I can yammer on and on about my Paris fixation for hours.
Adventures in the City of Light, both real and imagined, are my fool's paradise
and I'm always thrilled when someone -- anyone -- listens.
This blog is clearly the result of all that pent up Paris passion.
But when someone asks me to help plan a 7-day trip -- PANIC sets in.
Just 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 days for Paris??
And when that someone is my favorite big brother --- well, I realize
this is serious stuff -- and I have to make it good.
It's an especially big challenge because though he and his wife have been to
Paris several times, it will be a first time visit for the friends they're traveling with.
So logically, for the Paris virgins, we need to include all the big time fan
favorites and still find time to sneak in some new off-the-cuff fun
for the more seasoned Paris travelers.
It may be true that God made the earth in just six days but let's be real,
this is Paris and we need many more hours to do her justice.
Big expectations. That's my middle name.
"If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there,
you'll be amazed at the results."
George S. Patton
Please make Place des Vosges your very first stop.
Yes, that's as good a place to start as any, a lovely
17th century masterpiece of Paris perfection.
Insanely elegant yet welcoming to even the most frugal traveler,
Place des Vosges will launch you right into the heart of what makes Paris
so dreamy, a subtle reminder that your world has a new and different accent.
Symmetrical red-brick mansions rise above blocks of stone arcades
sheltering tempting cafes, la-di-dah boutiques and irresistible antique shops.
The gardens are a paradise of diversity -- easy-going grandmas,
well-heeled businessmen & women, back-packing teenagers
and carefree kids all agree this is the place to be.
It's a perfect spot to collect your thoughts after the long slog of travel.
Just sit and lose yourself in the genteel surroundings.
I can "see" you now -- smiling, absorbing this intimate Paris panorama.
Your mind and your heart will thank you.
You can be as flexible as you like -- stop in to see Victor Hugo's
museum-mansion or just spread out on the green grass à la Parisienne.
It's a good start to the best week of your life.
If it's a Sunday, walk straight to the Bastille market to experience
the miracle of french food and food lovers.
Enjoy every little detail and feel your energy return as you
sniff and swoon in front of the cheese stalls.
Gratefully accept all samples on offer and remind your friends
this is just a first taste of what's to come.
If it's not Sunday, I think I'd go to the Musée Carnavalet just
down the street, a perfect primer on the history of Paris.
Art and architecture are a sure immersion into the heartbeat of the city
and you can't beat the price -- it's free.
Don't miss anything unless your tummy starts to rumble.
All that money we've already saved, it's time for a late lunch.
Something that will warm up your taste buds for a week in Paris.
How about Auberge des Pyrénees Cévénnes -- homemade terrines & cassoulet.
Or spend a bit more and go to a classic bistro like Benoit or Astier?
Make it at least three courses and don't forget the wine.
Lunch, naturally, will be long, so afterwards, head straight to
Ile St. Louis for a chance to absorb the very heart of Paris.
Here, the choices are endless...
This island is only a few blocks long and two blocks wide but its personality is huge.
If you haven't eaten too much at lunch, stop at the little Berthillon window for a scoop or three of the most out-of-this-world flavors you've ever put in your mouth.
Look at all the details of each beautiful mansion, do a little window-shopping
and daydream about what it was like 100 - 200 - 300 years ago.
Pause to watch the entertainment on the bridge as you
head toward the other island, the famous Ile de la Cite.
If the sun is shining, skip Notre Dame (for now) and walk
a few more blocks to see the magnificent Saint-Chapelle.
When the sunlight burns through its exquisitely colored stained glass windows,
you'll feel as if you've been transported into another cosmos --
and in reality, you have.
This is medieval Paris at its very best.
Afterwards, take a short walk, admiring the view of the Seine,
La Conciergerie and your first look across the water to the Left Bank.
In mere minutes you'll arrive at one of the most romantic
spots in Paris -- Place Dauphine.
Kiss your wife, hug your friends and consider a little aperitif
at one of the sweet cafes that surround the perfect little square.
From here, you can decide what to do this evening ......
seven day adventure and there is so much more I want you to see.
How can I better help you organize a plan?
Let's try a short list to help organize your trip -- looking at categories,
including a few of my very favorites in each:
Luxembourg Gardens, Parc Buttes-Chaumont, Parc Monceau,
Parc Belleville -- oh no, already off to a bad start -- that's about three too many...
Saint-Chapelle, Notre-Dame, Saint-Etienne-du-Mont,
St-Eustache, St-Denis -- definitely not going according to plan....
