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Belle Epoque Restaurants in Paris, France


Belle Èpoque or "beautiful era" existed in France from the late 19th century to the beginning of World War I (also known as "fin de siecle"). New inventions made social life easier ushering in a period of imaginative, carefree living. Cinema, Impressionism, cabarets and "cancan" became popular during this time period.

No visit to Paris is complete without viewing examples of Belle Èpoque architecture - a dazzling fusion of glass, cast iron and ceramics. Using this technique, architects opened up rooms to the sky with beautiful stained glass columns supported by wisps of cast iron. Walking around Paris, you'll see examples of Belle Èpoque in the older green iron metro signs, the ceiling at the Galleries Lafayette (see pictures on the left), and the design of the Musee d'Orsay museum.

Have a meal at one of the restaurants listed below, drink champagne, gaze at the stunning, colorful surroundings, and imagine you're in Paris at the turn of the century when life for many was VERY good.

1. Le Train Bleu

Step into the Gare de Lyon train station to dine at one of the most sumptuous restaurants in Paris, Le Train Bleu. Built as a restaurant for travelers between stops, Le Train Bleu is a masterwork of gilt, luxurious velvet, dark woods and crystal chandeliers - a dining room is fit for royalty. However the main attractions are the 41 frescoes that adorn the walls and ceiling. Each "giant postcard" depicts a city that travelers pass through on their way south to Lyon and the Mediterranean. Frankly, it is hard to concentrate on your food in such a breathtakingly beautiful setting. Try the fixed price menu for 45 euros. Gare de Lyon, Place Louis Armand, 12e.

2. Bofingers

A Parisian landmark since 1864, Bofinger's is famous for its beautiful stained glass dome ceiling, elegant mahogany spiral staircases, and copper tulip-shaped light fixtures. Try the fresh, raw seafood plate (plateau de mer) served on an elevated platter and the homemade foie gras. The Bofingers website is worth a look - includes a behind the scenes video with the chef, online reservations, and online discounts. 5-7, rue de la Bastille, 4e.

3. Le Cafe de la Paix

One of the most famous cafes in Paris, this is a place to "see and be seen". Rumor has it that if you sit on the terrace long enough, you'll recognize someone famous. Across from the Opera Garnier, the Café - designed in 1862 by the same architect that created the gorgeous Opera house - was used by Napoleon and Josephine to host elaborate dinners when it opened.

In 2001, the Cafe de la Paix bested 31,000 other Parisian restaurants to win the "Gastronomy Paris-History and Patrimony Award" - an honor awarded about once every 100 years. The food is pricey, but excellent. For a more economical treat, stop by in the afternoon and try a sampler of their various Mille Feuille (Napoleon) desserts, a specialty of the house. In the Le Grand Hotel Intercontinental, Place de l'Opéra, 9e

Author: Cheryl Montgomery

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