As promised, Blog This Mom! brings you Paris, Part Deux. (By the way, this post marks the “I’m Over Halfway There” point for March NaBloPoMo! Woo hoo!)
1. Where to Stay
Centered in the 4th arrondissement is the Marais district. Marais (especially St. Paul) is so very, very charming, medieval, and just plain groovy. The streets are cobblestone, the buildings brimming with charm, and the bistros, bookstores, butcher shops, fruit stands, bakeries, cheese stores, and chocolate shops, are inviting and quaint. This is the place to stay. I’ve been to Paris twice and stayed in this area both times. It did not disappoint. Tom’s parents rent an apartment in St. Paul when they are in Paris (they live there part of each year). Marais is the center of Paris’ oldest Jewish community. Hundreds of years ago, when Jews were expelled from Christian Paris, they moved to Marais, which at that time was outside the city limits. Paris’ gay community is located in Marais as well. One night Tom and I went to a couples-filled restaurant (near the Hotel Bretonnerie, as I recall), and I was the only woman in a restaurant chock full of beautiful men – which suited me just fine, as you might imagine.
2. Where to Go to Get Your God On
Notre Dame is cool, yes, of course it is. But Ste. Chappelle (built to house Christ’s crown of thorns, and a piece of his cross, as the story goes) has the most beautiful windows you might imagine. Both are near Marais, within walking distance, as is everything good. Don’t miss these two churches. Sacre-Coeur is in Montmartre, and will require a Metro ride from Marais and a walk up a hill. There is a funicular to the side of the church, which can take you from the bottom of the church steps to the top, if you want. Once there, you’ll get a great view of the city, and see this beautiful Catholic Church. When I was there I saw a breathtakingly beautiful communion service (all in French, well, duh, it was in French) and sat mesmerized while the entire time Tom tapped his foot wanting to move on.
3. Where to Go to Get Your Grin On
The Georges Pompidou Centre is in Marais and is a modern monstrosity, if you ask me, but with great views and a hoot to visit and photograph. Laura thoroughly enjoyed the escalator ride to the top (where there was a modern-art museum or gallery at the time, and some sort of science-y exhibit, as I recall), but the joy may have been mostly because our small child was filled with glee over the whole darn thing, which was infectious.
4. Where to Go to Feel All Cultured and Stuff
While the Louvre is, well, the Louvre, I really liked the Musee d’Orsay, where my favorite spot was in front of almost any impressionist painting. And Degas’ ballerinas are not to be missed. So, yeah, there’s Monet, Manet, Seuraut, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Daumier and the list goes on, but then, just outside the door is the treat! There is a little bistro with the best glace au chocolat (aka chocolate ice cream) on Earth, and you’ll find a good meal too. Order the pommes frites (French fries). We’ve been to this bistro twice, ten years apart, and the ice cream rocked my world both times. Sorry I can’t remember the name of it, but you can’t miss it, with your back to the museum entrance, it is at the bottom of the front steps and to your left.
5. Where to Go to Say “Been There, Done That”
The Palais Royal is simply lovely and full of historical significance. The manuscript/bookseller in there is an old friend of Tom’s folks. Make sure you take time to stroll through the Tuileries Gardens outside the Louvre. Walk down Champs Elysees at night, and think of Laura at the Arc de Triomphe (she was fascinated by it and asked to see it every day).
The Eiffel Tower is a must for any tourist, and the view, the view, the view! Get a baguette with brie sandwich at the top, French fast food, yum. There are lovely parks all over Paris, and we stopped to stroll and play in most of them. Also, lovely old carousels and a few modern kiddie rides are sprinkled throughout the city; Laura enjoyed it when we stopped to get a billet so she could take a break from the walking and the seeing, to sit and ride. One night, Laura rode next to a little boy and she said, “Hi! My name is Laura. Are you French?” He replied in French, “Je suis” which translates to “I am.” When she got off the ride she told us that she met a little boy named Jesse.
6. Where to Go to Get to Where You Want Go
If you’re not leaving the city, your feet, the Metros, the RERs, and the Batobus (water bus) will be all you need to get around.
7. Where to Go to Learn French
Lots and lots of people in Paris (particularly those in the service/travel industry anyway) speak English. Don’t worry too much about brushing up on your French.