While there are numerous Parisian neighborhoods to claim your attention and affection, you may want to try Montparnasse for its combination of cuisine and ambiance.
If you want to immerse yourself in Parisian life you can do worse than to select an outside table at La Rotonde at Place Pablo Picasso which sits at the intersection of Boulevards Raspeil and Montparnasse.
As its name suggests, Parnasse is a Mount and you are at its peak, albeit a relatively low one. In the center of the intersection the statue of Balzac by Rodin stares down at you, a reminder that this area was the haunt of artists between the two world wars. In days gone by, a café filtre was the drink of choice for people watching but today a glass of wine or beer is equally appropriate and lasts longer.
The ideal time to come is the late afternoon allowing time to enjoy the fading sunlight but also having the pleasure of seeing the lights come on along Boulevard Montparnasse. For the most part these lights are from the numerous bistros and brasseries that line both sides of the street.
Unless you have made other plans this is the area to dine especially if you like seafood. If you tend be slothful you can stay at La Rotonde by standing and walking inside and you will not be disappointed. The seafood is excellent especially the fish soup but I particularly like their steak tartare following the soup. “Chacon a son Gout”, as they say.
For the mildly energetic you can cross Boulevard Montparnasse, making sure to watch out for the trams and the cyclists, and try Le Dome another good choice. Focused exclusively on seafood, Julia Child was a regular.
Just down the Boulevard is La Coupole one of the Brasseries FLO collection of iconic restaurants. It was actually started by the previous owners of Le Dome back in the 1920’s and at the time was the largest brasserie in the city. Downstairs is a dance hall where at various times Josephine Baker, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were known to “shake a leg”. Hemingway reportedly stayed upstairs in the bar. The food is excellent, especially the lamb curry, but the noise level tends to be high.
If you have athletic tendencies you can continue to walk to the other end of the Boulevard to Montparnasse 1900 a Belle Époque gem but make sure you look your best since the entire restaurant is covered in mirrors on both sides of the room.
Regardless of which restaurant you select you will not go far wrong especially if you love shellfish and seafood. An added plus is the presence of metro stations at either end of Boulevard Montparnasse providing easy access from all areas of the city. Maybe I’ll see you there!
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