From your Parisian

Sharing my newest discoveries as I float through the streets of Paris. Restaurants, bars, events, all reviewed for you with love, from your Parisian.


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Paris Secrets: My top 5 garden-like restaurants and cafés to escape the city vibe

I love living in a city like Paris but there are times when I crave the feeling of lounging in my backyard, under a tree, with a drink and a good book. Summertime back home in Canada often involves attending barbecues or bringing dinner out into the garden to enjoy with family and friends. Yes, there are many beautiful parks where you can have a picnic of your own, but there are few restaurants or cafés where you can order something nice to eat and enjoy it, surrounded by trees and plants, without leaving the city.Jardin Renoir_Paris Most cafés/restaurants in Paris do have their terrasses but they are often on the sidewalk of sometimes busy streets with cars or masses of people passing by. Don’t get me wrong, people watching in Paris is super fun, except when you feel the need for a little vegetation and an escape from the noise and frenzy of the city. For those moments, I would like to share with you a list of some relatively unknown places where you can buy food or drinks and enjoy them in a garden-like environment without leaving the comfort of the péripherique…as let’s face it: most Parisians don’t enjoy venturing out into the suburbs if they don’t have to!!

So, here they are:

A la Folie: BBQ and party under the treesA la folie_ParisHidden at the North end of the Parc de la Villette, this bar and club is the place to be this summer and fall! It has a huge terrace surrounded by trees and complete with large picnic tables, perfect for meeting up with friends after work for a drink. If that wasn’t already good enough, they also have some delicious food choices, including an outdoor barbecue that cooks up tasty dishes of pork, sea bream, veggies, and a large selection of beef, available in three sizes: “un peu” (a little),” beaucoup” (a lot), and “à la folie” (after the name of this establishment, which roughly translates to madly…or in this case a crazy amount (1kg) of meat). If you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, they also have delicious salads, sandwiches, and baked treats. Oh! And did I mention that there’s a dance floor inside that really heats up in the evening? Basically, this is THE place to spend a night (or until 2am, when it closes) eating, drinking and/or dancing under the trees.

Where :

Parc de La Villette
26 avenue Corentin Cariou
75019 Paris

Café Renoir: A charming place to read a bookJardin renoir_Paris_2I only discovered this lovely spot at the top of Montmartre recently but it was definitely love at first sight. Perhaps it was the fact that Auguste Renoir (one of my favorite artists) painted two of his masterpieces while on the premises, or that Sacre-Coeur (my favorite building in Paris) is located right behind it, or maybe it is simply because the garden has several areas to relax and hide from the hectic outside world. You also have a wonderful view of the sloping Clos Montmartre vineyard, that borders the garden, which is rather unique. Although you do have to pay a 2-4 Euro fee to enter the garden, I believe that it is well worth it. Their café offers a variety of drinks as well as cakes, pastries and light lunches, perfect for a chill afternoon of drawing, writing or reading (trust me, you will feel inspired). If you’re an art lover, then a tour of the museum will also interest you, as Montmartre’s history is retold through various exhibits and you can even visit Renoir’s atelier and travel back in time.

Where:

Musée de Montmartre et Jardins Renoir
12 Rue Cortot
75018 Paris
+33 (0) 1 49 25 89 39

Les Mondes Bohèmes: Eating in your backyardles mondes bohemes_ParisI have been here several times (and have even celebrated my Birthday here), so I can safely say that this is one of my favorite restaurants to visit in the summer. It is all about the outdoor covered terrace that is shaded by the canopy of two large trees and tangled vines and bordered by bamboo plants. You really feel as if you are in a friend’s garden, with the hanging flower pots and the colorful watering cans and sparkling lights only adding to the overall magic that is this spot. The food itself is also very good. They serve classic bistro dishes like burgers, steaks, salads and roasted camembert cheese (yessss please) at reasonable prices! They also have a long drink menu to please everyone, so don’t be surprised if you end up spending the entire evening here. A true hidden gem in the East of Paris!

