Paris is one of those over hyped cities that I never think will be able to live up to the extremely high expectations I put on it. But, the city manages to be charming, romantic, delicious and different every time I go.
In part, I think that’s because I haven’t been trying to “do everything” when I’ve visited Paris recently. This is almost the opposite of how I often approach other cities that I visit for a weekend – feeling like I need to cram it all in, never knowing when I’ll be back again. But because Paris is such a quick train ride from London, my mentality was shifted during the two weekend trips that I took this year. I always felt like I’d be back again soon. For me, that meant there was no need to re-visit the classic sights like the Eiffel tower, Louvre, and Champs-Élysées.
This opened up new possibilities. On a trip with my aunt and mom in the fall, we spent hours walking (and shopping) our way around the Marais and St. Germaine. I tasted macaroons from at least 5 different cafes over the span of 3 days, and we had leisurely dinners that were heavy on the wine and catching up. On a gorgeous April weekend, I went back with my fiancé. This time, all our time was spent outdoors – walking tours, bike rides, picnics and trips to the park were the perfect way to enjoy springtime Paris.
(more after the jump)
1. Have brunch in Montmarte
The term “le bobo” originated in Montmarte – it is an abbreviation of bourgeois bohemian. To be a le bobo, you would have come from a wealthy class (bourgeois) but chosen to live as a bohemian artist, probably with the intent of pissing off your parents. The artists and le bobos made Montmarte famous in the 1800s and early 1900s, but the hipster chic Parisian vibe carries on. It is filled with boutiques, street side cafes, teeny food stands and street performers. Since it gets crowded with tourists, head up to Montmarte in the morning, and grab a table at one of the outdoor cafes before the mad rush. Set yourself up with a croissant and an espresso – the modern day bobos will provide entertaining people watching for at least an hour or two.
2. Do a walking tour around Notre Dame
I’ve seen Notre Dame and knew the gist of the history – although, admittedly, this was partially informed by Victor Hugo’s novel (and the Disney movie adaptation) about the hunchback. A walking tour took my understanding to a new level. I thought that we’d get bored spending an hour walking around one church. I was wrong – and this is all due to the delivery of Flora, our guide. She described the intricacies of the statues and explained how the carvings were intended to tell the story of the Bible to illiterate worshipers. This gave us an entirely different appreciation of the minute details and care put into the sculpture work. I can’t recommend Flora from Discover Walks enough – I’ve done other walking tours and am convinced it’s all about the guide
3. Have a long, boozy meal at a bistro in the Marais
Two of my favorite meals in recent memory were dinners near Bastille/Marais. From my understanding, the resurgence of the Marais neighborhood is a response to St. Germaine becoming overly popularized. Much like the East Village in Manhattan has become the destination for those who find the West Village overly saturated, the Marais offers a trendy, but less touristy version of St. Germaine. Go to Chez Janou for the biggest chocolate mousse ever – you’ll get to scoop out whatever portion you can manage. This bistro treats a meal like revelry. The waiters seem to have about 10 friends each in the restaurant at a time, taking shots and partying their way through the meal. At Le Din Don en Laisse, the owner carefully plans seating arrangements each evening, putting you elbow-to-elbow with other patrons he thinks you’ll enjoy. By the time they brought us a bottle of whiskey at the end of the meal to share, we were already long lost friends with our neighbors. Don’t miss the risotto.
P.S. Special thanks to my friends/gillys, Dayna & Ali, for the recommendations for these 2 restaurants.