Since we retired, we embraced slow travel and a "live like a local' mentality. No place in the world deserves to be explored in this matter more than Paris. One week gave a time to vited smaller museums, take day trips, and absorb the magic that is the "City of Lights." "Paris is a world meant for the walker alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the (if muted) detail." This quote by Edmund White describes the essence of how a repeat visitor should approach Paris.
Visitors who make time to peel back the layers of Paris and fall in love with the Parian lifestyle, rather than ticking off highlights, are richly rewarded by the simple pleasures of Paris. If you walk the streets until your feet tire, stopping to sip a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe or poke around in an intriguing bookshop or enjoy a leisurely dinner, you are experiencing the joie de vive that is Paris.
Where to Stay
Repeat visitors should consider staying in a residential neighborhood apartment rather than a hotel. This allows you to observe and embrace the rhythms of daily life in a destination. We stayed in a small but very affordable apartment from VRBO, just at the edge of the Le Marais neighborhood on the Right Bank. We shopped in the local market, had coffee in the local cafes and tasted the deliciousness at bistros nearby. We throughly enjoyed living local in our “home away from home” neighborhood.
Explore Your Neighborhood
The best way to experience Paris is on foot. Around every corner is a hidden gem or a neighborhood treasure. From our residential apartment, we explored the area around the Place de La Bastille, the Opera Bastille, Canal Saint-Martin and took long walks along the Seine, following her graceful curves through the city. Everyday we found a new and interesting corner of Paris, enjoying excellent people watching along the way. What a pleasure it is to absorb the sights and sounds of Paris, while engaging in "flaner," the French word for the art of walking around.
Shop Like a Local
Making a repeat visit to a city allows you to experience the lifestyle of a place. Some of the best "non touristy" streets to shop are St. Germain du Pres or Rue du Commerce, both on the left bank. We shopped at the local open air market near our apartment, Marche Bastille, open Thursdays and Sundays only. Another great Market is La Marche d' Aligre. The covered market known for their reasonable prices and is open everyday but Monday.
Eat Where Locals Eat
Food is a national obsession in France. The Parisians eat a light breakfast usually coffee, bread and jam. Throughout our time in Paris, we ate in small places where mainly locals eat. Most entrees were moderately priced (for Paris). Nearly everything we tried was absolutely delicious. Here are a few of the highlights: Bistrot de L’Oulette-Cassoulet, La Vache Acrobate-Onion Soup, Les Cocotto-Duck Confit, Dai Dai - Pizza and Il Seguito - Seafood Pasta. The French are strict about their dining times, where lunch is served from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm, and dinner from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm. Service charges are added to the bill, if you felt the service was outstanding you could leave an extra 2% to 5%.
Revisit Your Favorite Spots
Whether it is a visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower or a wander among the 30,000 pieces of art in the Louvre, some places just call to us to visit again. The Louvre is the world's largest museum, and the Musee Orsay has the world's largest collection of impressionist art. The Centre Pompidou has one of the world's largest collections of contemporary art. These museums demand multiple visits before you can scratch the surface on the treasures within them.
What a pleasure it is to stroll slowly and absorb the greatness you are viewing, as opposed to rushing from highlight to highlight. If you are planning to visit any of the major museums, make certain you purchase tickets in advance, giving you a specific time slot to enter the museum and avoid very long lines. Click on the museum you wish to visit for hours and entrance fees, Louvre, Musee Orsay or Centre Pompidou.
Take a Few Day Trips
For us the ease of travel is the biggest factor in determining whether to take a day trip tour or use train system for transportation. The second factor is our level of interest in the destination. The more we are interested in a topic, the more likely we are to take a private or small group tour.
In Paris, visiting Versailles is a short 25 minute train ride on the RER C and then a short walk from the Château Versailles Rive Gauche stop to the entrance. This dazzling Palace oozing with opulence and history is well worth a visit. Visiting Giverny is another great day trip. Because the train was a complicated and more expensive option, we took a half day organized tour from Paris to Giverny, visiting Monet’s home and gardens. We had plenty of time to tour the house, absorb the beauty of the gardens and the surrounding village. It is easy to understand how it was such an inspiration to Monet.
Tasting local wines is my favorite way to explore the culinary and agricultural history of a place. Both a visit to the Loire Valley and Champagne are great day trips from Paris. Because of our level of interest, we did a small group, full day Champagne tour, through Viator. We tasted at 3 Champagne Houses, visited a modern production facility, toured the wine storage caves that run underneath the village of Champagne and stood in the vineyards where Dom Perignon grew his famous grapes. On our next visit, I hope to do the Loire Valley Castles & Wine Tasting Day Trip from Paris
Another great day trip is a visit to Normandy and the D-day Beaches. This trip exceeded my expectations. All the memorials were tastefully and respectfully created and beautifully maintained. We did a full day tour from Paris that included stops at the Omaha Beach Visitor Centre, Utah Beach Museum, the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Merand and lunch at a waterside restaurant.
Explore New Places
The Rodin Museum was at the top of my list for our most recent visit to Paris and it exceeded my expectations. Not only do you get to see his most famous pieces up close but in multiple sizes. You can view his personal art collection, including pieces by Van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne. The museum is housed in the Château where Rodin lived while he was in Paris.
I am fascinated with the life and works of Pablo Picasso. The Musee Picasso was also on the top of my list for our recent visit to Paris. This Museum offers you a completely different perspective on his work. This museum shares insight into Picasso’s life and work through the lens of his relationship with his oldest daughter, her mother and his relationship with his family. It is an enlightening way to view his creativity and colorful interpersonal relationships.
What is on my list for our next visit to Paris:
A Movable Feast Self Guided Tour created by the Travel Bloggers at World in Paris.
A Picnic along the Seine
A visit the Catacombs
I am endlessly fascinated with Paris and it did not disappoint. I feel like this quote by Ernest Hemingway applies to visitors and well as ex-pats, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man then wherever you go the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast."
Detailed posts on day trips from Paris and what to eat in Paris will be coming out in the next few weeks. For notifications on these posts and access to my dining guides and packing lists sign up for my resource page with the link below.
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