I kept a list of the places we visited on our walks, which I've given to many friends as they plan trips to Paris. Mary Mix and her husband Greg recently returned from an extended stay and have many more items to add to a Paris Sites list. They agreed that though the French have a reputation for being grumpy, particularly towards tourists, their experience was just the opposite. The French, though reserved, are friendly and very proud of their language. While in Paris, try to speak French, even a little. When you enter a store, be sure to say, "Bon jour, Madame or Monsieur," and "Merci et au revoir, Madame or Monsieur," when you exit. The French will appreciate your gesture.
Be a tourist and take the Bateau Mouche on the Seine for a river view of the City or take the red tour buses, which give you a good sense of the general layout of the City. The bus ticket is good for two days. You can get on and off as you please. Once you realize that Paris is laid out, mostly, from the center outwards (not on a grid like New York City), you can leave public transportation behind and walk.
Paris is a great walking city. While you are walking, look for Wallace fountains. They were donated by Sir Richard Wallace to provide safe drinking water to the City. They are all over Paris, they look alike, and they are green. Try the water from an artesian well such as in Square Lamartine in Passy, where you can drink very mineral-laden, fresh spring water. It is supposed to be good for complexions too.
As you walk search for wall plaques on buildings. They are everywhere and give you a good sampling of the history of the city. They may indicate where someone famous--a writer, an artist, a philosopher, a politician--once lived or they may indicate where WWII resistance fighters were executed, a reminder that makes that time in history more real.
Walk rue Mouffetard, which is still a great slice of Parisian life with many food vendors. Or cross over to l'Isle de St. Louis with its good restaurants, including l'Orangerie and Maison Berthillion for tasty ice cream.
Walk rue du Bac and rue Sevres on the Left Bank near the Musee d'Orsay to find meandering streets with many small shops including Deyrolle, a famous taxidermy shop. Both streets will also lead you to the great shopping streets of St. Germain des Pres.
Walk rue Montorgueil near St. Eustache Cathedral, where the funeral of Marat occurred. St. Eustache, unlike most churches and cathedrals in Paris, has no stained-glass windows. They were shot out at Marat's funeral when attendees gave Marat a gun salute inside the church. Stop in at E. Dehillerin, a cooking store that was a favorite of Julia Child's. They have a great selection of copper pots that can be shipped home.
Walk down Avenue Victor Hugo and Avenue Raymond Poincare from the Arc de Triomphe to the Trocadero to the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. If you walk by rue de Lasteyrie, turn on to the street, stop at #5, and look up to the fourth floor. This was our apartment while we lived in Paris. (We need a plaque on the building too!)
Walk from l'Hotel de Ville, the City Hall of Paris, stop and look through BHV, and continue to the Place de la Bastille. Follow rue de Rivoli to the Jardin de Palais Royal. Walk through the enclosed shopping arcade from the 19th century. Another arcade is Gallerie Vivienne on the rue Vivienne. Visit Drouot Auction Houses, 9 due Drouot, in an area that is a wonderful non-tourist segment of Paris. People from all over the country bring pieces to sell here--everything from bric-a-brac to grand pianos. Auction doors open at 11:00 a.m. Come and watch the professionals bid.
When you want more information about what you see on your walks, contact Paris Walks, the best tour guides in the City. Peter and Oriele Caine are an English couple who have lived in Paris for years. Their tours are a valuable source of history and information that you will not find in guide books.
Or purchase a box of City Walks Deck: 50 Adventures on Foot by Henry de Tessen before you leave home. Mary and Greg used these when they explored neighborhoods. One walk on each of fifty cards. The cards took them to areas they never would have found and filled in information about the areas they visited.
Spend a day seeing the heights of Paris by going to the Eiffel Tower, going to the top of Galleries Lafayette on Blvd. Haussman, visiting le Sacre Coeur, riding the Ferris Wheel that is outside of the Tuilleries, taking the elevator to the top of Montparnasse Tower, and walking up the steps of the Arc de Triomphe, and hopefully, in 2018, you can marvel at the view from La Samaritaine just across the Seine from the Musee d'Orsay.
|Planned renovation of La Samaritaine by Sanaa of Japan|
And then when you are tired, you can walk beneath an Art Nouveau entrance to the Metro and you will find the fastest and easiest way to get around Paris. Like the Louvre, Paris is a city with so much to see that every visit will give you new items to add to your list of Paris Sites. Best way to find them: take a walk!
Thank you, Bill Slavin and Christy Myers for the photos, and to Mary and Greg Mix for sharing their adventures in Paris with me.
Good reading about Paris:
Elaine Sciolino, The Only Street in Paris
Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon
David Lebovitz, The Sweet Life in Paris
Julia Child, My Life in Paris
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
If you would like my complete list of Paris Sites, email me at email@example.com