This summer, I spent three weeks in Paris, which of course was marvelous. Paris is such an amazing city to discover, there is just too much to see in such a short time. I relied on my travel bible to get me around, but if you’re in need of a more unconventional guide, look no further. I picked what really must be seen in the City of Light.
Best Museum Café: Most museums serve cheap-tasting (mind you, not cheap costing!) food in a loud, cafeteria setting. However, at the Museé Rodin, patrons can enjoy their heavenly, fresh-made croissants in the peaceful refuge of the museum’s garden. The atmosphere alone is unbeatable: imagine sipping hot chocolate, covered by a canopy of leaves, surrounded by sculpted topiaries and famous sculptures. Need I say more?
Worst Museum Café: I try not to be negative, but the Dome Church’s restaurant earned it big time. Just stay away.
Most Convenient Croissant: Sure, it’s the Subway of bakeries. But who said that’s a bad thing? Paul has locations in many of the ubiquitous Metro stations, so it’s that easy to get a warm, buttery croissant on your way to your next destination. Sadly, the only American locations are in Florida, but it’s worth the cross continental trip.
Best View: There are countless attractions offering stunning views of the city, but none beats the ambience of the Notre Dame’s South Tower. Every bit worth the 400-step climb, scanning Paris in the company of gargoyles and imagining Quasimodo climbing the belfry was one of the best parts of my trip. There was just something about seeing the rooftops and parks from such a rich-in-history place that added to the view I got from many other places. If you want to beat the longest line I saw in Paris, arrive at least an hour before the opening.
Biggest Letdown: The Mona Lisa is so heavily guarded behind ropes and bulletproof glass that no tourist is able to tell if the painting is really just a poster (not that they care, as most just take a picture and move on). Go anyway, because the experience is part of visiting Paris, but make sure to appreciate the other thousands of masterpieces within the Louvre.
Best Souvenir Shop: You’re hard-pressed to find any street (or Rue, if you want to start brushing up on your French) from the 1st to the 20th arrondissement without at least three cheesy souvenir shops, all of which sell the exact same made-in-China keychains. But if you want to get your friends something more unique, visit the Jadis & Gourmande, a specialty chocolate shop with five Paris loactions. I bought a chocolate Eiffel Tower, which was just as sweet as climbing La Tour itself. They have everything from salads to a map of France, all made of chocolate, so expect to leave the store five pounds heavier. Unless you’re a Parisian, and in that case, you never gain weight.
Best Park: The Jardin du Luxembourg provides a beautiful place to recharge after a busy day. It is an elegant, pristine garden in the shadow of the Luxembourg Palace, lined with palm trees. One can easily lose track of time lounging by the octagonal fountain or in the cove of the Italian grotto.
One last tip: If you want to see a mime, go to Montmartre Square. They’ve become a dying breed.