Take a walk with our No Worries Paris guide. Get inspired, get with it.
Hanging with Hemingway, Scott & Zelda, Picasso, and the crew for mind-bending soirees at Gertrude Stein’s pad has its appeal. But in reality, life was harsh and fruitless for the many thousands of the ‘Lost Generation’ whose creative juices led them from America to garret apartments in Paris in the early decades of the 1900s.
Perhaps Louis XIV’s acquaintance would be a better choice, since the Sun King and his retinue knew only the gilded opulence of Palais Royal, Chateau de Bagatelle, and Versailles. It’s possible these days to get a modern send-up of what court life was like, even if only for a week or so. You can rent Paris luxury apartments, and you don’t need to be royalty to afford them. Villa-style accommodations throughout Paris, are available for roughly the per-person price of a quality hotel room. Two catches: The first is you need to travel with a larger group, say four to eight people, to defray the cost. The second catch is to save euros by cutting back on restaurants and eating in, after gathering a bounty from outdoor markets, patisseries, and charcuteries.
Both these ‘catches’ may be deal-breakers, especially for those who go to France primarily to partake of restaurants. But keep in mind, these luxury retreats are places you will want to be in the morning for coffee, and in the evening to wind down with wine after a day of pounding the cobblestones. Expect deluxe modern kitchens, baths, extra living space, and outdoor areas in prime locales—you won’t be in a hurry to leave.
After deciding to take the quantum bump up in luxury, the question becomes, which one and where?
The overview: Paris is not huge—roughly a seven-mile-wide oval, encircled by the high-speed Boulevard Peripherique and cleaved east-to-west by the river Seine. It’s divided into 20 neighborhoods called arrondissements. Connecting everyplace to every other is a warren more than a dozen different Metro lines, with several hundred entrance stations.
Arrondissements differ widely in character. Here are thumbnails for the most desirable:
LEFT BANK (including parts of the 1st, 4th, and 5th arrondissements)
Two islands in the Seine—Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint Louis—are at the literal and historic center of Paris. Armies from all of Europe crisscrossed this spot for 20 centuries. Today, for tourists, this is where the ‘action’ is. On the Left Bank are the narrow streets with captivating cubbyholes and exotic restaurants. Notre Dame has dominated Ile de la Cite since its first stones were laid in 1163. After several centuries of remodels, the grand cathedral was nearly demolished by Napoleon in the early 1800s, but author Victor Hugo stirred the public to save it with his 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Not far from Notre Dame (look for a line of people) is Sainte Chapelle. This church housed booty from the Crusades in the 13C, but is known today for its stained glass—15 towering windows, streaming bejeweled light in primarily red and blue hues.
After buzzing the Left Bank, you can exit uphill on Rue Galande on what was the start of the ancient route to Rome. The swerving ascent takes you to Gothic St. Etienne du Mont—built on the site of a 6C abbey that King Clovis dedicated to Sainte Genevieve after her prayers stopped Attila the Hun’s march on the city. Lofted on a hill not far away is the Pantheon, also a tribute to fair Genevieve, this time by Louis XV in 1764, after he recovered from an illness after praying to her. The light inside is heavenly. If you make it this far, it’s wise to press on a few blocks to Place de la Contrascarpe, where Papa wrote A Moveable Feast. One of the best outdoor market streets in Paris, Rue Mouffetard, snakes down from this place.
ST. GERMAIN DES PRES (6th arrondissement)
St. Germain des Pres is quintessential Latin Quarter—a blend of centuries-old architecture and the right-now glitz of cafe society. Musée Nationale de Moyan Age is housed in the medieval Hotel Cluny, which was built on top of Roman baths that date from the second century. The museum is a walk through time. Across from this masterpiece is another, la Sorbonne, the 13C college to which the Latin Quarter owes its intellectual heritage. But the campus is contemporary when compared to Abbey St. Germain des Pres, not far away, which ruled the roost in Paris from the mid-6C, until clashes with students diminished its influence (300 monks were slain) in the 1300s.
