Notes From the Road: Paris

Paris was, in a word, overwhelming. We only had four days here, and wanted to take in as much as we could.

Stepping off the night train from hot, sunny Italy, Paris greeted us with a rush of cool air, gray skies, and big-city swarm. The tourists here were from all over the world and they were in much bigger numbers than in Bologna. Italian words I can piece together, but French was mostly a big blur.

I remember reading once (in part of a Julia Child biography I think), that the first meal you have in Paris – in some simple hole-in-the-wall cafe – will quite possibly be the best meal you’ve ever had in your life. I think this was true for us. After a long train ride and no breakfast, we were licking our lips at a table covered with empty white porcelain crockery and greasy baking paper – the leftovers from a salami-cheese-and-pickle baguette and some sort of buttery broccoli-cheese-potato pie.

Economist husband summed up well our impression of Paris: COLD. Cloudy skies, blustery days, gray walls, cool-tempered, sophisticated Parisians, closed shops, crowded museums, impenetrable (to us!) language.

So, if YOU happen to be travelling to Paris soon, these are the highlights I’d recommend:

  1. Get a clean, inexpensive hotel room – don’t splurge on this as you probably won’t be spending much time in it. We recommend the Hotel Montpensier. We liked the central location.
  2. Picnic for breakfast in the Jardin des Tuileries by the Louvre. It’s a beautiful garden that runs along the Seine by the Louvre. Quiet and shady in the morning with Parisians enjoying their morning jog, dog walk or newspaper read, it’s a great way to start the day. We recommend stocking up on groceries the night before for your petit-déjeuner as we found it was hard to locate a decent cafe in the morning…
  3. In fact, picnic for several of your meals! We found this was a really stress-free (not to mention inexpensive!) way to dine – in a garden, along the Seine or on a park bench. Grab a cheese plate, fresh fruit, some saucisson and a crunchy baguette or flaky croissants.
  4. Skip the Louvre
  5. In fact, you might even be able to skip the impressionists at the Musee d’Orsay if you go in July and there are too many tourists. If, however, you’ve never seen a Monet or a Van Gogh up close, you might want to go… Otherwise come to the Pushkin museum in Moscow!
  6. If you’re going to shop, buy a Longchamp bag and some nice French-girl Bensimmon or Bata walking shoes.
  7. Get recommendations from locals for a good restaurant (not from a guide book) or just pick the place that’s crowded with French-speakers instead of tourists
  8. Take a city tour by bicycle!
  9. Don’t try to take it all on – just pick out a few things you really want to do, and enjoy those
  10. Go with someone you’re in love with, and be sure to stroll the Seine at night…
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2 Responses to Notes From the Road: Paris

  1. Pingback: Moscow September | Breakfast in Moscow

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