15 April 2009

Left Bank or Right Bank?

My friend Frank the Francophile, an irreverent Irishman, keeps me supplied with travel stories about France I might have missed (and usually have). He has a master's degree in French, and takes great pleasure in correcting me. He enjoys it so much, I am sure he was a Parisian shopkeeper in a past life.

Anyway, Frank pointed me to a copy of this story, which compares the right and left banks of Paris. Thank goodness this is not something we have to choose between. I mean, even if you were lucky enough to live in Paris, you could live on one bank and hang out on another.

Each visitor to Paris finds his or her own city; Paris, after all, is a highly individualized experience. But I am curious are you right bank or left bank?

On our first visit, we took a liking to the area sandwiched between Avenue Rapp and Avenue de la Bourdonnais, literally at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Eventually, we rented a small flat there and enjoyed the daily round first hand, not merely as flaneurs. We even made friends with the lovely lady at Magda Traiteur. I feel very comfortable here.

I am quite enamored with the neighborhood near St. Sulpice, and would like to rent a flat there some day. I was not enchanted with Montparnasse, and found more smokers there than any other area in Paris. Really.

I like the warren of streets in the Latin Quartier, just north of the Pantheon. Something draws me there. My husband likes Tolbiac, and I would like to spend some time in the 14th someday.

I love the Left Bank.

But, oh, my passion for the grittiness of Rue St. Antoine (and Rue de Rivoli, for that matter) is well documented here. I found beauty at the Jardin des Halles, perhaps sensing the spirits of the vendors of the old marketplace. My husband likes the raw energy of Rue de la Roquette; I have to agree. Last fall, we spent a fair amount of time - just off the plane and without our bearings - wandering around the area just north of the Bastille. I really like that quartier, too.

We visit Village St. Paul again and again and we especially love the staff at The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop. We enjoy our fellow customers, too.

A few years ago, our Paris shuttle driver took us on streets we'd never visited just north of the Champs Elysees. It felt elegant to me.

We once made brief foray into Auteuil, which I once read was the part of Paris most like Provence. Must try that out soon.

I love the Right Bank.

Did I mention the islands?

What about you? Come lurkers and Francophiles and tell me what part of Paris - which bank or which island - resonates with you?

20 comments:

ChazFrench said...

Oh it doesn't matter which bank! As long as I'm IN Paris I could care less. I love the entire city.

If you forced me to choose at gunpoint, I'd have to go left, I'm a lefty (in every sense of the word).

;^)

Chaz

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I'm forcing you, Chaz. To respond, that is. I love your responses, always!

I must get back to cooking soon....

ChazFrench said...

I need to get back to cooking too!

This weekend, I swear! I'll be making a buttermilk vanilla panna cotta with a passion fruit sauce. If it works, you'll see the recipe, if it doesn't... try again!

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Same here, Chaz. Mine will be something gooey, I hope.

lady jicky said...

Now this is a hard question but --- if I won the lottery I would love to live in those apartments that look over the fountain infront of St Sulprice. So, Left Bank I guess! LOL

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I love that area, too, Lady J.

On our last trip, we never left the Marais as we only had one full day and two half days in Paris. I'd like to live near the Arsenal, I think.

Jann said...

Not an easy question to answer~ probably the right bank........I do spend a lot of time on the other side...do I really have to choose?

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

No, you don't have to choose, Jann. I was just curious. I guess a true Paris Lover enjoys both with equal pleasure.

Alain said...

