|In Paris there are
still places tourists (and even natives) don't know about. Harriet reports
: "Paris is the most romantic city in the world - and I
am saying this after living here for so many years. It
has lost none of its charm after all this time, even compared
to my first glimpse of it when I stepped into a Bateaux Mouche
and sailed down the Seine. Now, three decades and two children
later, I still step into the streets of Paris and see them romantically.
Whether it's shopping at the market and buying fresh flowers
or having a chat with the fishmonger, I continue to be enthralled
by this city where anonymity is guaranteed but human contacts
| Suggestions for a Sunday in Paris...
|| Gardens in Paris
Music : the "Cité de la Musique", in the Parc de la Villette is a wonderful place with concerts and events of all kinds, the largest concert hall in Paris (la Philharmonie), bookstores, a museum, the National Music School (Conservatoire) in a park, with three canals and also the National Science Museum (kids of all age love it) and many other opportunities, enough to spend a very good Sunday.
if you speak
French, it is fun to enjoy a drink while watching people who
are discussing, in a very orderly, but sometimes passionate manner
in a Café
; a good one is Café des Phares, Place de la Bastille,
every Sunday fom 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. In English : Café
de Flore, 172 blvd Saint-Germain (first Wednesday each month).
There are, also, a few "Science cafés", the
best one being "Le Père Tranquille" 16 rue Pierre
Lescot 75001 (1rst Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.).
Guimet, one the most (if not The Most) extraordinary museums
of Oriental Art in the world, 6 Place d'Iéna 75016 ; do
not forget to visit its beautiful Annex nearby, the Musée
du Panthéon Bouddhique with its Japanese garden (19 avenue
Jazz in the Flea Market (Django Reinhard "gipsy"
style) : there are several small restaurants with good music
and the Flea Market is fun to visit (it is safe but beware of
pickpockets!) : Metro station : Porte de Clignancourt (open Friday,
Saturday; Sundays and Monday)
a cup of tea with Arab sweets
at the Mosquée (5th arrondissement, near the Jardin des
Plantes), visit an African open air market in Belleville (11th
arrdt. northeast of Paris), enjoy a Chinese meal in Chinatown
(13rd arrdt, southwest)
Walk along the Canal
Saint Martin and the Bassin de la Villette (see many more suggestions of walks)
in the Parc de Bagatelle,
a wonderful rose garden in a large park around a charming XVIIIth
century mansion built for Marie-Antoinette (in the Northern part
of the Bois de Boulogne)
(if it rains!)
Watch movies at the Forum
des Images/Vidéothèque de Paris (in the Forum des
Halles) : a wonderful place, ideal if you want to select and
watch several movies in a row or pick out all the the movies
with a particular actor, a particular place, etc... Some movies will make you understand
France better! The best street for (old) movies is Rue Champollion
(between Place de la Sorbonne and Rue des Ecoles) : several movie
theaters showing only classic films.
- More to come...
Paris has many parks (the City's
official count is 400 !), very different from one another. They are skillfully landscaped in harmony with the seasons. The "little green men" (gardeners) are very competent at maintaining them all year round. Among the gardens :
- Big parks (like Central Park) : Bois de Boulogne (West) and
Bois de Vincennes (East), 2,000 acres each, with lakes, rose
gardens, cycling paths, " kiosques " where you can
have a light lunch or drink,
- Unexpected and enchanting
: the Jardin Albert Kahn (in Boulogne near Paris), with a very
beautiful Japanese garden and spectacular photo exhibits from
the Collection Kahn (one of the largest in the world in the 1900-1920s)
- Romantic :
Parc Monceau (XVIIth), with
(fake) ruins or Parc de Bagatelle with its " folie "
built for Marie Antoinette and its annual summer Chopin Festival,
and innovative : Parc André
- Surprisingly hilly : Parc
des Buttes Chaumont (XIXth) ; the highest park in Paris is the
minuscule Parc de Belleville (XXth)
: Parc de Bercy (XIIth) or
Serres d'Auteuil (XVIth), both with a gardening school or the
spectacular Parc Floral de Vincennes (30 hectares) with many
educational pavillions with thousands of species, in a beautiful
park ; see also the Garden of the Museum ("Jardin des Plantes") (5th), with its historical
trees and green houses
- Great with children : Luxembourg
gardens (VIIth) or Jardin d'Acclimatation (XVIth) with puppet
- With used books stands: the Parc Georges
Brassens (XVth) has a big used-books fair every Saturday and
- Open-air theater : Jardin Shakespeare,
inside the Bois de Boulogne
- More gardens....
