Paris. City of lights, love and allure. You’ve seen it right? The Eiffel Tower, The Arc de Triomphe, Mona and her friends at the Louvre…been there, done that. Then why are you back?
Either you just had an insatiable craving for some frogs legs served up by a desperately disinterested waiter who will happily charge you your arm and a leg for the meal…OR…
It’s the allure.
Trusting you’re not a frog leg-loving millionaire, I’m going to go with the second suggestion.
For Paris has a special kind of allure, like that classy, could-be model you’ve seen at a thousand mutual-friend related social events.
You’ve met them once, talked about them twice and liked their Facebook status updates countless times… but you still don’t really know them.
Probably in part due to your inability to say more than… “Hello,” “thank you” and “yes, one baguette please” …but hey, don’t let that stop you.
They’re beautiful and charming so you keep trying, but how do you get through that superficial table chat?
This is a short guide to achieve exactly that. As a six-month Parisian veteran, these are the sites I did not find on a tourist map and the places I could endlessly return to. See end of article for specific directions and addresses.
Pastry, Pavement & Pooches
Start your day off like a true Parisian by heading to the fifteenth arrondissement for a morning pastry and pet-filled stroll.
Failing you didn’t bring your own pint-sized pooch, strike up a conversation with the locals about their no doubt, “well-dressed” other halves.
If you hadn’t yet noticed, Parisians adore les chiens, and being the most populous area in the city, the fifteenth is full of them.
It is also home to some of the best patisseries in town. Nestled on the corner of residential streets you will find some of the city’s finest.
Awards for “Paris’ best… baguette, tarte aux pommes, tarte citroen…” and other diet-destroying delicacies decorate the doors. To get your morning fix, follow the recommended walk below.
Exit métro line 8 at Boucicaut and begin walking down Rue de la Convention towards the
river Seine. On your left keep your hungry eyes peeled for “L’Artisan des Gourmands”.
Here you will find the winners of Paris’ best tarte aux pommes (apple tart) for the years 2014 and 2015, second best croissant 2014, and number one Francilienne pastry 2015.
They also make a divine chausson aux pommes or “apple slipper”. Think golden, minature, baguette-shaped pastry with crisp, buttery layers that flake effortlessly away as warm apples slither into your mouth.
When you have selected your pastry of choice take your next right onto Rue Saint Charles. This street is lined with a number of quaint boutiques, fruit stores, chocolaterie and a mouth watering market on Tuesdays and Fridays. It is also home to the most marvellous meringue makers, “Aux Merveilleux de Fred”.
Just a few meters down from the intersection, gaze into Fred’s window to see mounds of meringue being rolled through shards of chocolate and sculpted into heavenly delights.
If you haven’t already gained 10 pounds solely from the viewing experience, step inside and purchase a few bite sized creations.
Once you’ve consumed enough sugary, buttery goodness to morph into a pastry, à la Violet Beauregarde de Willy Wonka, roll down the metaphorical hill towards the Seine for a pleasant, pastry-burning stroll along the tree-lined, Swan Island (Île aux Cygnes).
Arriving at the western end you would be fooled for thinking you had just arrived in the land of the free. On a circular, concrete platform, a quarter size Statue of Liberty replica rises out of the water.
While you may have known the statue of liberty’s origins as a gift from France to America, you may not have registered the rather well-reputed Builder, Mr Gustave Eiffel. It seems only fitting then that this replica stand in the shadows of the builder’s masterwork.
At the eastern end a stunning Eiffel Tower viewing spot appears alongside an elegant Danish equestrian sculptor. However, the striking scene is quickly overshadowed by a nagging sense of déjà-vu. There’s something about the bridge behind you.
It is almost not surprising that we borrow the expression “déjà-vu” (to have “already seen”) from French given the number of filmic moments “seen” by this tiny nation, Pont de Bir Harkeim is no exception.
“Last Tango in Paris”, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” and “Inception” are the most liking fuel sources to your rollercoaster of “reminis – sense”.
Speaking to the Dead
After spending your morning in the 15th you are now hopefully familiar with the locals and fairly aware of the limitations of Highschool French, why not rebuild your foreign language confidence by testing your Bonjours out with the city’s non-critical, non-living citizens?
Cemeteries. There’s something hauntingly beautiful about walking amongst the gravestones of strangers, observing the chaotic tussle between past and present as vines and greenery push through moss-stained rock and stoney crevasses… but in Paris, cemetery gazing is no longer simply for us weirdoes, cue official website.
