Paris is always a good idea. Especially if it is your birthday and your parents are available for weekend long babysitting. This may have been a once in a decade phenomenon so of course we made the most of it. Here are some highlights that I hope you like and can use in planning your trip to the city of light.
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One of my favourite cities, Paris has taken on a new guise each time I have visited. Once with friends, once as a student with an ex boyfriend, several times on business trips, and this time with my husband. I admit this visit was my favourite so far. I carefully planned a few major activities and left the rest to wandering.
The art of flâner
We walked and wandered a lot during our three day visit. This is my type of travelling – exploring a city at leisure without the pressure of lists being ticked off. The French have a wonderful word for the art of wandering. The verb flâner means to stroll, saunter, wander or roam. Originating in nineteenth century Paris, it is a verb that more precisely refers to strolling around in an urban environment. I think it’s a perfect way to describe our ramblings.
A wonderfully Parisian long weekend
During our 3 day visit we sauntered the streets of Paris simply enjoying the rhythm of life and unique personality of this most beautiful of cities.
On our first day we walked up the Champs-Élysées and enjoyed the grandeur of the boulevard. We barely saw the Eiffel Tower except through the autumn fog on our walk from lunch on the Champs-Élysées to the Musee D’Orsay. We later crossed the Seine and walked along the Quai D’Orsay watching the bateaux mouches glide past with the river with the Grand Palais in the background. After we had spent an hour or so at the museum we crossed back over the Seine via the Pont Royal and walked across the Tuileries Gardens towards our hotel in the Madeleine district. This circuit is through some of Paris’ grandest districts and sights but there was so much more to explore.
The following day we headed off towards the Sacre Coeur via the streets of the 8th and 9th arrondissements and of course Montmartre. Parisians and tourists alike were enjoying a beautiful autumn day and we enjoyed the contrast from the previous day’s grandeur. Street markets and cafes, bookshops and galleries are found among the winding streets along with famous discount store Tati and the numerous fabric stores.
We headed south for lunch and then took a turn down the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre where we ducked into the glorious arcades of Passage Jouffroy and Passage des Panoramas to do a spot of unscheduled shopping. Last stop was meandering the Marais and Place de Vosges.
On our last day we headed to the left bank with a plan to wander around the Luxembourg Gardens and down towards Notre Dame. We chanced upon the delightful Marché Raspail, a local Sunday produce market and picked up a coffee to enjoy as we wandered the gardens. Our last stops were Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame.
We wanted to discover some parts of Paris and local stories that were off the beaten track. I found the perfect thing – a boutique tour company that conducts private secret tours of the city in the comfort of the cutest cars – the Citroën 2CV. For an hour and a half we were taken on a guided tour of some of Paris less well known sites in our open top 2CV. Our guide Olivier was so knowledgeable – he shared the details of Paris oldest and smallest houses as well as his favourite patisserie in the Marais. It was such a fun way to explore the city and despite the brisk air and open roof we were snug as bugs with blankets provided. We booked the tour through 4 roues sous 1 parapluie – recommended.
Top of my to do list was a visit to the iconic Musee D’Orsay that has been closed due to strike or some other disaster when I’ve been in Paris previously. I’ve been very disappointed! Not this time though. There is a reason this museum is on the top of most must do lists in Paris. Housed in an old railway station. The building’s grand proportions match the beauty of the treasures it holds. Of course do not miss the Impressionist galleries for a brilliant lesson on that era of art history. But while you are on the top floor of the museum make sure you enjoy the view of the city through the prism of the clock faces that distinguish the building as a former railway station.
The Luxembourg Gardens and Palace are a beautifully serene oasis in central Paris. We passed through early on a Sunday morning. Autumn leaves were scattered all over the green lawns. Statues of queens past look down on the passing joggers. I love the empty garden chairs scattered randomly in Parisian gardens. I like to imagine the conversations between friends and lovers as they relax in the beautiful surroundings. Jardin du Luxembourg was designed for Queen of France Marie de Medici in the seventeenth century and are an example of the Italian baroque style. I highly recommend you visit this beautiful area of Paris.
This style of travelling is the type I prefer. I won’t call it aimless wandering as we had some very strict appointments for lunch and some other activities. Our flânering took us all over the city. We discovered new treasures and revisited old
In my next post I’ll fill you in on the details of where we ate, slept and shopped. But for now why don’t you simply relax and dream about wandering the streets of Paris. I’m definitely going to head back there soon.
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