The Eiffel Tower.
Or Why you came to Paris.
Act I: Cafe L’Éclair on Rue Cler
You stretch before a run so tonight at this café you’ll stretch your mind and your heart and your soul and anything else that needs tending to because all of it is going to exercise tonight.
I love to eat here at L’Éclair and watch Paris go by and have a ginger beer or a rosé and some cheese fritters or a burger because they’re delicious here but also because the rest of the evening will be a lot of things but rushed isn’t one of them, and if I want to stay on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower until 1 am it’s nice to have eaten a real lunch or dinner from a place that serves real lunch and real dinner with real waiters and real drinks.
Act II: Rue Cler Market Street
From L’Éclair head south along Rue Cler to pick up supplies for a picnic in front of the Tower Eiffel. The markets are warm and will fill your bounty with supply as endless as will this evening last in your fondest memories.
Wherever Rue Cler asks you to stop, just stop. Peruse. Browse. Smell. Buy. You’ll know when it’s time for which. Just be listening. I’ve not yet found a bad place on this rue to stop but I’ve settled into a bit of routine, and if you’d like to share in my Rue Cler routine then do this.
Stop first at Les Quatre Saisons Cler next door to L’Éclair where I just ask what fruit is freshest and after she looks at me like it’s all fresh I then take what she hands me and let it happen to me blindly.
Then I cross the street for Nicolas wine store. Declare that you would like to be French for the evening and want recommendations. I usually get one bottle of wine to share and who are you kidding get rosé and then a bottle of Champaign to pop when the Eiffel Tower begins to sparkle at dusk. Who are we kidding get rosé Champaign, too. It’s Paris.
Then I stay on that side of the street and head down a few steps to Artisan Boulanger Pâtissier, where I get a quiche and a few desserts to go with the fruit and wine and Champaign. You can’t go wrong. Also, the quiches here are worth the trip to Rue Cler by themselves and my go to cheap lunch in Paris pretty much every day I’m in Paris, if you’re asking.
If you need supplies like a blanket and cups and such there are a few grocery stores on Rue Cler. I’ve not yet found a store that offers everything a picnic needs regularly enough for me to make an official recommendation but just pop in up and down Rue Cler stores for a bonjour and to see what they have. You never know whom you’ll meet. When I’m in Paris I have in my photography bag a thin little blanket and a few plastic cups because you never really know when, in France, you’re going to stumble upon a place for such things.
Act III: The Lawns in Front of the Eiffel Tower
Keep heading south on Rue Cler and then take a right to head west on Avenue de la Motte-Picquet. A few minutes later this street turns into Place Joffre and then a minute later the Eiffel Tower enters stage left behind a curtain of the evening by which all evenings from now on will be judged. The Eiffel Tower is about ten minutes give or take from Rue Cler. There are other ways to get to the lawns, known to some as Champ de Mars, but I’ve witnessed too many gasps from people seeing the Eiffel Tower from this angle to recommend a single one.
Hemingway once said that all bad writers are in love with the epic, but I can’t find a way to write about this except to say that if you find a more magical evening in all the world let me know, because I haven’t. Suck it, Hem.
If it’s summer find a place on the lawn and then stay there until you’re done with the raspberries and the strawberries and the quiche and the éclairs and the rosé wine. If it’s not summer and the lawns are closed, then a bench will do just fine.
The lights on the Eiffel Tower begin to sparkle on the hour every hour for five minutes starting at sunset, which is usually about 10 pm I’ve found, and after the general awes and silences that fall over the lawns, pop the champagne as if of course you’re popping champagne in front of the sparkling Eiffel tower. No big deal.
The Eiffel Tower sparkles until one in the morning most nights but until two in the summer months. I’ve found that most people stay for the first three sparkles, which means the people and their blankets begin to thin after midnight, but I stay for one more at least. I just can’t ever bring myself to leave before that. What’s the point? And anyway, after an evening like this one, you never really Paris.