Where:
31 rue des Vignoles
75020 Paris
+33 (0)1 43 48 69 38

Hôtel particulier Montmartre: Fancy brunch or cocktails in a secret gardenHotel particulier_ParisThis luxurious hotel and its garden are like something from a fairytale! Located in Montmartre and only accessible via a private passageway (you have to ring a doorbell to even have access to the passageway) this garden is the definition of secluded. I admit that this is the priciest option on my list (with brunch being 38 euros/person), but for a special occasion this place is sure to impress. Plus, as staying at the hotel isn’t an option for me (until of course I win the lottery…*it will so happen one day*), being able to visit the gardens for a coffee or tea is one way to enjoy this special place in Montmatre without going broke. You can even drop by for a cocktail in the evening between 6pm and 2am, as they have a very sexy cocktail bar that opens up into the gardens. And Pssss: don’t miss a very lovely Eiffel Tower viewing spot from just outside the hotel gates!

Where:

Pavillon D, 23 Avenue Junot
75018 Paris
+33 (0)1 53 41 81 40

Musée de la vie romantique: Tea or coffee with someone specialmusee de la vie romantique_jardin_parisMost of you have probably already visited this salon de thé as it is always mentioned in the “top romantic places in Paris” lists, but if you haven’t yet… well, what are you waiting for? While the garden itself is very small, if you are lucky enough to grab a table, you can enjoy a coffee with a tartine or piece of cake surrounded by rose bushes, shrubs and trees. It has a very Romeo and Juliette feeling to it…but without the epic tragedy at the end! While you’re there, you might as well check out the small but elegant museum, as it displays some pretty furniture, jewelery, and works of art from the Romantic period.

Where: 

Hotel Scheffer-Renan
16, rue Chaptal
75009 Paris

With this list you can definitely find some shade on a hot day in Paris. I think I’m going to head out to one of these places now! 😉 If you know of any other restaurants/cafés in Paris that are hidden in gardens or surrounded by trees, I would love to hear from you! 🙂

 

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Travel Fun: A quick trip to the Greek island of Kefalonia.

I love Greece and truly believe that it is the best place to spend your summer holidays (I’ve spent 4 summers in Greece, on different islands)! Why? Because there are beautiful beaches, the food is amazing and affordable, and the people are friendly and relaxed. As I just got back from a 5-day trip to Kefalonia, and I have never written about my holidays in Greece on the blog before, I thought now is the time to write a review of the island before my slight tan fades away completely. By sharing some pictures and tips I hope that you will see why I love this place so much and maybe inspire you to visit this wonderful island on your next holiday!kefalonia_private beach_greeceFirst off: the basics! You can reach Kefalonia by boat (from Kyllini or Patras on the mainland) or by plane. One thing that rather annoyed me is that there are no direct flights from Paris to Kefalonia, which might be why there are so few French (and so many British and Italian) tourists on the island. Last year we arrived at the end of August/beginning of September and had to fly to Athens where we then took a short flight to Kefalonia. This year, while checking the various possibilities (this was a very last minute trip), I found that a flight from London or Bristol in the U.K. was way cheaper than flying from Paris and that it was also direct, so my bf and I spent a few days in England visiting my Aunt then came to Greece with Easyjet.

In general, it is best to book way ahead of time if you’re planning to travel during the summer months. If you can, travel in June or September as the island will be less crowded, it will be less hot (in August the temperature can be close to 40 degrees), and travel/accommodation will be cheaper.

Another important point: RENT A CAR! Although there is a bus service that runs on the island, I cannot imagine having to wait in the sweltering heat for a bus and not having the freedom to explore the island on my own timetable. Also, there are certain roads that are too narrow for buses and therefore you will miss out on potential discoveries. I recommend Ionian Cars, as the guys were great and were willing to meet us at the airport when we arrived, even though it was very late at night.

As this was our second time to the island and it was for only a short visit, we decided to stay in Lassi, which is a small town in the South of the island near the capital of Argostoli and close to the airport. We were here last year with friends and found it to be the ideal central base for exploring the island. Although there are many hotels full of British/Italian tourists and the restaurants along the main road of this town are nothing special, there are hidden beaches and cute tavernas to be found if you are up for a little adventure. Alternatively, if you plan to really explore the entire island, Agia Effimia is also a good base (we stayed here several days last year) as it is located further North, so closer to Assos or Fiskardo.

