Summer in Paris is at its best in those heavenly moments when you're sipping a pastis on a café terrace. But finding one that's not noisy and overcrowded and where you don't soak in more car exhaust than ambiance is no easy task.
Fortunately we now have Paris Terrasses, a new bilingual guide highlighting 50 of the best outdoor dining spots in the city. Authors Simon Roger and Sylvain Ageorges use three implacable criteria: "quiet, nearly invisible, and yet in the middle of Paris." Thus, writes Roger, it's "too bad for the famous sidewalk cafés of the Boulevard Saint-Germain" this guide has something finer in mind.
Its recommendations lead to some unlikely places. Where you'd never expect to find an ounce of peace or greenery, the authors have found both: just off the congested roundabout of Place de Clichy is the Bistro des Dames (18 Rue des Dames), with its 30-table patio-oasis surrounded by ivy, bamboo and chirping sparrows. And the Latin American cultural center, La Maison de l'Amérique Latine (217 Boulevard Saint-Germain), holds a hidden jewel of alfresco dining in its elegant café, whose patio extends into the sprawling, manicured gardens of two Baroque-period mansions.
Other top terraces are right where you think they'd be. In the hilltop neighborhood of Montmartre, breathtaking vistas of the Paris cityscape are a dime a dozen. But the panorama from the rooftop terrace of Le Diapason restaurant at Hotel Terrass (12 Rue Joseph-de-Maistre) is even more glorious than most. Then there's the tearoom at the Musée de la Vie Romantique (16 Rue Chaptal), with its enchanting patio sweetened by the smell of wisteria, lilacs and hollyhocks.
And if you're feeling landlocked in the City of Light, get a table at Le Grand Bleu (11 Boulevard de la Bastille), where you can enjoy fresh seafood overlooking the Port de l'Arsenal marina. Or head to Le Bar Ourcq (68 Quai de la Loire), along the Bassin de la Villette, which provides sun worshippers with free lounge chairs and bocce-balls. Now here's hoping the weather holds out.