Next to the abbey on the boulevard is the holy triumvirate of Parisian cafes: Brasserie Lipp, Cafe de Flore, and Cafe de Deux Magots. Each place had its own patrons (Sartre, Camus, Picasso, and many other big-brainers) and schools of thought, though esoteric distinctions were often fuzzed by absinthe. Also in the ‘hood is the city’s most ornate church, St. Sulpice, built in stops and starts over a century, beginning in 1646. Inside are frescoes by Delacroix, who loved moving his paintbrush to the melodic groans from the world’s largest organ (count ’em, 6,600 pipes). The heart of the arrondissement (some would say of Paris) is Jardin du Luxembourg, a few blocks from St. Sulpice. Sixty acres of leafy trees, fountains, and statues have been absorbing legions of leisure seekers since Marie de Medici first laid out the park in 1615. The weighty Palais du Luxembourg has housed the French Senate for two centuries—except when it was Nazi headquarters during World War II.
PLACE DE LA CONCORDE (1st and 2nd arrondissements)
Place de la Concorde is meant to be seen from the center of its 20-plus acres—reached via a dash across umpteen lanes of traffic. The place is the austere centerpiece of the Axis Historique, a line-of-sight up and down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe through the Jardin des Tuileries to the glass pyramid at the Louvre. The 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk stands in the center and two huge fountains act as bookends. This grand space is best known, however, as the primary site for the guillotine that in the late 1700s took the heads of Marie Antoinette, Robespierre and 1,300 hundred other souls loyal to Louis XIV (hmm, maybe being a starving artist isn’t so bad after all).
At right angles to the Axis Historique (forming a second axis) is Rue Royale. The view is past the American Embassy and the lavish Hôtel de Crillon (under renovation) to Sainte Madeleine. This church’s mountainous staircase and forest of columns were built to glorify Napoleon’s conquests. Branching off Rue Royale is the ground zero of haute couture, Rue du Faubourg-St. Honore, the home turf for Chanel, Dior, Prada, and everyone else in the biz. Also in this zone is Place Vendome, a chi-chi address for Parisians since 1702, and home to the Ritz Hotel, watering hole for the rich and well-heeled. You may have gathered that the theme in this part of Paris is old money.
POMPIDOU (3rd arrondissement)
The Pompidou Centre Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne (a name seldom referenced) is a building turned inside-out, its glass facade revealing an infrastructure of colorful tubes, pipes, and elevators. The art inside runs the gamut (if there is one) from Cubism, to Surrealism, to Pop Art. The sprawling grounds outside are always popping. More traditional, must-see museums are nearby: the revamped Musée Picasso, Musée Carnavalet (the history of Paris), and the Archives Nationales. Tradition reigns supreme at Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, having been laid out by bon vivant Henry IV in 1604. Vosges went through generations of squalor, but was respectable by the time Victor Hugo moved in at the beginning of the 1800s. Maison de Victor Hugo, now a museum, takes up several floors in a corner of the place.
A short walk from Vosges is Place de la Bastille, as in ” the storming of the,” which took place on July 14, 1789, thus beginning the Revolution. The prison raid sprang from an alleyway near the place’s iconic spire, Colonne de Juillet, on Rue de Lappe. These days Lappe is a venerable nightclub scene for hipster professionals and artisans who try to set the night on fire. (You guessed it, Jim Morrison died not far away, on Rue Beautreillis.)
ARC DE TRIOMPHE (8th arrondissement)
A dozen grand avenues converge at the Arc de Triomphe forming Etoile—The Star. The most prominent avenue is the Champs-Élysées, with 50-foot wide sidewalks whose cafe tables have provided ringside seats for parades, starting with the Napoleonic Wars and extending to each year’s conclusion of the Tour de France. The view from the top of the arch reveals the Axis Historique, version 2.0, as it extends west for several miles, across the Seine, and through the center of La Defense—the enormous cube-arch (Notre Dame could be garaged inside) at the center of the sky-scrapers of modern Paris.
A more traditional view of Paris unfolds along a stroll up staid Avenue Hoche, past treed estates with wrought-iron gates, leading to sublime Parc de Monceau. This 40-acre oasis is of the wild, English style (as opposed to the formal Luxembourg and Tuileries). Strollers, joggers, and kids-gone-wild at the park’s playground fill up the space on weekends. Numerous architectural follies (Corinthian columns, Dutch windmill, Egyptian pyramid) accent the Monceau’s wide oval path and pond. The French art of conversation has been perfected on these park benches since the late 1700s.
