At the Hôtel de Varenne, you can make the rue de Bourgogne your home away from home.
My BFF in Paris lives on the rue de Bourgogne, in the 7th Arrondissement, and she is in LOVE with her street. After a brief stroll, following her daily routine, it is easy to see why. The street begins at the Assemblée Nationale and shoots straight down three blocks, to the Hôtel Biron, home of the Musée Rodin* and its enchanting gardens.
This neighborhood was once bucolic fields where nobles built large mansions to escape the density, heat, pressures and illnesses of (very) nearby Paris. When Julia Child first landed in Paris, she lived on the neighboring rue de l’Université, and it is at the street’s bakeries and butcher that she first learned to shop for French food. Rollet Pradier is one of the bakeries, and it has now expanded to include an upstairs tea salon serving decadent treats.
Down the street from the Assemblée is the Bernard Loiseau restaurant Tante Marguerite, with a cozy dining room, where assemblymen head for an indulgent meal over inconspicuous conversations. Just across the street shines the stunningly original jewelry—made from found items, recycled materials and raw stones—at the Galerie Naila de Monbrison. The florists in this area have spectacular displays, turning the sidewalks into secret gardens. The rest of the street is a series of galleries featuring clothing, furniture, art, antiques and even a bookbinder or two.
All languages welcome, should inspiration hit.
One of my personal favorites is the Atelier Claude Nicolet. A quick peek into the windows reveals a serious collection of art deco furniture, yet on closer inspection there is often a surprising twist: in the place of crushed eggs or inlaid wood, there are computer chips embedded into the tabletop design. Intriguing. We started chatting with a charming young man inside, and he explained that the shop had been in his family for several generations. He had hoped to find his own path, creating perfume bottles for luxury fragrances. He had been rather successful, but the call of the family workshop had been too great, and he eventually returned to the basement, creating masterpieces in the family atelier. Not only is his furniture beautiful, contemporary and classic, but the desk he created was so full of secret drawers and hidden locks that it was nearly impossible to resist. Fortunately it was larger than your average Parisian room, so my wallet was safe.
My Frenchman loves the Asian art dealer Galerie Rouge, and we are both drawn to the modern Scandinavian design at KRD. When not window-shopping, I am invariably fascinated by the Club des Poètes, a restaurant where guests spontaneously rise to recite poetry, either their own or famous pieces in the language of their choice.
Contemporary design at KRD.
If you fall in love with this neighborhood and are looking for a place to stay, the Hôtel de Varenne is where my BFF puts up friends and family when they come to visit. The entrance is French country style, with a quiet atmosphere for a good night’s rest.
Sitting at the very top of the street like an elegant crown is the very discreet L’Arpège, with three Michelin stars, where chef Alain Passard still insists on serving bread prepared in-house, and provides the city’s only temple to haute cuisine to offer a vegetarian main dish. One hundred euros is out of my reach for a plate of vegetables, so I generally prefer to end my stroll surrounded by precious works of art, at the café in the garden of the Musée Rodin.
*Insider’s tip: If you are traveling with young children, the gardens at the Musée Rodin are an excellent option. Not only will you find Rodin’s works among the rose bushes, but young children receive free admission and are invited to head directly to the front of the line, bringing one adult with them, who also gets free entry. The rest of the adults in your party may also skip the long line of tripists waiting to enter, but they will have to purchase a garden ticket for 1 euro from the machines facing the cashiers.
Galerie Naila de Monbrison
6, rue de Bourgogne.
01 47 05 11 15.
41, rue de Bourgogne.
01 44 18 99 59.