Sunday, April 1, 2007

Frommer's Guide to Paris (France) - Part 2: Suggested Itineraries

Suggested Itineraries For Paris:

For visitors on the run, who are forced by their schedules to see Paris in anywhere from 1 to 3 days, we've devised a trio of self-guided tours, written as three 1-day itineraries. With these ready-made itineraries, you can have a complete, unforgettable trip, even though time is short.

"It's not possible!" a Parisian might warn you. Actually, seeing Paris in 1 to 3 days is possible but calls for some discipline and fast moving on your part.

Of course, even as we present these itineraries for "conquering" Paris in a nutshell, we must warn that you'll need a month to develop even a passing acquaintance with Paris. Save that for another day when, perhaps, you'll have more time. Start your voyage of discovery right outside your hotel door.

(The Best Of Paris) Day One:

Since time is wasting, arise early and begin your day with some live "theater" by walking the streets around your hotel -- Right Bank or Left Bank; it doesn't matter at this point. This walk can acclimate you faster than anything to the sights, sounds, and smells of the City of Light, and it gets you centered before you catch a taxi or hop aboard the Métro for a ride underground to your first attraction.

We suggest you duck into a cafe for breakfast. It doesn't matter which one. On virtually every street in Paris you'll find a cafe, often more than one.

Any neighborhood will provide a slice of Parisian life, as you order breakfast as thousands of locals do. Sit back, enjoy, and breathe deeply before beginning your descent on Paris.

Start: Métro to Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre.

1. Musée du Louvre

You know you have to see the Louvre, perhaps the greatest museum of art in all the world. You wouldn't dare go home without that citadel having been stormed. Since it opens at 9am, be among the first in line.

We've been going to this repository of art for years, and we discover on every visit something we've overlooked before. The palatial treasure trove is that richly endowed, and some of its art is the most acclaimed on earth. With your clock ticking, at least call on the "great ladies of the Louvre": the Mona Lisa with her enigmatic smile, the sexy Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory (alas, without a head). Try to allot at least 2 hours of viewing time for some world-class masterpieces. Around 11am, go for a walk along:

2. The Quays of the Seine

After leaving the Louvre, walk south toward the river and head east for a stroll along the Seine. You'll encounter the most splendid panoramic vistas that Paris has to offer. Trees shade the banks of the river, and 14 bridges span the Seine. So much of the city's fortune has depended on this river, and you'll be in the very nerve center of Paris life as you stroll along.

You'll see Paris's greatest island in the Seine, the Cité, emerging before you. Cross over the:

3. Pont Neuf

The oldest and most evocative of the bridges of Paris, Pont Neuf dates from 1578 and looks much as it did then. From the bridge, the view down (or up) the river is perhaps the most memorable in Paris. Walk down the steps emerging on your right along Pont Neuf to:

4. Vert-Galant Square

The steps take you behind the statue dedicated to Henri IV to Vert-Galant Square at the western tip of Ile de La Cité. The square takes its designation from the nickname given Henry IV, meaning "gay old spark." The square is the best vantage point for viewing Pont Neuf and the Louvre. As you stand on this square, you'll be at the "prow" of Cité if you liken the island to a giant ship. After taking in that view, continue east, pausing at the:

5. Place Dauphine

This square -- perfect for a picnic -- was named in honor of the Dauphin, the future Louis XIII. It faces the towering mass of La Conciergerie, whose gloomy precincts and memories of the French Revolution you can save for another visit to Paris.

With time moving on, head east along:

6. Quai des Orfèvres

This Seine-bordering quay leads east to Notre-Dame. It was the former market of the jewelers of 17th and 18th century Paris. Marie-Antoinette's celebrated necklace, subject of countless legends, was fashioned here. The quay leads you to:

7. Sainte-Chapelle

This Gothic chapel is sublime, its upper chapel like climbing into Tiffany's most luxe jewel box. As the colored light from the 13th century bathes you, take in what are perhaps the most brilliantly colored "walls of glass" in the world. We rank taking in the deep glow of these astonishing windows as one of the great joys of a visit to the City of Light. The windows, the oldest in Paris, are not known just for the vividness of their brilliant colors, but also for the vitality of their characters, depicting everybody from Adam and Eve to St. John the Baptist and the life of the Virgin.

After a visit, it's time for lunch. Since first-day visitors might not have time to absorb Left Bank life, here's your chance.

