Paris, Loire, and Entre deux mers

Planning a road trip from my country The Netherlands to France. Usually I’d book flights and then a car rental, but renting a car these days in Europe is crazy expensive. So driving my own car! That means that the area around Entre deux mers is the furthest I will go for this week long trip.

I have two nights. I’ve already made reservations for Virtus, but have a few questions. How long until the confirmation email drops? I could only book a menu, the Escapade Gourmande. Is this normal? No a la carte? Menu does look good!

For my second night I was thinking something similar to some of the places I frequent there like Cafe Varenne, La Rotonde, Le Recamier. Not sure yet if we’ll be staying in the 6th again (prices these days!), and alternatively it would be around the area of Bastille. Any suggestions? Also, any news yet of the reopening of Le Perchoir Marais? And is the new Skybar Paris any good? Just for drinks.

Loire valley
Thinking of having a stop over around Chaumont sur Loire, inbetween Blois and Tours. Any worthwile destination bistrots around this area? No fancy stuff, just proper French food (anything with fries :slight_smile: ).

Entre deux mers
The area between the rivers Dordogne and the Garonne. Was here a few years ago for a week, and really enjoyed it. Already have a few faves (Le Caffe Cuisine for example), but just curious if anyone has other good tips? Will also be going to Bordeaux for a day trip, but won’t be making reservations beforehand I think. Too much choice there!

Thanks for any help!

Menu Virtus.

Disclaimers: 1)Its been 3 years since we’ve been to Paris (but we’re going again in Sept so I’ve been actively participating in Paris discussions), 2)I keep telling folks to go to Amarante & Bofinger if they’re around the Bastille (& everyone is tired of hearing about it & many disagree), & 3)I realize you only have 2 nights this time (but you know the city).
However, since your recent trip to Florence included Trat. La Casalinga & you were around CH, etc long enough to be able to filter my recommendations, you might want to look at Au Passage, in the 11th, not far from the Bastille. I don’t know if its kept up over the past 3 years, but we thought it was really good, although very informal and somewhat trendy. Or, Clown Bar, for that matter.

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One idea for your Loire stop is this country chambre d’hote in Cussay, La Ferme Blanche. It has been 5 years since our stay, but the property and reviews seem what we remember. We booked the Four a Pain, independent from the main house, a charming hide away.

A chambre d’hote is like a bed and breakfast. Some, like this one. offer an evening meal among guests and occasionally hosts. We have found them an always interesting way to meet residents and savvy guests from all over the world.

Dinners are interesting interpretations of local specialties. The people who operate these businesses like people and like sharing their local story. And those who offer the evening meal are passionate about cooking and entertaining. Our favorite way to enjoyand get to know a variety of the countryside.


Thanks for the suggestions! Haven’t been to any of them yet, but will check them out.

At Bofinger I’d probably go for seafood and then the choucroute… But then I also have a soft spot for brasserie Lipp, especially since their instagram pics are quite appealing. Haven’t been there in ages - though I still remember the time they told off tourists for ordering coca cola!. But not sure if I would want choucroute end of April.

What did you choose to eat at Bofinger?

Thanks again and I’ll check out the others!

Ah thanks, and yes we were also thinking about a chambre d’hote. Really like those French dishes at those places, did something similar in Mauriac last time (entre deux mers). This one looks nice! Though it seems already fully booked for our planned day(s) unfortunately. But browsing French hotels on booking I can’t help but notice how many small, beautiful and local places there are scattered all over the countryside!

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I have been very successful Googling “table d’hote charme” to find places that celebrate an evening meal.

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Quick update as my trip has now been finalised.

First stop in Tours (Loire). My first thought is picking something simple and lively, after a long car journey. Cafe du Vieux Murier seems to fit the bill. Any more info or alternatives?

Second stop: entre deux mers. Will rely on the tips of the chambre d’hote (Le clos des abeilles) and also have dinner with them a few times. I’d be open to a suggestion to have lunch at the seaside, e.g. near Arcachon. For example mussels? Any tips?

Next stop: Perigord Noir, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. First time in the area. Chambre d’hote looks good (La tour de Cause) so will eat there at least once, but any other suggestions? What should I eat in this area, e.g. foie gras?

Finally, Paris. Decided to pick a hotel in the 6th (again) mostly because it’s the easiest for me in terms of parking. I never really hear people here talk about the dime a dozen cafes, like Le Raspail at the corner of Rue du Cherche-Midi and Bd Raspail. Which is near our hotel. It’s always busy there with locals, good spot for a quick lunch or breakfast?

First, how nice to see you on this site. I remember reading of your good plans for a trip to Bordeaux on CH. Your countryside trip sounds great, and we look forward to hearing how it goes.

Re: “Le Raspail at the corner of Rue du Cherche-Midi” — we’ve been once, and it was fine. We might well return, especially on a market day. But a few blocks further down rue du Cherche-Midi, for lunch we really enjoy, and have returned a few times to, Garçon! (Formerly called Café Trama, and it has generally the same lively neighborhood feel and carte.)

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In my experience Virtus is very generous in letting you order what you want, despite having booked a certain menu.

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Thanks and great seeing you here as well! Yes, we will definitely be visiting Bordeaux again, one of my favourite cities in France. Probably just for lunch, perhaps at the large square behind Le Petit Commerce, and then just renting a bike for a few hours cycling around. We will be there this coming weekend and the weather forecast is very good.

Thanks for the neighbourhood cafe tip in the 6th - I believe we were there last summer having a few aperitivi on their terrace sitting in the sun. But might be worth checking out for breakfast perhaps. Otherwise we can always go to Cafe Varenne.

