Of all the things to do in Paris, taking a stroll on the Ile St. Louis on a sunny day and grabbing a cone of Bertillion ice cream is on just about everyone’s favorites list, whether they be a tourist, expat or long time Parisian. Personally, I’m a devout fan of their chocolate noir.
The Ile St. Louis, smack dab in the center of Paris, is full of old Parisian families, award-winning butchers, and beautiful limestone buildings from the 1630s. It’s clean, peaceful, and just a bit removed from the whirr of Paris proper.
I like it even more than ever before because I somewhat miraculously found a flat here to rent last summer. Now that we are fully ensconced on the Ile as official residents, I’ve fallen in love with my little island in the way that almost everyone does with their own little corner of Paris.
House of Small Wonder in Williamsburg (Doni)
Contrast that to the life I lead back in NYC, in hipster-rich Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Williamsburg is filled with young families, artists, gallery-owners, musicians, and kids just out of college. We are decidedly on the older end of the spectrum, but after years of living upstate in the countryside, we are thrilled by the plethora of affordable, trendy, local, vegan-friendly restaurants that don’t need to be booked in advance.
Top image: Williamsburg (Igal Malis) & Bottom image: Île Saint Louis (Sylvain Bourdos)
Nothing is old here, except for the few brick factory buildings that haven’t been torn down yet. There’s trash and graffiti everywhere, and an art house cinema that serves a mean mojito. Every guy sports a fierce-looking beard, there’s a juice-bar on every corner, and, of course, a Whole Foods is soon to open nearby. And since folks like us have arrived, the true hipsters are picking up and moving to Bushwick.
Top image: Île Saint Louis & Allswell in Williamsburg (Alex & Donny Tsang) & Bottom image: Williamsburg (Jo Morcom)
So what of this bizarre juxtaposition, Erica Berman asked me recently. Hipster heaven vs. classic old-world Paris — do I really like both or am I just a little schizophrenic? Add our Bordeaux country house into the mix, and you might start feeling a little confused about me.
But moving between these three very different worlds is what I prefer. I hate being pigeonholed. I like cheese whiz and foie gras. I wear mom jeans for comfort and skinny ones for a night out. I love to garden, but I also love to stay up until 3am dancing at the hot new club where my son is DJ’ing. I listen to Billy Holiday and Daft Punk. I love trying the next-best-thing while relishing the old in both Paris and New York.
Allswell in Williamsburg (Donny Tsang)
My top three picks for each locale? On the Ile St. Louis, in addition to a cone of Berthillon ice cream from the original Berthillon café of course, I like a funny looking place called Les Fou de L’Ile – a neighborhood bistro that serves an honest Blanquette de Veau. For a really big night out, I’d splurge at Sergent Recruteur for Chef Antonin Bonnet’s surprise prix-fixe 7-course menu.
Les Fous de l’Ile on Île Saint Louis
In Williamsburg, we adore Allswelll pub for brunch or a pint; Samurai Mama for gyoza and ramen; Pies and Thighs for fried chicken; Zenkichi for an omakase meal; and House of Small Wonder for a perfect, light lunch. Nighthawk cinema is a movie goer’s dream, with a full bar, waiter service, really comfy chairs, and movies from around the world.
Vive la Différence!
Written by Doni for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.