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REVIEW of Studio Mazarine for
bonjour paris
from Gabrielle Luthy
Gabrielle Luthy is Bonjour Paris's Executive Editor, and a recent St-Germain

Gabrielle Luthy
Executive Editor
AOL keyword: BONJOUR
Paris City Guide - USA

Imagine having your own little secret spot in St-Germain-des-Prés, a place
equidistant from the Seine and Boulevard St-Germain; a recently refurbished
studio tucked back from traffic, with its own terrace, cable-modem-equipped PC,
and a sinfully comfortable bed to fall into every night.

This is what you’ll have when you rent the Studio Mazarine from Paris Best 
Lodge, a reliable rental agency with over a dozen apartments scattered
throughout the heart of Paris. Located in an eighteenth-century building on Rue
Guénégaud, the studio is designed to be a love nest, a place for couples to
truly capture the romantic spirit of Paris. And in the spirit of friendliness,
you’ll be welcomed with a basket containing everything you’ll need to get you
through your first 24 hours: a loaf of bread, a jar of delicious jam – even a
bottle of Evian, so appreciated after a long flight.

Although only 24m2, the apartment has all the essentials and then some. The
kitchen might be tucked into a corner of the room, but it has everything except
a full oven (the microwave turns into a convection oven), while the bathroom is
amazing for its size. Paris Best Lodge owner Mr Thierry, also an interior
designer, has made the most of the space, fitting in a shower with massage
jets, and one of those fantastic washer-dryer units. (Call me easily impressed,
but that barrel thing fascinated me. I wanted to lug it home with me.) Of
course, all towels and linens are included in the rental price, but if you’re
too busy swanning about Paris to toss in a load of washing, maid service is
provided every two weeks if you’re renting for a month, or you can come to an
alternative arrangement. (Honestly, though? The place is very easy to keep
clean; I stayed there a month and chose to do everything myself.) More
freebies: local calls, cell phone (you buy the card, readily available from
many outlets in Paris) and cable Internet access.

Mr Thierry, an artist, has an eye for color, taking much of his inspiration
from the Miro print you’ll find on the wall leading to the terrace. The color
scheme manages to be rich and relaxing at the same time; burnt orange
complemented with cream, and rich woods give the apartment a colonial touch.
The wooden angel above the kitchen table was purchased by Mr Thierry at the
famous Hôtel Druout auction house; its original home was a châteaux in Beaune,
an area in Burgundy known for its (what else?) wines. It’s flanked by lights
commissioned from Tiffany, specifically designed to match the color scheme.
Relax with a book in the Balinese-style chair, or loll about on the queen-sized
bed as you channel surf. The room comes with cable – 60 channels, including
several English-speaking. You’ll also find the shelves above the TV stacked
with DVDs (English-language releases) and books. The entertainment center is
rounded out with a CD/cassette/radio player.

More than likely, if the weather’s amenable, you’ll find yourself out on the
terrace. It’s tiny but delightful, with two easy chairs and a tiny table. Lean
your head back and take in the Paris sky. As with any apartment in any big
city, you’ll have to put up with some noise from your neighbors, but I found
people here to be considerate. The beauty of this apartment is that it’s not
overlooking the street. So okay, you don’t have that romantic view, but you
also don’t have to put up with traffic – a very good thing, considering Rue
Guénégaud is the only street between Boulevard St-Michel and Rue Solferino that
leads into St-Germain. I live on a quiet street in suburban Melbourne and had
no problem at all, not even from the young musician across the hall, who, every
time we crossed paths, told me to bang on his door if he played too loudly. Did
I hear him? Not once. Did he ever me? Thankfully, yes: One night I forgot the
digicode to the first door and was busy cursing myself when he popped his head
out the window and asked if I needed help. Merci!

(Security-conscious people take note: there’s a double entrance, each door with
its own digicode, and the apartment door is reinforced. Comfort-conscious
people take note: the building has an elevator, but the apartment is on the
first floor, so it’s faster to run up the stairs. For those who simply must
stay in contact with the "real" world, the new PC with its flat screen and
cable modem tucked into an alcove will supply your fix. And for the greenies in
the audience, you’ll find the recycling bins in the room on the ground floor.
Mr Thierry will give you a sheet with all this information and more.)

For times when the weather isn’t so friendly, the apartment has a radiator
heater. Currently it’s not air-conditioned, but I was there during the heatwave
that killed an estimated 10,000 people and survived with the column fan. It
didn’t really feel hot in there until Day 6 of 40+ heat - partly because the
room doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight and any it does get can easily be
blocked out with the shutters, and also because those old stone buildings, they
take a lot of abuse. I should point out that that was freak weather;
ordinarily, I doubt even the fan would be needed.

