We had rented a cottage near St-Gilles in the Occitanie region of the south of France. Our flights there and back were through Charles-de-Gaulle , so we decided to break up our trip with four days in Paris before going south. We took another four days on the way back. We had spent time in France before, but never in Paris.
We arrived mid-morning on a hot, muggy day. It had been a sleepless flight from Montreal. I had my fingers and toes crossed that we could get into our hotel room on Avenue de la Bourdannais. No such luck! We were told that it would be a few hours before we could move in.
We decided to explore. We wanted to sit but we also wanted to see so we took a bateau-mouche from the foot of the Eiffel Tower. It was an after-flight survival activity but the river views of Musée d’Orsay, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the bridges, the sun bathers at Carré Barye made it worthwhile. After taking the requisite pictures of the Eiffel Tower and a quick lunch, our hotel room was ready.
Five hours later, refreshed and rested, we found a great neighbourhood restaurant, Le Florimond at 19 Avenue de la Motte-Picquet. We didn’t have a reservation but we were given a little sidewalk table. We had good food, good wine and attentive service. The community comings and goings provided the entertainment. We detoured on our walk back to the hotel to watch the twinkling lights on the Tour Eiffel. While impressive in daylight, it is much more beautiful at night. Our first day in Paris had been a success.
We have returned at least six times since then and have spent many, many days wandering the streets and the parks, hopping from arrondissement to arrondissement on the Metro and the RER. We have:
However, these are not the things that make Paris special for me. I like sitting at what I refer to as the stadium seating at sidewalk cafés “avec un petit verre de rouge” and watching the world walk by . While I love collecting Michelin stars, many of the best meals I have had in Paris are at little places like Le Florimond or Au Petit Tonneau at 20 rue de Surcouf in the 7ieme. Eating at “Les Bouillons de Paris” is a blast.
We visit the markets. There is the marché bio near Hotel Lutetia on de Raspail . We had a lot of fun visiting the Marché Aligre with Natasha, a Paris experience that can be booked on Air BnB, just search “Mingling at the Market”. She knows the food scene in Paris and will have recommendations for whatever area anyone is staying. Also, after the tour there will be no need to eat for the rest of the day. I like going to La Grande Epicerie and spending time in the wine stores.
Paris is built to walk and we like to walk for hours. There are secret courtyards and gardens everywhere. We enjoy sitting in Le Jardin du Luxembourg, the Jardin des Plantes, or Tuileries Garden . There is always a new neighbourhoods to explore such as the Belleville, which was home to the incomparable Edith Piaf.
We have found little residential enclaves just off of Blvd des Capucines and Blvd de Raspail where there are children playing in the street and going to a school five minutes away.
I like slow travel. I could not enjoy a whirlwind tour in any European city, let alone Paris. There is always something new to discover. Every neighbourhood, and there are many, has a different feel. Slow down. Get fresh croissants every morning, eat “jambon beurre” for lunch, drink wine (its cheaper than a cola), and enjoy dinner at a neighbourhood restaurant. Walk!
Imaginary friends notwithstanding, Paris is still Paris!
The usual reminders:
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