7 Cozy Spots in Paris to Escape the Winter Cold

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In these frigid January days, those of us in Paris are scurrying from place to place under slate-grey skies, scowling as the freezing air seems to slice through every layer of our clothes. On days like these, nothing is more tempting than finding a nice quiet spot to hunker down with a good book and a warming drink.

To get you thinking warm thoughts, here are our top 7 picks of cozy places in Paris to curl up with your French workbooks (okay – any book) and get away from it all for awhile.

1.  LA CAFÉOTEQUE

The moment you enter Caféoteque, you’re struck by two things: the rich all- encompassing scent of roasting coffee beans and the palpable chalereux (warmth) of the place, which seems to take you by the hand and draw you inside. For coffee lovers, Caféoteque is the ideal place to hide out from the cold.

Founded in 2005 by Gloria Montenegro, a Guatemalan native, Caféotechque single-handedly changed the coffee scene in Paris from notoriously bad to a glorious specialty fit for a gourmand. The café features more than 20 different coffee beans, each from a different country, with descriptive profiles accompanying each variety. And the baristas know what to do with these beans, too: each has been carefully-trained in the art of roasting beans and preparing the perfect cup of coffee. The shop even offers an intense 50-hour course to coffee professionals.

 

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Even if you don’t know an espresso from a ristretto, the café is still a wonderful place to have a time-out. For a Parisian space, it’s surprisingly generous with three sitting rooms filled with a variety of chairs, pillow-strewn benches and battered café tables. The walls are adorned with central American artwork, and the back room (which includes a bar and piano) has one wall entirely devoted to their stock of unroasted coffee beans.

Caféoteque’s only downside is that is doesn’t have Wifi.  On second thought, that’s not really a downside…it makes it the perfect place to escape from the constant buzz of world for awhile. The only buzz you get here is from the coffee.

Caféoteque: 52 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004

 

2. LE VALENTIN

Just as Caféotechque is a haven for coffee lovers, Le Valentin is a tea-lover’s dream. This little salon de thé is tucked away in the beautiful 19th-century Passage Jouffroy, just a few doors down from the Musée Grevin, Paris’s wax museum. Here, you’ll find more than 35 different types of teas, from green to white to Rooibos, served in beautiful cast iron teapots.

 

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As appealing as the tea are the array of patisseries offered, which range from basic croissants and pain au chocolat to more decadent offerings, such as moelleux aux myrtilles, a kind hazelnut-blueberry cake and baba rhum, a rum-soaked cake topped with whipped cream.

The salon’s elegant downstairs is certainly pleasing but the lamp-lit upstairs room is where you should head for extra charm and quiet. Featuring an assortment of canapés (sofas), tapestries, padded benches and long wooden tables, you can easily pass an hour or two in comfortable solitude. Warning: the Wifi is free but wonky.

Le Valentin: 30-32 Passage Jouffroy 75009 Paris

3. BIBLIOTHEQUE MAZARINE

That’s right – why not find some peace and warmth at an old-fashioned public library? Although this particular library might prove a little distracting: with its the phalanx of marble busts lining the halls, and ornate golden chandeliers illuminating the reading room tables, it’s easily one of the most dazzling libraries in Paris.

Created in the 17th-century based on the private collection of Cardinal Mazarine, the bibliothéque is housed in the left wing of the prestigious Institut de France – that rather intimidating-looking gold-domed building on the Seine’s Left Bank just opposite the Pont des Arts. It’s home to approximately 500,000 printed works, including a Gutenberg bible and some 2,000 incunabula (books and pamphlets printed with the earliest typography).

Prestige and grandeur notwithstanding, don’t be afraid of going inside: the library is open to the public. To sit in its reading room for a spell, you’ll just need some identification and a reading room card, which is available from the on-duty librarian. A non-renewable five-day pass is available for free; an annual pass is available for €15.

Bibliothéque Marzarine: 23 Quai de Conti, 75006 Paris

4. SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY

Shakespeare & Company may not be from the 17th century, but it’s a legend in Paris nonetheless. For those unfamiliar with this landmark, Shakespeare & Co. is an (mainly) English-language bookstore in the 5th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Originally opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, the bookstore was a famous hotspot for renown expatriate writers, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. The shop closed during World War II but was resurrected in 1964 by George Whitman at its current location.

