Still enough summer left for a picnic or two!
A quintessential summer joy, picnicking can be enjoyed by almost anyone, within any budget. Parisians love picnics; and Paris is very “picnicable.” Whether simple and impromptu with bohemian flair, or extravagant and well-organized with white linen, le picnic is très chic and tourists can join right in!
While parks and gardens are natural picnic spots, I zero-in today on one place where picnicking is especially popular among young and young-at-heart adults–the riverside quays around the western tip of the Ile Saint-Louis–and point you to a few shops nearby that can outfit you deliciously for a perfect Paris picnic. (Families with young children, however, may want to pick safer, grassier locales away from the river banks.)
Instead of carrying all of your picnic provisions on the metro, try making the “treasure hunt” for your perfect picnic repast part of the day’s adventure and fun by buying what you need in the little shops on the island itself. (The closest metro stop is Pont Marie on Line 7.)
What will you find for your picnic basket? Baguettes; all types of charcuterie including dried sausages (saucisson sec), pâtés, terrines, and rillettes (“potted” meats); hard and soft cheeses; butter, jams (les confitures), tapenades and other spreads; yogurts, fresh veggies and fruit; antipasti, cornichons (tiny gherkin pickles) and olives; water, wine and beer; and desserts. If you forget a knife or a cork screw, there’s a shop for those as well!
There are several places to get bread and baguettes on the island. Try Auvray Delices at 35 rue des Deux Ponts, which also has sandwiches, boxed salads, wonderful pastries and some soft drinks. For fresh veggies, fruit and squeezed-while-you-wait orange juice bottled on site, go to green-grocer Les Vergers de L’île St-Louis at 23-25 rue des Deux Ponts. There are several fromageries for cheeses, but the one still open in August is La Ferme Saint Aubin at 76 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’ile. Some sandwiches and little savory quiches or tarts are on offer here, too.
If you are a true gourmet, however, take your picnic up a notch gastronomically and head to 38 Saint Louis at 38 rue Saint-Louis-en-L’île. Specializing in small-producer delicacies and excellent wines, 38 Saint Louis is serious about good food, produced with care and pride. The stock at this épicerie fine shop has been carefully and personally selected by the proprietors, one of whom, Thibault, told me that “food is our first medicine; we should put only good food into our bodies.” This is the place to pick up chilled rosé wine (and good chilled beer), fresh antipasti, top-shelf charcuterie, farm-made fresh yogurts, and special cheeses. The brebis from Corsican sheep I brought home was tasty, complex, sweet, and firm, but melt-in-your-mouth creamy and smooth on the tongue—excellent!
If you need some basics, there is a pair of convenience stores on the island; one of which is Le Marché des Iles at 19 rue des Deux Ponts. And, if you forgot either a knife or corkscrew, stop in and treat yourself to a true Made-in-France, quality souvenir at Coutellerie Laguiole Paris, 35 rue des Deux Ponts. They have a huge selection of pocket-knives and corkscrews made with rare artisan craftsmanship! They are among my favorite French keepsakes, and practical to boot.
And last, but not least—dessert! Although you could take a dessert along in your picnic basket, you might want to pack up, stretch your legs and take a leisurely walk around the island in search of … ice cream. Almost no visit to the Ile Saint-Louis is complete without sampling Berthillon’s famous ice creams and sorbets (about 40 flavors each, with seasonal variations), at 29-31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’ile.
Using only fresh milk, cream, sugar, eggs and natural flavors (vanilla bean, chocolate, fruits, spices, nuts, etc.), these are some of the finest frozen treats in Paris. Taking their annual vacation in mid-summer, however, this ice cream parlor and tea salon is closed this year from July 27 to September 3. Don’t despair! At least half a dozen other outlets on the island sell Berthillon products, most right through windows in their storefronts. (Note: Raymond “Papi” Berthillon (1923-2014), the enterprise’s founder, passed away on August 9, at age 91. I wish peace and sweet memories for his family. I don’t think he’d mind the little pun.)
To sum up this perfect Paris picnic experience, I offer these 17 syllables: