03 November 2009

72 Hours in Paris, France

For newlyweds not ready to commit to the traditional honeymoon, but lucky enough to live near a European discount airline hub, a ‘petit’ honeymoon in Paris offers a fantastic opportunity to stretch your holiday muscles before the real thing. The city offers activities to fit every budget, and its many attractions can be visited even on the briefest of trips – but may result in an incurable desire to come back again and again.
1) 12PM: Get your bearings.
Drop your bags at the hotel, which may have your room ready as soon as you arrive. Open the French doors and survey the scene below before leaving for your first adventure: lunch. Pick a direction as you exit the hotel and start walking. The streets of Paris may offer a feast for your eyes, with monuments and parks at every corner, but your stomach likely requires something with a bit more heft. Pizza, which is not as readily available in Liverpool, is a great way to grab a quick bite and practice your French with a surprisingly encouraging waiter.

2) 3PM: Explore.
While Paris is a large city, it is very accessible on foot. The 6th Arrondissement is home to a number of popular Parisian attractions, including the Jardin du Luxembourg, Medici Fountain, and Saint-Sulpice. Meander through its streets, heading toward the Seine in order to get a gasp-inducing vision of the Louvre and the Notre Dame de Paris. Join the crowds (though perhaps not the lines) and get a close-up view. A quick glance at the map reveals that your tired feet have a ways to go before the next stop, the Eiffel Tower, so why not take advantage of Paris’ comprehensive Velib bicycling program? A €1 ticket offers virtually unlimited access to the city, with bike stations located at every turn. Don’t be discouraged by the initially confusing process of purchasing a ticket, selecting a bicycle, and removing it from the locked stand. Instead, take this opportunity to practice your French on an unsuspecting customer service telephone operator. When the going gets tough, make up the words; then get on your bike and avoid highway on-ramps (ahem).

Jardin du Luxembourg



Notre Dame

3) 8PM: A second look.
After a sunset survey of the Eiffel Tower, a quick washup at the hotel, and a fantastic Thai meal, jump back on a bike! These wheels come with headlamps and tail lights, so nothing is stopping you from another look at the iconic monument, this time with the benefit of the romantic atmosphere of a Parisian night. If you stick around long enough, irritating the other couples on the lawn with your stupid bicycle antics, you may be lucky enough to catch the hourly light show, where the tower goes dark before turning on thousands of twinkling white lights. The inner kid in you can’t help but love the spectacle.

1) 10AM: A few more sights
While one of you laces up his sneakers to explore the city at an eight-minute mile pace, the other should roll over luxuriously to take advantage of the additional mattress space. But don’t sleep in too long, as you’ll want to take advantage of the hotel’s breakfast in the basement (it sounds worse than it actually is). Though you may be dressed entirely inappropriately for the cold and cloudy weather that blew in overnight, be confident that your stubbornness (and proximity to multiple retail centers) will keep you relatively warm for the rest of the day. Walk down Montparnasse to see some of the local architectural gems and the Montparnesse cemetery, the final resting place of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre, among others. Don’t be worried if you only know these people by name and not necessarily through their work, as you can count yourself lucky to have avoided the Jim Morrison vigil in that other Parisian cemetery. Although you may be disappointed to learn that the Catacombs have been shuttered due to vandalism, promise yourself that you will see them on your next visit. Afterwards, warm yourself in one of the ubiquitous Paris cafes with a double expresso or café au lait.

2) 2PM: Modern Art and Architecture
The Centre Georges Pompidou is an example of high-tech architecture, a welcome change from the more traditional cathedrals peppering the Paris skyline. This building is either loved or hated by its critics, but don’t despair if you have a middle-of-the-road, lukewarm reaction. It’s just a building, after all. Skirt the pretentious street artist (really, why would you set yourself up for failure like that, getting all cocky about your ‘work’ when you’re immediately going to be compared to all the modern greats housed inside) and venture inside. There are a number of armchairs available to you as you contemplate whether it’s worth joining the long line to purchase tickets, and the Galleries Lafayette are a short bike ride away if you determine that obtaining a scarf, mittens, and hat are a better idea. The very best part is that there’s a great Japanese ramen place on your way, and a bowl of hot soup will go a long way to restoring your core temperature.

Pompidou Centre

Galleries Lafayette
3) 5PM: Evening shenanigans
Your bike ride back to the hotel should include a few detours: the iconic Arc du Triomphe on Champs-Elysées, and the Musée du quai Branly. The latter houses a comprehensive collection of indigenous art of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas; it also benefits from much shorter lines. After you change into something more weather-appropriate, return to Montparnasse for a large meal of steak et frites, a French favorite. Then grab a bottle of wine and head for the left bank for a romantic evening spent swigging straight from the bottle, heckling tour boats and narrowly avoiding rats (dead or alive).

1) 11AM: The other side
After your breakfast, get prepared for an uphill bike ride across the river to Montmartre to see the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. Don’t be tempted by all the cheap tchotchke (why do they insist on selling little Eiffel Towers at every site?) and head downhill for your next adventure – the market underneath the elevated Paris subway, heading toward the cité de la musique. When you’ve had your fill of near pickpockets, grab a bike and pedal as fast as you can down the Avenue Jaun Jaurés. If you were smart, you purchased your tickets to the new Miles Davis exhibit online, and you can bypass the lines with your Montréal friends in tow. Catch a glimpse of Marcus Miller, the Grammy award winner and Miles Davis collaborator before putting your headphones on and listening to one of Jazz’s greats.

Sacre Coeur

2) 2PM: French friends
The best part of meeting an old friend in Paris? Getting their recommendation for a local spot for wine and food. Spend a few hours at the bar and hunkered at a small table, sampling local wines and savoring unidentifiable pates, pork rilletes, and cheeses on crusty French bread (order the charcuterie and fromagerie plates at Le Baron Rouge). You’ll pay a fraction of what you’ve spent on other meals and get an authentic French meal with great company to boot.

3) 7PM: Comfort food
You’ve done a lot over the past couple of days, so there’s nothing wrong with gravitating toward some comfort food (read: Italian) and tucking in early. Fall asleep dreaming of Paris, and remember that the literal translation of ‘au revoir’ is ‘to the next time we see each other.’
There are more photos online here and here. (please ignore my poorly spelled captions)