While the crammed bookstore itself is worth a visit, if you’re looking for a cozy spot to huddle up with your French notes for awhile, the upstairs reading room is just wonderful. Lined with books (not for sale) from floor to ceiling, the room offers comfy cracked leather armchairs, a slightly lumpy pillow-lined bench and assorted wooden chairs to while an afternoon away.

Shakespeare & Co: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris

5. CAFÉ CRAFT

It’s a myth that everyone in Paris has the time to go wandering dreamily around the city or sit aimlessly in cafés. If you need to get some serious work done and need a non-distracting but congenial environment to do it in, pop into Café Craft.

Half-café, half co-sharing workspace, this modern minimalistic place is tucked away in hipster heaven near the Canal St. Martin. The front part of the café offers a space for people to chat or read the international press over cakes, cookies, quiche and truly excellent coffee (Craft proudly uses a Marzocco, the “Rolls Royce” of coffee machines, and the baristas are carefully trained to make a good cup).

 

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The back part of the café provides a long table for co-working (with an electrical outlet for each seat!) and there’s a sectioned-off part suitable for group meetings. The Wifi is fast and reliable; the baristas friendly. It’s a great place to work when your tiny Parisian apartment becomes too confining…. or if you just happen to be in the neighborhood!

Café Craft: 24, rue des Vinaigriers, 75010

 

6.  Hotel St. James Albany

If you want to step out of the cold and into warm comfort and splendor, head to the Hotel St. James Albany. This luxurious hotel is located in the 1st arrondissement, just steps away from the Jardin de Tuilieries and glitzy shopping street, rue Saint-Honoré. Here, you find a wonderful lounge– plush and cozy – where you can order a variety of drinks and snacks, from a coffee to a club sandwich to a bubbling coupe de champagne.  Exclusive though it is, the waitstaff is attentive but discreet and will never rush you out.  We often hold private French lessons here – and during the summer months, in their stunning interior courtyard.

Hotel St. James Albany:  202 rue Rivoli 75001 Paris

7.  Bonpoint Concept Store

Now, this place is one of the best-kept secrets in Paris.  Bon Point is an luxury children’s clothing boutique with beautiful, expensive offerings (a simple pair of baby socks cost about €15; sweaters run upward of €150). But never mind that – tucked away in the cellar of their sprawling concept store in the exclusive 6th arrondissement is a charming little restaurant/café that offers total tranquility.  Few people know it’s there and no signs outside advertising it.  You just have to know where to go.   Enter the store, give a nice ‘bonjour‘ to the friendly vendeuse (sales ladies), and head down one flight of stairs to the restaurant.  It’s an especially great place to go if you have a small child – it’s one of the few restaurants in Paris that has high-chairs.   (And if you’re interested in children’s baby clothes, check out the store itself: the elaborate décor will blow your mind!)

Bonpoint Concept Store: 6, rue Tournon 75006 Paris

FRENCH LANGUAGE TIP:  If you chose to escape to a café, here are some French phrases that might be handy:

• Bonjour, je voudrais un café noisette s’il vous plait  (Hello, I’d like an espresso with cream, please.)

 • Pourrais-je avoir du sucre ? (May I have some sugar?)

• Est-il possible de se connecter en Wifi? Quel est le nom du réseau et le code d’accès ?  (Is it possible to connect to Wifi?  What is the the name of the network and the access code?)

• Je vous remercie ! (Thank you!)

Where is your favorite quiet spot in Paris? Share with us below!


Practice Counting at the Palais de Justice

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interieurPalaisJusticeAs the days get shorter and the air colder, its time to move your French lessons inside. But where should we meet? Go
ahead and stand in line to go up the Eiffel Tower
with your friends. The view is gorgeous and it is an experience not to be missed, but up there it is a bit too loud and busy for a French lesson. Paris is our classroom. Let us find just the perfect quiet monument that fits your interests.

The Palais de Justice, for instance, is located in the Île de la Cité in central Paris and is often missed because of it’s noisier neighbors the Cathédrale Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle. From novices to those nearly fluent, the Palais de Justice might be just the place to learn something new, in French.

For French beginners, let’s start by counting. The building has 7,000 (sept mille) doors and more than 3,000 (trois mille) windows. It has 24 (vingt-quatre) kilometers of hallways, 4,000 (quatre mille) employees, and at least 15,000 (quinze mille) additional visitors (lawyers, police, etc…) every day. That’s a lot to count!

