Tuesday, 23 October 2012

paris: place des vosges & le café chinois

How does one describe Paris? Which adjectives does one use? Honestly, I have no idea. I think I have already overused the words beautiful, gorgeous and stunning on the blog, and they all apply. I think it's simply best to say that Paris is Paris and leave it at that.

Let me add that there is no such thing as one Paris, except on a map. Each district has its own identity, and I have only been to a few of them. Today I'm sharing photos from Place des Vosges, which is the oldest planned square in the city, situated on the line where the 3rd district meets the 4th. As you know, I met Rachel of the Little Bits of Lovely blog in Paris. I don't want to speak for Rachel, as I'm quite certain she will be sharing her Paris experience on her blog, but we often mentioned during our walks how the city was constantly changing. Sometimes one can feel a difference just by going from one street to the next, and as soon as you get away from the too touristy spots, that is where the magic happens. Strike that. I think you can find magic in the touristy spots too but maybe there is more magic in the less touristy areas.

I am not going to give you a history lesson on Place des Vosges, but I dare you to read about it and visit if you are going to Paris. What I loved about the square was not just the beautiful symmetry but how quiet it was. Rachel and I had met at the Saint Paul metro station on Rue de Rivoli, a busy street that gets noisier with every step you take to the west. We were heading east and the further away from the metro we walked, the quieter the city became. As soon as we turned into Rue de Birague there was silence and at the end of the street we could see the arched entrance in the top photo.

I have heard people say time seems to have stopped in Place des Vosges and by going there you get to experience the old Paris. I cannot really judge if that is the case, I think it's better to say that the square is free of stress. In a way it's protected from the bustling city by its surrounding buildings that all look the same. From the square we went to Merci, a great concept store, which happens to be close by. We passed through the arched entrance on the opposite side and found ourselves in the 3rd district, in Rue du Béarn, where we found the lovely Le café chinois.

After some shopping in Merci it was time to go for lunch so we walked back to Rue du Béarn. Le café chinois was packed and we had to wait for a table. It was totally worth it. After all the French food we had enjoyed it was nice to get a good vegetarian meal and a glass of fresh juice - think ginger and hibiscus.

Le Café Chinois is a salon de thé but they serve what they call slow lunch between 12 and 15 and you won't find any heavy steaks on the menu, it's all curry and rice. The smell is wonderful and the dishes are inexpensive. It's one of those unpretentious places and they also have a little boutique behind one wall with items from Asia. I highly recommend this place.

Le café chinois, 7 rue du Béarn, 75003 Paris
open Tuesday - Saturday from 12-18:30
slow lunch from 12-15

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt


  1. I wouldn't say it's the real Paris (I've lived a 2 minute walk away), but it is quieter, for sure. I also wouldn't say that every part of Paris is different. the longer you live there the more you realize that Paris is Paris. there is something distinctively... I would say French, but then the French would complain, so I say Parisian about the city. unlike London which I personally find way more diverse. but these are opinions.

    beautiful pics. can't wait to see more :)

    1. I think none used the word real for the square, it was usually the phrase 'old Paris'.

      It's interesting how people experience this differently, but that difference between the districts was what probably struck me the most. Maybe the longer one stays the less different it feels. But it does feel wonderful, very Parisian ;-)

  2. très beau!definitely will go there on a next Paris visit, we love Place des Vosges

  3. No matter how many images of Paris I see, it just makes my heart sing a little... Lovely photos. Its been way too long since I've been and I really can't remember where I roamed but the only thing I remember is I can characterise the city with food and cafes, and the shopping .. (is that bad??!) And that's why I need to go back and re-acquaint myself... the old me with the old paris (LOL)..:)

  4. Gaman að sjá myndir frá ferðinni þinni Lísa. Mér líst vel á Le Café Chinois og mun pottþétt prófa hann í einhverri Parísarferðinni minni :)

  5. I knew I could count on you to share with us an interesting point of view on Paris. I think everyone experiences Paris in their own unique way and that's one of its main attractions.

  6. Ahhhh, I love Place des Vosges so much! A beautiful part of Paris, for sure and your photographs certainly do it justice, with the light flooding in.

    p.s. So lovely that you were able to meet Rachel! :) x

  7. I love stories like this. It's always so interesting how different people experience different emotions and notice certain things... Thank you for sharing everything.
    And so nice that two of you could meet!

  8. One of my biggest regrets about visiting Paris was that we didn’t wander the districts. It was my first European trip so I was so focused on seeing the sights that I now feel like I missed out on the ‘real Paris’. I’m definitely taking notes on these posts of yours!

  9. Loving the quiet areas too, and trying to find the little gems of the city.
    By looking at your pictures, and you captured this so atmospheric, I could only imagine that you spend a wonderful time in Paris.

  10. I love hearing your Parisian experience. Each persons is unique unto themselves. And you're so right that each and every district has such a distinct feeling. Kind of reminds me of Italy in that way but of course on a much smaller scale. I was always so struck by how different the towns and cities were from one another. The culture, the cuisine. It all varied by region.

    So lovely that you got to spend time with Rachel. I wish that I could have joined you ladies. What a time that would be :) xoxo

  11. I´m looking forward to the day when I´ll see it for myself, that truly is a city that HAS to be experienced! :-)

  12. Ah, beautiful! Haven't been myself but it's a place I dream of going!



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