Continue east along Quai des Orfèvres until you come to the Pont St-Michel. Cross the bridge to the Left Bank of Paris, arriving at the Latin Quarter centering around:

8. Place St-Michel

One of the inner chambers of Left Bank life, this square was named in memory of the ancient chapel of St-Michel that stood here once upon a time. The square, a bustling hub of Sorbonne life, centers around a fountain from 1860 designed by Gabriel Davioud, rising 229m (75 feet) high and stretching out to 4.6m (15 feet), a "monster" spouting water. A bronze statue depicts Saint Michael fighting the dragon.

Why not lunch in one of the most evocative of all Left Bank bistros?


Arm yourself with a good map to reach Allard, which lies only a 5-minute walk southwest of Place St-Michel. You could easily get lost in the narrow maze of Left Bank streets. Little has changed at this classic bistro with its mellow decor and traditional menu. Against a nostalgic ambience of Paris of the 1930s, you can join cosmopolitan patrons enjoying the sole meunière or the duck with olives, finishing off with that most divine pastry known to all Parisians as tarte Tatin. And, yes, if you've never tried them before, you'll find frogs' legs on the menu.

41 rue St-André-des-Arts, 6e. tel. 01-43-26-48-23.

After lunch, walk back to Place St-Michel.

Still on the Left Bank, continue east along Quai St Michel until it becomes Quai de Montebello. At the "green lung" or park, Square Rene Viviani, pause to take in the most dramatic view of Notre-Dame across the Seine. Then cross the bridge, Pont au Double, to visit the cathedral itself.

10. Cathedrale Notre-Dame

In so many ways, the exterior is more exciting than the vast and hollow interior, which since its denuding during the French Revolution is almost tomblike. One of the supreme masterpieces of Gothic art, Notre-Dame still evokes Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. You stand in awe, taking in the majestic and perfectly balanced portals. After a walk through the somber interior, climb the towers (around to the left facing the building) for a close encounter with tons of bells and the most eerie inspection of what are history's most bizarre gargoyles, some looking so terribly impish it's as if they're mocking you.

After Notre-Dame, take Métro to the:

11. Place de la Concorde

This octagonal traffic hub, built in 1757, is dominated by an Egyptian obelisk from Luxor, the oldest object made by humans in Paris, circa 1200 B.C. In the Reign of Terror at the time of the French Revolution, the dreaded guillotine was erected on this spot to claim thousands of heads. For a spectacular view, look down the Champs-Elysées.

The grandest walk in Paris begins here, leading all the way to the Arc de Triomphe . It's a distance of 3.2km (2 miles) and is the most popular walk in Paris.

But since your afternoon is short, you may want to skip most of it, taking the Métro to F.D. Roosevelt and then continuing west from here. At least you'll see the busiest and most commercial part of the:

12. Champs-Elysées

Called "the highway of French grandeur," this boulevard was designed for promenading. It's witnessed some of the greatest moments in French history and some of its worst defeats, such as when Hitler's armies paraded down the street in 1940. Louis XIV ordered the construction of the 1.8km (1.1-mile) avenue in 1667. Without worrying about any particular monument, stroll along its avenue of sidewalk cafes, automobile showrooms, airline offices, cinemas, lingerie stores, and even hamburger joints. The Champs has obviously lost its fin-de-siècle elegance as evoked by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past. But then, what hasn't?

At the end of the broad boulevard, you approach:

13. Arc de Triomphe

The greatest triumphal arch in the world, the 49m (161-ft.) arch can be climbed for one of the most panoramic views of Paris. The arch marks the intersections of the 8th, 16th, and 17th arrondissements. Sculptures, including François Rude's famous La Marseillaise, depicting the uprising of 1792 are embedded in the arch.

After a visit, and with the afternoon fading, take the Métro to the Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel for an ascent up the:

14. Eiffel Tower

It's open until 11pm or midnight, so don't worry about missing it. A close encounter with this tower, a 10,000-ton dark metal structure, is more inspiring up close than when seen from afar. A source of wonder since the 1889 World Exposition, this 317m (1,040-ft.) tower was the world's tallest building until the Chrysler Building went up in New York in 1930. If the afternoon is clear, you can see for 65km (40 miles).