TOUR EIFFEL (7th arrondissement)
Though Tour Eiffel is the city’s most-touristy spot, the surrounding neighborhoods are where locals live the good life. Several market streets are nearby: Rue Cler, Rue Sainte Dominique, and along Boulevard de Grenelle. Providing room to roam at the foot of the famous tower is Champ de Mars, 60 acres of formal greenspace that lead to Invalides. At Invalides, the city’s masculine side is on display at Napoleon’s Tomb and Musée de l’Armée. Also near the Eiffel Tower are Musée Rodin and Musée d’Orsay, which is set in an ornate former railroad station and houses the art that bridges the gap between ancient (at the Louvre) and the modern (at Pompidou).
Even with all the 7th has to offer, no doubt the star of the show remains the Tour Eiffel. It draws eyes like magnets. Though many visitors will want to go to the top (1,063 feet), the more intimate view is from the 2nd level (a 15 minute walk up stairs), and the more majestic is from across the Seine at Place du Trocadero. From the plaza at Trocadero—flanked by the twin museums of the neo-classical Palais de Chaillot, and the fountains of Jardin du Trocadero—the Eiffel Tower and all of Paris is laid out before you, an immoveable feast for the senses.
PASSY (16th arrondissement.)
Where? Passy may seem passé to all visitors except aficionados of Brando’s Last Tango in Paris, which was filmed here. But not to Parisians: these enclaves across the Seine (like Villa Montmorency) are where the real monied folks live —the kind that don’t want to be famous in most cases. A historical exception is the former home of Honoré de Balzac on the upper bank of the Seine. Now a museum, the grounds had a back gate so the notoriously indebted scribe could escape his creditors. Throughout this arrondissement (principally on Rue Fontaine and Rue Agar) are the fanciful art-nouveau stylings of architect Hector Guimard, who makes concrete look like meringue, giving a storybook vibe to a row of facades.
By the time Metro line 10 gets to the village square at Notre Dame d’Auteuil, you’ll feel far away from Paris, especially when the scene amps in the summer during the French Open tennis tourney at Stade Roland Garros. Next to the stadium is perhaps the city’s least known jewel: Jardin des Serres. Five glass-and-wrought-iron greenhouses are placed within a seven-acre garden planted by Louis XV in 1761. Tickets had to be rationed in 1898 when the public was admitted, since the sunlit botanical interiors cured the winter blues for Parisians.
The mother of all parks in Paris, Bois de Boulogne, is 2.5 times bigger than NYC’s Central Park and makes the 16th by far the largest arrondissement. Within the Bois is another getaway trip, to the château, orangerie, and rose garden of Parc de Bagatelle. Marie Antoinette spurred the building of the château over one summer in 1777. It soon became the “it” place for exorbitant gatherings. For years, partygoers reveled in the new game ‘bagatelle’—a mini-pool with bumpers that was the precursor to the pinball machine—until times changed and a new contraption called the guillotine became all the rage.
No Worries Paris, a photographic walking guide brings the city to life. A look inside:
“So many memorable walks at our own pace. Good maps, directions, and the accompanying text is concise enough to read while on the walk.”
“A great help for me to plan my trip. I’m glad I’m prepared for what’s in store in the next two weeks.”
“We had four full days to spend in Paris in September. We had never been there and wanted to make the most of our time. We decided to use the No Worries Paris guide, and it was a very good decision.”
“Everything was beyond amazing!! I will never travel to Paris without using this guide again. Especially loved walking tours through the neighborhoods of the Marais and Latin Quarter.”
“The experience, sights and information provided by our NWP was first class. I would happily recommend reading it cover to cover before your stay.”
Illustrated by hundreds of color photographs, NO WORRIES PARIS takes readers on a visually luscious journey along the city’s striking monuments, as well as into crannies of its villages and the full-on glamour of the fashion districts. Virtually all of Paris is covered in 10 Walking Tours, each with its own map. Walks take from a half-day to a day to complete, starting at one Metro stop and ending at another. The tours are complemented by 10 Walk Arounds, which are shorter in length, taking in the sights of a single attraction more on the fringes of the city’s arrondissements.