As I noted before, the apartment was designed for couples and I’m sure you
could quite easily stay there without interruption for days. But when you do
surface, what an amazing neighborhood you’ll find yourself in. I have to admit,
I was a bit, "Hmm, St-Germain," at first. Pretty to look at, but did it really
have the substance of my favorite parts of Paris, the Marais and Montmartre, or
was it just a playground for those who didn’t have the nerve to venture outside
the safe boundaries of how Paris was "meant" to be? Luckily for me, I was
wrong. This is a gorgeous part of Paris, made all the richer for the village
feel of its main market street, Rue de Buci. The area oozes history and
culture, with the Musée de la Monnaie across the street, the church of St-
Germain nearby, and the hotel where Oscar Wilde lived and died beyond his means
just around the corner.

Wander down to perhaps Paris’s most romantic spot, the Place de Furstemberg,
particularly beautiful at night. That bell you hear lightly tolling? It’s
courtesy of the small belltower in the Institut de France, on the site of the
infamous Tour de Nesle, from which ex-lovers were tossed into the Seine, and
inside which an adulteress princess was apparently smothered between two
mattresses on the order of her had-enough-of-you husband. (That’s only a
smidgen of what went on around here. For an in-depth look, read Thirza
Vallois’ "Around and About Paris, Volume I.")

Turn right when you leave the apartment and within a two minutes you're at the
Seine, Pont Neuf and Notre Dame à droite, the magical Pont Des Arts à gauche.
(Come down here on Friday nights in summer, when people sit knee to knee on
this wooden footbridge, enjoying a picnic as they watch the Eiffel Tower
sparkle into life.) If you're in need of succor before heading across to the
Right Bank, stop at L'Assignat at 7, Rue Guénégaud. Despite the slick drawing
by urban artist Mystique on the wall outside (protected with Plexiglass--one
person's graffiti is another's art), this neighborhood café feels like a piece
of the French countryside has been plopped down in the middle of Paris. The
food is hearty, the place is frequented by local tradesmen, who joke raucously
with the owner, and I have it on good authority that an oompa band has been
known to show up there on Sundays. Beware if you don't like dogs: The last time
I was there, a biiiiig dog of indiscriminate pedigree was lazing around on one
of the red banquettes that line one wall. Another little sweetie with matted
hair--he'd been dumped there over the summer and L'Assignat's owners were going
to adopt him, as soon as they could wash him--bounced around. This puppy knew a
good home when he saw one, and so will you.

But turn left when you leave the apartment and you'll hit another place
entirely. More branché, more artsy. Galleries line the street because you are,
after all, in the absolute heart of St-Germain’s art district. In the pie-
shaped wedge between Rue de Seine and Rue Dauphine, I’d guesstimate at least 50
galleries, antique stores and specialist book scratores. If you want to do a
little celebrity-spotting, keep an eye out for a French actor and his songbird
girlfriend. (I did spot him once but, being Australian, I was more interested
in "our Kylie".)

Who knows who else you might run into, because you’re in the heart of Paris’s
café society. La Pallette is two minutes away, at the corner of Rue Jacques
Callot and Rue de Seine, while a five-minute walk away on Boulevard St-Germain
are the world-famous Deux Magots and Café de Flore. (Read Sandy Howell’s recent
article on these 2 landmarks.) Just around the corner on Rue Mazarine is über-
trendy restaurant/bar/club/got its own compilation CD or 2, Alcazar. My
favorite, though, turned out to be Café Au Chai de l’Abbaye on Rue de Buci. At
first, the waiters showed their usual sang froid to a non-local, but as the
weather warmed up, so did they. By the time I left, we were on hand-shaking
terms. The chocolate walnut that came with my coffee had nothing to do with my
affection for the place. It was their little side terrace, a great spot for
people watching on the sly, and with a wide awning that saved my sanity in
those dog days of August. Honest.

There’s fine dining to be had around here, but there’s also good, reasonably
priced meals on offer. This also being student territory, you can find a wide
array of cuisines. Try Sushi House on Rue Dauphine for cheap Japanese; Au Chai
for simple but delicious bistro fare, and Cosi on Rue de Seine for great
sandwiches (buy some of their bread to go, too). Rue Gregoire de Tours is jam-
packed with cheap restaurants.