(The Best Of Paris) Day Two:

If you've already made your way through "The Best of Paris in One Day," you'll find that your second full-day tour takes in other fascinating sections of Paris, including Ile St-Louis (the most beautiful island in the Seine), along with such areas as Montmartre, the hill crowning Paris, and such major attractions as an array of the greatest works of the Impressionists in the Musée d'Orsay, along with Napoleon's Tomb and other amusements. Start: the Pont-Marie Métro stop.

1. Ile St-Louis

The neighboring island to La Cité is Ile St-Louis, lying to the larger island's immediate east. Beautiful antique town houses with charming courtyards, tree-shaded quays opening onto the Seine, mansions that once housed such famous literati as Voltaire and his mistress, antique shops, and little restaurants and cafes fill the narrow streets of this platinum island of expensive real estate. Wandering its streets and quays in the early morning before the museums and attractions open is a great way to break in your second day in Paris. After arriving at Pont-Marie on the Right Bank, head south across the bridge, Pont-Marie, to Ile St-Louis. Cut immediately to your right and walk along Quai de Bourbon. We suggest that you circle the entire Seine-bordering quays, including those south of the island, Quai d'Orléans and Quai de Béthune. When you reach Square Barye in the far southeastern corner, take in the scenic view down river before crossing by Pont de Sully. At this point you can cut inland and walk the entire length of rue St-Louis-en-l'Ile, which will take you along the "main street" and the most historic of the island.

After your stroll, take the Métro to Solférino.

2. Musée d'Orsay

This splendid museum will take up the rest of your morning, at least two hours. It shelters the world's greatest collection of the Impressionists, including all the old masters, such as Manet, Monet, and van Gogh. You'll even get to see the fabled painting of Whistler's Mother -- and it's by an American. This former railway station also presents a vast array of sculpture and decorative arts, with other departments devoted to architecture, photography, and cinema. Most of the works span the period from 1848 to 1914 and the beginning of World War I. To speed you on your way, English-language information is available at the entrance. Audio guides offer analyses of more than 50 masterpieces on display.

Since it's time for lunch, we suggest you eat on site.

3.Restaurant du Musée d'Orsay

Serving first-class cuisine, this elegant restaurant should be visited if only for its setting, although the food is excellent. Gabriel Ferrier designed this Belle Époque room with its panoramic vista of the Seine and its splendid chandeliers. Main dishes are reasonably priced at 9€ to 15€ ($12 to $20). Lunch is also offered Tuesday to Sunday 11:30am to 2:30pm, afternoon tea Friday to Wednesday 3:30 to 5:30pm, and dinner only Thursday 7 to 9:30pm. If you want something cheaper, you can patronize Café des Hauteurs, on the fifth floor behind one of the former train station's huge iron clocks. It is open Tuesday to Wednesday and Friday to Sunday 10am to 5pm, Thursday 10am to 9pm. For food on the run, patronize a self-service food stand directly above the cafe; it's open Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 5pm.

1 rue de Bellechasse, 7e. tel. 01-40-49-48-14.

After lunch, take the Métro to:

4. Hotel des Invalides/Napoleon's Tomb

Still beloved by many French people, the little megalomaniac who tried to conquer Europe lies locked away (or at least his remains are) in six coffins of red Finnish porphyry -- a lot of tombs for such a small man. All his remains are here, with one exception: Someone cut off his penis and made off with it. After seeing the tomb in Église du Dome, you can leave at once or else take a quick look at the Musée de l'Armée located here. This is a gaudy celebration of French military history, but most first-timers to Paris skip it.

From Invalides take the Métro over to the Right Bank, getting off at the Alma-Marceau stop. Here, you can embark on one of the:

5. Bateaux-Mouche Cruises of the Seine

We know of no better way to enjoy Paris than from the deck of one of these scenic boat tours that take in Paris from the riverbank point of view, including the most dramatic vistas of Notre-Dame. Tours depart every 20 to 30 minutes during the day and are in English, lasting about 75 minutes. First you sail east all the way to Ile St-Louis, returning west past the Eiffel Tower.

As the afternoon fades, head for "the top of Paris," the legendary Montmartre district, reached by Métro going north to the stop at Abbesses.