History buffs may be interested in talking about the Conciergerie’s role in the French Revolution. The former royal residence and the famous prison was where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before being guillotined. In addition to her, 2,700 other prisoners were kept here before being executed during France’s ten month Reign of Terror in 1793 and 1794. After the Revolution, it continued to be a prison for high-profile prisoners, such as Napoleon III, until it was decommissioned in 1914 and opened to the public as a national historical monument.

There’s also a lot to talk about regarding the French legal system. As far back as Roman times the site has been used as a place of government. Today it houses the French correctional court, the court of large claims, and court of appeals, which is highest jurisdiction in the French judicial order. Did you know the French law system is based on Roman law? It is radically different from Anglo Saxon common law because it is based on written codes and not on the precedents (prior decisions).

Here’s some more history about the Palais de Justice to get you ready for your visit:

Listen to the text below.

Sur le site du Palais de justice s’étendait autrefois le Palais de la Cité qui a été la résidence des rois de France, du Xe au XIVe siècle et dont il ne reste aujourd’hui que deux vestiges : la Conciergerie et la Sainte Chapelle.

Lorsque le roi Charles V décide vers 1360 de quitter le Palais de la Cité pour le quartier Saint Paul ; la royauté y maintient son administration : La vocation judiciaire du lieu s’annonce.

Le Palais eut à subir plusieurs incendies. En 1601, en 1618, en 1630 et en 1737, 1776.

Sous la Révolution, le Palais fut le siège du Tribunal révolutionnaire.

Le Palais de justice prend une nouvelle dimension politique sous la Restauration (1820). De nouveaux postes sont créés mais les locaux ne suffisent plus à accueillir le volume croissant des cas. Les affaires judiciaires ne cessant d’augmenter, un vaste programme d’agrandissement du Palais est lancé.

Le chantier est quasiment achevé lorsqu’éclatent les événements de 1870. Allumé en divers endroits du Palais de justice par la Commune agonisante, l’incendie du 24 mai 1871 réduit à néant les travaux. Les plans sont refaits et le chantier recommence en 1883. Depuis 1914, le Palais n’a pas connu de travaux d’une telle envergure.

La façade sud néo-gothique est marquée par de nombreux impacts de balles tirées lors de la Libération d’août 1944.

De nos jours, le palais est toujours l’un des centres névralgiques du système judiciaire français, puisqu’il abrite notamment la Cour de cassation, la plus haute juridiction judiciaire.

Par ailleurs on trouve dans le Palais les locaux du conseil de l’ordre, sa bibliothèque, sa salle de réunion.

Les personnes privées de liberté sont détenues en deux endroits : le dépôt, géré par la police, pour les gardés à vue qui passent en comparution immédiate, et la souricière, gérée par l’administration pénitentiaire, pour les personnes détenues qui doivent passer devant le juge.

Interested in starting French lessons? Call +33 (0)6 66 10 53 64 or contact us at info@frenchasyoulikeit.com.

Photos by Jennise.


Private French Classes at the Jardin des Tuileries

Paris is our classroom! Call or contact us to organize lessons at the Jardin des Tuileries and other parks around Paris.

Jardin des Tuileries ChairAutumn arrived early in Paris this year. The leaves on the trees are already changing colors, the days are getting shorter, and the weather has already started to cool.   Before winter arrives and our French lessons have to move indoors, why not spend a few classes exploring the beautiful parks of Paris.

The Jardin des Tuileries is a centrally located, beautiful garden, and it is a great place to start a tour of Parisian parks. The classic green chairs scattered around the ponds and alleyways are ideal for a casual conversation in French with your teacher and a table at one of the four cafes within the park is perfect for more intense review of French conjugation and grammar.

For history buffs, this park has plenty of stories to build a lesson around. Did you know the park was created in 1564 by Catherine de Medicis and modeled after the gardens in her native Florence? The Jardin des Tuileries is also the first public park in Paris. At the request of Charles Perrault, the author of Sleeping Beauty and other famous fairy tales, King Louis XIV opened the park to everyone, except beggars, vagabonds, and soldiers in 1667. During the French Revolution, a portion of the park was given to Marie Antoinette for her private use.  Later during the liberation of Paris in 1944, there was considerable fighting in the park. Really, this park has played a part in French history for over 450 years.

Jardin des Tuileries1For art lovers, the park has been the setting for many paintings and houses numerous famous sculptures. In the late 1800s, French Impressionist painters, such as Edward Manet and Camille Pissarro, would often be found painting in the park.

