Ok, let’s start with the area around Île de la Cité, one of two islands in the middle of the Seine. Notre Dame is the obvious star attraction here (and marks the official centre of Paris) but there are so many side-streets with beautiful buildings that you could meander around for ages. We chose to stop for lunch (ok, the pelting rain was a factor in this decision to be honest) at Le Petit Plateau (3B Quai aux Fleurs), a tiny little café run by an Italian women. I had the most delicious quiche here. You’re pretty close to your fellow diners here so maybe not the best spot for a private conversation. We popped over the bridge to the quaint Île Saint-Louis for a stroll around and I came across my old friend from the south of France, La Cure Gourmande. Do not, under any circumstances, bypass this place. Mighty biscuits. You always get a sample when you walk into these shops too. Bonus! The famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore is very close to Notre Dame. It’s a maze of little rooms; brimming with reading matter and…beds – young writers (tumbleweeds) can stay here as long as they work in the shop and commit to writing too. Worth the trip in if only to support the publishers of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Sweet Jesus I could not contain my excitement when we finally found La grande épicerie de Paris (the foodhall) in Le Bon Marché, the oldest department store in Paris. There are two buildings in case you freak out like I did when I couldn’t find this wonderland. The word amazing doesn’t even cut it here – I was photographing the shop for ages; beautiful jams, chocolates, pastries, water bottles (!) and the like. Oh and I got teapot sugar-cubes which are just amazing. We got some pastries and just sat in the park next door and chilled out for a while. So nice. (Sèvres-Babylone metro).
Our trip to the Luxembourg Gardens or Le Jardin du Luxembourg started with a cuppa at the Odéon Theatre’s café (Odéon metro). This area was possibly my favourite spot in the whole city. So peaceful – the absolute perfect spot for a picnic. The Panthéon is also in the area.
We checked out the Marché aux Fleurs et Oiseaux, the flower and bird market (birds only on Sundays). We just visited the bird market and I’m not really sure that I’d recommend it to be honest; it’s just around the corner from Notre Dame so maybe if you’re in the area and looking for birds… There’s a little shop called La Maison de l’Orchidée at the corner of the market which has the most beautiful orchids on display (all at Cité metro). The beautiful Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) is just across the quay and on the walk over to the Centre Georges Pompidou/Museum of Modern Art.
The Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre metro stop is an excellent place to start a morning. Most people walk in the direction of the Louvre when they get off the metro but the Palais Royal is stunning (although currently undergoing some construction work but this doesn’t take away from the place). We popped across the road and wandered around the Louvre down into the Jardin des Tuileries and spent some time wandering around here. The Musée de l’Orangerie (€9 entrance) at the end of the gardens was actually the only museum we visited and I’m so delighted we did since I have a bit of a Monet obsession (purchased a book here – I know I’ll only be able to look at the photos but isn’t that the whole point of a book on art?!). The museum houses eight of Monet’s Nymphéas or Water Lilies paintings which he painted in his house in Giverny. They’re in two huge oval rooms and they’re absolutely spectacular. The museum also has a subterranean section with some Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, amongst others (Concorde metro). We walked through the Petit Palais/Grand Palais and checked out the lovely Pont Alexandre III bridge and pottered on all the way up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, stopping in to Ladurée to stock up on macarons. Obviously. Sephora was another stop. Enough said. The Champs-Élysées is a great shopping street, with stores such as Banana Republic, Zara, Tiffany & Co., Guerlain, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and the like too. We had a little stop in to Tiffany’s to try on some engagement rings – exciting times!!
Galeries Lafayette (Opera or Chausee D’Antin La Fayette metro) had a few visitations too. Stopped into Angelina in the Galeries Lafayette for a hot chocolate – the thickest substance you can imagine. I don’t know how that Coco Chanel kept that cream fabric clean drinking this stuff! (she frequented the main Angelina on Rue Rivoli – table 10 FYI). We had that chocolate Mont-Blanc dessert too – terrible crap to be fair.
We took an evening trip to Montmartre to check out the area and the Sacré-Cœur. We started at metro stop Abbesses as I wanted to see that ‘love wall’ which has I love you written in over 300 languages (be prepared for many, many steps at the Abbesses metro station or else take the elevator up), you can literally turn around and you’re at the wall. It’s a short walk uphill to the Sacré-Cœur from here (maybe about 15 minutes strolling…but maybe don’t wear wedges like I did). There’s plenty to see around the Montmartre area – lots of little art galleries, craft stores, restaurants – great spot for meandering. We came across a tiny little vineyard too, Clos Montmartre. How many cities can say they have vineyards? We got off at the Pigalle metro stop on the way back just to have a look around – we just ended up taking one picture of the Moulin Rouge and left for pastures greener. Mojito greener.
Now, the Eiffel Tower – seriously don’t know why they’re sending people to any metro station but the École Militaire. You walk up the gardens from the military school and it’s a much nicer impression than the Bir Hakeim metro stop. This is definitely the stop you want to take at night to see the light-show in the evenings too – definitely worth taking the trip out for – trés rosmantic.
Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) is hosted along the Seine every July/August too. Sand, deckchairs and outdoor dancing. Wonderful in the rain 🙂
- Musée d’Orsay
- Musée Rodin
- Jardin des Plantes
- Giverney – Monet’s garden