6. Basilique du Sacré-Coeur

Before heading for the church, you can wander around the legendary square place du Tertre. Dozens of young artists are waiting for you to give them the nod to paint your portrait. This may sound corny to some sophisticated travelers, but thousands upon thousands of visitors view one of these portraits as their most memorable souvenir of Paris. Perhaps your portrait will be painted by tomorrow's Toulouse-Lautrec. The Church of the Sacred Heart, with its many cupolas, is a brilliant white and as much a part of the Paris skyline as the Eiffel Tower. Ascend to the dome at 80m (262 ft.) for one of the greatest panoramas in all of Europe, extending for 48km (30 miles) on a clear afternoon. After coming down from the dome, we always like to sit with dozens of other visitors on the steps of Sacré-Coeur, watching the afternoon fade and the lights go on all over Paris.

After dinner, perhaps in one of the little bistros that surround place du Tertre, head for a Paris landmark for your final toast to the City of Light. Take the Métro to Opéra or Pyramides.

7. Harry's New York Bar

This is the official headquarters of the International Bar Flies. Such cocktails as the Bloody Mary, the Sidecar, and the White Lady were created here. The bar looks much as it did at the time of the Liberation, when Hemingway was one of its patrons. The main bar attracts sports fans, especially rugby rooters, but the downstairs piano bar is more attuned to a romantic conversation over a cocktail.

A final stroll through the streets of Paris before turning in will be your adieu to the favorite city of everybody (well, almost).

(The Best Of Paris) Day Three:

Having survived two days in the capital of France, you are by now a veteran Parisian. Now it's time to "Hit the Road, Jack" (or Jill) and head for the single most glorious monument to pomp and pomposity that France ever saw erected to royal pretensions and kingly vanity. Start: RER line C to Versailles Rive Gauche station.

1. Château de Versailles

There is nothing in all of Paris to equal this regal wonder, former stamping ground of everyone from Madame de Pompadour, the royal mistress, to Marie Antoinette, the Austrian princess doomed to marry a French king about to lose his head. The palace opens at 9am, so try to get here at that time because it will take a minimum of 3 hours to see just some of the highlights.

A first-time visitor will want to concentrate on the Grands Appartements, the glittering Hall of Mirrors, and the Petits Appartements where Louis XV died in 1774 of smallpox. Other "don't miss" attractions include the Opéra that Gabriel designed for Louis XV in 1748 and the Royal Chapel that Hardouin-Mansart didn't live to complete. There's more. For your final hour, wander through Le Nôtre's "Garden of Eden" -- in other words, the Gardens of Versailles, paying a visit to the Grand Trianon, where Nixon once slept in the room where Madame de Pompadour died, and the Petit Trianon, which Louis XV used for his trysts with his mistress, Madame du Barry.

2. Le Potager du Roy

This is one of the best of the middle-bracket restaurants of Versailles. Philippe Letourneur makes it easy for you by offering one of the best, most generous, and well-prepared prix fixe menus in Versailles, although it's rather pricey. The choice of ingredients is skillful and the preparation inventive. The menu is adjusted to take advantage of the best produce of any season.

1 rue du Maréchal-Joffre. tel. 01-39-50-35-34.

NOTE: Should you regard your time too precious for a sit-down meal, you can have a fast lunch on the run and save those dwindling hours to see more of Paris itself. You could visit a deli in the morning before leaving Paris and secure the makings of a piquenique, which you can enjoy by the canal in the Gardens of Versailles after you tour the palace. Within various corners of the gardens you'll also encounter snack bars discreetly tucked away. There's even a McDonald's on the walk back from the palace to the train station, which you'll need to visit anyway to take the RER back to Paris.

Once in Paris, take the Métro to Rambuteau, Hôtel-de-Ville, or Châtelet-Les Halles to visit:

3. Centre Pompidou

The exterior is controversial, called daringly innovative and avant-garde or else "the eyesore of Paris." But inside, virtually everyone agrees that this museum dominating Beaubourg is a repository of one of the world's greatest collections of modern art. Amazingly, more art lovers visit Pompidou per day than they do the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower. Beginning with Rousseau's Snake Charmer and ending with the latest acquisition from the 21st century, you can view the greatest modern artists of the 20th century: the inevitable Picassos, but also Chagall, Francis Bacon, Calder, Magritte, Matisse, Mondrian, Pollock, Kandinsky -- and the beat goes on. Allow at least 2 hours.