Along with the 18th or 19th century classical sculptures, the park is full of contemporary works by Henry Moore, Auguste Rodin, Louise Bourgeois, and Roy Lichtenstein. The hardest part of your French lesson might be which sculpture to chose to sit by and discuss during your class!

For architecture enthusiasts, there is the musée du Louvre at the far end of the park to discuss. To get you started, here is a short text in French about the building:

Le musée du Louvre est l’un des plus anciens musées, le troisième plus grand au monde et le plus grand musée parisien de par sa surface. Le bâtiment est un ancien palais royal.

Le Louvre possède une longue histoire de conservation artistique et historique de la France. À l’origine du Louvre il y a un château fort, la Grosse tour du Louvre, érigé par le roi Philippe Auguste, en 1190. L’une de ses principales missions est la surveillance de  la Seine, qui constitue l’une des voies traditionnelles des invasions.

La Grosse tour est détruite en 1528 quand François Ier commence la longue transformation de la forteresse en résidence royale luxueuse. Ceci est interrompu lorsque Louis XIV choisit Versailles comme centre du pouvoir et résidence royale en 1678. Le Louvre reste alors longtemps tel quel.

L’idée de transformer le Louvre en musée prend naissance sous Louis XV. Elle aboutira pendant la Révolution.  Le 10 août 1793 a lieu l’inauguration du nouveau musée. Sous l’Empire, le Louvre prend le nom de musée Napoléon.

Mais en 1871 le musée est incendié lors de la Commune, et l’architecte Hector-Martin Lefuel doit reconstruire une partie des bâtiments. Les Tuileries ne seront jamais reconstruites.

(un château fort : fortified castle ;  ériger : to erect; une surveillance: look out ; une forteresse :  fortress ; tel quel : as such ; avoir lieu : to take place )

Location: Place de la Concorde, 75001 Paris
Transportation:  metros lines 1, 8, and 12 at Concorde and metro line 1 at Tuileries
Hours: 7am to 9pm in April, May, and Sept; 7:30am to 7:30pm October through March; 7am to 11pm in June, July and August.
Admission fees: free

Photo of chair in the Jardin des Tuileries is by Daxis

 


Buying Plants (& Chickens) in French at the Marché aux Fleurs

geraniumsEveryone knows that a French apartment isn’t complete without geranium gushing from the windows boxes. Your French tutor has held your hand as you’ve bought new appliances for and hung pictures in your dream French apartment. Let us now take a stroll through the Marché aux Fleurs to purchase some houseplants and the great thing about this market is we can also make your urban farming dreams come true too. You don’t dream of having a chicken coop on your Parisian terrace? Fair enough, we’ll stick to the flowers.

Location: Place Louis Lépine and Quai de la Corse 75004 Paris, France

Transportation:  metros lines 4 at Cité

Hours: Open 8am to 7:30pm everyday (the bird market is only open on Sundays from 8am to 7pm)

Admission: free

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Photo by Girls’ Guide to Paris.

The Marché aux Fleurs is located on the island Ile de la Cité and not far from the Hôtel de Ville. The market has been here since 1808, but the current wrought iron pavilions that house the flower and plant merchants were constructed in the early 1900s. When in the center of the city, this is the place to go for potted plants, cut flowers, shrubs, annuals, perennials and even large trees.

On Sundays, the marché aux oiseaux is also open and numerous kinds of birds, such as canaries, macaws, and parrots are for sale. In cages on the ground you will see rare chickens, framer’s extra hens, roosters, and even pigeons. Besides the birds there are aquariums with fish and cages with hamsters, rabbits, and Guinea pigs. New birdhouses and antique birdcages are sold alongside birdseeds and animal food. It is noisy and colorful, but also a great place to practice your French!

Here’s some vocabulary and helpful phrases to help you during your visit:

How much is it?  Combien cela coûte?
How much do I owe you?  Combien est-ce que je vous dois?
I don’t understand, can you repeat slower, please?  Je ne comprends pas, pouvez vous répéter plus lentement, s’il vous plaît ?
gardening: le jardinage (du jardinage); flower: un fleur; tree: un arbre; bush: un buisson; cage: une cage; bird: un oiseau; sign: un panneau
to sing: chanter; to walk around: se promener; to plant: planter; to bloom: fleurir; to grow (flowers): faire pousser (des fleurs); to smell good / bad: sentir bon / mauvais; to dig: creuser

Interested in private French lessons in Paris? Call or contact us to organize a lesson at the Marché aux Fleurs or at another site “off the beaten path.