Our first week in Paris it rained, and rained….and rained. Once again I found myself overturning my bag and grabbing my coat that I was convinced I did not need (thanks Mum). We crowded in metro stations until the clouds gave us a break so we could see the icons that define Paris. Note the photo below in front of Sacre Couer – this was taken by a Spanish tourist. Ben reciprocated with possibly the worst photo taken in history of photography. It resembled an abstract Picasso painting which had been run over with a motorcycle – we are expecting some karma for that one!
I had to include this adorable couple. Weather can be such a fickle thing on a holiday and trying make the most of every moment can be a challenge when you’re soaking wet! But with a sense of humour and a great companion, a dark cloudy day can be magic.
After a few too many days with damp feet (funny how wet socks is a complete mood changer), we sought out some of Paris’ indoor activities. The first on our list was the Louvre. Pre-purchasing our tickets online was just about the most difficult exercise we have encountered so far. We used Ticketmaster, and picked them up from the Paris Tourist Service withdrawal point (31, Rue du Pont Neuf – Metro: Châtelet ). Despite the initial confusion, I definitely recommend pre-purchasing tickets. On arrival to the Louvre, we couldn’t help but have huge smiles as we passed the estimated “2 hour long” line of umbrellas and walked straight in. Under the iconic glass pyramid, the entrance floor was mayhem. A mash of languages from huddles of people deciding where to go first, parents running after their children and zigzagging queues that did not appear to have any particular destination.
Giving up on trying to get an audio guide (which requires you to wait in a long queue to buy a ticket that then allows you to line up in another long queue to pick up an audio guide) we headed to 19th century paintings and made our way around from there.
Once the weather finally decided to cooperate, we began venturing further out into the city. After hitting all the main tourist sights, we sought out places that were less touristy (if that is even possible in this well traveled city). Here is a short list of our favourites:
One of the first places we visited, Jardin du Luxembourg, quickly became our go-to place in Paris. This beautiful city park provided some much needed peace in the hustle and bustle of the French capital. We spent many afternoons reading, picnicking and enjoying the sun. Just don’t sit on the grass!! Instead, there are garden chairs provided for you to sit and observe the nicely manicured lawns (why they don’t just invest in a few signs instead of paying guards to move people along, is beyond me).
The Promenade plantée: This beautiful 4km (or so) trail through an old rail line turned garden is unique. The dense, green vines that line the walk allow you hear but only capture small glimpses of the surrounding city.
Passage des Panoramas: This is the oldest covered passageway in Paris and home to – in my opinion – the best gluten free food I have encountered! Noglu is incredible, their gluten free pizzas, tarts, quiche, bread and other delightful desserts are a reason enough to bring me back to Paris! This passageway is also home to some quirky vintage shops and conveniently connects you to other passageways in the area.
Le Marais and Village Saint-Paul: Spread across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, this charming, medieval style neighbourhood is littered with boutiques and cafes. Getting off at Saint-Pauls metro station or walking down Le Seine, you cannot go past without treasure hunting around Village Saint-Paul. Following the little flagged signs, you will find yourself wonderfully lost in a series of courtyards that are home to antique shops, papeteries and flower-filled cafes. We were lucky to stumble upon this historic village on their market day. It was as though we had stepped back in time with the vibrant courtyards filled with antique treasures. The permanent store owners and temporary stall holders sat at beautifully laid tables on vintage chairs, drinking wine from ornamental glasses and lathering baguettes with art nouveau knives. We spent hours (much to Ben’s dismay) trying to weigh up, literally, how much we could take home with us! In the end I settled on a gorgeous pair of 1920s art deco earrings and Ben even haggled for them in French!
Montmartre (The 18th): We were introduced to the north of Paris by our new friends Laurene and Sebastian. It didn’t take long for us to see why this was their favourite area in Paris. Historically renown as the artistic quartier of Paris, the neighbourhood exhumes a village atmosphere with loads of character, history and creative types to match. If Sacre Coeur is on your to-do list (and let’s face it, it will be), be warned of the abundance of pests and scammers in the streets leading to the famous landmark. The area around the Moulin Rough isn’t for the faint-hearted either. But otherwise, the 18th is an vibrant district with an enormous breath of eateries and cultural activities to explore. Leave the map in your bag and explore the hill – alternatively there are a number of walking tours on offer.
Paris Plague: A trip to Paris in Summer wouldn’t be complete without visiting the pop-up beach along the Seine River. Prone to being crazy-busy on hot days, it provided a central area for a petit pause during our days spent in the central arrondissements.
Special mention also goes to the Shakespeare and Company bookshop (37 Rue de la Bûcherie), where you can grab a book off the shelf and find yourself a little nook to read.
And finally the Tour de France, which came through our suburb. In 30 seconds. After waiting 1.5 hours.