Practical travel tips and get-around information is included. Newcomers will most likely want to begin with monumental strolls. Francophiles may choose something more edgy and out-of-the-way. The common thread is that each walk is along a visually aesthetic pathway that has a story of its own to tell. Readers who want to get to know Paris by seeing it on foot—pausing occasionally for a gourmet taste, park bench timeout or perfumed sniff along the way— have found the right book.
No Worries Paris is available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s Books, directly through the publishers (signed + discount) at Trailblazer Travel Books as well as your friendly independent bookstores nationwide.
Answer: they all lived here at Place Vosges, in my opinion, the prettiest square in Paris. It is ringed with 36 redbrick-and-stone houses—nine on each side, a salute to early urban planning. To love it is to know it’s history. Definitely a place to bring your sandwich (it’s okay to sit on the lawn), take in the sunshine and feel very far away from the traffic on nearby rue de Rivoli.
Four centuries ago this was the site of the Palais des Tournelles, home to King Henry II and Queen Catherine de Medici. The couple staged regular jousting tournaments, and Henry was fatally lanced in the eye during one of them in 1559. Catherine fled to the Louvre, abandoning her palace and ordered it destroyed. In 1612 the square became Place Royale on the occasion of Louis XIII’s engagement to Anne of Austria. Napoléon renamed it Place des Vosges to honor the northeast region of Vosges, the first in the country to pony up taxes to the Revolutionary government.
Place des Vosges is structured around two pavilions, that of the Queen at the north part of the square, and that of the King at the south part both built deliberately higher. They are not open to the public; however, you can still visit the house of Victor Hugo, author of “Les Misérables”, which is now a municipal museum. It is free and open daily from 9am to 6pm every day except Monday. To preserve this unity, the place has been protected since the 1960s by the “plan for the preservation and enhancement of the Marais” and no intervention, especially on the façades, can be made without the architect’s agreement.
Chic restaurants, boutiques and art galleries fill the arcade surrounding the park. A small private door, open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., will give you access to the garden of the stately Hotel de Sully, headquarters of the Center for National Monuments. Be sure to visit their well stocked bookstore. Unfortunately they don’t carry No Worries Paris, but you, of course, hopefully already purchased it before your trip to Paris. Place Vosges and all there is to do and see in the area starts on page 93 and is marked on the walking map.
Hungry? Here are some recommended restaurants
Au Bourguignon Du Marais, 52 Rue François Miron, 75004. Regional dishes from Burgundy.
La Tartine, 24 Rue de Rivoli, 75004
Chez Janou, 2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 75003
Les Cotelettes, Cafe Martini, Cafe Hugo
Paris’s “Winter Sales” began on January 11 and continue through February 21. It’s not just department stores that are having them. The big fashion houses are also in on the discount extravaganza and there are bargains to be had.
The discounts are deep, 50 to 70% on selected items. Get there when the doors open, when everything is neatly piled and lines less long at the cash register. Some designers have to limit the number of shoppers in their department store boutiques. You’ll always see a queue of just-off-the-jetters who go for the big brand names.
Values are waiting in the triangle d’or (Avenue Montaigne, Ave George V, and Rue Francois 1er), where the finest Haute Couture shops in the world are located. The prestigious houses include: Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Dolce e Gabbana, Max Mara, Christian LaCroix, Valentino, Prada, Ungaro, Joseph, Bonpoint, Jean Louis Scherrer, Gucci, Pucci, Loewe, Krizia, Bulgari, Calvin Klein, Nina Ricci, Ines de la Fressange, Donna Karan, Celine, Yves Saint Laurent (headquarters), Bulgari, S.F. Dupont, Porthault Linens, Caron, Hermes, Gianfranco Ferré, Givenchy, Kenzo. Rochas, Courreges, and Balmain. Be prepared to have your purse searched before entering.
Tired just reading the list? The Georges V (31, avenue George V) to the rescue with a time-out drink at Le Bar or light meal in the L’Orangerie restaurant. The staff are always gracious and welcoming; the flower arrangements will take your breath away. Sidenote: If you’re a guest, free flower arranging classes are offered by their world-renowned flower magician ($200 for non-guests); the staff offer guests a special morning hour-long jog at 7:30 along the Seine, through the Tuileries (free, once a week), room rates start at $800 a night.
