“Paris is a museum,” said the Paris-based filmmaker I’d been chatting with over beers.

Look beyond the monuments, museums, tourist traps, and other obvious must-sees and there’s vibrant everyday life. It may be a museum, but the people behind the scenes are fascinating to watch. It’s all about choosing your perspective.

Food Matters: Paris 2018

Following a recent trip to Paris, I have some new-to-us recommendations to add to my previous list:

  • Inexpensive and great seems like an oxymoron when it comes to Paris, but Raviolis Nord Est is on point. This hole in the wall near Les Halles offers salads and Chinese dumplings. Beth and I ate a filling, satisfying lunch for about 20 Euros. I recommend the octopus salad and pork and shrimp dumplings, fried. (1st arrondissement)
  • There’s a lot of buzz around Pink Mamma in Pigalle. They don’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait. After two hours cooling our heels with wonderful cocktails in their speakeasy (go down the stairs, then through the meat locker and a door marked “no entry”), we were led past an American woman throwing a tantrum (“I simply must eat here before leaving Paris!”) to our date with some burrata and a kilogram tomahawk ribeye. The food: excellent. The service: Warm and casual. The vibe: Way more hip than us. It made for a fun night. I’d go back. (9th arrondissement)
  • Get in line at Breihz Café. Be patient. Then enjoy savory and sweet Breton crepes. Have a mug of cider from a long list of good options. You won’t be disappointed. (3rd arrondissement, though there are also outposts in Odeon, Japan and Brittany)
  • We have it on good authority that Le Village is one of the last of the true Montmartre bars. I can’t tell you about the food, though the menu looked enticing. Instead, we had a beer (me, a Chouffe) and a cocktail (Beth, a mojito, which is in fashion) and spent a couple hours talking with a French filmmaker we met there. It’s an unpretentious place filled with locals. (18th arrondissment)
  • We liked Pizza Caratello so much we went twice. Don’t be fooled by the name–they offer much more than pizza. The first visit we started with a large serving of Burrata, then I had ravioli with figs and foie gras. The second visit I went for pizza (and more burrata to start); a Napolitana with fat anchovies and capers. Reservations aren’t necessary, though you might have a brief wait. Be patient, the food and hospitality are worth it. (18th arrondissement)
  • Huiteries Regis has been on my list for years, and I finally was able to have lunch there. Unless you love oysters, skip ahead. There’s not much else on offer. I had the menu #2: Six each of two varieties of plump oysters that taste like the sea, a glass of Sancerre and a coffee. If you do love oysters, it’s completely worth trekking to Saint Germain and waiting outside for one of the few tables. (6th arrondissement)
  • Hardware Société gives Hollybelly a run for my favorite brunch spot in Paris. It’s the Parisian outpost of a popular Melbourne restaurant. Long lines are the norm, though we lucked into getting a table right away. The coffee is sublime, and the mushrooms and poached eggs are perfect brunch fare. (18th arrondissement)
  • Overlook the sketchy neighborhood around Gare du Nord, and make a reservation at Chez Michel. It offers old school French cuisine and a deep wine list. I had fish soup with chorizo, croutons and parmesian; duck with mushrooms; and Paris Brest for desert. It’s my new standard for traditional French bistros. (10th arrondissment)

Reservations are still the norm, but English speaking diners will be glad to know many restaurants now offer online reservations. 

Tips: Better travel photos

No names, but I once sat through a slideshow of someone’s travels that included 300 images. About 50 in, I realized they had dumped their memory card and included every, single shot including those that were out of focus or blurred. It made for a long evening. 

When we remember our travels, we focus more on that experience than how we represent it to others. So we can gloss over too many pictures that show little or have technical problems. What’s in our minds overrides what’s on a screen.

A gilet jaune protestor at Place de Republique, during the winter 2018 protests in Paris.

