Hello, fellow Style Spotters!
Just the other day a friend called to say she was joining her husband on his business trip to Paris and she was anxious to be on her own during the day. I could not stress enough how easy Paris is to navigate. It turns out she is not much of a shopper but I suggested she think of what she might want to purchase (hello… great reasonably priced shoes…) and which sites and museums she wanted to visit.
So those of you who are new travelers to Paris here’s how I do it. And for the rest of you seasoned travelers or Francophiles, please add to the conversation.
First of all, a good map is essential. On my last trip I used The Paris Mapguide by Michael Middleditch. This paperback guidebook is slightly wider than a map but is lightweight and fits easily into a handbag. It was easy to use and read and was thorough. I also used Frommer’s Paris Day By Day which I purchased a few years ago. It is fairly lightweight and will fit into your bag. This also has a map with a nice full city view but not as detailed as The Paris Mapguide. It has enough history and museum details for an extended visit to Paris so you don’t have to carry a weighty volume with you.
Next, comfortable shoes. Sorry, no crazy heels during a day of sightseeing and power shopping. I wear soft-soled shoes because I put on lots of miles by walking. Can’t get much traction in heels and the blisters! Last winter when I was in Paris I watched the women walk by me and most were wearing black tights and boots with heels (and scarves). They looked so chic. Then I spotted a woman with torn hose at the knees and when she passed me I couldn’t resist the urge to see if she was wearing heels. Of course, she was. I hope the fall was not too painful.
Paris is a city of many faces. Peruse guidebooks before you leave and determine how you want to organize your trip. Do you want to visit certain sites or museums or do you have a hankering to visit Chanel’s store and showroom on Rue Cambon?
Here’s a sampling of a day for me… Dressed appropriately for the change of weather throughout the day, camera, maps and water in hand, I depart from my hotel. After a quick bite of a delightful, flaky croissant, I begin the walk to my destination. Taking in the sites and sounds – the beauty of the Seine, the Eiffel Tower lumbering sleepily in the distance, Notre Dame rising on the horizon – I cross one of the ponts and stroll to my destination of the day, the Marais. Assuming I am not immediately distracted by the shops I pass (yes, I am usually distracted), I head to the first of the selected cultural venues to visit. (While I love to window shop, I find it essential for some educational stimulation.)
So here are some places to visit in the Marais: Picasso Museum, Carnavalet (free and well worth a visit), home of Victor Hugo, and the Holocaust Memorial. Alternatively, you can join a group tour to learn in depth about the area. I joined a tour run by owner Karen Rudel of Sight Seekers Delight (http://sightseekersdelight.com/). It was approximately 3 hours including a group lunch break, and although I had been to the Marais many times before I learned so much from Ms. Rudel. Highly recommended!
Let’s continue. If I am touring on my own, I usually stop for a mid-morning snack – whatever delights my eyes hopefully satisfying my taste buds. Okay, now for shopping: check the streets Rue de Rosiers, Rue Des Francs Bougeois, Rue Vielle du Temple, Rue de Poitou and Rue Charlot. Frankly, I love to wander and with a trusty map you can’t go wrong. If weather permitting, grab a lunch to go – whether it is a falafel or baguette sandwich – enjoy the beautiful environment of Place de Vosges. Many years ago I had the delight in seeing a woman organ grinder singing there.
Depending on the time of the day, you can head back to your hotel to relax, sit at a café with a glass of wine or proceed to the Islands. For me, it’s off to Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cite.
Pose any questions and I will try to answer them. And please keep spreading the word about The Style Spotter.