Paris: The city of light. Some...
Paris: The city of light. Some people think about it as the birthplace of the occidental culture and democracy. Whether you think this way or not, you can be sure of one thing: this is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities of the world. La Seine, La Tour Eiffel, L'Avenue des Champs Elysees, Le Louvre... the tourist cannot get bored there! The only problem is how to get enough time to see all these places... Paris is the dream of couples in love. If you want to enjoy and feel like in a love story, I recommend you a walk by the river (La Seine) in the night. Also the Arts bridge (Pont des Arts) is very beautiful. And if you have enough money and you want to astonish your couple, invite him/her to a dinner in the restaurant at the top of the Eiffel tower.
The first thing you must do...
The first thing you must do when traveling to Paris is go to the Luxembourg Gardens. Especially in the summer, these gardens are absolutely breathtaking. I would place this before the Eifel Tower, the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, and any other major site you can name. This tops my list of a site to see but I recommend two other activities above it.
First of all, you should not leave Paris without sitting in a cafe for a few hours, drinking coffee, and watching people. This is the Parisien activity par excellence, and you should take it easy when you are in Paris. As I said in the introduction, if you don't try to see everything and spend some time relaxing in a cafe, you will have a better time.
Lastly, I think that having a good and complete French lunch or dinner is as important as any great site. Pick someplace that is moderately priced, and then go all out with wine in between every course, with an aperitif and a digestif, and three or five courses. This does not disappoint.
Plan de Paris & other Paris Maps
My best friend gave me a "Paris-Popout Map" one Christmas. Not expensive, but practical & cute (3" x 5") and perfect for me. Very unobtusive! It has a listing of museums & historical sites plus a street index. And, amazingly, it all fits into this little booklet-thingymabobber. All the major spots are highlighted on the map so it's very easy to see. It even has a Metro/RER plastic laminated map on the back. It's tiny so it's very easy to tuck into a back pocket or into a purse pocket.
Plan de Paris
I bought my excellent Plan de Paris from a vendor on the Place de la Concorde; a good one shows all the streets in Paris. The price in 2003 was 6€ and it was worth every bit the cost.
MapEasy's Guidemap to Paris
Another excellent map is MapEasy's Guidemap to Paris because it shows Paris in 3-D birds-eye view! It's color-coding system shows everything you need at a glance: blue diamonds for hotels, red dots for restaurants (this is how I found L'Êté en Pente Douce), green squares for shopping havens (Diptyque on Bd. St-Germain) & black stars for museums & attractions. Plus, it's laminated so it'll outlast the Parisian rainbursts!
Photo: August 2005
Please see my tip on Les Pages Jaunes to learn about a fantastic web tool to use in planning your Paris trip before you go! My Plan de Paris I use so much in planning my next trip the poor thing is in tatters! I've written all over it, circled places of interest, highlighted places and now it's just about to fall about. Good thing I'm going to Paris in February so I can buy me a new one.
People watching on a sunny day
It is 4 pm on a sunny spring afternoon in Paris
10 avril 2007
The sun is beating down. About 20 C
A slender African lady in a flowing garb and turban sails by, the breeze lifts her tent like dress to reveal an exquisitely tattooed leg and ankle.
One can imagine, drums beating, her young girls heart pounding to its rhythm, some village in northern Cote d’Ivoire? Burkina Fasso?
I look straight ahead. This broad avenue, named after the famed General, goes straight to the horizon, amidst the ornamentation of century old buildings, a cloudless blue sky and if you stand up, you can catch the arc de triomphe from here
A lovely Parisian afternoon..
A beautiful place to watch people gliding by.
Neuilly, an upscale suburb of Paris
On my left, Paroisse Saint Jean Baptise
Very clean church, rarely have I seen any one near there, even yesterday driving by, on the national holiday of Easter Monday. Enlightened Christianity, I suppose.
An announcement on its wall.
Christ est ressuscite and as if to convince the non believers in what to the owners of the building is obvious,
In smaller letters,
Il est vraiment ressuscite
Young French women of African descent, I have noticed, dress very chic and elegant, parisiennes to the core.
Many asian looking, can say they look Filipinas, by their body language and faces, almost all of them bulging here and there.. in this land of svelte beauty. There is a sizable number of Filipina maids in this city..
An arab woman covered head to toe, except her face, pushing a pram, a family member brought over to look after a grandchild perhaps?
The Portuguese diplomat of last century, erstwhile consular officer in La Habana, writer, looks upon all of us, rather kindly. I remember the house where he stayed in La Habana, now a café and Bakery near the Plaza de Armas
Also remember reading his book about a family Maia…
A very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.. to get over the jet lag of a 10 hour Air France Flight ( nice champagne!) from BLR to CDG
Picnic and sunset watching on Pont des Arts
This is one place that many tourists will wander to or pass by instead of planning specifically to have a picnic here. However, one of my fondest memories of having lived for 2 years in Paris comes from le pont des arts.
The pont ("bridge"), situated right on top of the Seine River, connects and left and right bank and since it is located very close to the ENA, (ecole nationale des beaux-arts), and all the museums and academies on the left bank in the st-germain-des-pres area, it aptly lives up to its name of being the bridge of arts.
During the summer especially on friday evenings, from around 7pm or so onwards you'll see groups of young people gathering on the pont des arts, having a nice view over the river and it's one of the perfect places to watch the sunset over the river. It's also equally accomodating to the solo traveller or a group of friends; the environment is friendly enough for someone to quietly chew over a book or to "papoter" - chit chat- with your friends.
Right in front of one end of the pont is a majestic historical building, and since it connects both banks, even if you don't stop for a picnic it's a beautiful little 3 minute walk in the most historic part of town.
A tip: as it's in the heart of the touristic region, don't expect to find supermarkets in the area. If you want to have a picnic there, buy your food prior to hopping on the metro. I'd say the closest metro stops are Louvre (line 1) and St-germain-des-pres (line 4).
Usually there are vendors strolling on the bridge when lots of youth are gathering in the evenings (especially when the weather is good, you'd better get to the pont early to get a spot!). These vendors usually sell beer in cans and if you are really short of alcohol, feel free. Their prices are usually reasonable.
Don't be intimidated by the groups gathering on the pont. Many are just students or young people or travellers who are looking for a place to hang out and have conversations with friends as we all know how expensive Paris is. There are often enough policemen patrolling around to keep an eye on the whole scene so french speaking or not, no worries. It's definitely safe there, and rarely do people get rowdy even with the effect of combining alcohol + fun + an amazing night view over the seine.
For the ones who aren't into the bridge party scene, make sure you visit this bridge in the day time and take a stroll. enjoy the view and the walk over this wooden bridge is very very pleasant. It's also connecting two of the most frequently visited quartiers in town. On the st-germain side you can then see the ENA, the national academy of medicine, see the charming cafes serving the student/researchers clientele and the delightful corner parks. As yours truly was once a researcher there, I do recommend having a stop at the cafes nearby the ENA and the medicine academy- drinking a coffee at the bar will cost you a mere 1.2 to 1.5 euros- and just down the street prices will jump by a euro.
Despite the fact that the area sees many tourists and students, a stroll on the st-germain side off of the pont des arts offers a surprisingly tranquil afternoon tour. Many a times at around 3pm I had to cross the bridge and the area is very quiet, and absolutely picturesque.
For the fact that it's located smack in the center, it's a great way to catch a glimpse into the local lifestyle, and definitely a nice place to see the less expensive side of a very, very posh and frequented/touristic area.