An ideal day in Batignolles begins with the simplest of pleasures--a perfect pastry and strong coffee enjoyed at the marble and iron bistro table on our private balcony. Even more so than most Parisians, we Batignollais are spoiled when it comes to bread and pastry. The two bakeries closest to the apartment are consecutive winners of the highly-competitive "Best Baguette in Paris" award, each enjoying the exclusive right for a year to furnish baked goods to the President at the Elysée Palace. Choosing between the almond-pistachio-chocolate croissants baked by Pierre or Laurent's raisin-and-custard pinwheels is a daily burden.
Batignolles is compact and ideally explored on foot. The main streets of the neighborhood, rue des Batignolles, rue des Moines, rue de Lévis, and rue des Dames, among others are lined with small storefronts occupied by bakers, antiques dealers, florists, perfumers, cobblers and nearly every other specialized occupation you can imagine. The people of Batignolles are warm and friendly. Within a day or two, you'll be greeted by familiar smiles accompanied by the characteristic singsong " Bonjour!""
The Square des Batignolles is perfect for a mid-morning rest. The neighborhood's grand park was part of Napoléon III's plan to beautify Paris. More than 150 years later, it's still the largest green space in the arrondissement and is one of the most impressive parks in all of Paris. Designed in the English naturalistic style, the Square des Batignolles features a fish pond fed by a rushing stream that emanates from a craggy rock outcropping. Flocks of wild birds, including some rare species, make their homes alongside the pond. The plantings are elegantly understated and include an important variety of majestic old trees including a giant California redwood. Children especially enjoy the playgrounds, antique carousel and ice cream vendors, while adults busy themselves with seriously cut-throat games of pétanque. You can join in, if you dare.
Visit some of the craftsmen's shops and artists' studios in the neighborhood or stop at specialist merchants to purchase wild honey, rare goat's cheese from the high reaches of the French Alps, or handcrafted chocolates filled with basil ganache. Once you've worked up an appetite, there's a choice of cafés and bistros in the neighborhood that ranges from corner take-out stands to fine Michelin-starred restaurants.
A sunny afternoon is perfectly suited to adventures further afield. Montmartre lies just to the east. This tallest hill in Paris, best known as the site of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, is one of the city's quirkiest neighborhoods. Time seems frozen in the era of Toulouse-Lautrec in the back streets, while the main thoroughfares are filled with tacky souvenir shops and crowded with tourists. The neighborhood has countless wonderful cafés and restaurants, artists' studios, bookstores, museums, historic cemeteries, windmills, and Paris' only remaining working vineyard.
The experience of shopping can't be duplicated anywhere else in the world. Using Batignolles as a base, most of the world's greatest department stores, jewelers and couture houses are a short Métro ride or even a walk away. The grand old department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, anchor the area just north of the Opéra, while the store windows just to the south display a king's ransom in jewels by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron and others. Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré ad rue Montaigne house Dior, Gucci, Balenciaga, Hermès, Chanel and the like. The warren of streets around rue Drouot and rue de la Grange Batelière are filled with innumerable antiques shops clustered near the famed Drouot auction rooms.
Paris is home to more than a few famous museums, but many or her treasures are collected in exquisite lesser-known museums arranged around the periphery of Batignolles. Le Musée de la Vie Romantique, le Musée Cernuschi, le Musée Jacquemart-André and le Musée National Jean-Jacques Henner are all worth a visit, while the extraordinary collections and tragic story behind le Musée Nissim de Camondo should place it on every visitor's "must see" list. For lovers of quirkier collections, le Musée de la Vie Romantique, le Musée de la Parfumerie Fragonard, le Musée d'Eroticisme or l'Espace Salvador Dali might just fit the bill.
Surprisingly, Batignolles is just a few blocks from the all-night adult fun area stretching from place de Clichy to place Pigalle. Here you'll find the brightly-lit spinning windmill of the Moulin Rouge. More tacky and innocent than threatening, Paris' historic adult playground hosts innumerable restaurants, bars, nightclubs and cafés always ready to cater to the equally innumerable hordes of tourists bent on staying out until dawn.
As you walk back to the apartment and watch the neighborhood grow ever more quiet and intimate, you'll be more amazed than ever before that such as hidden jewel as Batignolles can still exist in the heart of legendary Paris!