Just across from Cosi is Fish. This boissonerie, co-owned by American Juan
Sanchez and Kiwi Drew Harre (who started Cosi), specializes in fish but serves
other fare as well. Drew and Juan foster a friendly atmosphere where ex-pats
obviously feel at home; that might have something to do with the occasional
glass of red wine taster Drew plonks in front of you and urges, "Try this, tell
me what you think." Eat at a table or, if you’re dining solo, try the bar. I
recommend doing that, simply because you don’t know who your neighbor will be.
Mine was a very interesting, charming man who turned out to be the Executive
Editor of the International Herald Tribune. (I had no idea until I read Suzy
Gershman’s "C’est La Vie" that Walter Wells is also the husband of food guru
Patricia Wells, but you know if he eats at Fish then the food has to be good!
Author of "Paris Sweets", Dorie Greenspan, is also a regular.)

If you’ve still got room for a special little something, you can’t go past
Amorino on Rue de Buci. Berthillon’s got some serious competition on its hands
courtesy of this Italian-style ice-creamerie. I’ve never gone past it without
seeing a line snaking out the door, even in cooler weather. And for the tea and
macaron lovers, go three blocks one way and you’ll find Ladurée’s first Left
Bank outlet; go three blocks the other way and there’s Mariage Frères first
Left Bank outlet, also. (For more information, read my tea salon article.)

Studio Mazarine has a well-appointed kitchen, making eating in easy. Take
advantage of shopping at the famous Marché de Buci, where you'll find fresh
produce the likes of which you’ve probably never seen. Make a stop at the
Champion supermarket right next to the market for staples and maybe also at the
flower market just down the street, to help make the apartment feel even more
like home. Surrounding the market are some delicious specialty stores. Try
Gerard Mulot and Marquise de Sévigné for chocolate, La Fromagerie for (yes)
cheese, and Oliviers and Co for everything you could possibly want made out of
olives. There’s a Paul (decent bakery chain) on Rue de Buci, as well as a
Nicolas wine merchant. But if it’s wine you’re after, try La Dernière Goutte,
just up from Au Chai. At this little store, owned by Juan from Fish, they
really know their stuff and take pity on those who don’t.

For the times when you just REALLY need to hear English spoken, you’re within 5
minutes of 2 movie theaters on Boulevard St-Germain that regularly show V.O.
(version originale) films. Check out for
session times here and throughout Paris. And when you need a copy of the
International Herald Tribune or other non-French papers, Buci News, on the
corner of Rue de Buci and Rue de Gregoire de Tours, offers an enormous range of
options for such a small space. Don’t forget to get Pariscope and Zurban each
Wednesday, so you’ll know what’s happening in Paris that week. This is also the
perfect spot for picking up postcards and those last minute oh-so-French gifts.
Or go around the corner to Pixie et Cie on Rue de l’Echaude, where you’ll find
many whimsical gifts, including a range of Le Petit Prince items.

So there you have it – a wonderful apartment right in the center of a wonderful
part of Paris, with a landlord who’ll do anything he can to make your stay
enjoyable. You’d be crazy not to rent it at the first chance you got. That is,
if I haven’t moved in for good!

Closest ATM: Société Générale, 63 Rue Dauphine (cnr Rue Mazarine)
Post Office: 118 Blvd St-Germain
Supermarket: Champion – 79 Rue de Seine (with an entrance on Rue de Buci)
Surprise, surprise! – open on Sunday.
Drycleaners: Pressing de la Rue de Seine, 67 Rue de Seine

Monnaie de Paris (French Mint)
11 Quai de Conti (cnr Rue Guénegaud)
Métro: St-Michel or Odéon

Museum hours
Tuesday to Friday, 11 am - 5.30 pm.
Saturday & Sunday, Noon - 5.30 pm.
Closed on Monday.

Boutique hours
Monday to Friday , 10 am - 6.15 pm.
Closed on Sunday

Institut de France
23, Quai de Conti

Amorino, 4 Rue de Buci
Aquarelle (flower stand), 7 Rue de Buci
Au Chai de l’Abbaye, 26 Rue de Buci
Buci News, 4 Rue Gregoire de Tours (cnr Rue de Buci)
Cosi, 54 Rue de Seine
Da Rosa Epicerie, 64 Rue de Seine
La Dernière Goutte, 6 Rue de Bourbon Le Château
Fish, 69 Rue de Seine (closed Mondays)
Gerard Mulot (bakery and chocolaterie), 76 Rue de Seine
Ladurée, 21 Rue Bonaparte (cnr Rue Jacob)
La Fromagerie, 64 Rue de Seine
Mariage Frères, 13 Rue des Grands-Augustins
Marquise de Sévigné, 62 Rue de Seine
Nicolas (wine), 13 Rue de Buci
Pixie et Cie, 6 Rue de l'Echaude
Paul (bakery), 77 Rue de Seine (cnr Rue de Buci)
Sushi House, 50 Rue Dauphine

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