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.

The view of Montmartre from Sacre-Couer

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.

The escalator at the Pompidou

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.

Laura on the steps outside of the Musee d’Orsay

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).

Laura on Avenue des Champs Elysees
Laura under the Arc de Triomphe

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.

Laura and “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.

When you go to Paris,
be sure to wear your finest beret

Au revoir!

14 comments on “List Day Sixteen: Paris, Part Deux”

  1. Wonderful. I am a Musee D’Orsay fan, too (the Louvre made me tired) and especially like that dark room full of ballerina pastels. You know the one?

  2. Sam: I totally know the one! The ballerinas were a favorite of Laura, who was taking ballet at the time. I have a picture of Laura in front of “Marie” by Degas, but I didn’t post it because Laura looked so sad. She looked sad because she’d read the sign that said “No Photographs” but I made her pose anyway. Laura is a rule follower. She only held still for the photo because I convinced her that it was I who was breaking the rules, not her. Still, she was sad.

    The Louvre is tiring as it would take weeks (no?) to cover. Just getting to the few major pieces requires miles of walking, or so it seems. And it’s dog-eat-dog to get in front of the Mona Lisa. In such a situation, Tom’s the man. He picked up Laura and got her front and center view in no time. I took pictures of them from the sidelines. I’ll try to get some of these photos up on my flickr site.

  3. St Chapelle is exquisite and I totally agree with you about the Pompidou!

    Whilst speaking French is not essential I found they really do appreciate the courtesies – please thankyou good morning etc spoken in French – just as we value politeness in tourists to our respective countries.

    I can highly recommend staying in the 6th as well (I loved the Marais too though) for a Left Bank experience. Both apartments we stayed in were on Rue du Four.

  4. Ah, such memories.

    Musee D’Orsay was my absolute favorite and I also loved Sacre-Coeur (and Montemartre in general).

    Good list. Very “franch.” (Did you ever see Better Off Dead?). Oh well.


  5. Blue Mountains Mary: Yes, they do take well to the courtesy of speaking French. My husband is fluent (he lived there part of his life), and Laura made every effort to speak only French while we were there. Also, my family can attest that I speak French Menu, so at least I know my canard from my poulet. 😉

    Debawriter: Yes, I did see that movie!

  6. Jamie: She tried so hard to be “French” when we were there. And Laura was quite pleased with herself and well received when she would ask for jus de pomme.

  7. I must admit that France has never been one of my “ooh, I gotta go there!!” kind of places…but…after reading your descriptions and seeing the pictures (that Laura…what an international cootie patootie!!) I might want to rethink…if anything, for the art!!!
    Thanks for making such a great effort for us!!!

  8. I LOVE you! Or, ahem, j’taime. Oui?

    Anyway, thanks much for these links – I will definitely put them against what I’ve been obsessively compiling. It’s always better to have the word of people who’ve been. I’m totally excited about “the cave”!

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