This is not surprising. The French know how to give nature a good manicure. They’re also rather artistically gifted. In
combination this creates for some visually striking cemetery grounds.
Moreover, being the centre of art and philosophy at the height of The Enlightenment these cemeteries pay host to a number of talented individuals.
From the great playwright Oscar Wilde to American pop musician Jim Morrision and the iconic Edith Piaf, Paris’ cemeteries are full of interesting individuals ready to make your acquaintance.
For those less people-inclined, Le Cimetière des Chiens or “The Dog Cemetery” might be more up your alley.
Afternoon: Rooftop Revival
After spending the morning with the locals and their deceased relatives, you are probably in need of a revival. Why not head over to Galeries Lafayette for some fresh air and rooftop gazing.
This department store not only boasts stunning, and conveniently free views of the cityscape from its rooftop terrace, but a “Titanic”-esque atrium which will have you gazing upwards like a doe-eyed Jack on his first stowaway mission into first class.
After you’ve strolled your way through the
store, feigning your interest in each level as you smugly make your descent from the free terrace view, head over to the boutique of macaroon mastercrafstman, Pierre Hermé.
While you probably tasted the dainty, traditional morsels of Ladurée on your first city visit, Pierre Hermé is worth trying on the second. Dubbed the Picasso of Pastry by French vogue, the Pierre Hermé franchise offers some strangely delightful alternatives to the traditional treats.
Evening: Wining and Dining
If you haven’t already nibbled a baguette somewhere along the way, you are probably now craving something substantially larger than a macaroon. Hop on the métro and head towards everyone’s favourite hill, Montmatre.
Nestled on the winding slopes you will find the quaint Le Potager du Père Thierry (Father Thierry’s Vegetable Garden) and a few steps up the road, its equally delightful sister restaurant, Le Jardin d’en Face (The Garden Opposite).
With large portions of mouth-watering, home-style French cooking, an ambient atmosphere and pricing that won’t have you screaming, “putain!” this restaurant is bound to satisfy.
After dinner meander around the cobblestone streets before taking a short stroll up the hill to view the striking city in its shimmering evening dress.
Stay tuned for “Paris Encore Part Two” and your next 24 hours in Paris…
From “Aux Merveilleux de Fred” to Île aux Cygnes
This can be done by continuing down Rue Saint Charles and taking your next left onto Rue de Javel. When you reach the familiar banks of Paris’ central waterway, turn right and walk a few minutes to arrive at “Île aux Cygnes”.
The 15th arrondissement to Père Lachaise
From the end of Pont de Bir Harkeim exit the bridge on the left bank and hop onto the RER C towards Pont de Rungis-Aéroport d’Orly. Change at Invalides to métro line 8 heading towards Creteil – Pointe du Lac and make one last change at République onto métro line 3 towards Gallieni. Disembark and exit the métro station at Gambetta following signs for Père Lachaise cemetery. The grounds are huge but from this entrance you will be walking downhill and in the direction of one of the cemetery’s most-loved inhabitants, Oscar Wilde.
Père Lachaise to Galeries Lafayette & Pierre Hermé
Exit Père Lachaise cemetery and take métro line 3 towards Pont de Levallois-Bécon. Exit the métro at the Opéra stop. Head down Rue Auber continuing past the Opéra building and turning right onto Rue Scribe. Take your second right onto Boulevard Hausseman and the department store is on your left. Head to level 8 for the free rooftop view.
To reach Pierre Hermé, exit the building and trace your steps back to the Opéra métro stop and then continue onto Avenue de L’Opera. The store is at number 39.
Pierre Hermé to Le Potager du Père Thierry
It is possible to walk from Pierre Hermé up the hill to Montmatre in about 15 minutes. Walk back to Galeries Lafayette and then continue to the last building complex on the right. From here take the second or third street you find on your left and follow the backstreets up the hill.
If your legs are about to drop off, take the métro. Walk back to the opera métro stop and hop on line 8 heading for Balard. Transfer at Madeleine to métro 12 in the direction of Aubervilliers – Front Popualaire. Descend at Abbesses. Exit the station and walk towards your left until you reach Rue La Vieuville. Walk down this street, turn left onto Cité de la Mairie and then another left onto Rue des Trois Frères .
Arrive around 7pm to ensure you nab a table in either of the restaurants and make sure to try the potato and cheese gratin with smoked-duck garnish. There is enough flavour in there to turn any good vegan.