adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

Paris Part 1: The Sites

Paris is such a beautiful, magical place that when I'm there, I don't want to spend my time in museums.  I want to be walking around outside or sitting in cafés sipping espresso, soaking in the culture and pretending like I'm a native Parisian.  Regretfully, I think my walking shoes and the fact that I don't speak French are dead giveaways that I'm just another tourist falling hopelessly in love with the City of Light. Today I'd like to share with you how I see Paris and the places I like to go.  This post will focus on some of my favorite ways to experience what the city has to offer, beyond the standard tourist attractions.  Notre Dame, The Louvre, and The Eiffel Tower are all sites that you can't really go without at least seeing on the outside.  I have never been inside any of these landmarks because, honestly, it's just not how I wanted to spend my time in Paris.  I made sure to visit the site, read up on the history in my guidebook, take some pictures of the outside, and appreciate it for what it is.  But then I was on my merry way to explore other, lesser known attractions. Paris is divided into numbered neighborhoods called arrondissmentes.  The arrondissmentes that I find most appealing are #3, 4 (Marais) and #11 (Bastille).  I am also fond of #19 (Parc des Buttes Chaumont) and #20 (Belleville) which are considered "up and coming" and thus quickly becoming yuppified.  If you are interested in experiencing Paris by walking around and simply taking it all in, here are a few of the places that I recommend: Bastille Farmers Market - located in Bastille Square on Sundays, this is the largest Farmers Market in Paris.  It is brimming with fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats, flowers, wine, garments and knickknacks.  I had a wonderful time walking around, sampling the items, and picking up some cheese, baguette and wine for an afternoon snack.

Farmers market flowers

Jardin du Luxembourg - located in the 6th arrondissmente, Jardin du Luxembourg is the second oldest park in Paris.  It is just outside the Palais du Luxembourg. Henri IV's wife ordered the palais to be built in 1612 after she was widowed and now it is the chamber of French senators.  The gardens are absolutely gorgeous and very well manicured.

Palais du Luxembourg and gardens

Place des Vosges - This picturesque park in the middle of the Marais is the oldest square in Paris.  Back in the 1600s cavaliers used to duel at this spot, but today it's more of a haven for sunbathers and picnickers, kind of like a small Dolores Park.

Carnavalet Museum - Near the Place des Vosges, the Carnavalet Museum is dedicated to the history of Paris.  But the real reason you should come here is to see the magnificent ivy in their small gardens.


Père-Lachaise Cimitiere - Are you sick of parks yet?  Then head over to the 20th and explore the most beautiful cemetery I've ever encountered.  It sounds creepy to just walk around a cemetery, but I felt such an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility wandering through what almost seemed to be ancient ruins.  It's the resting place of the rich and famous, being home to the likes of Honoré de Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Molière, Chopin, and, of course, Jim Morrison.  Make absolutely sure you bring the map of the gravesites.  This place is like a maze and if you don't know where you're going, you are sure to get lost.

a sunny day in the cemetery

Montmartre - My latest trip last October found me exploring the 18th arrondissmente, Montmartre, via Rick Steve's Walking Tour, which I highly recommend.  This neighborhood, high up on a hill, was once home to some of the world's most well known artists like Matisse, Picasso, and Van Gogh.  On this walking tour you will also see the Moulin Rouge and the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, which is worth the trip.

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

Rue Cler - This small street has been traffic free since 1984 and is full of tiny shops and cafes to explore.  There is a delicious Fromagerie that we popped into and stocked up on some delicious Camembert.

no cars allowed!

Versailles - It took me and The Hub several trips to Paris before we ventured on the commuter rail to Versailles to see where Louis XIV, XV and XVI ruled France before the French revolution. Versailles was once a small hunting lodge where Louis XIV spent his childhood. When he became ruler, he wanted a place to escape the residents of Paris. He added onto his childhood home to create a massive Chateau and some unbelievable gardens that are truly breathtaking. The grounds were created during the height of France's political power and were meant to represent the decadence and wealth of the nation. Meanwhile, the residents of Paris were living in poverty.  When Louis XVI was in power, his wife, Marie-Antoinette created another estate within Versailles, the Domaine du Marie-Antoinette, which was meant to be her escape from the escape.  I'm no history buff, but I still found Versailles to be a remarkable experience.  Make sure to leave the whole day open to explore the grounds and also, buy ticket in advance on their website.  I can't stress that enough!  We made the mistake of buying tickets at the gate and had to wait in line for over an hour.

The Chateau

So there you have it!  My view of Paris.  Make sure to check back later this week when I'll be telling you about my favorite restaurants and places to shop.

One Response to “Paris Part 1: The Sites”

  1. Tamar says:

    Thank you for all your wonderful and super helpful posts! Love reading them. Miss you girl! xo

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