Monday, 24 October 2011

The Paris List

Two important things have happened this week. I've finally booked a trip to Paris, after years and years of romanticizing about it. And I've finally found the time to write about it. I'm guessing I'll have a lot more to say when I've actually been on the trip, but for now I want to share my Paris List - of must-sees, what I'm daydreaming about, and what I couldn't care less about (or "bof!" as the French say).

The Paris List

1. Ile de la Cite

Must-sees: Pont-Neuf; Square du Vert-Galant and its romantic tree-lined garden; the exquisite stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle; the underground crypte archeologique; and, of course, the Cathedrale de Notre-Dame.

Daydreaming about: crossing the Seine and dawdling at the kilometre zero, the symbolic heart of France.

Bof!: the Conciergerie - Paris's oldest prison - apparently a long queue to see not much at the end of it.

2. Champs-Elysees

Must-sees: Arc de Triomphe for a dusk-time view of the Voie Triomphale; the gold obelisk of the place de la Concorde; the Louvre, preferably via a back entrance to avoid the queues, to visit the Musees des Arts Decoratifs, de la Mode et du Textile, et de la Publicite.

Daydreaming about: the postage stamp market on the corner of avenues Gabriel and Marigny and being spellbound by Monet's masterpieces at The Orangerie.

Bof!: the Grand and Petit Palais... well, maybe just a quick peek.

3. Opera district

Must-sees: the passages filled with 19th century arcades; the spectacular Opera-Garnier; and the church and flower markets in the place de la Madeleine.

Daydreaming about: stumbling upon the highly commended Art Nouveau public toilets.

Bof!: the Cabinet des Monnaies, Medailles et Antiques, although I'm sure a certain someone might be pulled in that direction!

4. Les Halles

Must-sees: I've been warned that this area is not worth a visit but I would like to venture north to the rue Montargueil and the traditional grocers, horse butchers and fishmongers still in existence there.

Daydreaming about: ice skating on the site of many Revolutionary executions, at the Hotel de Ville / Beaubourg.

Bof!: Les Halles and its horrendous shopping mall.

5. The Marais, Ile St-Louis and the Bastille

Must-sees: the museum of French history at the Palais Soubise on the rue des Francs-Bourgeois; the Picasso museum on rue de Thorigny; and Victor Hugo's house at the place des Vosges for all things Les Mis.

Daydreaming about: wandering through the old, secluded la Marais and the area's lively bars, cafes and restaurants.

Bof!: rien!!

6. Ile St-Louis

Apparently the most romantic part of Paris for strolls. C'est tout.

7. Bastille

Must-sees: the place de la Bastille, with its column and Spirit of Liberty to commemorate the July Revolution of 1830 that saw autocratic Charles X replaced by 'citizen King' Louis-Phillipe.

Daydreaming about: the bright lights of the Opera-Bastille and mingling with the ghosts of Piaf and Hayworth at the music halls on rue de Lappe.

Bof!: the decidedly ordinary budget chain hotel we are staying in, close to Breguet Sabin.

8. Quartier Latin

Must-sees: the riverside quais and bouquinistes, selling old books, postcards and prints from green boxes along the riverside from square Viviani eastwards; the famous botanical Jardin des Plantes; and visiting the crypt of Voltaire, Hugo and Zola at the Pantheon.

Daydreaming about: rendez-vous at the Jardin de Luxembourg; romantic liaisons in the dead of night at St-Sulpice.

Bof!: paying 10 euros to see Van Gogh et al at the Musee d'Orsay.

9. The Eiffel Tower

Must-sees: views of the Eiffel Tower from the north bank's museums; chilling at the feet of the tour; and doing the touristy thing and taking the lift up to the top.

Daydreaming about: seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night - every hour for 5 minutes, with a million illuminations.

Bof!: checking out the national war museum and Napoleon's tomb.

10. Montparnasse

Must-sees: the 56 floor skyscraper, the tour Montparnasse, with its incredible views of the city including the Eiffel Tower; and the eerie catacombs - skulls and all - at the place Denfert-Rochereau.

Daydreaming about: immersing myself in the boulevard du Montparnasse, once at the heart of the inter-war artistic and literary boom.

Bof!: the cemetery.

11. Montmartre

Must-sees: the Montmartre vineyard; exploring the less crowded route to the Butte and Sacre Coeur via the place des Abbesses and the rue Lepic.

Daydreaming about: Moulin Rouge and the 1920s cabaret of Le Lapin Agile at rue de Saules.

Bof!: the touristy and grotty place du Tertre.

12. And the rest...

Must-sees: the trendy areas around the Canal St-Martin; famous graves at the Pere-Lachaise cemetery; the wine warehouses at Cour Saint-Emilion; and a stroll along the disused railway line and viaduct of the Promenade Plantee.

Daydreaming about: the grotto and temple of Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, and the terraces and waterfalls of Parc de Belleville.

Bof!: Bois de Vincennes and the Frank O. Gehry cinematheque at Parc de Bercy.

Wish me luck.. and bon voyage! ;-)