The city of Paris organizes visits
(some of them in English), conferences, gardening courses, etc...
all year round. See more
USEFUL TIPS.... If you like to play (or watch) chess, there is a place for aficionados in the Luxembourg garden (near the tennis courts).
DID YOU KNOW THAT … ? A typical French garden features straight lines for the paths, absolute symmetry of the lawns and bushes, trees transformed into some form of abstract structure. The idea behind it is to illustrate that Man dominates Nature and can do anything he wants with it. No sensuality, no pleasure, but the domination of abstraction and concepts. This idea of gardens is consistent with the whole vision of the world resulting from the French culture. The park in Versailles epitomizes this idea of gardens : nothing common between a "jardin a la francaise" and an English garden.
| Unknown little spots
|| Places with a certain flavor...
Unexpected shops : totally devoted to canes (Passage Verdeau),
to Champagne corks (26 rue la Bruyere 9ème), to furniture for
dolls (Passage Jouffroy), tin soldiers (rue Guisarde), ....
Unexpected graves : Marie Bashkirtseff's (a real-size studio
in Passy cemetery), Mr.Pigeon's (a completely-dressed couple
in bed, in Montparnasse cemetery) , the entire Dog and Cat Cemetery
(in Clichy), a walk in the Père
Lachaise cemetery is a fascinating experience (100 acres,
graves of unknown or famous, beautiful or crazy, ...). Read A walk in the Père Lachaise
and combine a spectacular walk with a Wine & Cheese tasting !
you know the "Zouave
du Pont de l'Alma"
? All Parisians know this sculpture of a soldier of the colonian
troops (from Algeria) who is the meter (for Parisians) of how
high the river is. In case of flood, weather reports refer to
the ankle or the knee of the "zouave" (in 1910, the
water reached his neck and people had to use small boats in the
streets of Paris!).
Remember : Paris is not only Paris
! Around Paris, several
cities are "almost Paris" and with a population bertween
50,000 and 100,000, a metro line, a cultural life etc... they
attract more and more Parisians. Among them : Neuilly (very exclusive),
Montreuil (many houses), Le-Pré-Saint-Gervais (very sought-after
lofts), Vincennes, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Levallois and many others
look very much like Paris.
See a video about the 10 most secret places in Paris
- The Bible of Paris' lovers is Hillairet's book, which tells everything about each street (Jacques HILLAIRET, Connaissance du Vieux Paris, Payot, 816 p., 1950 (re-edit.2017)
DID YOU KNOW
THAT.. ? Parisians love their fire-brigade. Contrary to
other cities in France (except Marseille), they belong to the
army and it is an honor for a young candidate to be selected
for the fire brigade as the competition is fierce. Every year
the "Pompiers de Paris" are the last troops to march
down the Champs Elysées on Bastille Day, always amid huge
applause. In Paris they are as popular as the firemen in New
York. The fire brigade includes lesser known specialists such
as the "Brigade Cynégétique", a group
of 6 men and 12 dogs in charge of searching victims in rubble
(in case of earthquakes for instance) and also capturing lost
and/or dangerous animals in cities (in 2003 : 187 dogs, 90 hens,
79 snakes, 50 cats, 29 horses, 24 foxes, 11 trap-door spiders, 8 parrots,
5 scorpios, 4 iguanas, 2 monkeys and 1 rat !).
Brasserie Balzar : an
old-style brasserie which is a veritable institution in the Latin
Quarter, frequented by politicians, celebrities, students and
professors from the nearby Sorbonne. White linen cloths on the
table for lunch and dinner and in between time you can just stop
in for tea or coffee. Friendly homey ambiance. (49 rue des Ecoles
75005 Tel. 33-(0)1 43 54 13 67)
La Closerie des Lilas: The favorite
haunt of Hemingway,
Gertrude Stein and Henry Miller and many, many other artists
and writers, the Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse is a good
place to stop for a drink. And when you sit at any of the tables,
take a look at the copper plaques with the names of the famous
people who have frequented the Closerie over the years. (171
Blvd du Montparnasse 75006 tel. 33-(0)1 40 51 34 50)
Le Select : This is a very famous café in
Montparnasse because this is where the Webmaster and his wife
met each other! But there were other people there before them:
Picasso, Modigliani , Henry Miller, Hemingway, etc. Also a good
place to meet a friend for a drink. (99 Blvd du Montparnasse
75006 Tel. 33-(0)1 42 22 65 27)
market streets, see our page
Visit several shops
on the the same very focused theme (furniture, stamps, porcelain,...)
in the same street
- Read about Paris historical
landmarks and architecture
- More to come....
More places ....
