Friday, August 25, 2017

PARIS WALKS





This time of year, when September comes and summer is almost over, I think of Paris and the walks we took on weekends while we lived there. Paris is only twelve miles across so it was easy to walk half way, stop for a meal and then walk back home, having enjoyed the brisk Autumn air and steak and frites. We used to laugh that our walks would start from our apartment and, no matter which street we took, would end at a restaurant near Notre Dame on the Isle de Cite because Notre Dame is in the center of Paris (look for the plaque in the pavement of the square in front of the cathedral). Many streets radiate from the two central islands where the cathedral is located.

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.


There are many short-term rentals available in Paris. Mary and Greg used VRBO to locate an apartment once they decided on the Marais neighborhood, one of many village-like areas. They found an apartment with a garden gate that led into Place de Vosges, one of the prettiest squares in Paris. Having a washer/dryer in the apartment was a big plus. They found that living in a neighborhood gave them the chance to become familiar with the local cheese store, chocolate store, wine store, the local bakery, as well as with the history of the neighborhood. Victor Hugo, a hero of Parisians, lived in an apartment on their square. Mary and Greg considered Le Moulin de Rosa, 62 Rue de Turenne, to be the best bakery in Paris, which just happened to be situated around the corner from their apartment. Other areas with interesting neighborhoods include St. Germain des Pres, Passy, and the Rue Mouffetard.

Your first stop should be the Office of Tourism. There are various locations throughout the city. You can purchase a Carte Musees which will help you avoid the huge lines outside museums such as the Louvre. You can learn what is happening in Paris while you are there as well as obtain maps of the city, the Metro, and bus lines.

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 marthaslavin@gmail.com



5 comments:

  1. We spent a week in Paris with our 13 year old granddaughter this June. We found a really nice appartment near Place de la Bastille through AirBnB. It belonged to an opera singer and was in one of those lovely courtyards you usually only get a glimpse of through a briefly open gateway. We walked everywhere and packed a lot into our week before going to stay in Castillon in the wine country near Bordeaux.

    The longest wait at each venue was to get through security as they do it at a slow and steady pace despite the crowds, as they should. It pays to get sites such as the Eiffel Tower early you but the neighbor bakeries open early so you don't have to miss out on your croissant or pain au chocolate.

    By the way travel with a thirteen year old granddaughter was wonderful!

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    1. thank you, Pat, for adding to the list of things to do in Paris, especially bringing grandchildren with you!

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  2. Thanks for taking me back to Paris once again! You must know that today's post is now my all time favorite as of now!
    It is the only city I could actually be happy to stay in for a long time...and of course there are the sweet memories of hanging out with you when you lived there.

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    1. Jan, good memories. Remember our dinner at rue de Lasteyrie!

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