If the promise of a beautiful island in the middle of Paris and a haven off the beaten track does not move you to make a trip to the Île Saint Louis, maybe the best ice cream the city has to offer will sway you. One of two islands in the heart of the Seine – the other is Île de la Cité – the Île Saint Louis is rarely mentioned in guidebooks, and you will find scarcely any tourists wandering its charming streets. After stopping at Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité, simply walk across the bridge to Saint Louis. Along the way, you’ll pass by magicians and musicians performing over the Seine, and the suddenly, you are in a completely different world.
Restaurants and a myriad of shops abound here – not much different from the rest of Paris – but the thing that distinguishes the Île Saint Louis is its air of calm. You won’t be jostled by tourists from all directions, and you won’t be caught up in the rush of mainland Paris.
For vegetarians, dining in France can be quite a challenge. In the land of nearly-raw steak (one French visitor to the United States described it as “almost ‘moo’”) and duck confit, vegetables are often the side show. However, at Le Grenier de Notre Dame
, vegetarians can find a wide variety of creatively prepared dishes that never skimp on taste. My leek quiche with mixed salad was absolutely sublime! Another fantastic option is La Fourmi Ailée
, if you don’t mind crossing back to the mainland.
Boasting vegetarian as well as seafood plates, the restaurant has a cozy atmosphere. Its walls are lined with books and bric-à-brac to create a home-like atmosphere; in fact, it is one of the few where I’ve observed more diners eating indoors than out. I had a fantastic gravlax with dill, juniper berries, and peppercorn. The catch of the day is also sure to be spectacular, especially when paired with the restaurant’s mouthwatering saffron rice.
But the real reason I love the Île Saint Louis is simple: Berthillon ice cream.
I have eaten quite a lot of frozen treats in my lifetime, and I even take pride in my own Nutella gelato, but nothing compares to Berthillon. At the first lick, you know there is no artificial anything in your coneful of heaven. From a delightfully tart mirabelle plum to creamy coconut, each flavor is pure and irresistible. Still, you can’t pass up the classic chocolat amer or dark chocolate. I wonder if it is almost sacrilege to attempt to render my chocolate Berthillon experience into words – it is that good. It is pure chocolate and pure decadence. While many restaurants and cafés in Paris carry Berthillon ice cream, there is nothing like coming to the original, as you stroll along the beautiful and relaxed Rue de Saint-Louis en l’Île, cone in your hand and delight on your taste buds.
This is the last of the Paris series – in the next post, we are heading south to Provence!
17, Rue des Deux Ponts (5th)
Métro: Cité or Pont Marie
Métro: Cluny-La Sorbonne or Maubert-Mutualité
Lunch: Around 15€ for main course
Dinner: Around 20€ for main course
31, Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île
Métro: Cité or Pont Marie