the lovely, leafy 12th arrondissement

If I were to start my life over again in Paris, I’d live in the 12th. I really like it. My friend just bought an apartment there, so I went over yesterday evening for a visit. Afterwards, we went to my favorite bistro for dinner.

It was pleasant strolling the boulevards at 6:30 pm on a warm midsummer July evening. Quiet, because most Parisians are away on summer vacation. Paris in the summer, especially August when it’s really quiet, is nice. I also like discovering new neighborhoods. I stumbled across this gleaming white campus of Sorbonne Nouvelle University, opened in 2020 and an adjunct to the historic Sorbonne in the 5th arrondissement. Like other distinguished learning centers in France, the Sorbonne is an affordable public university. (Higher education for all!)

My friend’s new apartment has an attractive ceramic fireplace in the ‘salon’ (living room). I’m guessing it’s over a hundred years old if it’s part of the original building. Haussmannian apartment buildings were constructed from the mid to end 19th century.

Many Parisian kitchens, remodelled, are small. Love that green tile.

We chatted, drank water because it’s warm out, and I gave him a copy of my new book whose colors matched, sort of, his coffee table.

Then we walked the streets to the neighboring 11th arrondissement to my favorite bistro, Paul Bert. The prices have risen since the last time I was there.

A light Loire to accompany our simple meal of parmentier, green salad and a shared dish of fries. Nothing exciting, just simple French fare. A parmentier (hachis Parmentier) would be called Shepherd’s pie or cottage pie in Britain, a savory dish of cooked minced meat (beef or lamb) topped with mashed potato and baked.

To start, I had a cold green bean salad with tiny croutons and my friend a medley of sliced vegetables.

And the best for last … dessert! Paul Bert bistro makes the best crème caramels … huge, firm and not too sweet. The mother of crème caramels, I said to my friend. In Spain, that would be called a flan, he replied.

Look at this beauty in all its silky, syrupy splendor. My friend had an île flottante (floating island) which consists of meringue floating in a pool of custard. I’ve never cared for that dessert.

As readers to this blog know, I’ve had many satisfying meals at Paul Bert. Here’s a blog post written about a fun evening spent there with two women friends – Beth from Toronto and Rosemary from London – way back in 2014 when I first discovered their crème caramel –

dinner at Paul Bert bistro

7 thoughts on “the lovely, leafy 12th arrondissement

  1. I could also imagine living in the 12th arrondissement. My younger son once did a placement there, at the Immigration Museum in the Palais de la Porte Dorée.

    • Don! What a truly interesting blog you have. I’ve just read your “About me” post. I passed your blog link onto an American friend who lives in Illinois, north of Chicago.
      Yes, I absolutely agree with what you wrote about the Palais de la Porte Dorée museum and its (shameful) façade. I remember visiting that place many years ago. Today, it’s more known for its tropical aquarium! As for the Immigration Museum, it’s currently closed for renovations and will re-open next year.

  2. I’ll bear the 12th arrondissement in mind, it looks lovely. I’m planning a long weekend in Paris with my boyfriend in November. So if you have any location / accommodation recommendations (either hotel or apartment), it would be great to hear.

    • Oh, wow. I have many recommendations that I can happily give you, but I’d need to know what part of the city you’d like to be in. To be honest, the 12th is more residential and quiet (and not in the center.) I’m assuming you’d like to be more central. The Marais? Left Bank? Right Bank? Latin Quarter? The fashionable 6th arrondissement?
      Have you been to Paris before? If so, what part of town did you stay in?

      • Thank you, that’s very kind! I’ll have to do some research about the areas, I haven’t been to Paris before. I think I’d prefer somewhere in the Right Bank as it seems to be where many of the museums and cultural highlights are (but I could be mistaken, I’ve only just started researching the trip). The only area I’ve heard much about is Montmartre as I hear it’s picturesque, arty and romantic. We’d like to be central but ideally somewhere that’s a little tucked away perhaps – neither of us are into nightlife/clubbing.

      • By the way, if it’s easier to email any recommendations I’m at culturallifeblog (@) 🙂

      • Because the center of Paris is quite small – and very walkable or, conversely, with a good bus and tube network – anywhere in the center would be close to museums and stuff. I’d recommend the 5th or 6th arrondissements for you and your boyfriend, it’s really in the heart of the city and very picturesque. I’ll contact you through your email address …

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