Dinner in the
courtyard of the Centre de danse du Marais (tel.33-1 42 72 15 42) and of the Café
de la Gare : a terrasse, a restaurant with tapas, in a beautiful
rather decayed old mansion...
The best ice-creams
in France are from
(31 rue Saint
Louis en l'Ile 75004) : be patient (there is always a line) and
enjoy them while you walk around the precious Ile Saint Louis
; the variety of Berthillon's ice-creams is astounding! And (hard
to believe), until recently, the shop was closed in August...
- More to come
DID YOU KNOW THAT......?
How Parisians see their own city : anything on the other
side of the Boulevard Périphérique (belt-way) just
does not exist, the Rive Gauche (left bank i.e. South) is more
intellectual and academic, etc.., the Rive Droite (right bank
i.e. North) more business-oriented , the West part is wealthier
and conventional, the East is less affluent and more "in".
When you drive (good luck!) and ask for directions, major landmarks
are train stations (Gare Montparnasse, Gare de l'Est, Gare du
Nord, Gare de Lyon, Gare Saint-Lazare), major intersections ("places"
: Place de l'Etoile, République, Bastille, Ternes, ...)
and exits from the belt-way (called "portes" : Porte
d'Auteuil, de Bagnolet, d'Orléans, de Vincennes, etc...).
How Parisians see their own city....
To read this
(funny) map, the Paris version of the famous image of New York
by Steinberg in the New Yorker, you may use the following approximative
equivalents : "bobos" is something like "Radical
Chic" (also called Caviar Left Wing), "Chalala"
is like "Jewish Princess", "putes" is "hooker",
"bourges" is "bourgeois" (contemptuous),
"fringues" are togs, "racaille" is "riffraff",
"coupe-gorge" is a no-go area, "pédés"
are gays, "ploucs" are "hicks", "banlieusard"
means commuters, "rien" is nothing. ..
| New ideas....
|| Day trips around Paris
"Creative leisure" in Paris for Foreign and French tourists ! The City of Paris has identified 400 activities (cinema, gastronomy, gardening, painting, fashion, design, ...). One third of these workshops are in English.
There is always something happening
at the Cité
Internationale universitaire, 17 blvd Jourdan 75014. Visit the site.
A Shakespeare play in an open-air theater, in the
middle of the Bois de Boulogne : a beautifully designed garden
theater devoted to English playwright William Shakespeare. Metro
Porte Maillot then bus # 244 - tel 01 42 76 64 67.
See Paris from high up : the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre are not the only
places with a great view on the city, there is also the top floor
of the Centre Pompidou (restaurant Georges), of the Institut
du Monde Arabe
(with mint tea and pastries!), the Belvédère of
the Buttes Chaumont park, the top
of the Parc de Belleville (with a fun restaurant with typical
music, le Vieux Belleville, 12 rue des Envierges 75019) or the
roof of the Printemps department store (nice cafeteria)..
See Paris from the river : a cruise on the Seine can be a magical moment ! You can book one of the Bateaux Parisiens River Cruises included in the Paris Pass.
a bike in Paris (in the Bois
de Boulogne, or in many RATP designated spots such as: 95 bis rue
Rambuteau 75001 tel 33-(0)1 53 46 43 77) or use the wonderful
Velib system, which
is almost free.
Attend a concert in the Théatre Grévin (Tel.33-(0)1
48 24 16 97) : a charming little XVIIIth-century-style theater,
inside the Wax Museum (Musée Grévin).
Play chess in
the Jardin du Luxembourg (behind the Museum)
Roller-skating tours start from
Place d'Italie (Fridays,
10 p.m.) and from Bastille (37 Blvd Bourdon, Sundays 2
p.m.). You can also experience a ride on Sedgway, a high-tech electric scooter (70 Euros
for a 4-hour ride)
Stop by Le Lucernaire : a friendly combination
of a restaurant (approximately 20 Euros) , a movie theater and a bookstore
in Montparnasse (23 rue Notre Dame des Champs, 75006 Paris Tel.
33-1 42 22 66 87)
- A restaurant In The Dark : an astonishing experience in total darkness.
Read Paris Pages
DID YOU KNOW THAT .... ? One of the best kept secrets of Paris is the DÎNER EN BLANC event (the white dinner). Every year in June, since 1988, more than 15,000 Parisians have dinner together in one of the most beautiful sites of Paris (for example, right in front of Notre-Dame or in the courtyard of the Louvre), the exact place being disclosed to them an hour before dinner time. It is free but you have to bring everything, including a table and chairs, for an elegant dinner. You have to be dressed totally in white and bring the food and drinks (preferably white too). It is quite elegant, refined and very appreciated by upper-middle class and conservative Parisians. Read more about the rules.