Ah Mimi your piece regenerated so many memories of my Parisian past,

For the last 25 years, every time I went to Paris, I have been staying with relatives in the same house in the very busy and lively Rue du Commerce in the 15th arrondissement. I'm always happy as soon as I get there to visit my favorite suppliers of food and wine,and to have lunch at my beloved brasserie de la Tour Eiffel. But as early as the second day I feel an urge to take the "metro" to go take a walk in my old "quartier" of Saint Germain des Prés where I lived for several years before moving to Chicago. My old street, Rue de Seine, in the 6th arrondissement did not change much since the sixties, with its art galeries, beautiful centuries-old buildings, and its great café ''La Palette''. But my favorite spot there is the great `'marché de Buci'' at the corner of rue de Seine and rue de Buci. I still enjoy checking the fruit and vegetable stands there on Saturday morning, and buy cheese, bread, charcuterie and regional food products from Auvergne in the tiny shops within a few yards from that famous street intersection.
Every Parisian I know who has at one point in his life lived in one of the ''quartiers'' of the Rive Gauche , then moved to the Rive Droite, always goes back often to his old neighborood to shop, meet friends in some cafe, or just by pure nostalgia.
But I also love some quartiers of the Right Bank, like the Buttes- Chaumont in the 19th, or the area between Bastille and Republique.
Alain
French Virtual Cafe

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Alain, Bonjour, I hoped you would visit!

I have yet to explore the Canal St. Martin quartier, but perhaps next year? I liked the Butte aux Cailles area, too, but it seemed a bit seedy the day we visited, two years ago now. I know the neighborhood you describe, but have not spent much time there.

It was Colette who said Paris is a collection of villages. How right she was!

Toni said...

I have always stayed on the Left Bank at a small hotel called Grandes Ecoles. I love the neighborhood and find it easy to get anywhere from there via metro or city bus. But really - can one go too wrong in Paris? I think not.

breadchick said...

OH Mimi, so sorry to be late in getting to this. Crazy, crazy work....

I am MOST definitely Gauche.

My last two visits have found me staying on the Right and I felt completely out of my element. Even the green grocer near my little apartment felt like I was in a different city.

Don't get me wrong, like ChazFrench, as long as I'm in Paris but I don't see myself retiring to the Right ;-)

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Toni, that hotel has a wonderful reputation! If I recall, it is regarded as one of the best values in Paris. I would love to stay there.

BC, I thought I would be River Gauche, too. I was surprised to feel at home on the Right Bank. I felt certain I was a Latin Quarter type.

What a surprise to find that the Marais felt so comfortable to me. Last fall, we were lolling around out tiny hotel room (no junior suite this time), and speculating on the area that most appealed to us and to our surprise, it was the Bastille area, more specifically, the Arsenal. Although, we loved out two weeks in the 7th, next trip will be Right Bank.

Anonymous said...

健身是運動減肥的好地方。

Eileen said...

I feel at home on the Left Bank near Rue de Bac. It's probably because that is where I stayed the first time I went to Paris and I always get a hotel there now.

katiez said...

Now I want to go to Paris.... I can't decide so I'll have to go back and ponder it all...
Wouldn't that be just a shame....

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Eileen, I like that area, too. Isn't that the place where the No. 69 bus does that tight little maneuver?

Katie, I hope you get there soon. I look forward to a report.

T. said...

I stumbled here looking for posts about right v. left bank, and I'm so glad! I am SO left bank. Left Bank all the way! My daughter's godfather is just the opposite; we tease each other about it.

My family and I try to visit Paris at least every couple of years to visit my husband's relatives, and on our visit this past summer I finally felt as if I had found "my" Paris, when I took an aimless stroll in the St. Sulpice neighborhood. Good times...

Anyway, again, being a food- and France-lover, I'm so glad to have found your blog. Looking forward to coming back!

Anne (FGamily Gerdel) said...

Ah... je dois donc comprendre que vous savez vous exprimer en français? Et moi qui m'évertue depuis tantôt à m'exprimer par écrit en anglais. ;-)

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Oh, T, I love the St. Sulpice quartier, too! I just really spent soem time there two years ago. Last visit to Paris we never left the Bastille quartier! We were only in Paris for a total of two days, c'est dommage!

Anne: J'essaie de parler le français mais je ne suis pas très coulant.