Lounging at Trocadéro

Ambiance, Good View and Plenty of Seats

Paris:- Wednesday, 19. June 1996:- This is a guess, but I think it may be possible that people remember being on the place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre - to give it its full name - with more fondness than the sudden, overwhelming first sight the Tour Eiffel across the way.

While the Tour Eiffel is certainly stunning, the place du Trocadéro - to use its shorter name - is sort of like the place you go after the bullfight; a place to relax and contemplate the spectacle in comfort and with a certain detachment. In summer, this is especially so, as the Chestnut and Plane trees act as sort of a filter between the seats and the sights.

The place is almost a circle, a circle with one flat side. The sights are on the flat side, the east side, and the seats are opposite, behind the trees on the circle. Restaurants and cafés occupy the north and west quarter of the circle and you can see from one to another, or you can watch the clockwise traffic going endlessly around and admire local driving skills.

In winter, without leaves on the trees in the circle's centre, you can see the flat side with its two heavy museum buildings, the central parts of the Chaillot Palace, and the equestrian statue of Maréchal Foch facing east, fearlessly regarding the lacy spectacle of the old iron lady, standing there on the Champs de Mars for over a century now.

The present name of Trocadéro comes from earlier, from the capture of a little fort in Cadiz in 1823. In 1827 a cardboard mock-up of the fort placed on the Chaillot hill was used for the reenactment of the victory and during a fête populaire a grenadier battalion blew it up with firecrackers by accident . The place itself, is fairly recent, formed in 1869 with a radius of 125 metres and it was named Roi-de-Rome until 1877, while everybody called it Trocadéro and I don't know when the '11. Novembre' part was added.

A minor part of the circle - which now has a radius of 82 metres - where the tour buses park in summer, is devoted to a huge memorial that has the inscription, 'A Nos Héros' with giant figures in relief in the centre, and 'A Nos Mortes' on the right. There is no other text, no date; so if you see it you can take it as your own if you want. The wall on which the memorial is placed has the Passy cemetery behind it; where Edouard Manet and Claude Debussy, among others, are buried.

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Unless you come out of the métro on the flat side, you come out in the midst of the restaurants and cafés and this is good because after you have seen the sights, you will already know where to go to relax.

Directly on the place itself there are six establishments, all with terraces. One at a time, starting from the avenue du Président Wilson, they are:

- L'Ancien Trocadéro is a small to medium-sized restaurant with a fixed-price menu for 123 francs.

- Brasserie Le Coq is a large upscale restaurant, also with a fixed-price menu at 142 francs, and its terrace has a low fence around it to prevent pedestrians from stumbling onto diners. Chauffeurs lean against large dark cars parked nearby, which could mean something significant.

- The Café Kléber is across the avenue Kléber and is quite large and has no 'menu' I could see; the bill of fare has a wide variety of salads and sandwiches.

- The smaller Patisserie Carette has a cold buffet and hot dishes, plus cakes of course, but also has such things as half-lobsters for 165 francs.

- Le Malakoff, on the corner, is larger again, and has a fixed-price 'formule' menu for 65 francs, plus, like all of the other places, an a la carte menu.
troctour.jpg (12k) - The Brasserie Café Trocadéro is across the smaller avenue Raymond Poincaré, and faces most directly towards the Chaillot Palace and has the clearest view of the Tour Eiffel - especially in winter. It is big and open, but I saw only a fixed-price menu for children, for 60 francs.

I have neither time, hunger nor budget to try all these places - but I assume, especially considering where they are, that they are all fair value for your hard-earned money. This is still June and none of them were full to the rafters - July and August may be different; so either be early or be prepared for a late lunch. It is possible that most of them serve meals at any time, well into the evening.

In the other 'Trocadéro' feature in this issue, I look at the Chaillot Palace. Each wing of the palace also has a restaurant, both with terraces overlooking the gardens and pools and with a super view of the Seine and the Tour Eiffel.

The restaurant of the Musée de la Homme and the Marine on the right is called the Totem - there is a totem pole in the entry - and it has a 'formule menu du jour' for 119 francs until 14:30, another light menu until 19:30 and a dinner menu until 00:30.

The companion Musée du Cinéma, National Museum of Monuments and entry to the Theatre Chaillot, on the left, has its restaurant with terrace and a 'Formule Trocadéro' menu for a flat 100 francs. Both of these terraces have parasols, and you can count on building shade reaching the right-hand terrace first.

For really light eating or drinking, there are a couple of refreshment stands on the sidewalk and on the Parvis, between the two wings on the palace.

I have nothing against good weather and sunshine, but after looking things over, I think I'll come back in late fall, buy a couple of newspapers and spend an afternoon here - if I have the time to kill.

Access to Trocadéro: métro station Trocadéro on the lines six and nine; bus numbers 22, 30, 32, 63, 72 and 82.

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Waldo Bini