If you have a car, you
can spend a pleasant afternoon visiting a few very picturesque
historical places which are only a 20 to 40 mile drive from
Paris (or easy train ride) :
: a charming village on the edge of the Fontainebleau forest,
Barbizon is famous for the 19th century painters who lived and
worked there : many ateliers, tea rooms and art galleries
(East) : a REAL walled medieval
city, 20 miles from Disneyland!
(North-West) : where Claude
Monet lived, with his garden, wonderful all year round. Do not
miss the Museum of American Arts, with many paintings of American
Impressionists and fine exhibitions.
sur Oise (North-West) : have lunch in the Auberge Ravoux
and see the room where Vincent Van Gogh died, and visit a delighful village with
its Musée Impressionniste (an inventive virtual trip) and the church Van Gogh
immortalized in " l'Eglise d'Auvers "
within a radius of 50 miles around Paris
there are several beautiful historical cities, with castles, cathedrals, parks, museums, medieval streets, and each of these cities is worth a trip : Versailles (W), Saint-Germain-en Laye (NW), Chantilly (N), Senlis (N), Fontainebleau (SE) (clockwise)
and, a little further : Chartres (W), Beauvais (NW) and Compiègne (NE).
- More to come
DID YOU KNOW THAT...?
In Paris, street names often have something in common
in a given neighborhood (for instance : around Saint Lazare station
: names of European cities, around Institut Pasteur: names of
scientists, around Pigalle : names of sculptors, etc..., the interior
ring road - Blvd. des Maréchaux - is composed of 22 boulevards,
each of them with the name of a marshall of Napoleon). Street
numbers start at the River Seine (except for the avenues starting
from the Arch of Triumph.) Street names give a good idea of the
French national heroes. In any French city, you will find the
major avenues with the names of Victor Hugo (the illustrious
XIXth century poet), Jean Jaures (the founder of the
Socialist party, a Renaissance man, humanist and brilliant lover
of Greek literature, a pacifist murdered a few days before WW1
broke out), Jules
(who designed the French educational system), Jean
(the most revered figure of the resistance in WW2, arrested and
murdered by the Nazis without having denounced anyone), other
heroes of the resistance ( Pierre Brossollette, Daniele Casanova,
Paul Vaillant-Couturier ), Gambetta (one of the founders of the
Republican regime in the 1870s), Alsace-Lorraine (annexed by
Germany between 1871 and 1918), Aristide-Briand (a politician
between WW1 and WW2), Stalingrad, Charles de Gaulle, Jeanne d'Arc, Jean
etc... If you are lost between Lenin Boulevard and Karl-Marx
street, no doubt : you are in a Communist city. See more....
Take a walking tour through the places where Benjamin Franklin,
Thomas Jefferson, La Fayette and many others lived. Read : "Paris
: Birthplace of the U.S.A." : see bibliography.
It could also be a good idea to take a walking tour with Paris
à Pied. See many suggestions of
Van Gogh : "If
you're looking for a trip on a theme, why not try some Van Gogh
Walks next time you visit Paris ? Art historian, artist and free-lance
Bain-Smith's book, "Van Gogh Walks ...Paris" is
the first in a collection of guidebooks following famous artists
around the cities they loved. Bain-Smith successfully celebrates
the Dutch artist's peregrinations in Paris from 1886 to 1888
with a series of three very modern day walking tours through
the City of Light. Whether taking us to Notre Dame Cathedral
which Vincent relished visiting as a young man exploring Paris
in 1875 or to the village of Auvers-sur-Oise
where he died at the Auberge
Ravoux, Bain-Smith's informative text and alluring photos
allow us to to superimpose the 19th century Paris of Van Gogh
on to today's French capital. Once you've traveled Paris with
these Van Gogh Paris Walks in hand, it will never look the same
Visit the Cimetière
du Père Lachaise
: this huge cemetery (44 hectares) is a fascinating park, with
68,000 graves, many of them beautiful or picturesque, and more
than 2 million visitors a year ; among its residents :
several illustrious Americans,
including Jim Morrison ("The Doors", +1971) who still
attracts many young visitors, Gertrude Stein and Alice B.Toklas,
Oscar Wilde (+1900) has a spectacular
monument, covered with hundreds of lipstick marks (a new protective glass has been built to ward off thekissers),which was shrouded,
because considered indecent : in 1922, students tore out the
fig leaf, with part of what was underneath...
Victor Noir (+1870) was a young
journalist, murdered by a nephew of Emperor Napoleon III ; for
unknown reasons, his (beautiful) statue is considered a symbol
of fertility and women keep rubbing his protuberant penis, which
has to be repaired on a regular basis
Alan Kardec (+1869), the founder
of Spiritism, has always attracted very weird visitors... and thousands
of other graves back to the illustrious lovers Abélard
and Heloïse (+XIIth Century).