At 50-70%, even the couture prices may well be beyond your means. Depot-vente (secondhand boutiques) present another choice. Dive into the piles for some amazing bargains all year round:
Didier Ludot, 24 Galerie Montpensier – Jardin du Palais Royal 75001 http://www.didierludot.fr
Kiliwatch, 64 Rue Tiquetonne, 75002 http://www.kiliwatch.fr
It’s December and the City of Light is showing off what it is known for now that the holiday season is in full swing. Taken from the International Space Station (merci NASA), the photo above shows off the brightest boulevard, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, historical axis of the city. The Arc de Triomphe, meeting place of eleven major boulevards, appears as a star at one end. The many forested parks stand out as black polygons.
How did it get it’s nickname? Reason number one: “La Ville-Lumière” as it was called in the 18th century, was the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment, famous as a center of education, philosophy and learning throughout Europe. Reason number two: Paris was one of the first cities to start using street lights during the Great Exhibition of 1889. Having street lights meant people could now do activities after dark that they could not do before. The streets suddenly grew safer. Fast forward to 2016……the tango:
A little advice. Sleep in so you can stay up at night, at least until midnight. A whole new sparkly city will emerge, the illuminated monuments almost toylike, cafes: full, flashing taillights wake up the boulevards, and a steady stream of tourist bateaux snake along the Seine. It’s ALIVE!
You might find yourself falling in love again. With your partner or if going solo, with this vibrant amazing city.
A park where I take a timeout with a warm croissant/jambon sandwich from the bakery nearby. Nestled in the Marais, you might spot Tai Chi or small yoga classes on delegated green spaces, or someone asleep occupying an entire bench. The scene is everchanging.
The site of the commandry of the knights of the Order of the Temple in the 13th century, the square became the scene of bloody repressions when the Templars were considered heretics.
It’s a much more peaceful place today. An English garden embellished with numerous exotic trees: American honey locust, goldenrain tree, Ginkgo Biloba, Turkish hazel, and a tall Japanese pagoda specimen embellish the landscape. This is an EcoJardin. It has been awarded the official French stamp of approval which recognizes ecological management guiding gardeners and managers of green spaces towards good practices (only certain sprays can be used, etc).
The wildlife in this large garden has never been so vibrant. Many different species of birds come to refresh themselves near the ornamental pool and waterfall constructed of rocks from the forest of Fontainebleau.
Complete directions to get here are in the No Worries Paris guidebook.
Square du Temple
64 rue de Bretagne – 75003 Paris
With visions of Paris Fashion Week still rolling around in my brain I find myself spotting a blouse trend as I laboriously edit my photos. The late Bill Cunningham used to call out such peculiarisms in his New York Times column, so Bill, “here’s to you.” You were truly missed at the parade of fashion on and off the catwalk this year.
Fashionistas, make sure your blouse sleeve is voluminous and proportionally way too large for your figure in 2017. Oversize is “in.” Tip: buy them in the men’s department if you want to save $$$. Or check your local thrift shops where I’ve seen jillions of ironed Brooks Bros. striped models lined up and ready to snatch.
And by all means watch those cuffs when eating your spaghetti.
Be sure it’s tucked.
Not terribly comfortable, but soooo cool!
And what this has to do with promoting our guidebook, No Worries Paris, I don’t have a clue. Just thought you deserve a little extra entertainment from the fashion world now and then. A bientot!
Taking time to chill with a little (hastily put together) slide show. Join me for a petite tour along the Seine and rue Rivoli. Warning, it’s super slow.
Bill Cunningham, one of the original street-style photographers died on Saturday in Manhattan.
I met him in Paris on several occasions. We were both on the same quest….capturing the excitement of Fashion Week. From years of experience, he knew the who’s who, had all the show addresses (many big houses keep theirs secret), had front row seats (sometimes he was content just to photograph the comings and goings), and ALWAYS, come rain or shine, wore his blue signature shirt. He stood a little stooped (who wouldn’t at 87), had crooked teeth, and a smile that crept up to his eyes. If you said “hi”, he didn’t respond because, like most photographers on the job, the shot takes precedence over everything. Dedicated, humble, never pushy, always carefully selecting his subject, he was an original and I will truly miss him.