Last year my Xmas present was unique: L organised a 10-day holiday in Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world. He’d never done anything like that, so you can imagine how surprised I was when he called me and said: I’m taking you to Paris. We left Italy on 26th December and came back in the new year, after ten days of discovery and relaxation. Let me say it is the best city I’ve visited so far. I didn’t have any expectation, I thought it would look like yet another big city, but I couldn’t be more wrong.
Paris is incredibly elegant and cosy at the same time, every place looks the same at first sight and yet you discover each corner is different and peculiar in its own way. I fell in love with every single chimney, flower shop and brasserie I saw. My first advice would then be not to disregard it just because it’s famous, but to embrace it and be ready to be surprised.
I imagine most of you have already visited the city or know all about its world-famous landmarks, such as the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, Versailles and so on. For this reason, I decided to list all the not-so-common things I discovered about the city and the places that I loved but that not every tourist knows. If you have planned to visit Paris in December, this is what I’d do.
1 Chez Nico
Before catching the plane to France, we had a drink with some friends of L, one of whom used to live in Paris. We asked her for advice and she suggest visiting Rue Mouffetard, a street full of nice restaurants and cafes not too far from Notre Dame. We decided to go there one night to check out one of the oldest pubs in the city and had dinner at Chez Nico Creperie. We had eaten crepes in the days before, but none could be compared to the ones Nico prepared for us. We tried both the savoury and sweet options and my mouth is still watering now that I’m writing about it. Definitely worth the (inexpensive) price!
2 The Carrousel du Louvre and Snapchat
I really really wanted to see the statue of Love and Psyche at Louvre but was worried we would have to queue for ages just to enter the museum. L’s cousin suggested us not to enter from the main entrance, but to check out the queue to enter via the Carrousel du Louvre, which is a shopping centre located one level underneath. In less than half an hour we were inside the museum and the best part is that we didn’t have to queue in the cold, rainy weather. That meant I was able to indulge longer in front of all the works of art that populate the rooms of that castle.
What I loved the most and would recommend visiting are the Greek and Roman statues and the rooms where Napoleon used to live. What L loved the most was that he was able to use Snapchat filters to add doggie ears and nose to almost all paintings. Now we have a collection of extremely funny selfies that an art critic would not appreciate.
Let’s say it’s a way for new generations to experience art, which provided me an extra hour to enjoy the Louvre collection.
3 Printemps Terrace
Printemps is a h u g e shopping mall that has several floors where you can buy expensive clothing and homeware products. Few people know that there is a ninth floor that you can access from one elevator only, and on that ninth floor there is a huge terrace from where you can see the city from above, Tour Eiffel included. There is a nice cafe as well, which we didn’t have time to try
because we were already late for dinner. It was not very straight-forward to find the elevator that goes to that floor, luckily the customer assistant we spoke to kindly helped us find it. I have to say I was surprised at the number of nice people we encountered in the city, nothing to do with the prejudice the world has when it comes to Parisians.
4 Chez Prune
Here’s another chef I need to mention, but this time that’s not about food, that’s about wine! Our Airbnb apartment was situated very close to Canal San Martin, a lovely place along the river, and every day we would walk along the canal, pass in front of this cafe and catch the tube. The furniture looked a bit old and shabby, the walls were dark and the lights were low, but the place was never empty. So one night on our way home we decided to step in. Once we were sat inside, surrounded by these bourgeois Parisienne, with a tasty glass of wine in our hands it felt like heaven.
5 Tour Eiffel at night
L asked me to wait till the end of our holiday to climb up the Tour Eiffel, as he knew that’s the icing on the cake and once you see that, everything else fades away, your mind only remembers that magical, iconic place. I was quite insistent though, so we decided to go there at night, just to take a quick look. I was surprised how beautiful it looks at night and how few people were there. It was like having the w h o l e tower for the two of us only in the middle of the night. I lost a pair of gloves on the tube, but it was totally worth it!
6 Le Paisse-Muralle
In the beautiful artsy area of Montmartre, there is the statue of a man walking out of the wall. That’s a tribute to the novelist Marcel Aymé and his character Mr Dutilleul. The statue is very nice and the story behind it is even better. There is another reason we loved this work of art and that was the hot vapour coming out of some grids just in front of the statue. It was pretty cold, we ended up visiting more museums than planned just to stay in a warm place and that vapour gave us the energy to keep walking down the hill.
Another thing I love in Montmartre is that while I was standing there admiring paintings (see picture below), an artist decided to cut out the profile of my face from a piece of paper using quite small scissors. I wasn’t carrying any cash, but he was more than happy to do it for free. That was the best souvenir I could ever get from Paris.
7 Promenade Plantee
As the name suggests, that’s a street full of plants. The other characteristic feature of this street is that it is elevated as if it was a long bridge. You can walk through this garden overlooking the cars and the artisanal shops of the area for almost 5km, from Place de la Bastille all the way to the Boulevard périphérique. This means it’s close to the city centre and you don’t have to walk all the way to enjoy its beauty. It was built on an old railway line that was not in use – I hope there will be something like that in London as well soon. When we were there it was freezing cold, I remember I could not feel my hands anymore but the Promenade was so beautiful we ended up walking l o n g e r than planned. Needless to say, we spent the following morning in bed.
As I said at the beginning of the post, this was the best holiday I’ve had with L
so far. We had a l o t of time at our disposal and we managed quite well to balance the moments to relax, have a glass of wine and chill out with the sightseeing and the walking that is inevitable in a big city.
I hope you’ve found some inspiration for your next journey,
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