If there is a clear blue sky in August, go to Notre Dame around 8pm. The light from the sun shines on the facade in such a way that the statues practically come alive. Afterwards, head over to l'Hotel de Ville and check out its facade too. Incredible!
I also like to check out Sacre Coeur from where Blvd. des Courcelles meets Blvd. des Batignolles. As you approach Place de Clichy, you won't be able to see it anymore, but WOW, what a view while it lasts!
And while we are on the subject of Sacre Coeur and spectacular views, take a peek from the hill where Sacre Couer rests. Oh la la, c'est trés beau! This church sits on the highest natural point in the city and I can survey most of Paris while wandering around this charming and yes, touristy part of town.
I like meditating in Notre Dame during vespers. The music is incredible and I am grateful to be a part of my favorite cathedral's history. Who cares that I am the only one meditating during mass and that I am not Catholic or even a Christian for that matter. I am certainly not bothering anyone and I appreciate the beauty of it all.
I like listening to the bells tolling from all the churches, particularly Notre Dame at noon and somewhere between 5:30 and 6pm. It's simply music to my ears!
For a great place to listen to the bells, walk across the street to Shakespeare & Company. Upstairs in the famous book store's "library", open up the window and let the music flow in. Afterwards, I can sit and relax, while reading one of the many old books waiting to be read. And I mustn't forget to mention that I like the free readings offered in the library or outside in front of the shop from various authors every Monday evening too.
I like that French woman get dressed up for everything. Whether they are going to dinner, a club, to a child's birthday party or if they are simply hanging out with girlfriend at home; expect them to be donning something fabuleaux.
I like all the museums. Paris is not lacking for art, that is for certain. If you are on a budget, it is good to know that many museums are free on the first Sunday of the month. And there are quite a few smaller museums that are free all the time. Here is a link to the places that are free every single day: www.parisinfo.com/paris-guide/argent/gratuite-et-bons-plans/dossier/gratuite-et-bons-plans-dans-les-musees-et-monuments_gratuits-tous-les-jours-toute-l-annee. Sorry mes amies, it is all in French, but you can at least get the names of the museums and then check your guidbook for more information.
I like the Louvre during the week when it is less crowded (note the key word here is "less." It is still crowded). My favorite rooms are the Louis-Napolean apartments; the red room with all the large David's among others; the room where the crown jewelry, China and crystal from the Rennaisance are located; the ancient Iranian section...and a special favorite: while everyone goes to see the Mona Lisa, I, instead turn around and face the largest painting in the museum, The Marriage of Cana by Veronese. The colors are spectacular, the size is enormous and it has a Bachnallian flavor. Who would want to miss that?!
On one visit, I skipped looking at most of the art and focused on the architecture, both inside and out. With all the crown molding, columns, art on some of the ceilings, and so on it is a wonder that the building itself isn't known as a great work of art...it is, after all. The size of the Louvre can be a little overwhelming and it certainly cannot be seen all in one day. Either plan for 3-4 different visits, or pick out the most important rooms to see on a map provided at the entrance...or even better forget the map all together and just wander...it's all good!
I like the garden at Musée Rodin. While the main museum is too crowded, for only a couple of euros you can spend time in the garden where his most famous works can be found. The Thinker and The Kiss among others are just waiting for your visit. Superb!
When I need a dose of the 19th century my favorite spots are the Musée d'Orsay, L'Orangerie and for my Monet fix I take a trip to the Musée Marmottan. Oh, his Waterlillies never looked as good on the calendars I had at home as they do in person!
I like that at any time during the week I can see many elementary school children on field trips at any given museum. Watching six-year-olds as they stare at paintings and listen in awe to their teacher is quite a treat. The French do not have to wait for adulthood to appreciate cultural activities. They are brought up learning about them from early on.
Kids here also experience different cultures from the time they are in elementary school. From day trips to week long trips, the school hosts excursions to Italy, England and so on. For those whose parents cannot afford it the State will fund the bulk of the trip. Everyone gets a chance to see life from a different perspective.
I like French food. No doubt about it the French can cook. Chefs take their Michelin stars seriously and for good reason. The art of cooking and presentation is très important here.
And it is not just about fine dining either. Who can resist all the delectibles at a boulangerie or pattisserie. MMM, delicieux! My favorite sweets (thus far, anyway) are eclairs chocolates, Paris best, croissant aux amandes, opéras, tartes des fraises, religieuses chocolates, Amarino ice cream, nutella/banana crepes (but ask them to put extra nutella in it...we Americans like our chocolate), meringues, macarons, and probably a plethora of other things I am not thinking of at this moment.
I like walking during springtime. Firstly, you can walk off all the calories from the afformentioned list of treats you just ate; and secondly, you just never know who or what you will run into when you walk. You might even get to see some pretty amazing street performers. From fire throwers to classical violinists, it is all here. A new Parisian adventure is just waiting to be had!
I like walking on the Champs Elysées in December. Stroll from l'Arc de Triomphe to Place de Concorde and understand why Paris is known as the City of Light. You can also do a lot of holiday shopping while you are here. But don't forget to stay warm by wearing a scarf, gloves and hat. It is winter after all.
I like the electronic teapots everyone in town seems to have. It only takes about a minute to boil water and you are set to have a steaming hot cup of tea.
I like that whether you have insurance or not, you can still visit a doctor and the usual fee is only 22€!
I like the summer rain, because it cools everything down; it gives nature a much needed drink; the most spectacular light shows are performed across the sky; and the sounds the drops make when it taps on the old buildings and cobblestone, competes with the finest symphonies. What a show!
