I recently came across another one of those "Ultimate 3 day city travel guides" - this one for Paris. My husband and I recently spent a month in Paris, and I realized as I read their tips that MINE would be TOTALLY different.
Travel is my delight and my love (in addition to my excellent hubby and my Siamese). I've been excessively and unrepentantly in love with travel for over 30 years, and I know that I need to pay more attention now to what I'm eating and how much I'm walking and exercising before a trip than I used to. Especially when I'm going to a place with amazing patisserie, bread, cheese, wine... you know what I'm talking about!
But I digress. My other love - health and wellness coaching - stole the show there for a moment!
Here are (in no particular order) 6 experiences and planning tips we've discovered during several long trips to Paris. Enjoy!
1. Please please please spend some time listening to jazz and drinking rose at one of the barges along the Seine! When the sun is shining this is one of my favorite places to be in Paris! We stopped at the Peniche Le Marcounet on the right bank next to the Pont (Bridge) Marie a few times but there are others too to grab a delicious glass (or bottle) of rose and a snack.
2. Avoid the hottest months completely. You're about to skip over this one, thinking you're tough enough. You're not. If the mind-boggling number of tourists that visit Paris in July and August don't scare you off, recent years of heat waves during this period should. July 2019, 108 degrees F. July 2018, 95 degrees F. Unless you're really spending out, your accommodations aren't prepared for this degree of heat, and you aren't either. We've done the Paris in July thing and it isn't for the faint-hearted. May 2019 had a lot of rain showers, yet we had a wonderful time anyway, with less crowds and comfortable temperatures. For the first time ever we actually got to ride the lift up the Eiffel Tower because a rainstorm had driven most tourists away and the line was short! We enjoyed a bit of sun from the 2nd level platform for a few minutes as the light left the city and night fell. Magic. And then the rain came again and drove everyone into the lift for a swift escape (and perhaps some plans for warming drinks!)
3. Plan your visit around an event - in spring, the French Open tennis at Roland Garros is a great people-watching and cultural adventure even if you're not a huge tennis fan. It gave us a chance to learn more about Paris and Parisiennes in a unique way, from the elegant setting (the newest court set in the historic Jardin des Serres D'auteuil with its 19th century metal lattice greenhouses and lush gardens) to the official Roland Garros Panama hats with red-clay inspired ribbon to the BYOB (bring your own baguette) sandwiches spectators around us devoured between matches to the French crowd cheer modeled on bullfight trumpet and response. Delightful! Oh - and the tennis was great, too.
May is also the month for Free Night at the Museums throughout Europe. In addition to free admission and getting to visit your favorite art till midnight, the museums plan additional live performances and events for that night only. The energy of the crowds is amazing. If you love museums, this is totally worth it despite the crowds. Just have a strategy in mind - deep dive at one museum, or flit for a quick peek at a few artworks from museum to museum with a route planned to avoid crowded metro lines during the event. We chose the latter, but unfortunately made a severe tactical error early on (left the umbrella at home) and ended up getting completely drenched by a wild storm, necessitating the solace of a jambon et fromage galette and an earlier-than-planned return home to dry out.
Paris Best Baguette Competition/ Spring. Because of its location near Notre Dame, it is easy to pop in, soak up the frenzied atmosphere of announcements en francais and bakers doing their thing in the tent. In 2019 it was moved from in front of Notre Dame to a nearby square because of the fire. Baguettes on sale! Baguettes galore!
4. Explore concerts and events happening during your visit several months before you go and pay attention to the venue. Seeing a big-name musician or performer you love, in a GORGEOUS, HISTORIC venue, surrounded by locals having a great night out, is unforgettable. I left it too late this time, and The Dead Can Dance were sold out 2 nights running at The Grand Rex, a giant historic Art Deco theatre I REALLY wanted to visit during a live event. Ditto for a movie - if you can find something you want to see at a historic venue, you won't be sorry (The Grand Rex in Paris, Pathé Tuschinski in Amsterdam, Cinema Teatro Odeon in Florence, for example). We weren't able to find a movie we wanted to see at any of the better-known historic venues in Paris this time, so we went to the Max Linder Panorama (small, quirky, sparsely attended) for the latest Jim Jarmusch flick. For great blog posts on cool movie theaters unlike anything you'll find back home, visit the culture trip blog HERE and HERE. And keep your fingers crossed that the legendary La Pagode will re-open as planned in 2021 after a lengthy closure and remodel!
5. Did I mention this past May was rainy? Paris has a whole network of historic early 19th century indoor passages filled with shops and restaurants to explore. They are mostly concentrated on the right bank and fairly close together - see THIS ARTICLE . But I don't want you to miss one I really like on the left bank, in Saint Germaine: the Cour du Commerce Saint Andre. If you decide to visit, there is of course so much you can do in the area: the Cafe de Flore or Les Deux Magots if you're feeling spendy, a visit to St. Sulpice church, with its Delacroix murals and quaint placards from students giving thanks for good marks on their exams in 1950! and an outdoor poem by Rimbaud "Le Bateau Ivre" inscribed on a wall in a street nearby. And, you're not too far from my (ok, just about everyone's) favorite park in Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg. Did you know there is a small fruit orchard and an apiary tucked away in the Jardin?
6. Staying in a place with a kitchen or at least a microwave? For a cheap, fun, surprisingly French thing to do, try "Chef Picard. " Actually, I'm talking about the Picard chain of frozen food stores found ALL OVER Paris. I know - frozen food in Paris, quelle horreur! But the quality is amazing, French people shop there regularly (and they know food, right?), and you'll get to poke around freezer cases of frozen dishes the like of which you've never seen outside of a date-night restaurant. Fancy! I fondly refer to a visit to "Chef Picard" after a passage in a good recent read, Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan (fiction).
I hope you found something new to try on your next visit to Paris! And let us know your favorite Paris pastimes and neighborhoods!
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