Arc de Triomphe, Opera Garnier, Place de la Concorde,
Napoleon's Tomb, Pantheon, Eiffel Tower -- dammit, I could go on & on....
Pere Lachaise -- if you have time
for just one memorial in Paris, make it this one.
- Bastille, Raspail, market streets like rue Daguerre, Mouffetard
Montorgeuil and Cler -- life is too short for just one market ....
- La Grande Epicurie (more food), Deyrolle, Galeries Lafayette,
window shopping on rue Saint-Honoré or Place Vendome, covered
passages like Galerie Vivienne or Jouffroy, the flea markets --
lots of €, payback for all the times you cheated at Chinese checkers....
- The Marais, Canal St. Martin, Belleville,
St. Germain-des-Pres, Montparnasse, Latin Quarter -- sheesh....
- The Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, The Rodin, Petit Palais,
Musée d'Art Moderne, Jacquemart André.... I'm barely
getting started -- can't narrow it down, need help .....
Poilâne, Eric Kayser, Gérard Mulot, Julien,
Dalloyau, Pierre Hermé, Patisserie des Reves....
life is short, try one of each....
Le Bonbon au Palais, A l'Etoile d'Or, A la Mère de Famille...
life is short, try one of each....
Jacques Genin, Pralus, Michel Chaudun ....ditto
Duc des Lombards (jazz), Club Rayé (piano bar), cathedrals (such as Saint-Sulpice)....
BISTROTS, BRASSERIES, CAFES
Oh heavens, this could take forever.....
"We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle."
The list is way too long for just seven days and at the same time,
I've cheated you out of some of my absolute favorites.
Nobody likes things crammed down their throat.
There has to be a way to see more without going crazy.
Assign each day a specific historical era, and choose according to the timeline:
Sunday: The Renaissance -- starting with The Cluny Museum
with its gorgeous Lady & the Unicorn Tapestry
Monday: The Enlightenment -- The Catacombs
Tuesday: Napoleon's Reign -- Malmaison, his gorgeous estate outside Paris
Wednesday: Baron Haussmann Day -- Sewer Tour or Place de l'Etoile
Thursday: The Belle Epoque -- The Grand Palais and #29 Avenue Rapp
Friday: Roman Paris -- The Arenes de Lutece
Saturday: Modern Paris -- Pompidou Center and La Defense
And of course we need an 8-day week for The Sun King -- Versailles
Oh no, I just made it worse -- too many choices, too many decisions...
There is just too much to love...
"Eight days a week is not enough to show I care."
John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Paris is not some laundry list of places to see,
it's a fountain of feelings and magical experiences.
Any good itinerary allows you to:
LOOK AT ART YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND
PEE IN A TURKISH TOILET*
*only recommended for the men in your party
Imagination, big brother -- we grew up on that.
Think about it, many of the world's best discoveries
were made by chance instead of by design.
Penicillin, Velcro, Super Glue -- success stories unearthed by accident.
I think the best Paris adventures just sort of happen like that.
Timing, luck, karma -- whatever you want to call it -- are your best friends.
Chance discoveries and memorable fun
happen as naturally as breathing in and out -- after all, it's Paris!
Remember, The City of Light isn't the outline you study
on your tourist map of Central Paris.
It's a living city of real people and it's the Parisians who make it what it is today.
So engage with them.
Revel in real conversation and make a new friend.
Enjoy the little things.
Splurge on a platter of royal fruits de mer.
Drink a cup of coffee where Thomas Jefferson & Ben Franklin drank theirs*.
Dab on a bit of Guerlain perfume or get a haircut.
These are the things you'll remember the most about your trip.
Eat too much candy and get silly on Absinthe.
Better yet, have a drink at Harry's Bar where it's likely
our very own dad enjoyed a few stiff drinks just after the war.
Watch an episode of Law & Order dubbed in French.
Lenny never sounded so elegant.
Embrace your two loves:
Magic -- Musée de la Magie may have a trick or two to amaze even you.
Music -- Search out some of your favorite New Orleans style
melodies, perhaps at Autour du Midi just behind the Moulin Rouge.
Look on the Wall of Names for our mother's family at the
Memorial de la Shoah and contemplate just how lucky we are.
Negotiate a smile from a stranger.
In other words, follow your bliss.
That's the real Paris.
I'll be with you every step of the way.
I know you'll have the best time!
P.S. Next time, don't even think about going without me!