Tourism booms on the rive gauche. It’s the side of the river perennially thronged with crowds, students and the sound of PA systems booming from les Bateaux Mouche.
Fans of the lost generation will gravitate towards Saint-Michel, the cafés of Montparnasse and Shakespeare and Co bookstore, retracing Hemingway, Stein and more recently, Woody Allen.
Many will scale the Tour Eiffel, shop at Le Bon Marché, take in the Musée d’Orsay or Cartier Contemporain. The Catacombs, Luxembourg Gardens, Tour Montparnasse and the Musée Rodin all require a passport stamp to the left bank.
When I first moved here, it was (naïvely) where I insisted upon living, la vie en rose and all that. Perhaps this is why I feel qualified to advise you to focus your affection on the upper-east side of Paris (la vie en vin Rosé). The south side of the river is undoubtedly beautiful, picturesque like a Parisian postcard, but living there gets a bit beige.
In my time on the left I did discover some bon addresses, places I still tend to visit when I find myself wandering aimlessly on Rue de Seine, or recalling summer evenings spent lounging on Esplanade des Invalides. Though it isn’t necessarily a happening part of Paris, it has preserved its clichéd charms.
Coffee at Coutume Café
Potentially the only hipster venue on the left bank, Coutume is a port in the storm for those that love their coffee. They roast on site, supplying a host of speciality coffee servers in Paris (Café Madam, Tuck Shop amongst others), also retailing beans down the back. Breakfast and lunch is light but generous, as a nominally ex-pat crowd nestle into communal tables amongst the science-lab decor.
Coutume Cafe, 47 Rue de Babylone 75007
Wines at l’Avant Comptoir
Even forward planning isn’t enough to guarantee a seat at Yves Cambode’s Relais Comptoir. At the height of winter there are obnoxious lines for the no-reservations second sitting. But next door you can get a mix of Basque inspired share plates, charcuterie or even a crepe to go, in the tiny natural wine bar l’Avant Comptoir. It’s standing room only for about 10 people, so try and get there in the afternoon and have the place to yourself.
l’Avant Comptoir, 3 Carrefour de l’Odéon 75006
Dinner at Le Petit Cler
A stones throw from the Eiffel Tower, this small bistro manages great quality French food, in a danger zone of microwave croque-monsieurs and overpriced entrecôte. The decor is faux-classic, but the renovation means it is clean and inviting. The menus are available in French and English and the prices are suprisingly ça va. Sunday the plat du jour is a perfectly roasted leg of chicken with heavenly mashed potatoes.
Le Petit Cler, 29 Rue Cler 75007
Cocktails at Prescription Cocktail Club
Prescription is the bigger left-bank sister to The Experimental Cocktail Club – the cocktail bar that revolutionised the scene in Paris, bringing back integrity to a city awash with Mojitos and poorly executed Sex on the Beach. It’s decked out like a plush Parisian apartment, and fills up with equally plush people on the weekend. Another port in the storm for lovers of real cocktails.
Prescription Cocktail Club, 23 Rue Mazarine 75006
Impress fellow hipsters… wandering from Metro Odéon to Prescription, you are likely to cross rue Saint-André des Arts, seemingly lined with kebab shops and sports bars. There is a little bar called Le Mazet, which has suffered the sports bar fate, but was the last place Jim Morrison was seen alive.