You mean in being able to order a la carte? Or make adjustments to the fixed menu? We have changed our 7 course into a 5 course menu (Menu Echappée Belle), mostly because we will probably be full after eating out for a week by then. It’s our last night. My partner doesn’t eat meat, which they have said they will accomodate for.

A few more Paris questions. The best ris de veau in the 6th, 7th or 2nd? And any opinions on Aux Lyonnais?

We ate there with friends in January. I reserved on the internet, and I had to reserve a fixed menu. But when we got there, we were allowed to order a la carte. They were very accommodating.

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Sounds good. So, did you enjoy it? Any tips for what to order? Where do they excel in. e.g. meat versus fish?

We also ate there once before, in 2019. I don’t remember what we ate, but we had both fish and meat courses. The couple who ate there with us in 2019 loved it and would like to go back. The other couple who ate with us in January also loved it. Sorry I can’t be more specific.

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Trip report!

Tours: did not have a noteworthy meal here. We were in the car from 10AM to 6.30PM, feasting on sandwiches, snickers, and previous day leftovers, so when we arrived we were not that hungry. Plus we wanted to take things easy on our first day, knowing that we would be eating a lot over the next week. Maybe a shame, because I liked Maison Colbert and in hindsight the attractive prices, Michelin recognition, and friendly vibe should have offered us a good experience.

Bordeaux/Aquitaine: lunch in Bordeaux. Like previous times here, just picked a random restaurant that was busy, full with locals, and had a nice menu. Ended up at Le Parlement des Graves. Great for a lunch: just good, straightforward food. 3 course menu for 20 euro something.

Branne: Le Caffe Cuisine. It’s really a great place: in the heart of the wine area, country side, but feels like a hip restaurant in some mid-size city. Good people watching, nice atmosphere. The standout dishes were the entrees (first courses), e.g. the foie gras. As an appetiser we got in-season petit pois.

We also had a very good meal at our chambre d’hote, where we had dinner with two other couples (from Portugal). Confit de canard with roast potatoes was excellent.

Perigord: proper duck country! We had two good meals in Domme. Three course local menu at Cabanoix et Chataigne. Really nice food, standout dishes were their desserts. That apple crumble was to die for! Another great place we found in Domme was Pizzeria des Templiers - the pizza was actually good. Better than in most places I’ve had pizza outside of Italy. Also had lunch in Sarlat, at Auberge Le Mirandol. Had a coq au vin with the livers. Nice place, though Sarlat was very crowded with tourists, even on a rainy Wednesday.

Paris: first dinner (after a disastrous car trip taking 8 hours) at La Rotonde. We came in with a reservation at 9.30PM, the place was packed, and they offered us a table upstairs. I refused, and then they gave us a table outside. The weather was good, so alltogether pleasant, but I missed being around the ‘action’ inside. Third time here, and it’s one of those places where it really matters what table they give you, in terms of how enjoyable your evening will be. The food was outstanding: had my best dish of the trip here, the foie gras starter. My plat was also excellent, the tartare de boeuf. My partner had fish soup and a salad of haricot verts. Not being inside, we were not that keen to order a lot. Not even sure if they had their usual 3 course menu, as they did not mention it.

Lunch at the Luxembourg garden. Sitting in the sun, with the locals, surrounded by what is probably one of the nicest parks in Europe. Get a pastrami sandwich and Paris-Brest at Bread and Roses next door at Rue Madame and you’ll have a great lunch. Not eating a lot during lunch also offers the opportunity to go terrace hopping afterwards, drinking spritzes or ginto’s and snacking on bar bites. We used the velib quite a lot which came in handy doing this.

Dinner at 1 star Virtus. My first Michelin in Paris, confirming my preconceived ideas. The place is very nice, design is great, atmosphere quiet but still has a soul. Waitress was excellent, young and enthusiastic. Her wine choice was good. We chose the 5 course menu. Again a starter of petit pois. The cooking is technically excellent, and you can see the influences from Japan (sushi style French starter of raw fish) as well as classic French cooking (hollandaise sauce). I had spring lamb which was wonderfully cooked (sous vide), and my partner had an excellent fish dish with clams. Two desserts. Any critique? I find a lot of Michelin cooking ‘safe’ - here there were no outliers taste wise. Confined to the boundaries and aiming to please as many people as possible, e.g. everything has a hint of sweetness. Nobody will fault the cooking, but it did not set my pulses racing either. The muzak in the background (Katie Melua and Chicago covers) exacerbated my impression of the cooking. Conclusion: I’ll stick to my usual routine in Paris and visit a Michelin place maybe once in five restaurants. I’d really urge people to explore Paris outside of the Michelin realm.

Final lunch at Cafe Varenne. Probably some of the best people watching in the 6th. Such an enjoyable terrace! I have an above average interest in men’s wear and this is a great place to check out older gentlemen and their sartorial choices. The restaurant is run very professionally and smoothly, highly recommended. We had asparagus and a faux filet (sirloin).

Paris overall: still enjoyed being in the 6th again. But perhaps next time we will branche out to perhaps the 15th - we drove by and it seemed quite a lovely area.

Final notes: thanks everyone for your wonderful tips, wouldn’t want to change a single pick! I did however notice a common phenomenon post-covid, it’s getting increasingly hard to make reservations these days. Even in the Perigord. Next time I’ll try more Michelin places while being in the country side, eg I really liked the look of L’Huitrier Pie in Saint Emilion. Will probably visit Paris again later this year, and if I go on a longer holiday in France again, I’ll visit the Provence most likely.


Some random pics. Menu and foie gras at Le Caffe Cuisine.

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Duck at Le Parlement des Graves, Bordeaux.

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Cabanoix in Domme. Terrine de campagne au foie gras, and then the two excellent desserts. Apple crumble and the other strawberries with cream.

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Very nice farmers’ market near Brive la Gaillarde, just north of Sarlat.

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