The best travel advice I received for visiting Paris was, go with a purpose. It could be visiting markets, observing architecture, shopping, eating, or art.
Each time I visit Paris my purpose is to wander. The more time I spend with the city, the more I realize that I was taught to dream about Paris in a very cinematic and idealistic way. Wandering allows me to see the city through my own eyes. Indeed Paris is special, but it isn’t perfect. With all the hype Paris is given, it is easy to see the city through somebody else's eyes.
My favorite Paris memories revolve around long
walks, warm croissants, searching for vintage postcards along the stalls on the
Seine, and reading magazines with a café crème. I don't follow guidebooks religiously. Rather, I pick one thing to do
a day, and then spend the rest of the day wandering and daydreaming. I’ve learned to
stop along the way if I see a charming shop or café. If my one-item-itinerary goes unfulfilled, that is fine.
Here are a few places and resources that I discovered through a few trusted resources and plenty of good walks:
LaSquare Trousseau 1 Rue Antoine Vollon, Bastille
This is a lovely bistro that won’t make you feel bad for speaking English. The food is good. The ambiance is better. I love sitting outside on a warm day and people-watching before a walk on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
Centre Pompidou Place Georges-Pompidou, Les Halles
The view of Paris alone is worth the admission and the collection of contemporary art is also inspiring. Grab a bottle of water and a snack before you go. It’s one of those places you be for hours, but the food and drinks in the museum are bad and expensive.
L'église de la Madeleine Place de la Madeleine
I like to sit on the steps and watch time go by on a sunny day. All the empty LaDuree boxes hopping around like tumbleweed make me laugh.
La Maison Choux 7 Rue de Furstenberg, St. Germain
Ladurée is just around the corner, but this is a patisserie to consider: mini pastry filled with a flavored crème of of your choice that are perfect with a black coffee.
Philosophies Café 28 Rue Vieille du Temple, Les Marais
This is a café in the guidebooks that is worth visiting!
Square Louis XVI 29 Rue Pasquier, Saint-Lazare
This garden is an area that isn't frequented by tourists. The surrounding streets are charming.
Le Progres 1 Rue de Bretagne, Les Marais
When it comes to people watching, this is unlike anything else I have ever scene, I mean seen. Just grab a table order a coffee, a beer, light a cigarette and day or night dream!
Les Deux Magots 6 Place St Germain des Prés, St. Germain
I realize the ghosts of Hemingway and Man Ray have long left historical establishments (tourists traps), such as this, but I do love Deux Magots and I prefer it to Café Flore. I meant a gentleman in St. Germain who has been going to DM for fifty years and told me this is the best place to get a coffee in Paris! He told me how he used to have little chats with folks like Man Ray and Henry Miller.
I have yet to find a guidebook to Paris that I truly adore. But the following Paris guides have been useful:
- This is Glamourous: Take Me Away
- Vanity Fair: Lou Doillon's Paris
- Decade Diary: The Great Elsewhere
- Aesop's Paris: A to Z