Each time I visit Paris I dream of experiencing 19th century bohemian life. I dream of a young Vali Myers living as a vagabond and dancing for spare change on the left bank. I dream of meeting a group of artists, photographers and writers and swanning around the left bank looking mystical and alluring.
Unfortunately for us, the 19th century is over and so is bohemian Paris. But there is still something very special about the French capital that continues to bring 28 million tourists every year.
In the summer Paris will be full to the brim with people enjoying the beautiful European weather. So take a few deep breaths, resist the urge to hurt the other tourists, pop on some good walking shoes, get a good map and read on.
– Notre Dame – once you have walked through the stunning church and had a little ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ moment with the gargoyles upstairs, be sure to walk around the back and enjoy the beautiful gardens.
– The Seine River cruise at night. Yes it is a little touristy but it is also beautiful. Make sure you get the English language version. We made that mistake…
– Visit the Louvre. It is impossible to see it all in one day and you may be sick of art by the end of it. But hopefully not too sick of it because you should also go to the Musee D’Orsay which I liked more than the Louvre. Be warned you will need at least a day for each.
– Learn this: Pain au chocolate. Go to a patisserie, buy and eat. Repeat.
– Versailles is the most amazingly elaborate place I have ever visited. But be warned: the sheer amount of tourists will test the most patient soul. It is best to get there early and will take about an hour from Paris by train. Also, be sure to visit Marie Antoinette’s Estate and the Trianon Palaces. They are beautiful and worth the walk, plus there are little cafes in the hedge maze you can duck into on the way.
– Wander around Montmartre. The vibe of this suburb is very cool and there are great views of the city from the Sacre Coeur church. Have a little ‘Amelie’ (or Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) moment at the carousel and steps from the film. Be sure to buy a crepe from a street vendor. YUM.
– See a cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge or the Crazy Horse. It’s funny and light-hearted. Be prepared to see lots of boobies.
– Go to a supermarket and look in the beer isle – find a beer called Desperado. You are welcome.
– For shopping try Galleries Lafaette or the street St Germain des pres. St Germain is a long street where you will find a range of high fashion at one end and street wear at the other. I have heard that the Marais area is good for vintage finds. Shop shop and shop! It is the city of fashion after all!
– Take a relaxing walk, you will always find something interesting in Paris not matter which direction you go.
– Arc de Triumph and the Champs Elysees. Don’t bother trying to shop here unless you are in need of a Swarovski crystal encrusted Peugeot. But it is nice for a walk. The views from the top of the Arc are great because Paris is designed so that all the monuments kind of line-up – you will see when you get there.
– The catacombs. When the black plague hit Paris in the 16th and 17th century the graveyards got too full so they exhumed all the bones and put them in the old underground mines. Yes it sounds a tad freaky but also very cool. I really like that the tunnel ends at this ordinary looking doorway that you would never think would be hiding the catacombs. Apparently, these doors are hidden all over Paris.
– My favourite memory in Paris is buying a couple of wheels of cheese, a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine and enjoying these in a park. Sitting in a beautiful parisienne park in the sunshine is complete happiness. If you are lucky you will sit in the wrong park as I did and get told to move on by the police. Tres bohemian!
– Last but certainly not least. I have been to Paris three times and every time I have forgotten to visit the Eiffel Tower. Can you believe it?! It could be because the tower is visible throughout Paris so I never felt like I was missing out and it could be because the best time to visit is early in the morning, which is something I do not do. I will leave this one up to you but if you do go please let me know if it is worth it.
Ultimately, Paris is not just about the tourist attractions and I have it on good authority that whilst bohemian Paris may have gone the way of Napoleon, it’s cousin ‘hipster Paris’ lives on. Try visiting the bars in Montparnasse for a tiny little taste of the 19th century.
P.S. The French word for Cheers is Sainte.