Welcome to a new post in my series Passionate About Paris. Maybe you’re a first-time visitor, or like me a can’t-get-enough-of-Paris devotee. Perhaps you’re mildly curious about the City of Light. Whatever your feelings about Paris, I hope you’ll find in these posts some ideas to inspire, hints to help and a sense of sharing what’s great about this awesome city.
Paris Info One of the biggest questions about any holiday is where to stay. Of course much will depend on budget, personal preferences and length of holiday – and Paris like any major city has a wide variety of options – but my own vote is for self-catering every time. The freedom that it brings, (who wants to dress for breakfast – apart from popping out to the boulangerie, that is) along with the sheer pleasure of browsing the superb food markets alongside the Parisians or shopping in the specialist boulangeries, fromageries, epiceries and charcuteries can’t be underestimated.
On our last visit we stayed in a gorgeous little studio in rue Quincampoix in the 3rd arrondissment – the Marais – one of my favourite areas. Big enough for 2 people, completely self-contained and with our own private patio, we were steps away from the action yet undisturbed by any street noise at night. Our kitchen was fully equipped and included washing machine & dryer and also a dishwasher, with lots of little touches that made it feel like a real home-from-home.
Maybe your idea of a holiday is to stay as far from the kitchen as possible – and no-one in a hotel is going to stop you from smuggling some gorgeous freshly-baked breakfast goods from the nearest boulangerie into your room. Self-catering doesn’t mean you have to eat in all the time, but if you’re watching your funds it’s surprising how the cost of all those cafe stops can really add up (never mind the meals) and having your own space to relax in rather than one room gets my vote every time.
You’ll have no problem finding small supermarkets all over Paris for the essentials (the open-all-hours grocers) as well as the larger supermarkets such as the chain store Monoprix for quick, easy and fairly inexpensive shopping. But it’s the individual shops that make self-catering really come into its own. Head into a food hall such as La Grande Epicerie, 38 rue du Sevres and you’ll be in foodie heaven. (More on food markets and food shopping next week).
There are plenty of companies offering rental apartments in Paris. We went through http://www.vrbo.com/ and then dealt direct with apartment owner Naomi Benamy, who met us at the apartment, made sure we had all we needed and was on the end of the phone if any problems arose. Naomi has other apartments to rent and has recently added two more to her portfolio. Take a look at them all: http://nbenamy-apartments-in-paris.blogspot.com
Paris News Thanks to Susan Bourdin of http://jimmorrisonsparis.com/ for sharing news from the Huffington Post that Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Pere Lachaise cemetery is being enclosed by a glass barrier, putting an end to the practice of leaving a red lipstick kiss on the memorial. Apparently the repeated cleaning necessary to remove the lipstick is damaging the tomb. The new barrier is being unveiled today (November 30th) the 111th anniversary of his death.
Legendary bar Harry’s has just celebrated its 100th birthday. The watering hole of the ‘Lost Generation’, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and F Scott Fitzgerald, Harry’s New York Bar is beloved by Parisians and expats alike, Harry’s was immortalised by Iain Fleming when James Bond called it “the best place in Paris to get a solid drink”. Find Harry’s at 5 rue Daunou, 2nd arrondissement.
Paris Hints & Tips If you’ve blown your budget on cocktails at Harry’s you may need some freebies – here’s a few ideas.
Followers of fashion can get a free look at the season’s trends every Friday at 3pm on the 7th floor of Galeries Lafayette, Boulevard Haussmann. Tickets need to be booked in advance and can be done by e-mail. All details can be found on http://www2.galerieslafayette.com/international. Select ‘English’, then ‘Fashion’.
Théâtre du Lucernaire This home of theatre, cinema and art has some free attractions, including a constantly-changing photography exhibition. The website is in French, but click the link ‘expo photo’ link to see what’s on.
The first Sunday in each month see the museums fling open their doors for free. It’s a great opportunity to get into the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay for example without their steep admission charges, but beware the queues.
What’s On Wine Tasting at the Carrousel du Louvre 2nd & 3rd December. Wine tastings, workshops and music with over 100 châteaux taking part. Grab a glass but be patient as the event usually attracts around 20,000 visitors over the two days. Carrousel du Louvre, 99 rue de Rivoli. Open from 1030-2030 on Friday and 1030-1930 on Saturday.
Lumen et Lumine: Free light show in Notre Dame Cathedral, showing the nativity projected onto a 100m screen with music. Showing from 1st to 31st December on Mondays and Thursdays at 2030 and Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1630.
And finally……practice your swizzling and gliding against the beautiful backdrop of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) in Place Hôtel de Ville and also at the Tour Montparnasse, Skates are available for rent. The rinks are open from 12:00-22:00 Monday to Friday and 0900-2200 on Saturdays and Sundays.