quatre jours : “four days”
Journée quatre : Paris monumental
Landmarks, museums and other touristic sites that are actually worth seeing.
C’est à vous de décider. Start the day at Montmartre, or end the day at Montmartre. It’s a difficult choice to say the least. I prefer le matin, when the neighborhood is quieter and you might actually see locals milling about. Not to mention that le village de Montmartre has some of the best boulangeries in Paris. On my most recent trip to Paris, I stayed à deux pas de Place d’Abbesses. Easy to get to by métro (Abbesses), this is the perfect place to start your Montmartre stroll. Start buy buying one of those famous baguettes. I’m a fan of Au Levain d’Antan, the 2011 winner. And for those who prefer to eat something other than a baguette, I recommend the 2010 winner, Le Grenier à Pain. But make sure whatever you buy is chaud, or ça ne vaut pas le coup.
2. Sacre Coeur
Rather than climbing up to Sacre Coeur via the grand staircase, head the back way. Leave Place d’Abbesses via Rue la Vieuville, and hang a gauche on Rue des Trois Frères. Meander towards Rue Lepic, which you can then climb uphill until you reach Rue Norvins, which will lead you to Place du Tertre. The touristy-ness of this spot rivals the lines at the Eiffel Tower, so pass through quickly and faites gaffe à ton portefeuille. Rue Azais will curve you around to Sacre Coeur. The pristine white basilica is worth a visit, despite its unfortunate history and the shady characters that set up shop on its steps. You can descend the steps for an alternate view on the way down. From there, make your way down to Pigalle.
As the red-light district of Paris (though the prostituées of Strasbourg Saint-Denis might give Pigalle a run for it’s money), Pigalle is an excellent place to expore – during the daytime – unless you are an experienced Parisian wanderer. Wander the stretch between métro Pigalle and métro Blanche, and while minding the sex shops, keep a look out for the interesting clandestin streets and gated homes tucked in on the right-hand side Boulevard de Clichy. The Cité Veron, for example, is the former home of the famous Parisians Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian.
4. Père Lachaise
I’m not usually one to advocate the métro over walking, but there’s quite a bit of ground to cover between Pigalle and Père Lachaise, so get on the ligne 2 at Blanche and head to the métro stop Père Lachaise. This famous cemetary is absolutely gorgeous, and totally impossible to navigate. (Jim Morrison’s grave is anti-climactic at best, by the way). Mes conseils? Don’t go in with a plan to find any grave in particular. In fact, I quite enjoy meandering through Père Lachaise without a but. It avoids the inevitable frustration of not finding the specific graves you’d like to see, and I quite prefer daydreaming about all the lesser-known souls who are enterré there. Budget your time wisely, and try to keep a sense of direction – or else you’ll lose the full day here.
At this point, it’s up to chacun to choose their priority, based on his or her interests. Here’s a liste of other places worth visiting.
5a. Tour Eiffel
Well, if you must, you must. But if il faut que vous voyez le Tour Eiffel, I’m at least going to make a few suggestions of how to see it.
Option #1 : Head to Trocadero. You’ll be across the river here, with splendid views/photo opps. And you’ll get a taste of the ritzier neighborhoods of Paris.
Option #2 : Take a ride on a Bateau Mouche. There are many companies operating these river boats, and they really do offer some unique and lovely views of the Eiffel Tower (among other monuments).
Option #3 : For the absolutely stubborn among us, the Champ de Mars it is. Do not bother with trying to climb the Tour (although I know some people will still insister), rather view it from a far (and eventually closer) in this large public garden. Avoid the women asking if you speak English. Trust me, you don’t.
5b. Musée d’Orsay
This museum really is lovely, with a splendid impressionist collection (not to mention sculptures so gorgeous that you might actually forget you came for Monet). My favorite room is the Salles de Fêtes. And I highly recommend checking out the Courbet paintings as well.
5c. Musée Rodin
By far, one of the most loved small museums in Paris, this gorgeous gardened enclave houses some of the most sensual sculpture around. It is a must-see for any fans of la sculpture – though I warn you, Rodin was far from a stand-up guy (some of the sculptures credited to him were later found to be those of his famous mistress Camille Claudel).
5d. Le Louvre
If you haven’t fit it in already, the Louvre is just breathtaking. I sometimes dissuade first-time Parisian visitors from visiting (at least without a trusty guide or former art history student), because you can really lose a day (or days) in there. My favorite things to see? The appartements of Napoleon III, the sculpture courtyards (Cours Marly, Cours Puget) and nearby Assyrian guards, the Winged Victory and Galerie d’Apollon, the large-format French paintings (David, Géricault, etc.), the Salle des Caryatides, the and the Egyptian wing. (I spent two days a week -minimum- in the Louvre when I was an Erasmus student, so I’ve seen everything, multiple times). These collections are sadly not all next to each other – so plan your attack systematically. (And beware the 3-hour museum exhaustion barrier. It is very, very real. And sometimes will sneak up on you as soon as hour 2).
5e. Ne faites rien de tout (Don’t do anything)
Any of the above choix make for a long and exhausting day – so feel free to also take the rest of the afternoon/evening off and grab a verre du vin. If you choose this option, well…you’re more parisien than I thought.
C’est à vous de décider > It’s up to you to decide
le matin > the morning
à deux pas de > two steps from
chaud > hot
ça ne vaut pas le coup > it’s not worth it
faites gaffe à ton portefeuille > watch out for your wallet
prostituées > prostitutes (also known as femmes de bonheur – women of happiness)
ligne 2 > line 2 (of the metro)
Mes conseils > My advice
but > goal
enterré > buried
chacun > each
liste > list
il faut que vous voyez le Tour Eiffel > If you must see the Eiffel Tower
monuments > monuments
Tour > Tower
insister > insist
appartements > apartments
choix > choices
verre du vin > glass of wine
parisien > parisian