Paris is undoubtedly a special place. I have visited several times, but my visit this spring was different. Although there is magnificent architecture, massive museums, and tourist spots like the Arc du Triumph, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame, this trip brought a deeper feeling of blending in with the Parisians, eating in local spots, strolling new neighborhoods, and not entering every museum we pass by.
This notion of a less touristy visit was inspired by diligent research by my brother, that led to discovering all things Parisian, and visiting the gems that we normally would have skipped over. Yes, he did take a few cues from Anthony Bourdain, but most was through simple online research. The famous sights are always nice, but I think that they are best enjoyed while touring the city in search of the best food!
Street vendors offer up the typical french crepes, and many stands slang kabobs. Everywhere you look there is a street facing cafe, set up with outward facing chairs, perfect for a cappuccino and people watching. The pace is slow, and the food is savored.
Our first stop at Le Pure Café, is a local spot that serves up a fine charcuterie plat, and a late dinner. This place is not too far from the Canal Saint-Martin, a 19th Century waterway surrounded by parks and local neighborhoods. The canal empties at the river Seine, where you can also board a sightseeing boat that will take you through the locks and to Parc de la Villette or beyond.
Since we had only an assortment of cheeses at Le Pure, we ventured over to my all-time favorite Parisian cafe Le Procope, located in St. Germain des Prés. Opened in 1686, this is the oldest restaurant in all of Paris, and was frequented by Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. The decor and the food here are very classic old school French, and the service was equally impressive.
A good night’s rest is very important when you are touring Paris, whether for the food or the sights. In the morning, we headed over to Notre-Dame de Paris, but only after a memorable brunch at Cafe St. Regis across the bridge on the small Ile St. Louis. Here, fresh baguettes are placed on the shelves, and the waffles and eggs benedict are worth every glutenous bite. Since it’s Paris, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a glass of wine and a small dessert afterwards.
Paris is special because no matter where you are, you will be in awe. A simple walk along the river will provide you with the perfect backdrop.
Time really does fly when you’re enjoying yourself, and next thing you know, it’s time for an afternoon treat. Les Deux Magots is worth stopping by for a cocktail, lunch, or a steaming pot of hot chocolate. Known throughout history as a place for intellectuals, it was a favorite for both Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.
Walking is the best way to see Paris, you will miss so much of it riding the subway. Make sure to pack comfortable shoes, and to stop and take a break often.
Croissants are a French staple, but it is not the only quick breakfast option. The croque madame is a brioche ham and cheese sandwich, topped with an egg. Yum!
Jardin du Palais Royal is a great hidden oasis behind the Luvre, where you can rest before heading to either the Arc de Triumphe, or the Palais Garnier. Speaking of hidden things, the nearby Galerie Vivienne is a beautiful indoor street filled with custom boutiques, and a visit here feels as if you have stepped back in time.
I recommend stopping by the Rue Cler neighborhood, a foodie delight where you will find seafood markets, spices, florists, wine, and small cafes. This neighborhood is near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th Arr.
Located in in St. Germain neighborhood, La Palette is the perfect hip establishment with a bohemian past.
We could not resist waiting in line for an hour or two to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower. Dusk is the perfect time to see Paris as a light purple hue blankets the sky, and the evening arrives showing all of Paris’ twinkling lights.
No matter how many times I visit Paris, I never get tired of visiting the infamous landmarks. It’s ok to wander down unknown streets and make new discoveries. If you are worried about losing your way, I recommend downloading an offline city map to your mobile phone.
With each trip moving forward, I will try to get more acquainted with the local beat of this ever changing romantic city.