Take the Métro to:

4. Place des Vosges

Having tasted the glories of such districts as Montmartre and Ile St-Louis, it's time to discover the charms of one of Paris's most enchanting neighborhoods, the Marais. Place des Vosges, one of the world's most perfectly designed and harmonious squares, is found at the very center of the Marais. For those with extra time, we've designed a complete walking tour of the Marais. But most 3-day visitors, especially if they visited Versailles, will not have time to see the entire district.

The oldest square in Paris is flanked by 36 matching pavilions with red and gold brick and stone facades. Architecturally, this square represents the first time in Paris that an arcade was used to link houses. Balconies were also designed for use for the first time -- not just for decorative reasons. The most famous resident of this square (no. 6) was the French writer Victor Hugo, who lived here from 1833 to 1848 until Napoleon III came to power and Hugo fled into voluntary exile to the Channel Islands. His home is now a museum, which at this point may have to be saved until your next trip to Paris.

Arm yourself with a good map and spend at least an hour wandering the narrow Marais streets to the west of place des Vosges. You can make discoveries on every block as you explore trendy cafes and funky shops. At the northern tier of the place des Vosges, head west along rue des Francs Bourgeois, one of the most historic streets. At some point, dip south to visit the parallel street:

5. Rue des Rosiers

"The Street of Rose Bushes" (its English name) remains from the heyday of the old Jewish ghetto that once flourished here. The street, deep in the heart of the Marais, is still packed with kosher butchers, bakeries, and falafel shops. In the 1960s the waves of North African Sephardim radically changed the street. After an attempt at extermination in World War II, Jewish families are still surviving in the Marais. A synagogue is at 25 rue des Rosiers.

One more famous neighborhood awaits discovery.

6. Montparnasse

Take the Métro to Montparnasse-Bienvenüe. Once Montparnasse was the retreat of bohemian artists and the working class. Today it's been as successfully gentrified with urban renewal projects as the Marais. The district teems with cafes (many of literary fame), cinemas, and nightclubs, along with artisan shops and bars. For a description of some of the highlights of the area. For the best overview, take an elevator to the 56th floor of Tour Montparnasse (tel. 01-45-38-52-56), which, when it was built, was accused of bringing Manhattan to Paris. The tower, completed in 1973, rises 206m (676 ft.) above the Parisian skyline.

After taking in the view, descend on the most famous cafe of Montparnasse.

7. La Coupole

One doesn't see as many writers and publishers as before, but this is still the best viewing platform for Montparnasse life. In this citadel to the bohemian life of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, Hemingway, Picasso, and Louis Armstrong once scribbled, sketched, or composed here. Chanteuse Josephine Baker would show up accompanied by her lion cub, and Jean-Paul Sartre would dine here. Eugène Ionesco always ordered the café liegeois. Henry Miller came for his morning porridge, and the famous "Kiki of Montparnasse" picked up tricks here to service back in her hotel room. James Joyce patronized the joint, as did F. Scott Fitzgerald when he didn't have much money; when the royalty check came in, he fled to the Ritz Bar. Join the local fauna for the memories if for no other reason.

102 bd. Du Montparnasse, 14. tel. 01-43-20-14-20.

You can order drinks here and sit back to enjoy the cafe scene in Montparnasse, perhaps not as colorful as in days gone by but still a lively, bustling place to be at night.

For dinner on your final night, head for a restaurant that is a virtual sightseeing attraction as well as a place for food, the:

8. Closerie des Lilas

After taking the Métro Port Royal or Vavin, descend on this legend that has been wining and dining some of the most famous figures of the past two centuries since it opened back in 1847. It is "The Pleasure Garden of the Lilacs" (its English name), a virtual French monument. Follow the sounds of a jazz pianist and enter its hallowed precincts, heading for the bateau (boat) section for a champagne julep (the bartender's special). You can dine more expensively in the main restaurant with formal service or else enjoy the more democratically priced brasserie. Should you be on the strictest of budgets, you can order a coffee or a beer at the bar and soak up the atmosphere, the way Hemingway did between royalty checks when he was broke and having to kill a pigeon in the park for his dinner. Today the lilacs of its namesake no longer bloom; Trotsky has long been assassinated, and Henry James is a mere skeleton of himself (if that). But young Parisians, including rising film stars, models, the pretty and the chic, still patronize the place, giving you a close encounter with Paris after dark. And, yes, it's still going in August when the rest of the town shuts down. Have a nightcap at the bar and promise a return to Paris.

171 bd. Du Montparnasse, 6e. tel. 01-40-51-34-50.

No comments: