Thursday, July 23, 2015

Paris Recommendations

Obviously I'm not the world's foremost authority on Paris. I was only there for a month. I barely saw anything.

But I saw something, and this is what I would recommend to anyone who goes there. Others might disagree.

Museums
(in no particular order)

Musée du Louvre, 1st arrondissement – featuring Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, da Vinci, Rubens, Titian, Goya, Tintoretto and ancient artifacts out the wazoo.

Musée d'Orsay, 7th arrondissement – Monet, Manet, van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Pissarro, Seurat, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec. Across the river from the Louvre.

Holocaust Memorial, 4th arrondissement – This is a terribly depressing place, but worth remembering what happens when hatred and intolerance become politically correct. A block from Église Saint-Gervais.

Musée Rodin, 7th arrondissement – Rodin, van Gogh, Renoir, Monet. Next to Les Invalides.

Musée National d'Art Moderne, 4th arrondissement – Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Chagall, de Kooning, Magritte, Klee, Balthus, Pollock, Miró. In the Pompidou Center.

Musée Picasso, 3rd arrondissement – Picasso, Matisse, Degas, Cézanne, Seurat, Rousseau. Next to the National Archives.

Musée Carnavalet, 3rd arrondissement – A history museum dedicated to Paris. It has a great model of Île de la Cité, plus a lot of personal knick knacks from historic French figures. Between Musée Picasso and Place des Vosges.

Musée de la Musique, 19th arrondissement – This place had the largest collection of mostly antique and obscure instruments I've ever seen. At Parc de la Villette.

Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, 19th arrondissement – The largest science museum in all of Europe. Also at Parc de la Villette.

Arènes de Lutèce, 5th arrondissement – An ancient Roman ruin in the middle of the Latin Quarter. Small by Roman standards, but interesting in that it's surrounded by 19th and 21st century Paris. Between Jardin des Plantes and the Panthéon.

Château de Versailles – Not actually in Paris, but very easy to get to.


Churches

Notre Dame de Paris, Île de la Cité – The best looking church I've ever seen. The tower is a bit of a climb, but the view is fantastic. The rest of the church isn't too shabby either.

Église Saint-Eustache, Les Halles – A beautiful church in the heart of Paris. It's almost impossible not to walk around or past this place. As long as you're there, you might as well go inside. The architecture is amazing and there are some wonderful paintings and stained glass windows.

Basilique du Sacré Coeur, Montmartre – Another long climb to get to the great views, especially after climbing uphill just to get to the church, but a nice little church nonetheless. Photography is not allowed inside, and unlike a lot of places, they enforce this rule politely but firmly.

Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, le Marais – A beautiful Jesuit church built in the early 1600s.

Église Saint-Augustin, Malesherbes – Not the most famous church in Paris, but very impressive. You can't help but see the dome from most of the towers and hills around the city.


Restaurants

Sixieme Sens, Rue de la Roquette, Bastille – Hole in the wall restaurant on the street that connects the Voltaire metro stop and the Bastille. It's hard to find until you know it's across the street from a Monoprix. The owner/chef is incredibly friendly and knows how to cook.

L'Orangerie, Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, Île Saint-Louis – A nice little cinema themed bistro on the middle of the island.

L'As du Fallafel, Rue des Rosiers, le Marais – Israeli restaurant with the best hummus in Paris. Between Place des Vosges and Hôtel de Ville.

Nick's Pizza, Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, Opéra-Haussmann – A slice and a pop. What more do you need? People can debate all day whether it's authentic New York without the water, but the owner/chef is from New York – for what it's worth. Between the Folies Bergère and Hard Rock Cafe.

Pur' at the Park Hyatt, Rue de la Paix, Opéra – Fancy Michelin star restaurant with good food despite the hype. Near Place Vendôme and Madeleine.

Harmony Café, corner of Boulevard de Port-Royal and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques, Montparnasse – Another friendly owner/chef and some of the best frites in Paris. Near the Montparnasse Cemetery.

Pizza Julia, Rue de Charenton, Bastille – Nothing fancy on the outside, but great pizza inside. Some of the toppings are questionable, though fresh, but the dough is pretty close to perfect. Around the corner from Opéra Bastille.

Chez nos ancêtres les gaulois, Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, Île Saint-Louis – The strangest little restaurant in Paris. It's supposed to look like a tavern in medieval Gaul. This isn't the best food in Paris, but the atmosphere is unique, with people singing and a resident troubadour wandering around. Less than a block away from L'Orangerie.

Mancini, Rue Bachelet, Montmartre – Italian restaurant owned by actual Italians, this tiny place is dangerously close to the tourist food that litters Montmartre, but it's on one of the tourist-free streets where you never see anyone selling t-shirts. It's easy to find, with large Italian flags hanging out front. Two or three blocks from Sacré Coeur.

American Corner, Rue Saint Jacques, Latin Quarter – “New York” style bagel shop with hot dogs and American desserts. Nothing about this place reminded me of New York, but they had great cookies and better bagels than anything in Hong Kong. Between the Panthéon and Jardin du Luxembourg.

La Maison du Chou, Rue de Furstenberg, Saint Germain – Chouquettes and other pastries at a small shop on the tiny street where the final scene of Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence was filmed, across the street from Countess Olenska's apartment. Very close to Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Le Jamoncito, Rue Quincampoix, Les Halles – Spanish restaurant on a dead little street wedged between the Pompidou Center, Les Halles and Tour Saint-Jacques.

Berthillon, Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, Île Saint-Louis – Considered by more than a few people to be the best ice cream in Paris, I went there mostly because it was on our island. Food snobs will explode when I say that I prefer Ben & Jerry's, but this place was pretty good, too.

Twinkie Breakfasts, Rue Saint-Denis, Les Halles – Most people dreaming about sitting at a sidewalk café will never go to this place, but if you're an American living in Asia, it's a nice change of pace. They have a large selection of American and English foods that are not common in Paris – including a full breakfast menu and all kinds of American condiments that some of us don't see all that often.

Eric Kayser Artisan Boulanger, Rue du Bac, Pont Royal – This is a chain, so they have a few locations and you're not going to get the personal touch of a family business, but they opened a shop in Hong Kong in one of the old Starbucks locations, so I wanted to compare the Paris version with the Hong Kong version. They both look remarkably similar, which is not standard practice when companies bring their food to China, but what they make in Paris is much better.


Landmarks

Eiffel Tower, 7th arrondissement – You have to go here when you go to Paris. It's the law.

Palais Garnier, 9th arrondissement – Even if you never go to the ballet or opera, it's worth going into this building for the grandeur.

Arc de Triomphe, 8th arrondissement – You don't have to climb the stairs or take the tiny elevator to fully appreciate the history, but the view from the top is nice.

Panthéon, 5th arrondissement – Burial site to a lot of famous French people. It hasn't been a church in a long time, but the interior still looks like a grand cathedral.

Tour Montparnasse, 15th arrondissement – People complain that it's ugly, but from the top, you can see all over Paris. And you can go on the roof. A lot of tall buildings only let you go to an indoor observation deck. Here, you can get a 360 degree view and feel all that wind in your face.


Parks

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, 19th arrondissement – My personal favorite park in Paris. It has a nice little lake with a nice little island connected by two bridges, one of which was designed by Gustave Eiffel. There is a waterfall near the lake and sloping green lawns with patches of bright flowers. At the Buttes Chaumont and Botzaris metro stops.

Bois de Vincennes, 12th arrondissement – The largest park in Paris, with a few lakes, a zoo, a concert stadium, sports stadium, French gardens, lots of flowers and Château de Vincennes – an old fortress. Mata Hari was executed here. Château de Vincennes, Liberté, Porte Dorée and Saint Mandé metro, Vincennes RER.

Bois de Boulogne, 16th arrondissement – The second largest park in Paris, with a few lakes, a zoo, a concert stadium, sports stadium, English gardens, and Château de Bagatelle – an old hunting lodge. The first manned balloon flight was here. Porte Maillot, Porte Dauphine and Porte d'Auteuil metro, Neuilly-Porte Maillot, Avenue Foch, Avenue Henri Martin RER.

Parc de la Villette, 19th arrondissement – A large park on the canals that were built to bring drinking water to Paris. This is a cultural park rather than a garden park, though there are gardens, with the Musée de la Musique, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, a concert stadium, symphony hall, live theaters, movie theaters and a large array of modern architecture. Porte de la Villette, Corentin Cariou and Porte de Pantin metro.

Jardin du Luxembourg, 6th arrondissement – A pleasant, if crowded, public space that borders the Latin Quarter and Montparnasse. Lots of statues and fountains. Luxembourg metro.

Parc de Belleville, 20th arrondissement – A small park on top of a hill, it has great views of Tour Jussieu, the Panthéon, Notre Dame, Tour Montparnasse, Église Saint-Sulpice, the Pompidou Center, les Invalides and of course, the Eiffel Tower. Running through the park is a series of fountains that flow downhill. Couronnes metro.

Jardin des Plantes, 5th arrondissement – The botanical garden, with thousands of plants and hundreds of different roses. Gare d'Austerlitz.

Jardin des Tuileries, 1st arrondissement – This used to be several grand French gardens that inspired painters and poets, but those days are over. It's still an excellent walkway between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde with a few sculptures by Rodin. Tuileries, Concorde and Palais Royal metro.


Neighborhoods

Le Marais – A great little historic neighborhood for a walk. Home of the Musée Picasso, Place des Vosges, Musée Carnavalet, Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, Hôtel de Ville and National Archives. Just north of the river at the islands.

Bassin de la Villette – An interesting residential neighborhood with walking, jogging and biking paths along the canal. Between Parc de la Villette, Canal Saint-Martin and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.

Montmartre – Home of Sacré Coeur, Théâtre Trianon, Moulin Rouge, and former home of some great artists. It's mostly a tourist trap today with the red light district and that little train for children, but there are some nice winding little streets with authentic food. You just have to avoid any place with postcards and t-shirts nearby. Between Gare du Nord and Gare Saint-Lazare.

Île de la Cité – The most famous island in Paris, mostly because of a big church and a couple of popular bridges. Next to the Louvre.

Île Saint-Louis – My favorite island in Paris. Mostly because our apartment was here. For most people, there's not much to see. But it's still a good place to walk around. Next to Île de la Cité.

Latin Quarter – Mostly touristy, but there is good food if you're willing to look around and go to places without English menus. Home of the Panthéon and Sorbonne. Just south of Île de la Cité.

Île aux Cygnes – A thin island between Pont de Grenelle and Pont de Bir-Hakeim that is little more than a nice place for a walk. It also has a tiny Statue de la Liberté.

Disneyland Paris – Not actually in Paris, and probably not everyone's first stop on a visit to France, but it's a Disneyland. Home of Phantom Manor, Pirates of the Caribbean and Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant. In Marne-la-Vallée, about 20 minutes from Île de la Cité.

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