Several trips to the French capital
I have had a strange relationship with Paris over the years.
The first time I visited was with my parents back in 1976. We didn’t have a good time at all and I didn’t hurry to go back. I did spend a day of my 1984 Inter-rail trip in the city but the experience didn’t really improve my impression.
In 1993 I went back again whilst living in Japan. I was on a business trip and, for the first time, I started to appreciate the place a bit more. I was accompanied by a French speaker and we concentrated on just hanging out rather than doing the touristy things. I finally started to understand a little bit why people raved about Paris.
In 1998, after settling back in the UK, I made the first trip to Paris with my wife. We did the touristy things again and a combination of bad luck and bad service meant that we didn’t really have a great time. I started to get the impression that the French capital just wasn’t for me.
It was November 2009 before we decided to give it a go again. By then we had the benefit of using the internet and some excellent Japanese guidebooks to plan our visit better. We made a three-day-weekend visit and we absolutely loved it. The key, we found, was to chose one or two small areas of the city and examine them in depth. Over the next seven years we made annual November weekend trips to Paris.
There is something that I find magical in Paris in November. The main season is over so there are fewer tourists and the city feels a bit more “real”. It is not really busy for Christmas, but it is starting to get a bit festive with the decorations and the lights. It is still warm enough to sit outside on the heated terrace cafes, but normally cold enough so that all the wonderful restaurants and bars seem that bit more warm and welcoming.
Here are 13 things we have enjoyed doing in Paris in the 11th month.
1 – Beaujolais Nouveau
It may not be the most sophisticated wine drinking experience but it is a lot of fun. It takes the stress out of ordering wine too. Just get a bottle of the young wine and enjoy it with dinner.
2 – Museums
The list is endless of course. We try to choose one or two for each trip and over the years have seen quite a lot of them. The Musee d’Orsay situated in a former beaux-arts railway station is an obvious favorite, but the smaller ones like the Musee Rodin are great too. The Maritime museum, housed in a wonderful streamline modern building, is certainly worth a visit too
3 – Patisseries
My wife’s hobby is to find two or three of the best patisseries every trip and sample and compare their products. I tag along as it gives me an excuse to walk around the city and I help out by eating the cakes too.
4 – Pierre Lachasse Cemetery
A very interesting afternoon in the final resting place of some of the most famous French people. Edith Piaf’s grave is one of the most visited
5 – Catacoombs
A trip underground and a walk through the skeletal remains of former generations of Parisians feels a bit weird at first. It is fascinating nonetheless.
6 – Metro
The Art Nouveau stations decorated in different styles and the rubber tyres on the trains give the urban railway of Paris a special magic. I will admit to having a much closer look at the system when my role as assistant shopper has become a bit too much.
7 – Rue de Matyrs
The old market streets of Paris are often overlooked, but this one is a really authentic part of Paris. It is a bustling street full of fromageries, boulangeries, and boucheries. We love seeking out the other markets dotted around the city too.
8 – Canal Du Nord
It is great to have a wander along this waterway which stretches from the Seine and into the north east part of the city
9 – Marais & Place des Vosges
The best shopping neighborhood in Paris, the Marais, is located in the historic 3rd and 4th arrondissements. It has many hidden attractions and includes several museums, restaurants and cafes as well as the famous old Jewish quarter.
10 – Shopping
Wandering around the covered passageways with their beautiful glass ceilings, mosaic floors and marble walls.
Looking in at Galleries Lafyette to see how they have decorated the Christmas Tree.
Taking a walk down the Champs Elysees for the Christmas night market.
11 – Bonne Marche Picnic
We like to grab a picnic from the magnificent food hall of Paris’ oldest department store and then, wrapped up warm, eat it in the nearby park.
12 – Chinatown
Situated near the Place d’Italie, but often overlooked by tourists, Chinatown includes not just Chinese but some great Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian cuisine too.
13 – Omelettes
We can’t leave restaurant eating off the list and we have had some memorable dinners in Paris. Nevertheless a simple well-cooked omelette and french fries with fresh bread and a glass of wine is hard to beat for lunch.