Next week, after the holidays are well and truly over, I will be publishing my annual survey of the Top Ten Stories in the World of D&O for 2018. In the meantime, during the holidays, I have been posting a series of alternative Top Ten lists. Yesterday, I posted my list of top ten things to see and do in London. Today, I am publishing my list of the top ten things to see and do in my all-time favorite city, Paris.
I have been to Paris many times and have strong views about the place, as my list below reflects. There are also a number of obvious omissions from the list below, as well. Most first time visitors to the city know they want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, Notre-Dame, Sacré-Cœur, and the Arc de Triomphe. Every first time visitor to Paris should definitely see all of these sites. Just the same, I have left these top destinations off of my list, to make room for some other destinations that might or might not make their way on to visitors’ itineraries. I have set out my list below. Please also see the additional top ten list below, as well.
10. Place des Voges: An atmospheric square located in the Marais district and built in the early 17th century, this beautiful brick residential development built along harmonious and uniform lines is now a quiet retreat. On a sunny day, it is great just to visit the Place and to stroll around the square or to take in the atmosphere on one of the benches, and then afterwards leave the square by the southern archway and walk down to the Rue Saint-Antoine to enjoy one of the many sidewalk cafés along the way.
9. La Grande Epicerie: The Grand Epicerie is a food emporium adjacent to the famous Le Bon Marché department store. The grocery store has several floors of gourmet foods and beverages. The place is frankly a little bit dazzling but it is a lot of fun just to walk around in and to look around. There are several dining counters in the store where you can sample a wide variety of foods, but the best thing to do is select an array of foods to take away, and then to enjoy a picnic meal in the Square Boucicaut, in front of the department store’s main entrance.
8. Fondation Louis Vuitton: The Fondation is one of the newest museums in Paris. The modern art exhibits in the museum change all of the time, but in any event the real reason to visit the museum is to see its dramatic exterior and fascinating interior design. The beautiful building was designed by the famous architect Frank Geary. It is also beautifully situated within the Bois de Boulogne. There are a number of terraces within the museum affording views of the park and the city. An interesting place to visit.
7. Buttes Chaumont: In far northeastern Paris, far off of the tourist grid, is the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, a huge park with a man-made lake, a picturesque temple perched on steep hilltop, and a series of wide promenades. The lake was built on the site of a former gypsum quarry. A stone grotto with a waterfall adjoins the lake. For anyone interested in seeing a different part of the city, this park is a great place for strolling and on a sunny day for people watching.
6. Village St-Paul: In the middle of the Marais district and just off of Rue Saint-Antoine, behind the St. Paul church, is a quiet, hidden district of narrow streets and alleyways. The area has the feel of a small rural village. It is full of antique shops and of small cafés and restaurants. This quiet area is a very special secret place, only steps away from a busy avenue but entirely off of the tourist grid. Don’t tell anybody else about this place, it will just be our little secret.
5. Île Saint-Louis: At some point, most visitors to Paris make their way to the Notre-Dame Cathedral on the Île de la Cité. Not many visitors cross over the footbridge behind Notre-Dame leading to the adjacent island, the Île Saint-Louis. The smaller island is only a few steps away but it might as well be in a different city. By contrast to the busy, tourist-crowded streets around Notre-Dame, the streets on Île Saint-Louis are calm and quiet. The island is a great place for a leisurely lunch after touring around Notre-Dame, or anytime you want a quiet meal away from the crowd. The residential streets are beautiful and the walkways along the waterside afford great views of the river, of Notre-Dame, and of the city nearby.
4. Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Notre-Dame is more famous, but the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés on the Left Bank is older and more atmospheric. There often are concerts in the old church, and if you are willing to attend a service in French, it is a great place to take in a mass on Sunday morning. Across the square from the main entrance to the church is the famous Les Deux Magots café, whose famous patrons have included Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, and James Joyce. After a beverage at the café, stroll around the neighborhood and along the Boulevard Saint-Germain, it is one of the great districts in the city.
3. Canal Saint-Martin: The Canal Saint-Martin is part of the series of canals linking Paris to distant rivers bringing fresh water to the city. The Canal remains a working canal. A series of locks allow barges to make their way down to the Seine River. Walkways line the canal and bridges cross back and forth, affording great viewpoints from which to watch barges make their way through the locks. The Canal is not far from the Marais but just the same it is pretty much completely off of the tourist grid. On a sunny day the Canal is about as special of a place to stroll as there is in all of the city.
2. Rue Mouffetard: The Rue Mouffetard is a very special street away from the busier environs of the Latin Quarter. At the northern end of the street at the top of Mont Sainte-Geneviève is the Place de la Contrescarpe, a large quiet square ringed with cafes and brasseries that has something of a small village feel. The Rue Mouffetard itself – which is lined with small shops selling wine, cheese, tea, clothing and books – has rolled downhill toward the south since the Roman era. The area is also now laced with student bars, including one called (I am not making this up) “Student Bar.” A great way to end an afternoon in Paris is to stroll down to the bottom of the Rue Mouffetard and then back up the hill for a cool beverage at a sidewalk café in the Place de la Contrescarpe. (The Place made my list of the ten great places to have a beer.)
1. Jardin du Luxembourg: Paris is a great city full of beautiful places to visit, but in the entire city, as far as I am concerned, the most beautiful and the one most worth seeing is the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Jardin made my previously published list of top urban parks – but it is more than that. It is the place that most embodies the spirit of the city. The most essential Parisian spirits inhabit the gardens, where romantic couples slowly promenade and little children sailing their boats in the central fountain shout happily “Regardez, Maman! Regardez!” There is no better place anywhere for a stroll, to enjoy the view, to take in the air, to walk the many others enjoying the atmosphere, to feel fortunate that you have been able to travel to Paris, just to see and walk in the Jardin.
A Picture Gallery: I admit that more than once I have made wise-cracks about people who post pictures of their food on social media. Over time, these kinds of remarks have turned me into a hypocrite, because the fact is that over time I have posted lots of pictures of food in various travel posts. Sometimes, food is an interesting and even an important part of the experience in some travel locations. I have taken lots of pictures of my meals as I have traveled around. Here are some of my favorites below.