For basic rooms in Lassi for around 100 Euros/night for 2 people, I would recommend either Simatos Apartments (no sea views but super friendly staff) or Sunshine Resort (at a higher elevation so great sea views from balcony, but quite a hike up a big hill if you don’t have a car).

With that said, here are my list of things you must do when in Kefalonia:

1) Visit the gorgeous town of Assos: The drive to get there might have been a little stressful, as we swerved along mountainous roads, braked as we crossed several goats sitting directly in our path (they don’t give a *@&!), and descended again following a zigzag road composed of a series of sharp hairpin turns (luckily I have a bf who’s a fearless driver), BUT Assos is worth so it! Once you have made it back to sea level you can walk around the adorable town full of colorful little houses surrounded by flowers, eat in one of the several cute restaurants along the bay, and chill at a little beach where you can swim and think to yourself “am I dreaming?”. From the car park you can also hike up to the ruins of Assos Castle, situated on a 170 m high rocky hill. It is free to visit and offers magnificent views (see picture below).Assos_Kefalonia_travel2) Take a picture at the famous Myrtos beach: while the experience of being on the beach itself wasn’t so spectacular (you are quickly out of depth and currents can be strong, there is no shade, parking can be tricky, and there are lots of wasps), the view from the road above that takes you down to the beach is too breathtaking not to visit. I mean, this is the beach featured on almost every postcard of Kefalonia, so it would be a shame not to see it in person. myrtos beach_kefalonia_greece3) Be a tourist in Melissani cave: I admit that once I saw the tour buses parked outside I wanted to run away, but this cave is still worth a visit as I’ve never seen anything like it before. A lake located in a cave, where a large opening lets the sunlight stream in. You walk down a dark (and refreshingly cool) tunnel into the cave and wait for a little rowboat to take you on a 15 minute tour of the cave. Entry costs 7 Euros/person, which I admit is expensive for a 15 minute trip around the lake, but I’m still happy I saw it. Just wish it wasn’t so full of people, as it kills the magic a little.melissani cave_kefalonia_greece4) Follow the path that leads to Pessada beach: This beach requires a little hike down some steps, followed by a short walk over some spiky rocks (tip: buy a pair of those ugly but very useful water shoes, you will thank me later), but you eventually arrive to the sheltered little cove with soft white sand. It is very popular in the summer and can often be very crowded. In September there were relatively few people but this year, in the height of August, there wasn’t room to lay a flip-flop, so we clambered over some other rocks, walked a little, and then descended onto a rocky plateau where we were completely alone. That’s how we do! Snorkelers will love this beach as it is full of fish and the water is crystal clear! pessada beach_kefalonia_greece5) Walk in the golden sand of Xi or Megas Lakkos beach: These beaches are located on the Pali peninsula, right across from Argostoli (ferries run from the capital to Lixouri to shorten the driving time), and will impress you with their beautiful stretches of golden red sand. It definitely gives you a change from the mainly pebble beaches on most of the island and you can easily rent sunbeds and umbrellas if you want some additional comfort. The water is relatively calm and shallow so these are good beaches for kids too.megas lakkos beach_Kefalonia_Beach6) Take a ferry to the magical island of Ithaca: technically this is not a thing to to do IN Kefalonia, but if you have the time to visit the home of Odysseus (for all you Greek mythology buffs) then I highly recommend it. We stayed here only 2 days but I would have loved to have explored even longer as this island is very authentic, with less tourists, and a truly natural, untouched beauty. It is easily accessible by a ferry that leaves from the town of Sami (about a 40 minute trip across). Random fact: Some scenes from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin were filmed in Sami! The main town of Vathy is charming and you can observe the small fishing boats and groups of Greek fisherman who sit together chatting in the tavernas along the waterfront throughout the day. Drive up North and you will have magnificent views of the sea (and of Kefalonia in the distance) and maybe even discover some magical, secluded beaches! Just be prepared that the roads are narrow and sometimes not well paved. boat in vathy_ithaca_greeceNow, to the most important part of any holiday…FOOD!!!

