As this blog gains in popularity (I think I have well over a dozen subscribers now), I get many requests for information about where people should go in a given region. I try to answer each of those requests individually (and will continue to do so), but it finally dawned on me that information from those responses would be great (or at least not horrible) content for this website.
With that in mind and based on some great advice from a good friend (who is known for having brilliant ideas), I have decided to start a new series of posts here on the Drunken Cyclist: “A Few Days In”. The premise is rather straight-forward—I am going to provide my thoughts for a few days in the selected region.
I do not profess to be an expert of any of the regions that I will highlight for this new series, nor do I know how regular it will be (so yes, in other words, it is yet another by-the-seat-of-my-pants exercise), so please let me know what you think and certainly let me know if I have left out any glaring “must-do” items.
Getting over jet-lag: Everybody who travels frequently has experienced jet-lag and each of those people have their one way on how to deal with it. For me, since I can never sleep on the plane (one of the many curses of being 6’4″), my approach is simple: I stay awake through lunch, take a quick two-hour nap (never more than that–set an alarm!), and then stay up as late as I can after dinner. The next morning, I wake up in the morning, ready to go.
Where to Lay Your Head
Like any major city, there are countless places to stay in Paris. The problem is that I have never, not once, stayed in a hotel in the city. So even though this will hopefully provide some insight in future “Three Days In:” posts, when it comes to Paris, I am not much help. When we are in Paris, we stay in an apartment owned by the bike touring company for whom I lead trips. Certainly no frills, but a great location and reasonably priced.
Where to Eat
This is simple. Anywhere. You are in Paris, for goodness sakes. I have always said that you really have to try hard to eat poorly in France, and I stand by that comment. Perhaps more than any other culture, the French pride themselves on their culinary tradition. Some say they have become a bit lazy, relying on that tradition too much, but come on….
Let Me Entertain you
There is so much to do and see in Paris, that I hesitated to even mention it. Even though I have been to Paris many times, I still have not “seen it all”. I am not sure I ever want to, either, as that would reduce its allure (not really, we both know I will always love Paris). So I offer you a few of my favorite things to do in Paris:
Walk. Just go for a walk. Get lost a little and explore some of the neighborhoods. I am particular to the Right Bank (north of the Seine) since it tends to be slightly less touristy (but let’s face it, Paris is the most visited city in the world–there are going to be tourists).
- Explore a market street. My favorite is the Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd Arrondissement. Within just a few paces of one another, there is a fish monger, several butchers, three fruit and vegetable stores, several florists, two cheese shops, two patisseries, and three bakeries (boulangeries). Oh, and there are two wine shops (more on that later).
- Walk by the famous monuments at night. The French do many things right, but perhaps I am most impressed with the way they highlight their historical monuments at night.
Notre Dame, the Dome of les Invalides (final resting place of Napoléon), Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris), the Louvre (be sure to go into the courtyard at night and see the I.M. Pei pyramid), and of course the Arc de Triomphe are all stunning lit up in this City of Light. Perhaps the Eiffel Tower is the most stunning of all, and I could write several posts on just on the Tower. Paris is a very safe city, by the way, but you should be careful walking around at night, particularly around the Eiffel Tower. I have never had a problem and have never felt unsafe in Paris, but there are countless stories about pickpockets around the monuments.
Museums. For me, a visit to Paris is about walking around, experiencing the city, but if you feel like you have to go inside and look at art, remember, there are a ton of museums in Paris and you will simply not be able to see them all. Perhaps the Louvre is the best example of this–you will never see everything in the Louvre, it is huge. Sure, you might “have” to go, but I would have a plan and spend an hour or two in just one area. Think about it, where most museums around the world have wings dedicated to certain periods, Paris has huge museums focused on those periods.
Getting Your Drink On
Much like with food, you will have to put forth a monumental effort to drink poorly in France. Good wine is everywhere (the 3-5€ bottles can be good) and great wine is everywhere, too. There are wine shops on just about every block, with the national chain “Nicolas” the most prevalent. Each of the Nicolas stores is independently stocked, so don’t assume that if you go in one it is like all the others. The best place to buy wine, in my opinion, is at a supermarché. They usually have a good selection and almost always the best prices. Sure, it is not as romantic as a tiny wine shop, but you can grab some good deals.
One more thing
I have been to Paris countless times—if I were to hazard a guess, it would have to be close to a hundred, but I never knew that Paris had its own vineyards. I recently read about them one a blog that I just started following called The Riviera Grapevine go over there and check it out. I know on my next trip to Paris, I will certainly be checking out the vineyards….