August in Paris: trying something different when no one’s looking

Written by admin on August 22, 2008 – 3:06 pm -

Just when they think the Parisians aren’t looking, the merchants have at it. First, they raise prices just a few cents, as if the natives won’t notice when they come back from vacation in September. (If you think Americans are the only ones complaining about prices, you’re wrong. The French are also feeling the economic pinch.)

But walking the streets of Paris will reveal other changes, and some are definitely for the better.

There’s a lot of construction taking place as boutiques are either undergoing renovation or have lost their leases and new ones are moving in and upgrading the space. Unlike American stores getting a makeover, few signs are visible about what will occupy the redone premises.

That is why there are some new-to-the-scene places that have had soft openings and have yet to make a splash. They’ve opted for a shakedown period to make certain the staff is ready for the (hopeful) onslaught.

One is Baboto, a new restaurant. Montpellier native Daniel Alauze wanted to introduce a très Mediterranean, very hip-feeling-and-then-some restaurant in the Forum des Halles/Châtelet area. He spent two years gutting the interior of this building that’s classified as a monument historique. Now it’s anything but traditional and serves very good food from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., but never on a Sunday.

You can eat standing up at the Lucite bar or sitting at one of the higher or lower tables and, during good weather, on the terrace. And there’s free WiFi in the event you’re bored or want to hang out and work (or surf) during the day.

At night, the restaurant takes on a new persona. The bartender shakes up some mean drinks made of faux absinthe since the real thing was banned years ago for being highly addictive, unlike whiskey or cigarettes, evidently. He has an entire repertoire that will leave people who sample them feeling no pain. For non-drinkers, there is an extensive menu of non-alcoholic cocktails.

Shake it up, baby, on Friday and Saturday nights when there’s a DJ between 8 p.m. and 2 in the morning. Don’t wear your go-to-church clothes if you go at night. Opt for something a wee bit sexier.

Another soft opening, but this is the right time of year when people are the most receptive. After a three-month renovation period, Raimo opened its salon de thé in a very charming boutique that’s located at 59/61, boulevard de Reuilly in the 12th Arrondissement. Created in 1947, Raimo is undoubtedly the oldest continuing ice-cream maker in Paris. Now his son is assuming the reins. Some people swear the ice cream is better than Bertillon’s, founded in 1954. Besides Raimo is open in August, and Bertillon is closed.

Another newcomer is Pierre Herme, maker extraordinaire of macaroons—you gain five pounds just walking in the store, ten if you actually eat a couple in his new boutique on the Right Bank at 4, rue Cambon, 75001. The store is so new that it’s not even listed on the Web site. But if you happen to be shopping on the Right Bank and have a craving for undoubtedly the best macaroons in Paris, voilà.

Don’t turn your back long in the City of Light — and love. There are always changes.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

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