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Trip Report Paris: New Discoveries and Old Favorites

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At the end of July, I got an irresistible urge to be in Paris in September. It had been two years since my last trip, and I didn’t want to let any more time go by. This trip was different from my 12 or more previous trips to Paris because this time I went alone.

As you can imagine, with only a month to plan, I didn’t have a huge choice of apartments or plane fares. But I managed to find an apartment in the 6th for 16 days. I booked a flight on Air France, non-stop SFO to CDG and, when I got my boarding pass online, I was able to buy an exit row seat for $80 more. (The same was true on the way home). That made a huge difference and, with the two substantial meals served and the snacks in between, the 11-hour flight was not dreadful. I took the RER from the airport to the Luxembourg stop. I was surprised how easy it was and would never travel into the city any other way.

Like so many of you who have been to Paris a number of times, I wanted to do some things I hadn’t done before, and enjoy those things that I always loved on every trip. I spent a lot of time sitting in parks, taking long walks, riding buses when I got tired, seeing art, and eating well.

One of the real pleasures of being alone was to start off the day without any plans. Sometimes I would leave the apartment not really knowing what I wanted to do but start walking in a new direction. If things were interesting, I’d keep walking. If I got tired, I’d get on a bus headed in a different direction. I always had the “Paris Arrondissements” booklet in my pocket (which you can buy at any news stand), so at any time, I could find out where I was, and where the nearest metro was if I didn’t want to continue with buses. Because the weather was mostly beautiful, I preferred taking buses to the metro and enjoyed seeing many neighborhoods this way.

The 95 bus goes through St. Germain des Pres, across the Seine with a beautiful view of the Grand Palais from Pont Neuf, and then through the Louvre across Rue de Rivoli and on towards Montmartre. A perfect 25-minute ride.

These were my favorite new discoveries:

From a book called, “Quiet Corners of Paris,” by Jean-Christophe Napias (you can get in your library), I took a 96 bus to the 19th and walked around a neighborhood called La Mouzaia. It has about thirty lanes of small houses with lovely gardens. You can walk for hours, it’s peaceful and beautiful. If you wind your way around long enough, you will arrive at Parc Buttes-Chaumont, which is a wonderful park. I also had an excellent lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood. The serenity was quite a change from my neighborhood in the 6th, and I appreciated it all the more for that. There are many good ideas for exploring other parts of Paris in this book.

From “An Hour from Paris,” by Annabel Simms, I took a day trip to St. Germaine-en-Laye which was one of my favorite days. It’s an easy 25-minute ride on the RER, which you get at Les Halles. The old part of town is very picturesque, and strolling its streets is fun. But I had come especially to see the Maurice Denis museum, which is about a 10-minute walk from the center of town. Denis was a painter from the “Nabis” school, influenced by Gauguin, and a friend of Bonnard and Serusier. The museum was his home and is filled with his paintings, drawings, stained glass, and frescos. He also restored a chapel on the grounds, which is filled with Art Nouveau paintings and stained glass. There’s a 2-acre hillside garden that he designed and is a pleasant place to relax.

Right across from the RER station back in town is the Chateau-Vieux, which houses the Museum of Celtic and Gallo-Roman Antiquities. I did not go in because I wanted to stroll the Chateau's grounds which were spectacular! There is a view of Paris from one part that is breathtaking; you can see La Defense and the Eiffel Tower, quite clearly. The park is manicured in the perfect French style and the flowers were as beautiful as those in the Luxembourg or the Tuilleries. There were several places to get drinks and snacks within the park, but I don’t know how long into the year those stay open. I walked around for several hours along winding paths, and there were very few people there. The Tourist Office (which was also the home of Claude Debussy) has a map of the town with suggested walks and points of interest. I will definitely return some day. In my pictures below, the collage that has the stained glass windows from the Denis museum also has a view of Paris from the park.

Restaurants to recommend:

A friend from Sweden joined me for four days and we did some simple but good eating:

Chartier, 7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, in the 9th is a very old restaurant where you can eat all day long. Especially nice when you’re hungry about 3:00 pm and most restaurants are closed. The food was hearty and the price very reasonable.

Le Perraudin , 157 Rue St. Jacques in the 5th. 30 Euros for the prix fixe. Delicious escargot, lamb with potatoes, and warm apple tart with ice cream.

Bouillon Racine, 3 Rue Racine in the 6th, gorgeous Art Nouveau décor (1906). Delicious salmon entrée and duck with berry sauce and divine potatoes for 30 Euros.

I was comfortable eating by myself and had good dinners at these restaurants:

La Ferrandaise , 8 rue de Vaugirard, in the 6th. Excellent dinner for 30 euros.

Le Bastide Odeon, 7 Rue Corneille, in the 6th very good, about 30 euros. Lots of Brits and Americans here, the only place I found that to be true.

Kiotori, very good Japanese restaurant on Monsieur Le Prince for 17 euros

Things that bear repeating:

Don’t miss the Grande Epicerie for the ultimate in grocery shopping…ground floor of the Bon Marche department store in the 6th.

I walked the Promenade Plantee to the end (Bois de Vincennes) and took a bus back, passing Parc de Bercy and crossing the Seine on Rue Tolbac …a whole new area for me to see.

Best street market in my opinion is on President Wilson in the 16th on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (Metro: Alma-Marceau or Iena)

Best boat ride: Bateau Les Vedettes at night. Go down the stairs on the right bank of Pont Neuf and you’ll see the boat on Pt. Dauphine. You can get reduced tickets online at Pictures from the boat ride are below.

Here are some collages of the trip (thanks to SemiMike for teaching me how to do this):

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