Over the years I have come across many quotes of Paris, but the one that has particularly interested me is the one by Jefferson ( A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the Point of Life). My trip to Paris, provided me an opportunity to experience Jefferson’s quote.
What follows are some of the moments that I remember from our stay at Paris. As a disclaimer I would like to add that this is not very exhaustive, but this blog could give you some pointers for your own ‘Things to do’ list of Paris.
I start with some standard information of Paris, such as its location. It is situated on either side of River Seine, and thus the Left and Right bank of Paris. For administrative reasons , Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements moving out as a spiral with the first arrondissement located at the centre. This is quite useful to know when you are planning your visits, since the 5th arrondissement will be closer to 13th rather than the 9th. The best time to visit , it has to be the summer months because of the great weather and longer days, however the downside is that there are a lot of people who feel the same, so plan early.
Tips for moving around in Paris, Metro is the best option. There are various kinds of tickets that are available which combine transport and entry to museums. I would recommend doing a research before making the decision. If you are visiting Paris during the peak summer months it would make sense to get the combo tickets, because it would get you into the museums quickly and you can avoid the long queues for tickets. Is Paris a safe city, well if you googled this , I am sure you would think Paris s unsafe because of the stories floating around. We had a pretty decent time in Paris, the only place we felt uncomfortable is around the Sacre Coeur, where the folks selling threads and trinkets could get very intimidating, the best is to ignore them and they give up on you after a few steps.
Accommodation – We had used Airbnb to book our stay. This is a good option to consider since there are lot of good properties throughout Paris in quaint parts of the city. We had chosen our pad close to Rue Daguerre and Montparnesse metro station, in the 14th arrondissement.
Our stay in Paris did not get off to the best of starts as our search for Cafe Le Dome( the cafe which Hemingway frequented) led us in different directions except the right one. Lesson learnt – invest in a data plan or in a good map, don’t bet on cheap maps to help you find your way quickly in Paris. We eventually gave up and found ourselves at Montparnesse station having breakfast in one of the outlets inside the station, quite a different environment from the one that Hemingway frequented.
We stated our trip by heading out to Notre Dame church, a French gothic church that is synonymous with Paris thanks to Hollywood. The church has an impressive set of 10 bells , more of which can be read from the wikipedia page of Notre Dame. From Notre Dame we walked towards the Shakespeare Book co, a place we wanted to visit because of our love for old bookshops.
What follows are the various sites that we visited and they do not follow any particular order. Arc De Triomphe, the monument built to honor the French who fought in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Pantheon which is modeled on the Pantheon in Rome is the resting place for some of the French greats such as Voltaire, Madame Curie, Rousseau, Victor Hugo to name a few, Hotel De Ville and Place De Republic are some of the other sites to visit. If you are around the Montparnesse area , you could drop in at the cemetery and pay a visit to Beckett, Simone Du Beauvoir, Jean Paul Satre and Susan Sontag.
Paris is famous for its museum, and among them Musee D’Orsay and Louvre would be at the top of the list along with Rodin Museum , due to the sheer range of paintings on display. There are more museums that one can visit, and the museum of Paris website provides various search options to narrow down the list.
If there is a part of the city that you should not miss visiting in Paris, then my advice would be Montmartre. It is also the area that was frequented by Van Gogh, Matisse, Dali, the list being endless. The hill of Montmartre is also famous for the Basillica of the Sacre Coeur. Saint Sulpice is another church that should be included in your list if church architecture and stained glass appeals to you.
Other areas of interest would be Pont Neuf , considered to be the oldest bridge in Paris or the Pont des Arts Bridges, which is famous for its love locks. A walk along the Siene is also highly recommended, if the weather is good you could also plan your lunch at the banks and then take a walk along the street where vendors sell paintings and various other knick-knacks.
When it comes to food, well I guess an Indian is not the right person to write about French cuisine. I would also confess and make a blasphemous statement, that French Cuisine is not my ballgame. However the breads are absolutely a delight to die for and the experience of visiting a boulangerie is a dopamine rush that you could do with at least once a day. However I did enjoy the desserts, they were wonderful to taste, but even more brilliantly presented.
Crepes are must try when in Paris. La Creperie de Josselyn’s is where we had our crepes, and I would definitely recommend this place.
Cheese is what would come to your mind when you think of France and a visit to a Fromagerie is an unique experience, for one you are spoilt for choice, which is to be expected considering that the country has more than 365 varieties of cheese. Some of the cheese do have a strong smell and its quite a whiff that you get when you open your refrigerator.
Some of the other recommendations would be Macaroons, we stumbled upon a place called Dalloyau, that had some lovely caramel macaroons. Trust me you will change your opinion about macaroons when you have them in Paris. A visit to Le Dome Cafe or Cafe De La Rotonde which used to be the favourite haunts of writers and painters if having coffee at cafes with a history is your kind of thing.
Paris is a city that is best enjoyed walking, there is a lot of history and old world charm that one can experience. Some of my personal favourites are 1) the walk from Shakespeare & Co to St. Sulpice church via St Andres des Arts ,2) walk along the banks of river Seine and, 3) through the streets of Montmartre.
Tips, advice and myths of Paris:
Paris in August could be a disappointment, since a good number of cafes and bakery would be closed.
For my brethren from India interested in trying out French cuisine, it is good to tag alone with someone who understands the cuisine, can speak French and also knows the right restaurants. Dinners are an expensive affair in Paris and being at the wrong place would leave you with a bad experience.
Is Paris a safe place ? – We read a lot about Gare du Noord being unsafe, however our experience was quite different. The only part of the city that we felt uncomfortable was the area around the Sacre Coeur. However it is best to be careful.
Here is one that we learned the hard way, try and avoid taking a connecting metro from the big stations( by big I mean the ones that have multiple connection) since the walk for transfer takes up a lot of your time, and something you would prefer avoiding after a long day’s sightseeing.
Where did we eat/drink
1) Le Chateau Poivre
2) La Creperie de Josselyn
3) Le Horse
5) Pauls – Sanwiches
6) Amorino – Gelato near Pantheon
7) Pelops on Rue Daguerre