So how do you level up your travel photography game? Here’s how:

  1. Start with the audience’s point of view. Remember, they may not have been there. Your photos are telling a story about the place and your experience. Let that guide you when you’re shooting and selecting photos.
  2. When shooting, find an interesting point of view. This usually means getting closer to your subject than you think you should. If you’re shooting with a camera with zoom lens, don’t use the reach of your telephoto as a crutch. Get close, then get even closer. Shoot the entire scene that’s in front of you to provide context, then focus on details that help tell a richer story.
  3. Edit. Ruthlessly. For me, this is a multistep process. First, I weed out shots with technical problems. Second, I quickly pick the frames that are worth considering. Third, I take a harder look at the first frames I’ve selected, and weed those down into a smaller set. Finally, I do some minor editing (color correction, cropping, etc.) and then take a last look at the set. Anything that doesn’t seem necessary goes into the reject pile. By the time I’m finished, fewer than 5% of the shots I took remain to be shown or published online. Often, the number is far smaller.
  4. Organize your shots. I like to present photos by theme, so they make sense to people who see them. 

What about gear? I’ll touch on that later, but for now think about process. How you work matters more than the tools you use. 

Food Matters: Paris

One of the pleasures of travel is finding good, local food. And one of my favorite cities for eating is Paris, thanks to an exploding culture of creative cooking that offers more than the sauce-heavy dishes that have long characterized French cuisine. You can spend a fortune dining there, but you don’t have to mortgage your home to enjoy a good meal. The places I love range from inexpensive to slightly-more-than-I’d-probably-spend-at-home, but every one is a good value.
  • La Table d’Aki is where Beth and I had one of our most memorable meals. Every dish–and they only serve seafood–is extraordinarily creative, and the wine list is simple and excellent. Two people, Chef Akihiro and an assistant, do everything from prep to cooking to wiping down the tables. Seating is very limited and reservations are essential. (7th arrondissement)
  • La Mascotte is a Montmartre fixture. Housed in a former hotel where Edith Piaf once lived, they serve a dizzying array of seafood. Here’s my advice: Start with a very good glass of champagne then go straight to les huitres (oysters), which are available from multiple regions and are presented by source and size. Reservations are strongly recommended. (18th)
  • Holybelly has the perfect breakfast, the Savoury Stack: Pancakes and bacon, topped with eggs over easy, served with home made Bourbon syrup. Oh, and their coffee…. (10th)
  • Le Severo is a serious steakhouse owned by a former butcher who has a keen eye for quality beef. We don’t spend a lot of time in the 14th arrondissement, but the trip to this small monument to steak is worth the trip. Trust the owner’s wine recommendations–they have an excellent list at reasonable prices. (14th)
  • Seb’on has an incredible reputation, and it’s only a matter of time before a Michelin star is bestowed on it. The creative menu changes nightly. The food is stellar and a good value to boot. Reserve a table well in advance. (18th)
  • Who travels to Paris to eat fried chicken? Me, that’s who. Ellsworth serves a typical Parisian lunch (entrée, plat, dessert–pick two or three) or you can dine on small plates in the evening. Their out-of-this-world fried chicken is available at either meal. If you skip the chicken (and you shouldn’t), there are plenty of other creative dishes on offer. (1st)
  • You’d never expect to find Babalou tucked away near one of Paris’s biggest tourist attractions, yet there it is around the corner from Sacre Coeur. They serve pasta, but the main draw is pizza with perfectly charred crust. Yes, it’s a pizza joint, but make reservations if you don’t want to be turned away at dinner. (18th)
  • Cave La Bourgogne offers French comfort food in a friendly setting. If you’re up for steak tartare, escargots, sardines in butter or a cassoulet, you can’t go wrong here. Bonus: It’s located on the wonderful Rue Mouffetard, which is perfect for people-watching. (5th)
  • Soul Kitchen is our first choice for a simple breakfast, though the vegetarian lunch menu always looks good. It’s a crowded spot that always seems to be full of moms who have just dropped their kids at school. I always get the same thing: A croissant with jam, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, and a latté. I never tire of this combination. (18th)
  • On a warm, sunny day find your way to Paname Brewing Company, on the Quai de la Loire, order a beer and some street food, and find a table on the deck overlooking the water. “Fine Parisian beers” used to be an oxymoron, but no more. This is a fun, friendly spot that serves excellent beer and food. (19th)

Pro tip for Paris dining: Reservations are the rule, and it’s good manners to make them and show up exactly on time. That said, many restaurants will do their best to create space for you if you show up and politely request a table. Starting with “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” will go a long way toward breaking the ice.