Paris is known as the city of love; particularly apt if your love is art. In 2013 I took Parisian mini break with my mum (an ex travel lecturer) and we followed my artist twin’s recommendations of attractions. The result was a whirlwind tour of culture, cuisine and carry-on (my mum got berated for touching a sculpture in the Pompidou; hilarious since she is usually the one doing the berating)! We visited famous and hidden sites; learning that a week wasn’t enough to see all we wanted. Some venues were so huge it was hard to know where to start. So here are my recommendations for the pinnacle of Paris.
Like most tourists I was dying to visit the Louvre, but nothing prepared me for the size and bustle of the place. After locating and joining Mona Lisa’s paparazzi my mum and I hesitated; what to do next? Luckily we noticed Napoleon’s apartments on the map. That’s right, his whole apartments’ interiors ripped out and relocated in the Louvre! They were stunning; a luscious look at how the other half lived. If you want romance in Paris skip the Eiffel Tower (cold queues) and visit this.
Napoleon raised his head again at the Pompidou Centre; where Picasso’s incomplete portrait of him hung. The Post Modern section beckoned me from the many floors of this gallery. If – like me – you enjoy aesthetically pleasing art then this is the section for you. My favourite pieces included one of a burning book, a Sgt Pepper’s style Adam and Eve and a psychedelic black activist’s portrait (pictured below) . For the full experience we rode the building’s transparent escalator and enjoyed the view from its roof.
Parisian streets assault the senses, so unless you really have to don’t waste them on the metro. Walking will give you a unique view of the city’s street art and architecture.
Bus tours are another great option, particularly if you want to see the nocturnal illuminations. We used the Big Bus Tour; enjoying its head-set commentary and chilled approach. For the best experience go from Spring – Winter, when it is darker earlier, and wrap up against the cold.
Daytime sights are best taken by canal, with tour boats boarding near the Eiffel Tower and running the length of the Seine. This is the perfect way to relax, away from the hustle of the streets. Boat tours also give an uninterrupted view of Notre Damn and the Louvre (perfect for photo opportunities). We used Bateaux Parisiens tours, complete with open plan seating and live guide commentary.
Finding good food at reasonable prices can be a challenge in Paris. However, armed with luck (and ex-pat reviews) we found some gems. Not far from the Scare Coeur, Le Relais Gascon is the perfect place for rustic French food. With pastoral scenes painted on its interior and wooden shuttered windows, this rue des Abbesses venue is charming. I would recommend its Tartiflette (potato, cheese and bacon tart).
Near the Moulin Rouge, Le Dit Vin is a hidden gem. Nestled on a street corner, this petite bistro offers tasty wine, seafood and home baking. Its specials board, friendly staff and open plan seating make it a hub of local life. When dining here I would recommend taking a phrase book and attempting some French; as the waitresses really appreciated it.
Le Dit Vin was just across the road from our hotel, The Rudyard Kipling. As the name suggests this venue had Post Colonial themed décor, with vintage sofas and books in the lounge. The breakfast room had an impressive cave appearance, with stone walls and chandeliers. Its continental fare boasted prosciutto ham, brie and Nutella among other items. Although the hotel was compact we managed to catch our breath from the bedroom’s Juliet style windows. This also provided a great view of the street (perfect for people watching). I would recommend this hotel for its comfort and its proximity to amenities (shops, bistros and metro).