Paris has something for everyone: Art, history, food, breathtaking statuary and stunning avenues. It also has dazzling shops, tree-lined avenues, lively bistros and quirky neighborhoods.
Paris, the modern city, is every bit as interesting as the storybook city of monuments and museums. When your Avalon cruise stops here, consider sidestepping the most common places to experience it on a whole different level.
Begin in the early morning when Paris light is at is best, even if it’s grey and drizzly. Plan to walk. Parisians walk with purpose, but you can stroll at your own pace. For a world capital, the city’s core is surprisingly compact, and the efficient, world class Metro will whisk you anywhere else that is worth going.
The Seine winds through the city like a sinuous snake, punctuated by distinctive bridges and paved promenades along its banks. Following the river’s course will lead you past many of the city’s storied attractions, getting you up close and personal with Notre Dame and Saint Chappelle, the Musee d’Orsay, Place de la Concord with its towering obelisk, Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, Napoleon’s Tomb, the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower. From the Tower, it’s a pleasant walk to the Arc de Triomphe and, of course, the Champs Elysees.
But there is a distinctively different Paris awaiting discovery. Here are just a few ideas that will allow you to skip long lines, and let you glimpse other faces of Paris.
Balloon de Paris
For a view of the city that hasn’t been common for more than a century, you can ascend to a height of 490 feet in a tethered balloon at the Parc Andre Citroen. Balloons were once all the rage in old Paris. This one lifts off only when wind conditions are favorable, so check beforehand, but the park is worth a visit in any case.
In the community of Boulogne-Billancourt on the western fringes of the city is a hidden gem. The grounds feature several different theme gardens, but the best known is a Japanese garden that contains a complete “village” of original Japanese buildings dismantled and reassembled. Take the Metro to Boulogne-Pont de St. Cloud.
Le Carreau du Temple
A unique cultural center in the heart of the revitalized Marais district, a visitor never quite knows what to expect, other than the unexpected. You may find an exhibit of street art, a photography show or cooking class, a kick-boxing exhibition or a lively debate, but you’ll never be bored by this collaboration of culture and sport.
The Flea Market
It has existed for centuries, and has been a favorite haunt of tourists throughout the ages. It’s amazing, even if shopping is not on your agenda. Make your way to one of the traditional — or unusual — restaurants in the Marche aux Puces de Paris in Saint-Ouen, and just people-watch while you enjoy a good meal.
Said to be the largest train station in the world, this is where all transportation lines converge in Paris. It’s also the site of the former huge fresh-air food market, the new Forum Les Halles shopping complex, and an extensive revitalization project both above and below ground. It’s startling and energizing at the same time, and offers a glimpse of the Paris of the future! Walk from Ile de la Cite, or take the Metro, but be sure to venture underground to the Gare. You’ll be amazed!
You may not think of going to a movie in Paris, but this architectural gem of a building not only has a huge collection of film memorabilia. In addition to posters, set and costume drawings, photos and books, it offers daily screenings, perhaps just the ticket for a rainy-day excursion.
Lose yourself in Paris, and find the people and places that make your heart sing. Feel the beating heart of the city on the smaller streets, as you browse the fruit and vegetable stands, the flower carts and the magazine stands. Sample a freshly made crepe, spread with the national passion — Nutella — from a street vendor. Sip a Cafe crème at a stand-up counter, or buy a baguette and munch on fresh bread as you walk.
Being in the City of Light, even if only for a day, allows you to make the city your own, and to forever own a piece of it! Paris has something for everyone, but not everyone loves the same things. Toss the guidebooks and make memories in the Paris that beckons to you.