A few years ago, when I began to venture deeper into the “real Paris,” I decided to stay in one of the vacation apartments offered by Gail Boisclair of Perfectly Paris. Located on the Rue des Lévis in the 17th arrondissement, it was as far off the tourist track as I had ever ventured.
It was love at first sight.
There are many market streets in Paris—rue Mouffetard, rue Montorgueil, and rue Cler come immediately to mind—but most tourists (and many Parisians) have little experience with rue des Lévis. Located right off the Villiers metro (lines #2 and #3), rue des Lévis has it all: fromageries, boulangeries, patissieries, chocolatiers, wine shops, butchers, cafés, brasseries, supermarkets (Monoprix) and tea shops. The produce vendors (there are three) sell fruits and vegetables that look as if they were just plucked from the soil or the tree.
Arnaud Delmontel has one of his three boulangerie/patisseries on the rue des Lévis and, after much taste testing over the years, I’ve concluded that his macarons are among my favorite in Paris. His breads are equally mouthwatering, even winning the Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris in 2007.
The pedestrian-only portion of rue de Lévis (cars are permitted only for residents and vendors) is also home to non-food shops. There’s a bookstore, jewelers, housewares, florists, fabrics, shoes, perfumeries, and the foodless version of Monoprix. Further down the rue, there are quite a few boutiques catering to children, a Benetton and a few women’s clothing shops.
I have, in the past, claimed my favorite time of the year in Paris to be in November, and living on rue de Lévis around the American Thanksgiving holidays feeds a very specific food ritual that blooms only then. In the evening, after stepping off the metro, I’ll stop at Arnaud Delmontel for my baguette. If I’m in a particularly chocolately mood, I’ll walk down the rue to yet another patissierie for a chocolate éclair. I’ll grab a half dozen clementines at the corner produce market and, if I’m dining in, pick up the Cuisse de Canard Confite from Picard. A delicious evening awaits at home!
Although it’s located in one of the outer arrondissments, life in this part of the 17th feels centrally located. A ten-minute stroll up Rue Legendre takes me to the Square des Batignolles and the charming streets of that neighborhood. After a ten-minute walk in the other direction down Rue Legendre, I’ll find myself at Parc Monceau (my favorite parc in Paris).
The #3 metro line takes me directly to my beloved NoMa (the North Marais) via the Arts et Métiers metro stop, and to Opéra, from where I make a beeline to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. I can transfer to the #12 line (to hit Bon Marché), the #4 line (bonjour St. Germain and the Luxembourg quartier) or the #8 line (and visit the 7th arrondissement). The #2 line takes me directly to Pigalle and Montmartre, and to Pere Lachaise, or to the #1 line that runs through the center of Paris (from the Arch de Triomphe down to Bastille).
Of course, meeting friends (including Gail, Thierry and John) at neighborhood restaurants makes me feel like a local (one of the waiters at Dome knows to bring me my coupe de Champagne right away). And acting like a local is truly the best way to experience Paris.
All photos © 2012 by Linda Donahue. All rights reserved. Photos may not be used in any medium without the expressed written permission of the photographer. Photos may be purchased at The Fine Print [Studio].