Continuing on, I like that all the windows of the apartments are open every day during the summer. In my neighborhood, a new neighbor shares different types of music out his window during lunch time. Sometimes it's Broadway, sometimes it's disco, sometimes it's opera...I either tap my toes, or do a full on dance. What fun!
I like the Eiffel Tower which can be seen in so many parts of the city, but particularly while walking along the Seine from the Chatelet area, most especially at night when the Tower sparkles with its lights. Monsieur Eiffel had no idea his "temporary" structure would have such a permanent effect on the world.
And florists deserve their own section too. What can I say, the French do flowers with unmistakable pinache. Every window display is a feast for the eyes. If Monsieur Monet were still alive, I am sure he would set up his easel in front of each and every florist's store front.
I like the cobblestone roads...my high-heels and I do not agree on this point, but I am the one typing, so I win out.
I like all the buildings. The architecture here is like no other place on Earth. The various architects must have been inspired by romance. My eyes are just filled with romantic imaginings as I gaze upon, well, everything.
I like the concerts at Sainte Chappelle. The classical music combined with the best preserved stained glass in Europe, along with the throne where many Louis' sat is the best menage à trois one could have without going into a bedroom. It is certainly worth every centime.
The trees, the trees, the trees...did I mention the trees? I am grateful for the numerous trees that align the streets. It gives me some semblance of nature while in a large city as their various shades of green paint the streets with vibrant color. Additionally, I appreciate that they cool me down during the heatwave of summer and they are also host to many birds who sing their symphony of sounds above me. I cannot help but smile.
And speaking of nature, the French like their parks. Just walk around and you will find one near whereever you are located. My personal favorite in Paris proper is the Butte de Chaumont. Waterfalls, flowers, wildlife, lots of grass and even more trees...Hallelujah, a little bit of serenity in a metropolitan area!
I like all the kissing around here. Making out is done on a crowded Metro train, in the park, after dropping off the kids at school...actually it is done practically anywhere. C'est normal!
I like walking down rue Mouffetard on a weekend morning. One can go to the cheese shop for the cheese, the wine shop for the wine and the butcher for fresh salami. Traditionally, the French always shopped at specialty shops on a daily basis to get the best of everything. Unfortunately, this beautiful ritual is being replaced by supermarkets and McDonald's, but the quaint Mouffetard gives us a little bit of history...not to mention, it is a fun way of buying a picnic lunch.
I like going to Mouffetard in the evening too. At the the beginning of the street at Place de la Contrescarpe, you can sit and have a drink, a cup of coffee or a full meal and enjoy people watching, as well as catch a few traveling performers; including the guy with the safari costume. I can't really explain what he does, but he has had his act for years...you will want to pull out a euro or two for this guy.
I like that you do not need a car here. And the planet likes it too!
I like going to the movies here. French people still like to go out to the theater and you know this because there seems to be a theater on every street. You can easily find several theaters next to each other in certain parts of town. Furthermore, they actually fill up with people. Oh, and in case you forget to buy your candy or drink before you sit down, a concession girl will come to your junk food rescue before the movie starts. Whew, I can't watch a movie without my Haagen Dazs! They sell the good stuff here! And for those of you that do not speak French fluently, that is ok. Just look for English speaking films listed as V.O. (version originale, which if you haven't already guessed means 'original version').
I like that everyone hangs their laundry here. I had never even seen a clothing rack for drying before I arrived in Europe. Where once I was annoyed by the inconvenience, now I appreciate the laundry hanging meditation I have while hanging the clothes. It also helps save the environment and that is a big plus too.
I mustn't forget the day trips. I like visiting Versailles. I can't get enough of the King Louis' that lived there. What a life! It is not nearly as exciting if you do not know the history. So, pay a little extra for one or more of the tours. It's well worth the extra euros. Also note, that besides the main chateau, you can walk the gardens and visit the two smaller estates: Le Trianon and Marie Antoinette's Estate.
I like Chartres. What a beautiful Gothic cathedral. On Fridays you can walk the labyrinth. On almost any day, Malcolm Miller, the resident expert, gives tours in English twice a day. He has been there for over 50 years and he really knows his stuff. He always asks if someone has taken his tour before and inevitably a few people raise their hands. I have taken this sojourn three times myself and each time I am thrilled to have done so. He is probably the best tour guide I have ever had and they are always different. For more information on Malcolm, please visit http://goeurope.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=goeurope&cdn=travel&tm=16&gps=609_108_1362_532&f=20&su=p531.51.336.ip_&tt=2&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www.diocese-chartres.com/cathedrale/visites/guieng.htm.
I like Fountainebleau. Yes, it is another chateau, but who can resist that castle that made the king so jealous he copied the ideas here to create Versailles. This is the original! For more information, visit http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr/. It is only in French, but if you go to Google and find it there you can use Google Translator to create an English page.
My favorite place on earth are the extraordinary gardens at Giverny. Monet created some of his finest works at his home in this village, using his own backyard as his model. And what a backyard it is! While most people walk through it in a half an hour, I suggest really noticing your surroundings. Meditate, bring a book and check out everything from a different perspective. On my last visit I spent five hours in the gardens alone. I have read in the guidebooks that the first week of June is the best time to visit, which is when I have gone both times. However, I have seen photographs on Facebook from my friends trips who have gone at various times during the year. The flowers constantly change and it is simply magnifique! Visit http://giverny.org/monet/welcome.htm for more information.
So, these are a few of my favorite things in Paris. How about you? What is on your list?
Thank you for reading and bonne journée!