My top 5 restaurants in the South of Kefalonia:

Kamaroules Stamatelatos Τavernaki (Καμαρούλες Σταματελάτος Ταβερνάκι): My favourite place to eat brunch/lunch (they don’t open before noon)! Imagine your own Greek garden, located above a small, rock covered beach, with wooden tables set out among the olive and pine trees. You have the sound of the cicadas chirping, cute little cats lounging in the shade, and a calming view of the sea to enjoy while sipping on your freddo cappuccino. And the food: fresh and delicious! Try the most amazing Greek salad I’ve ever had in my life (with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, olives, capers, and a huge piece of feta cheese mixed with a soft local Kefalonian cheese) with a plate of strapatsada (eggs, scrambled with tomatoes and feta cheese) or a chicken souvlaki plate before heading to the beach.Kamaroules Stamatelatos Τavernaki_Kefalonia_GreecePalia Plaka (Η Παλιά Πλάκα): Located along the waterfront of Argostoli (but at the far end where there are less people), this cafeteria-style restaurant serves up traditional Greek dishes that you can view before ordering as they are displayed inside. They even have fresh fish (I had the perfectly cooked sea bream). Honestly, in my opinion, this is the best place to try homemade Greek dishes such as Kefalonian pie (meat, rice and cheese cooked in pastry), stuffed tomatoes, or pastitsio (pasta dish with ground beef and bechamel sauce) while being surrounded by the locals of the island. They even give you a free dessert!palia plaka_kefalonia_greeceIl Borgo: Located on higher ground, right next door to the ruined Castle of Saint George, this restaurant has beautiful views of Kefalonia and even of the island of Zante in the distance. They serve many traditional Greek dishes, like lamb kleftiko (lamb chop cooked with potatoes, tomatoes and feta), or if you need a break from Greek food (don’t know why you would…but no judgment!) they offer various other choices such as pancakes with maple syrup, steak and eggs, and club sandwiches. Only downside: this place is very popular with tourists visiting the castle.il borgo_kefalonia_greeceGENTILINI Winery & Vineyards: This isn’t a restaurant but this winery sells bottles of wine that you can take back to your apartment to enjoy in the evening with some fresh Greek produce from the market (we did this a lot). I highly recommend their white Robola wine! They also offer wine tastings (3 wines for 5 Euros) that come with a plate of Graviera cheese, cherry tomatoes, bread, herbs, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.kefalonia wine and cheeseSto Psito: Another restaurant with a beautiful view, this restaurant is a little more pricey and fancy than the majority of restaurants in Lassi. The food is decent with Greek and Kefalonian specialties available in addition to various grilled meats and pastas. They even have roast piglet on the spit on weekends! The highlight of this restaurant is the view and the ambiance of being surrounded by Greeks and tourists alike while melancholic Greek music wafts around like the breeze coming from the sea. Make sure to reserve here, as it is very popular at night.Sto psito_kefalonia_greeceThere you go! I could go on forever about all the things I love about this island (don’t forget Antisamos beach), but I’ll leave it at that for now. Although you don’t see much of the typical white and blue buildings that you see in the Cyclades and many of the towns are relatively modern (Argostoli for example was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1953), Kefalonia is really vibrant and has shockingly beautiful natural scenery that will definitely win you over. That is of course if you are up for the adventure! And don’t worry: people who like the resort holidays and crowded beaches with music and water sports will also enjoy this island as there are plenty of those (e.g. Makris Gialos Beach). Argostoli_Kefalonia_GreeceLastly, if you wan’t to know where on the island that beautiful, pristine beach at the beginning of this blog post is located (see first picture)…ask me! I’ll give you the directions! Just be prepared to potentially share it with this one nudist. We saw him two years in a row and he’s not ready to give up his secluded spot!

P.S. If you have any other questions about travelling to Greece, don’t hesitate to send me a message! καλημέρα! 😉