Springtime Cigars in Paris

Springtime Cigars in Paris

by Nick Hendry

Ah, Paris – the City of Lights, a city of romance, and a fine city in which to enjoy some Cuban cigars.  The springtime is a particularly wonderful season to visit the French capital, as her parks return to full bloom, the tourist season is yet to reach its hectic peak and the temperature around town is more ‘soothing warmth’ than ‘stifling heat’.  Whether you are here to work, to shop, to view the art in the galleries and shows in the theatres – even if you are simply in Paris for the sake of being in Paris, one cannot avoid becoming beguiled by the beauty of the city centre and the effortless cool of the Parisian way of life.

No small part of that way of life is the enjoying of a fine cigar.  Something small and light-bodied, enjoyed in the morning on a sunny bistro terrace with a café allongé, or something more substantial, in the evening with a Calvados, is a special kind of pleasure which for some reason just feels better in Paris.  The city is of course home to the original Quai d’Orsay which gives its name to the Cuban brand; gazing over the Seine from the Quai itself, watching the sun climb through the sky, gently sipping a cappuccino and Corona Claro, is probably my favourite way to spend a day.  Cigar smoking here is – quite rightly – viewed as an extension of the French love of gastronomy, and the city is well set up to facilitate it.

A La Civette in Paris

Left: A La Civette, the oldest cigar shop in Paris.  Right: The view from the store to Palais Garnier.

Dotted around the city centre, from the 1st Arrondissement to the 8th, are some excellent old cigar shops.  A La Civette, located on rue Saint-Honoré; opposite the Palais Royal and just behind the Louvre, is the oldest: the original opened in 1716, and moved to its current address in 1854.  Having just undergone some beautiful renovation work, it’s well worth a visit.  Significantly younger, but just as deserving of your time and with probably the most friendly service of all the city centre boutiques is Le Lotus, just beside the imposing Église de la Madeleine.  The humidor here is smaller, but the atmosphere is warmer, and the staff are always happy to chat cigars with fellow aficionados who visit.

The only issue with these stores, and the other caves a cigar throughout Paris, is the current and astonishing shortage of Cuban cigars.  New World stocks are strong, but my recent visit saw options limited to a handful of Romeo y Julieta tubos and some small-gauge Montecristo.  “C’est historique,” was one salesperson’s description of the current situation.  When planning a trip right now, best make sure you bring your own emergency supply.

Enjoying a Davidoff at La Maison Champs-Elysees

 Enjoying a Davidoff Signature 2000 at La Maison Champs-Élysées.

Once your sticks are procured Paris has a wealth of places to enjoy them.  The Black Cigar Bar at La Maison Champs-Élysées is probably the best – open to hotel guests and the general public alike, supported by the fine wines and spirits of the hotel’s bar and a completely secluded spot just meters away from the luxury boutiques of Avenue Montaigne.  Unwind here after an afternoon strolling round the streets of the Golden Triangle.

A short walk away, just the other side of the Champs-Élysées itself, is an entirely different but equally comfortable indoor cigar lounge. Gentlemen 1919, on rue Jean Mermoz, presents from the street as a high-end barbers, where the gentlemen of Paris may come to have a cut-throat shave and their hair tidied up before a week of work.  This is indeed their specialty, and one can also have shoes and boots cleaned and repaired while the barbers work their magic, but push the wall to the rear of the salon and you will find it gives way to reveal a bar laden with spirits, opulent leather Chesterfield furniture, and a welcoming spot to enjoy a cigar.  A neat trim followed by a brandy and a smoke is the perfect form of pampering.

Gentlemen 1919 in Paris

The hidden speakeasy lounge at Gentlemen 1919, Paris.

What sets these 2 lounges apart from many around the world is that they allow guests to bring their own cigars.  While many outdoor terraces offer this option it is much more rare to find indoor facilities that do, and do so with such beautiful surroundings and delicious pairing options.  In this regard Paris is streets ahead of the competition.

Of course, the real beauty of Paris in the spring is outdoors, and it may seem a shame to waste the sunshine hours enclosed in a smoking lounge.  The café culture here is the stuff of legend, and the vast majority of them will welcome a cigar smoker who chooses to light up a stick alongside a coupe de champagne.  There are so many bistros and cafés with outdoor seats you can find one on just about every corner, but some of the best views are from L'Atelier des soeurs on Place Franz Liszt in the 10th – looking on to the magnificent Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul – Triadou Haussmann on Boulevard Haussmann in the 8th – perfect for people-watching as the shoppers come in and out of les Grands Magasins – and the legendary Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.  Grab a chair, order a carafe and light up – you’ll soon find a fascinating hour has passed just watching Parisian life float by you.

Le Jardin des Tuileries in Paris

Le Jardin des Tuileries is a relaxing spot to enjoy a smoke.

Just as inviting to the smoker as her bistros are Paris’ green spaces.  The little green deckchairs round the fountains of the Jardin des Tuileries will provide a little oasis of calm in the middle of the city, while the views from Square Louise-Michel in Montmatre will keep you enthralled for hours.  Better still is to find a spot beside the river, or in one of the little nooks found on many of the bridges which cross it, and watch the water flow past, the boats flit to and fro, and the citizens of this magnificent city buzz along the banks either side.  There really is nothing quite like Paris in the spring.

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