All of these recent posts brimming over with love for DC might tempt a reader to forget that city which holds first place forever in my heart (KY cities excluded because home is a different story.) Paris. This summer I am not going back, and I am more than a little sad about that. But, I am getting married which will probably be better than Paris.
However, lots of you ARE going to Paris this summer (lucky. do I hate you or love you? not sure.) and have emailed me asking about great places to go. Here is my “must see/do/EAT” list for that most wonderful of cities.
To See: I am leaving some of the obligatory touristy things off here because, no duh, you should see that big tour thing, and the arch thing, and the church thing. But here are some others:
- Gardens at the Rodin Museum: Yes the museum is really cool too, and has great sculptures. But if you are pressed for time or money, skip the museum and wander in the gardens. You will still get to see some of the big things and have a much more relaxing time.
- Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore: Even though it has become touristy and is usually crowded, it is still so much fun to sqeeze into this quirky store where books feel like they might just tumble down and cover you. Plus, all the coole Lost Generation people used to chill there so you are walking in the steps of literary giants.
- Louvre: I know I said that I was leaving off the touristy things, but I am making an exception, because I think that too many people visiting just get overwhelmed by the Louvre (or just by how hot it is – worst ac/ventilation system ever) and don’t really enjoy it. Block out a big chunk of time. Relish the Dutch still lives. Feel more confident after walking through the Rubens Gallery. And if you have the slightest artistic talent, sketch away and fell like part of it. (Side note: If you study art ANYWHERE and have some sort of letter that looks remotely official saying you need to do research, many museums will let you in free! Not the Louvre, but Rodin and the Musée D’Orsay at least) Then slowly wander the courtyard and listen to the musicians who are always there.
- Walk. Unless you are going way far away from the metro, just walk. Paris is so beautiful on foot that it is a waste of you time if you just pop up at monuments and miss all the beauty in between! My favorite thing to do was always just to take off walking and see where I ended up. One of my favorite walks is to just walk a good chunk of the Seine, crossing every bridge and appreciating the city from every angle.
- L’Opéra Garnier: Check to see if there are tickets (or buy ahead) and go see a ballet/concert because it is so worth it to prance around the impressive lobby! Also, if you go to the Théâtre Chatêlet aboyt an hour before perfromances, any leftover tickets are 20 euros (if you are under 26!). Go see a show!!!
To sit: One of my favorite visitors in France was my father. We had perfect weather, and I made sure he saw the big important things, but the rest of the time we just meandered around the city, stopping and sitting in all the best places and letting the city move around us. The French like to just relax, and so should visitors. Here are my favorite spots to sit and soak it up:
- Luxembourg Gardens: Take a picnic and sit under the perfectly straight trees for a couple hours, or soak in sun by the fountains.
- Palais Royale: Though smaller than the Luxembourg Gardens, the gardens of the Palais Royale have a special sort of beauty and are a perfect resting spot after surviving the Louvre.
- Steps of Montmartre: Usually there are all sorts of mimes and musicians that congregate to this spot. I happen to find mimes fascinating and not the least bit creepy, so I love sitting there and watching the weird artsy types try to get a leg up in the world. Some visitors have not shared this sentiment.
- Parvis de Notre Dame: After dark, this area becomes alive with perfromers of all types and it is a perfect free way to end a day.
To Eat: Let’s face it, I’m a foodie. And Paris is heaven to foodies. Here are the things I crave.
- Mouffetarte, 53 rue Mouffetard, 75005: QUICHES. TARTS. SO CHEAP. No only is this place on one of the prettiest streets in the city, it is also crazy cheap and you can get it to go and take it to the Luxembourg gardens.
- Chez Julien (16 rue Mabillon, 75006)) and Chez Fernand (13 rue Guisarde, 75006): Around the corner from each other, reasonably priced, and offering delicious French food not too far from sites, these are the two restaurants that I tried to get visitors to take me to. Get the duck. Always get the duck.
- Ladurée: You can’t go to Paris without getting perfect macarons in a store that looks like the Platonic Ideal of a tea party. The big fancy one is on the Champs Elysées, but I really like the one at 21 Rue Bonaparte, 75006.
- Carette and Angelina’s: For a tea-time over priced snack, you can’t go wrong with the legendary hot chocolat at Angelina’s. However, I liked Carette’s just as well, and it is a much nicer spot, tucked away in the Place des Vosges, where you dine on perfect pastries in the outdoor colonnade (25 Place des Vosges, 75003). And when you are done, you can wander the narrow streets of the Le Marais neighborhood !
- You should basically eat pastries from the boulangeries all the time. There isn’t really a specific one here, though my personal favorite is this one, at 16 rue des Fossées Saint-Jacques (75005), but it’s closed on the weekends.