- Read an article about the cemetery by Harriet Welty Rochefort
and visit the cemetery with her!
Read Permanent Parisians
by Culbertson & Randall and see about famous
Americans who lived in Paris.
- What to do ? Where to shop ?
Click for practical tips on life in Paris
and here for romantic
places and songs
- Why not a walking tour in Paris, with well-regarded American writer David Downie ?
- Visit the Paris
More ideas for Paris underground.....
- The sewers are a huge network and you can visit it (facing #93 Quai d'Orsay, tel 01 47 05 10 29). Be prepared for a smelly visit : you'll understand the cycle of Paris water (and you'll never touch water again).
- The catacombs (Place Denfert Rochereau) : 6 million skulls and bones in quarry galleries, a very strange experience ; kids love it. (Place Denfert Rochereau, 14th Arrondissement).
- More to come....
DID YOU KNOW THAT....?In the center of Paris,
the buildings look very old and unchanged. With the exception
of a few eyesores like the Tour Montparnasse and Jussieu, most
of the buildings in the historic center of Paris retain their
old style. But although they are "old", they are not
unchanged. They may be brand-new inside and only the facade has
been kept. This is called "façadisme"
and it contributes maintaining an unity of style, resulting from
the major projects and developments by Baron Haussmann in the 1850s-1860s.
You may also notice what all these "haussmanian" buildings
have in common : same color of stone, the fanciest floors are
the 2nd and 5th, with balconies (remember : in France, US-first
floor is "rez-de-chaussée", US-second floor
is "premier étage = first floor"; etc...) and
the roof, slate-colour, includes "Mansart" windows. (read the page about the ugliest buildings in Paris).
Paris has several passages, the commercial malls of the 19th Century, (in the center, near the Grands Boulevards).
They definitely deserve a visit!
This is a picture of the Passage Vivienne.
DID YOU KNOW
THAT...? The "Sentier" (center of Paris, around the
"la Bourse", the Stock Exchange building), formerly
the area of Paris known as the garment district is now called
"Silicon Sentier" because this is where many
e-business start-ups are located.
DID YOU KNOW THAT.....? In Paris, many "cafés"
(some say : most cafés) belong to Auvergnats, i.e. people
from Auvergne, a poor and very beautiful region right in the
center of France. They emigrated to Paris at the end of the XIXth
Century and sold coal, then they started selling wine in their
coal shops, then they gained control of the liquor distibution
business in Paris and of the cafés. They are hard workers
and keep close ties with their native region (the WebMaster is
an Auvergnat ! ). Look at the name of the cafés : many
of them refer to it ("L'Aubrac", "Le Bougnat"
-this is the generic term for café owners from Auvergne-,
about it.However, the oldest Paris cafe was founded by a Sicilian in 1686 (Procope, Rue de l'Ancienne Comedie, near Odeon) ; it is now a restaurant. Read how to decipher a French café.
To related pages : more unknown
Paris (#2), Paris notebook, ugliest buildings in Paris, historical landmarks,
To top of the
Back to home
How many people know or have visited what’s under the ground in Paris : the sewers, the catacombs perhaps, but a cheese cellar ? Harriet had the unique opportunity to visit one in the 17th arrondissement where the renowned fromager works with between a hundred eight and two hundred fifty different kinds of cheeses yearly. Here’s what she writes about it in French Fried :
The first thing he showed me after we had descended a flight of steep stairs wa without any doubt the most important : the motors that keep the caves constantly humid, disseminating one thousand liters of water in fine particles every day. We contemplated them with the respect they were due – if caves aren’t humid, there’s no mold, hence no cheese… A powerful smell of ammonia pervaded my nostrils . . . However, I forgot the fumes as I became absorbed in the view of, on either side of me, thick, high Cantals, concave-shaped Beauforts, a round Comté weighing thirty-five kilos . . . Across from the Cantal were some Mimolettes, one of my favorite cheeses. He held one up for inspection, showing me the dusty rind-literally dusty, as small bacteria called cirons eat away at it and have to be brushed off regularly.
For more on inttercultural differences, order Harriet Welty Rochefort's books : Joie de Vivre. Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's, 2012, French Toast.An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French, St.Martin's Press, 1999, French Fried. The Culinary Capers of an American in Paris, St.Martin's Press, 2001. More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc).
|Enjoy a Wine &
Cheese Tastings in Pariswith a talk on intercultural differences or followed by a walk in the Pere Lachaise cemetery.
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