There is a special kind of magic in a Paris winter. The days are shorter than in New York, and the city moves a bit more slowly than usual. This makes it perfect for late afternoon lingering with a carafe of red wine at a sidewalk café under a heated awning after a few hours of museum hopping or shopping.
We’d expected the city to be a police state following the November terrorist attacks, so we were delighted to find Parisians going about their daily business and celebrating the winter season. The hot restaurants were still fully booked, and my ongoing quest for a table at Septime remained unrequited. I will consider it a happy coincidence, though, that we discovered its sans reservations sister restaurant, Clamato, a seafood tapas bar, just next door. http://www.thepariskitchen.com/review/clamato-seafood-bar-paris-bertrand-grebaut/. On the manager’s recommendation, we sat at the bar. (Many of the first course dishes are prepared at the bar, and most of the other couples there appeared to be local regulars.)
We rented an apartment in the heart of the 7th arrondissement through a company called Paris Perfect (highly recommend) http://www.parisperfect.com. It was just a few blocks from the Rue Cler market in one direction and the Eiffel Tower in the other. Our favorite dining experience in the neighborhood was a Basque restaurant called Pottoka http://pottoka.fr. The octopus carpaccio was especially delicious.
I also discovered La Cuisine Paris http://lacuisineparis.com where French instructors teach in English. I took a 3-hour “Intensive Technical Macaron Class,” which was a lot more fun than the description sounds. And, after lunch in the 1st, we spent the afternoon tooling around the best French kitchen stores in that neighborhood, including the famous E. Dehillerin.