18 August 2013

Paris in July: a café a day (5)

This is another café in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. It's near Invalides, on the avenue de la Tour-Maubourg at the corner of the rue de l'Université. It's a nice urban neighborhood but not what you would call quaint. It's near the river and not too far from the Eiffel Tower.

Walt and I almost always go have a meal or a glass of wine at Le Centenaire when we are in Paris. We have a really good memory of the place that dates back to 1995. Back then, we had been on vacation in France for nearly three weeks, staying in a rental property (un gîte rural) that we  found lacking in charm, atmosphere, and convenience. It was near Cahors down in the southwest. We left the gîte several days earlier than planned and drove to Avignon, where we stayed in a hotel for a couple of nights. We were headed to Paris to spend a few days there before flying back to San Francisco.

At the time, when in Paris we often got a room in a hotel just outside the western gate of the Luxembourg Gardens, off the rue de Fleurus and near Saint-Sulpice. As we drove up the autoroute from Avignon to Paris that day in October — it takes a few hours — we talked about where we would stay in Paris those few remaining days of our trip.

What about an apartment rather than a hotel room? I stopped the car at a rest area and made a call from a phone booth to a rental agency in California that specialized in short-term Paris rentals. We had rented an apartment from them the year before, on the Ile Saint-Louis, and really loved it. This time, they had a last-minute deal on a small apartment in the 7th. We booked it on the spot. I think it was $75 a night.

We drove our rented car into Paris at mid-day — it was the weekend, so there was almost no traffic. It was beginning to rain — it might have been the first rain we'd seen in our three weeks in France. We were early; check-in at the apartment wouldn't be for a few hours. We found a place to park the car and spotted Le Centenaire on a street corner.

We had lunch. It was the best roasted chicken we thought we had ever tasted. The wine was good too, and the frites and the salade verte. We were happy to be back in Paris rather after nearly three weeks of doing entirely too much driving on twisty narrow roads. Even the rain seemed like a nice turn of events, and appropriate for Paris. De bons souvenirs...


  1. Lovely memories!
    I don't like twist roads much either...
    Pauline and I holiday['d] frequently in Mallorca...
    staying near Soller and renting a car...
    you fight for space on the twisty narrow roads with peletons of determined German cyclists and vast coaches full of mainly German tourists...
    in a hire car that is wider than half the road!!
    I hated it...
    but the place is wonderful!

  2. Tim, in those days I was a long-distance commuter, driving 150 km a day in traffic to work and back in that California life. So driving around for hours on end to see the Lot and the Dordogne etc. didn't make for a relaxing vacation. Twisty roads and long distances just didn't do it for me. I needed to be in Paris and on foot.

  3. I, too, have learned the hard way: after many rural stays I now have a cardinal rule: if an overnight or rental does not have a restaurant and cafe within walking distance -- it's too remote. Driving becomes less and less appealing especially when you come to understand that France has so many places that require very few hours in a car. For example -- off today for a ten day trip and a rail pass and a hunk of days in Paris! No car for the duration.

  4. Ahhhh, I love your souvenirs :) Which hotel was that, the one you were referring to off the rue de Fleurus? Man oh man, I remember that route that we all walked everyday that first month from the Pension on rue du Four to the Alliance... I remember a little quincaillerie on rue de Fleurus, for some reason.

  5. Judy: I think Ken is talking about l'hôtel de l'Avenir, rue Madame. Ken, Walt and I met at this nice little hotel in early January 1992. Some airline had a $400 round trip bargain from Washington, D.C. I couldn't not resist.

  6. We stayed in a hotel on our first visit to Paris, but soon learned it is much less expensive and much nicer to rent an apartment.

  7. Judy, yes, it was on rue Madame. I had known CHM for nearly 10 years but Walt and I had moved to California. We met up at the Hôtel de l'Avenir, at the corner of rue de Fleurus and rue Madame, while we were all on a vacation trip to Paris.

    Nina, I agree. Enjoy your trip.

    Starman, the first apartment/gîte Walt and I rented was in 1993 in Provence. After that, we almost always rented apartments when we were in Paris and houses out in the countryside. It's the way to go.

  8. I feel like I want to walk straight into that café right now. Or at least wait patiently outside to be served. Miss Paris so much.


  9. What a wonderful memory. It's fun to see where life will lead you when you're flexible and open to change.

  10. Hello Ken,
    We've been following your blog for the last eight months and we just want to say how much we are enjoying your posts and pictures. As we are planning a holiday in France next year we have found the recent Paris posts particularly interesting. Many thanks. Venetia. (Australia).

  11. Hi Ginny, we landed on our feet. Hope you are enjoying life. Love, Ken

    Hello Venetia, happy planning and bon voyage.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?