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Living And Dining At Les Gobelins

I can’t explain how I found myself at the corner of avenue des Gobelins, boulevard Saint Marcel, boulevard de Port Royal and boulevard Arago three times in the last week, except to say that it was mostly about EATING. This is a spot in Paris I had only crossed once or twice before, maybe even thrice, but never in so short a span of time.

This is where the 5th meets the 13th, where the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins has resided since the 17th-century, where rue Mouffetard starts and where, as I discovered, lies many old-fashioned French bistrots untouched by the advent of a trendier Paris. Lisa Rothstein, illustrator of our most recent publication, “Paris Confidential,” has a lovely one-bedroom apartment there with a view on an old cobbled street just behind the factory.

The founder of the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins, Jehan Gobelin, came from a family of dyers and clothmakers. He discovered a scarlet dye that made him famous and by 1601, Henry IV had imported 200 weavers from Flanders to make tapestries full-time. A single Gobelin tapestry can take up to four years to complete, employing as many as three to five full-time weavers. After the Revolution, the industry was reactivated by Napoleon. Les Gobelins is still going strong, and some of the antique high-warp looms are still in use. You can even today visit the “ateliers” (studios) of the weavers, who sit behind huge screens of thread, patiently inserting stitch after stitch.

There are four restaurants of note in this immediate corner of Paris worth a special visit (I’m certain there are many more, but these are the four I delighted in this week), in order by price:

Au Bon Coin: at 21, rue de la Collegiale (…one of those great good-value finds in a warm, cozy corner, overrun with memorabilia, checkered table cloths and Parisians from all over Paris. While not the finest of haute cuisine, at 13 Euros for three courses, it’s hard to go wrong. Average per person 20 Euros.

Le Languedoc: at 64, boulevard du Port-Royal (…Mom and Pop Dubois along with who seems like a son and daughter-in-law (or daughter and son-in-law) cook up a very traditionally southwest Languedocian menu in their simple red-checkered-curtained bistrot for the neighborhood regulars who frequent it, particularly for Sunday lunch (packed to the gills). Three courses with a half-bottle of wine is a ridiculous 19 Euros. Be prepared to eat heavy…escargots, cassoulet confit d’oie, cuisses de grenouilles and of course, foie gras. Average per person 25 Euros.

Le Terroir: at 11, boulevard Arago (…family run with a highly professional wait-staff, Le Terroir provides an old-fashioned approach to service that has mostly been forgotten. Hesitate over the menu and your waiter will suggest something to help you make your decision. The menu is widely varied, but don’t be afraid to ask for something special. Average per person 35 – 40 Euros.

Le Pet
it Marguery: at 9, boulevard de Port-Royal, (01

., …an old-fashioned grand restaurant on par with Le Grand Colbert or Julien, but better and more refined. “At Au Petit Marguery one dines well… very well. Portions are generous. You feel well satisfied, not stuffed. Here flavors offer counterpoints to each other; each ingredient savory, the tastes are clear and fresh, they embrace in your mouth. Nothing is drowned in sauce. All is perfectly prepared and cooked. Service is professional, considerate — the appear-from-nowhere-at-the-right-time, unobtrusive service one hopes for but rarely receives,” wrote Eva Lee. Average per person 50 Euros.

Prices on property in the 13th are considerably lower than in the 5th arrondissement, so one smart property purchase move is to take advantage of the close proximity of all that the 5th has to offer by being on the edge and buying in the 13th.

A la prochaine,


Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins
Open Tuesday through Thursday 2 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.
Métro: Gobelins
Phone 01-44-54-19-33

P.P.S. The Insider Paris Guide for Good Value Restaurants just got updated this morning! These and 200 other great good-value finds in Paris await restaurant-goers who want an insider experience — the restaurants the tourists don’t know about, at prices that fit any small budget. Visit to order your copy now.


A charming 2-room apartment in the neighborhood of “La Butte aux Cailles” ideal for a Paris pied a terre. 23m2 with living room, corner kitchen, shower room and bedroom. In excellent condition on the 2nd floor of a traditional building in very good condition.

Asking Price: 118,000 Euros + 2% Finder’s Fee
Serious inquiries email: 19-2-04_Butte_aux_Cailles


46m2 apartment on the 6th floor of a modern building with a lift. Good views from the balcony, light and quiet. Close to parks and the Métro. Bedroom, living room, bathroom.

Asking Price: 212,000 Euros + 2% Finder’s Fee


2-room apartment of 38m2 near Gobelins Métro station. Very quiet in a light ‘passage.’ On the second floor of a traditional building with one bedroom and living room. Concierge, cellar, parking space.

Asking Price 294,000 Euros + 2% Finder’s Fee


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