Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Travel Tuesdays: Paris je t'aime I (Touristy Must-Dos)

I consider myself definitely a francophile, and even more so, a Paris-ophile. Each time I've been there something in my heart sings (thankfully - for others - the singing doesn't make its way up to my throat where it would inevitably die a strangled croaky death before assaulting the ears of passersby), and I've been fortunate enough to have lived there on multiple occasions. Plus, going to Fete Paradiso recently inspired a nostalgic mood leading to some browsing amongst my old photos from lovely days spent there. As I was looking through all of those memories, I started thinking about my favorite things in one of my favorite cities. And so, a series within a series - here's Paris je t'aime Part I - Tourity Must-Dos for Travel Tuesdays! 

Touristy must-dos

The Sacre Coeur and walking around Montmartre: an absolutely beautiful church set up on high in the midst of the only "village" left in Paris. The church area is now more of a fun picnic/tourist/hang out destination (in fact, watch out for broken beer bottles) rather than anything very religious, but to enter the church you still have to keep your shoulders covered - and gentlemen, hats off please!

Be sure to wander around the back of the Sacre Coeur to browse amongst the artists - and maybe buy a pretty picture! 
The Eiffel Tower and picnicking on the Champs de Mars: the Eiffel tower is a must-see when you come to Paris, though I must admit that I have never been up it, nor do I have any desire to do so - unless of course it's to dine at Jules Verne! But picnicing on the Champs de Mars with the tower in the background (preferably in the evening when it's prettily lit up) is always a fun time.

Pont des Arts: this pedestrian bridge has been the site of many a fun picnic. This is the perfect place to spend a balmy summer evening munching on some brebis and baguette, maybe a little pate or some charcuterie too. I know of picnics that have included nothing but crackers and wine, and I've known of picnics that have had everything from rice to tapenade. There's inevitably someone strumming a guitar, and if you've packed a bottle of wine but forgotten the tire bouchon - never fear! Just turn to one of the many small groups engaged in similar activities around the bridge, and you'll be met with a smile as you ask to borrow the bottle opener. Offer a couple of plastic cups in exchange and you may even strike up a friendship.

Arc de Triomphe and walking along the Champs Elysees: The Arc is imposing and centers the entire area, while the Champs Elysees is like Fifth Avenue on crack. If there's a Christmas fair set up by the side of the road, all the better, you can munch on a crepe while you saunter along. Go on down to the Place de la Concorde and take in that beautiful scene as well.
The Champs Elysees all decked out for Christmas. Love the Ferris Wheel at the Place de la Concorde at one end of the Champs Elysees!
Musee Rodin: this calm and beautiful museum full of Rodin's sculptures is one of my favorite museums in Paris. Fun to hang out in the garden strolling by the sculptures in the summer, but equally suitable for a morose and grey winter morning when all you want is to spend some time with yourself and suitably sombre (yet absolutely beautiful) company.

The Orangery: this museum is wonderful not only for its beautiful display of Monet's water lilies (I am a fan), but also for the rest of its distractingly wonderful collection. My favorite is a tiny room at the back dedicated to works by Marie Laurencin. The works of Picasso, Derain, Cezanne, Modigliani and the rest will also take your breath away. Check for special exhibits; they're usually quite interesting. It's also right next to the Jardin des Tuileries - so take a gander there too.
That's not a Monet, but it is Giverny! If you have time for a day trip, definitely go here.
Place des Vosges: wander around the art galleries lining the place, or just sit and have a glass of wine or a cafe noisette. A nice pause in the middle of the day.

Boat ride along the Seine: this is super touristy but also fun especially in the evening when everything is lit up and pretty. I've only ever been on the Vedettes du Pont Neuf, but I imagine all the other boat tours are pretty much the same.

Notre Dame and walking around Ile St. Louis: You can't miss Notre Dame, set in the middle of the city on its own little island. Take a gander at the beautiful gothic structure and stained glass windows, then wander around the Ile St. Louis. Stop for an ice cream and a macaron at Berthillon and if you're traveling, stop by La Ferme St. Aubin - the host will happily vacuum pack the stinkiest cheeses for you to tuck away in your suitcase without allowing the fragrance to permeate through your clothes.

Walking around the Maraisthe old Jewish quarter of Paris is full of quaint ruelles and cobble stone streets that leave you feeling satisfied (especially if you've downed a falafel or shwarma at L'As du Falafel or a delicious crepe at Breizh Cafe!). Stroll along the streets munching on a Zilabiya (jalebi!!) from one of the Jewish bakeries around. Duck into one of the boutiques or just window shop. Walk in the middle of the street - because here, pedestrians most definitely have the right of way!


And if you're traveling with kids, check out Bryan P'50 Things for Kids to Do in Paris


You'll see that I don't include the Louvre or the Centre Pompidou. While I think both of these museums are wonderful, I don't think they would be in my "top ten" for Paris - especially if you have limited time.

The Louvre is really too huge to enjoy in one sitting, and if you're only in town for a few days it isn't worth it to go in for a few hours, come out feeling overwhelmed and then realizing that you actually need to go back multiple times to actually enjoy the art. If you're going to make a beeline for the Mona Lisa, go for it (but prepare to be disappointed, I was). If you're in the mood to appreciate other paintings or other forms of art, give it a miss if you have limited time.

The Centre Pompidou is cool, but I prefer impressionist paintings to modern art, so I suppose that's just a personal preference. They do have fun exhibits from time to time though, so it's worth checking out.

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