's flagship at the Plaza-Athénée to take over Paris's most opulent historic restaurant (at the Hotel de Crillon) and make his own way into the multiple-star firmament. After a renovation of the marble-faced dining room overlooking Place de la Concorde by by interior designer Sybille de Margerie, the glittering Baccarat crystal chandeliers and wall sconces still illuminate friezes depicting busy cherubim, but sunlight now shines through beige curtains onto armchairs upholstered in taupe velvet and poppy-colored tablecloths. Piège's menu evolves season to season, though he has several signature dishes, such as caviar-topped langoustines in a frothy nage. Given their exquisite execution, it's no wonder Piège is touted to be the city's next Michelin three-star chef. For dessert, pedigreed pastry chef Jérôme Chaucesse turns out ethereal sorbets and fruit-based confections, plus lavish reinterpretations of the French favorites mousse au chocolat and crème caramel. Fitting for occasions both formal and frivolous, this increasingly magnetic spot attracts a lunchtime power crowd then takes on a romantic air in the evening.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.



The Berkeley, Hotel Balzac
6 Rue Balzac, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: George V or Charles de Gaulle-Etoile
Tel: 01 58 36 12 50
Pierre Gagnaire is not only a wizard of contemporary French gastronomy but also one of the most original and artistic chefs working anywhere today. The composition of his dishes is at times baroque—think range-raised capon (the breast stuffed with lemony almond paste, spring onion marmalade, and cherries, the thighs seared with fingerling potatoes), or poached thick-sliced sea bass served with smoked-tomato sorbet and split-pea gnocchi lightly sauced in fennel semifreddo. The menu changes regularly, but Gagnaire has a particular fascination with texture and also likes to explore the sour and bitter sides of the taste spectrum. The clientele in the sedate gray dining room ranges from tables of bankers to solitary Japanese devotees to quartets of ecstatic Americans. Book well in advance, but note that tables are occasionally available on lesser notice for lunch. In case you were wondering, Gagnaire's new glam-fashion Left Bank seafood restaurant Gaya is easier to book and offers a taste of the master's talent at about one third the price (44 Rue du Bac; 33-1-45-44-73-73).


Hotel Plaza Athénée
25 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: Alma-Marceau
Tel: 01 53 67 65 00
Under the aegis of globe-trotting überchef Alain Ducasse, this elegant ivory-colored dining room in the Plaza Athénée does an appealing, contemporary take on French haute cuisine. Ducasse spends most of his time on airplanes these days, and has collected more Michelin stars than any chef in history, so it's young Christophe Moret, formerly of Ducasse's bistro chain, Spoon, who's actually in the kitchen. And that's not a bad thing. Moret is a talented cook, with a style imbued by Ducasse's love of produce and belief that no dish should contain more than four main ingredients. Begin with house classics such as langoustines topped with caviar, or coconut curry scallops, and then sample the spectacular pigeon fillets in a shallot-mustard sauce. The stunning desserts include a vanilla syrup-poached pear with ice cream and streusel. A recent redecoration has enlivened the room by making a big deconstructed crystal chandelier the visual centerpiece of this cosseted little world. The remarkable cellar has about 35,000 bottles, including rare Cheval Blanc, Latour, and Margaux.  Closed Saturdays and Sundays.


111 rue Saint Lazare, 8th Arrondissment
Metro: Saint-Lazare
Tel: 01-43-87-50-40
Just inside the front door of this unremarkable brasserie across the street from the Gare Saint-Lazare, this circular oyster bar is one of the most convivial places in Paris to feast of fabulous fruits de mer.


9 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: Madeleine
Tel: 01 42 65 22 90
Many Parisian gastronauts view former three-star chef Alain Senderens as untouchable. He practically invented Nouvelle Cuisine, and for decades he piloted cutting-edge Lucas Carton, where a meal could top $500 a head. Then young chefs stole the limelight, opening exciting new restaurants without the pomp. Instead of retiring, Senderens shook Michelin in 2005 by announcing he no longer wanted three stars, and quickly lowered prices, redid his menu, and radically remodeled his landmark Art Nouveau premises. Nowadays Lucas Carton is—guess what?—Senderens. How he got permission to redo a landmark dating to 1732 remains a mystery. The beveled mirrors and sculpted woodwork survived, but the decorators went wild with curving 1970s beam-me-up-Scotty partitions and tight tables. The upside: Senderens's food still thrills and meals now hover around 100 euros (with wine—or whiskey, another of the restaurant's irreverent touches). As before, each dish is plated artwork: You hesitate to take your fork to rich roasted duck foie gras with caramelized quinces or plump roasted scallops resting on creamed Jerusalem artichokes and two chard-stuffed ravioli. The restaurant is nonsmoking, which hasn't dissuaded the business bigwigs or fashion, publishing, and power-art crowd that fill it lunch and dinner. Book ahead.


15 Rue Lamennais, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile
Tel: 01 44 95 15 01
Chef Alain Solivérès, a native of Montpellier, has a remarkable pedigree: He trained under Maximin, Thulier, Senderens, and Ducasse. But he won his reputation with the brilliant modern riffs he did on Southern French classics while chef at Les Elysées du Vernet—hence the quiet magic that has animated Taillevent classics since he arrived in 2002. He tempts nervier palates at this Parisian grand dame (which opened in 1946), with new dishes that reflect his lusty but refined style; among them are a crème brûlée de foie gras that's crunchy on top and creamy inside, a coleslawlike crab rémoulade with dill, wild Dombes duck with caramelized fruit, and a luscious upside-down coffee-and-chocolate tart that turns the classic tarte Tatin on its head. Fine oil paintings, including some surprising contemporary canvases, old-fashioned flower arrangements, hushed service, and one of the world's great wine lists make this place meaningfully mythic. Book weeks in advance and, gentlemen, don't forget your jacket.  Closed Saturdays and Sundays and all of August.