flâ·neur, n. an idler or lounger.
Everyone has their Paris list. Whether we’ve had the opportunity to travel there or not, the City of Light possesses an iconic quality unmatched by any other metropolitan space. Constantly, a myriad of individuals– from tour guides to anthropologists to fashion designers– await the unsuspecting non-expert to ask them what exactly makes Paris, Paris; and then, you better get comfortable, because their odes to the city could hardly get any longer.
Having had the pleasure to visit three times now, I could write an ode to Paris too. But to be quite honest, I’m a bit too timid to join the ranks of individuals who have found in Paris a muse, a home, or a lover. From Hemingway to Stein to Fitzgerald, the Lost Generation on its own is intimidating enough. Throw in the most influential designers of the past few centuries, some exceptional culinary geniuses and the unapologetically gorgeous architecture, and I’m barely a leaf in the pond. I can hardly express to Paris what I owe to it, but I can show you a few of my favorite corners. If you have a chance to visit, here are some unconventional experiences (and tips!) that are not to be missed.
Even the flowers are more fragrant in France… no wonder it’s the fragrance capital of the West!
Staying in an apartment instead of a hotel. We stayed in a lovely one-bedroom in the 6th arrondisement, which turned out to be a perfect location. Looking for lodging? Check out Air BnB, or our favorite: Haven in Paris. (Haven in Paris also has a phenomenal blog celebrating the city).
The 6th arrondisement has both wide intersections and little alleys; the perfect place to explore.
Window shopping– but not just at des Galeries Lafayette. Wander around the 6th arrondisement, starting from the Boulevard St. Germain. Take some advice from Chic Shopping Paris, and find boutiques and craft shops that are off the beaten path. My favorite shopping past-time was meandering through Marche d’Aligre. From fresh produce to cured meats and cheeses to vintage trinkets, this must be where the savvy non-elite like to barter and bargain.
Approaching the Marche Aligre– fresh produce ready to sell.
Boucherie– a butcher’s job is to be taken very, very seriously in Paris.
A great home design shop in the 4th!
Snacking on eclairs, cakes, and chocolates. The word dessert has French roots for a reason. Not sure where to start? Book a tour with Paris By Mouth— and check out their amazing website. I say, whatever you do, don’t miss Carl Marletti; he’s an eclair genius.
Carl Marletti’s patisserie in the Quartier Latin.
About to sink my teeth into a Carl Marletti chocolate eclair– for the second time.
Chocolate in France means perfection, subtlety, and creativity. You’ll never buy Hershey’s (or Godiva, for that matter) again!
Relaxing outdoors. We are partial to the Jardin Luxembourg, but Paris is full of gorgeous parks complete with tailored gardens, running children and bubbling fountains. If you’re in the mood for an adventure, take the metro out of the city to Bois de Boulogne, where savvy Parisians exercise in style. It’s the perfect place for an all-day stroll, picnic, or rowing on the lake.
Bois de Boulogne
Chocolate cake at the Luxembourg Gardens– a must-do.
Dining like a local. This is one of the best things about traveling on your own: no group tour meals (which we all know are sub-par). Still, this means you’ll have to do your own research. In recent years it has become more and more common for chefs at high-end restaurants (read: several-hundred-euro dinners) to open up their own atelier. One of our favorites was Terroir Parisien by Yannick Alleno. At these more affordable prices, the ambiance might be compromised but the food never is. Be sure to make some reservations where you can!
Selecting some cheeses during our Paris by Mouth food tour.
Some charcuterie and a baguette are never a bad choice for lunch.
Enjoying charcuterie and cornichons at Terroir Parisien. The French like to start dinner with a plate full of meat. I say, pourquoi-pas?
Going slow. Select a few classic sites and enjoy them fully. The problem with a city like Paris is that you can visit for two weeks, be busy from dawn to midnight, and still never see everything. Our advice? Don’t even try. Take a hint from Alastair Sawday and the go-slow movement, and choose between the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, and between the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre (I’m partial to the d’Orsay). Instead of running through the streets of Paris like maniacal tourists, we chose to sit by the Seine and watch the day go by, à la France.
Ste-Chapelle– stained-glass windows with images from books of the Bible. Fascinating!
Houseboats on the Seine. La vie est belle!
Have you been to Paris? What are your travel tips and resources? And, if Paris is still on your bucket list, don’t worry; it won’t be going away anytime soon. Even Hitler could not destroy Europe’s most iconic city, so be patient– your time will come.
And now, it is time for me to sit around and wonder whether another jaunt to Paris is in the books for the next several years. Good thing I’m taking Thomas Keller’s advice on how to bring French comfort food to our home kitchen! Au revoir!