If you’re bound for Paris and want to get the real flavor of how locals live, look no further than Ile Saint Louis, an 8-square-block island in the Seine, east of Notre Dame. Here, you can find virtually all you need for a day of exploring, from La Cremerie with choice cheeses, to Creperies and grocers, to great restaurants — including La Taverne du Sergeant Recruteur, a croissant’s throw up the street, to the city’s best ice cream: Glaces Berthillon.
There are two terrific hotels here, too, owned by the same company. Hotel de Lutece is where we stayed last December and it was quaint to the French degree. The building was once a 17th century mansion with wood beams, stone exterior and fireplaced lobby, but now also boasts Wi-Fi Internet access! The rooms are roomy and functional. The breakfast is quite good. The elevator is quite funky — big enough for 3 but too small for luggage. The concierges are wonderful. Five floors, 23 rooms, very affordable, too. Single chamber from 130 €; double or twin 164 €; triple is 186 €, breakfast 11 €. Address: 65 rue Saint Louis-en-l’île, 75004 PARIS, Tel : 33(0)1 43 26 23 52, or e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org. Near the Metro and a few blocks from Notre Dame.
The neighboring inn is the Hotel des Deux-Iles is a bit more upscale and a big larger, but still very charming and personable. 17 rooms and similar amenities. Single room: 145 €, Double room: 164 €, Breakfast: 11 €. Address: 59 rue Saint Louis en l’Ile, 75004 PARIS, Tel : 33(0)1 43 26 13 35.
Next door is one of the most fabulous chocolate shops I’ve ever seen — including Switzerland: Cacao et Chocolat has incredible gifts, books, cookbooks and more. I can still taste the rich, bold flavors there.
OH, BY THE WAY: All in all, anytime is a wonderful time for visiting Paris. But July 14, Bastille Day, may be the best time of all.