Black Cat and I decided to celebrate Mother’s Day a bit early this year because on the real day – 3rd June – she’ll be in Delft and I’ll be in Blois. Last year, Leonardo was with us as well but he’s in Sydney now of course and we had a lovely brunch in the courtyard of the restaurant inside the Arts & Métiers museum. This year, there were just the two of us so Black Cat took me to A Priori Thé in Galérie Vivienne for lunch. Paris has many arcades and passageways but this is my favourite and the closest to home.
Built on an L-shape, it was inaugurated in 1826. I love the beautiful mosaic floors and curved glass roof, not to mention all the lovely shops. The Bistrot Vivienne at the Rue des Petits Champs entrance changed hands a couple of years ago and went upmarket. It’s a little expensive for a bistrot but the staff are friendly and dining in the spacious arcade away from the noise of the street is very pleasant. I have to admit that the French fries, served in a little bucket, are excellent!
Legrand Fils et Filles, one of Paris’ best-known wine merchants, also has regular tastings. Don’t hestitate to walk through the bar area and into the old-fashioned épicerie on the other side which sells sweets, coffee, tea and other gourmandises in a very olde worlde atmosphere.
A Priori Thé, halfway down the arcade, is one of my favourite lunch spots but you often need to reserve in advance if you want to sit outside. They have a different special every day and the ideas are always original. You can buy wine by the glass that comes from Legrand. Relationnel and I sometimes go just for coffee after having lunch at home and it’s a great place for afternoon tea particularly with young friends who have strollers. I like the fact that they have “half servings” of cakes and desserts. They also have an excellent “café goumand” which is coffee or tea served with mini-cakes.
There’s a bookshop just after A Priori Thé with old and new books, including a few paperbacks in English where I used to go before I discovered Book Off and a picture framer where you can get very wide and very tall photos of Paris. We have one with the Pont des Arts in the middle and the Pont Neuf on the left that is impossible to take yourself unless you have a special camera which I don’t.
There is even a designer clothing shop called La Marelle with no indication whatsoever on the outside that the clothes are secondhand. I wandered in one day by accident and overheard some interesting conversations among the clients, some of whom were bringing their clothes in for sale. A very discreet address! There are some firsthand designer shops as well, including Nathalie Garçon, Catherine André, Rodika Zanian, Yuki Torii and Gautier.
The other boutiques in the arcade include a watchmaker who sells both new and old watches, an optomotrist, a toy shop, a hairdresser where the lady seems to spend a lot of time in a chair in front of her shop, a shoe shop, a hat shop, a florist, a boutique that sells old letters and engravings and a couple of art galleries (one with a very colourful cow in front) but none of them are exactly in my price range.
If you visit Galerie Vivienne, you might also like to visit Galerie Colbert (1836) a little further down and Passage Choiseul (1829) a few blocks away, both on Rue des Petits Champs in the direction of Avenue de l’Opéra. Galerie Colbert has a beautiful glass dome while Choiseul is a little rundown but has real shops and little places to eat and not a tourist in sight!Bistrot Vivienne, 4 rue des Petits Champs, Paris 75001, 01 49 27 00 50, http://www.bistrotvivienne.com/ A Priori Thé, 35-37 Galerie Vivienne, 75002 Paris, M° Bourse or Palais Royale, 01 42 97 48 75, http://apriorithe.com. Open for breakfast-lunch-tea: Monday -Friday from 9am to 6 pm /Saturday from 9am to 6:30 pm, Sunday Brunch from 12am to 4pm Sunday tea from 4pm-6:30pm