||UNIQUE PARIS SIGHTS
Craig’s Secrets to the
City of Light
by Craig Stevens Corey
"For me, just walking in Paris and absorbing the culture and surroundings is enought to make me realize that I'm glad to be there. I especially like Paris in Winter"
Prologue: For me, just walking in Paris and absorbing the culture and surroundings is enough to make me realize that I’m glad to be there. I especially like Paris in the Winter, at dusk-which is late afternoon, when the city begins to illuminate. Speeding cars, and fast-paced Parisians in fashionable coats with intricately-tied scarves not with-standing, everything is so brilliantly lit up-Avenue de l’Opéra, the Eiffel Tower, the bridges, the center court at the Palais-Royal, and the amazingly creative window displays to name a few. It’s both eerily romantic, and nostalgic. And during the day, Paris is like an adult playground where you can bop around on the Métro, or hop on one of the city’s new vélib (vay-leeb,) which means "velos en libre service" (a system of free-wheeling bike rentals, available at little bike stands all over the city) enabling you to navigate through the city’s myriad of winding streets.
The last time you were there you may have focused on the city's main sights-les musts as the French say, or simply the must sees. So if by chance you're in the mood for a different perspective of the city, you might try one of these:
(Written as a supplement to the newsletter FOOTPRINTS: Conversations with Craig, Travel Tips & News." Information such as details, dates, prices, etc. are subject to change without prior notice.)
First published October 27, 2009
The "2CV" Driving Tour. A tour of Paris called “4 Roues et un Parapluie” (4 wheels and an umbrella) which is in a vintage French Citroen 2CV (Deux Chevaux-2 horsepower) automobile. The quirky car (1940’s to 1970’s) looks like a cockroach, and has become a symbol of Parisian nostalgia in the twenty-first century. The tour comes complete with a beret-wearing driver. It’s a HOOT! Starting at EUR19.00 (about $35 per person.)
Bateaux-Mouches Seine River dinner cruise. Okay, I admit, this is neither off-the-beaten path, nor non-touristy. But it is so completely wonderful that I include it here as still being both unusual, and romantic, and I CAN'T NOT recommend it! The barge departs at 8:00pm and for two hours slowly glides along the Seine, under lighted bridges, past Notre Dame and up to the Eiffel Tower which is ablaze in lights, and then back. On board, all the while you're wined and dined in a dimly lit atmosphere. The sides of the ship are in glass for optimum viewing of both the Left and Right banks. A violinist and pianist offer elegant backgound music. I've recommended it to many Paris-bound customers over the years. At Approximately $150-300 per person, depending on level of service and table location, it's a veritable bargain which includes a 6-course dinner with wine. Proper attire required. There's are several companies offering trips, contact us to recommend the right one for you!
French gendarmes (policemen) protect Charles Lindbergh and his airplane from the thousands of Parisians who jammed the field in mass hysteria after he landed at le Bourget, completing his historic nonstop solo transatlantic flight in 1927.
Private Paris. If money is no object (you know who you are!) for the right price you can do Paris “your way.” For example a private, after-hours tour of the Eiffel Tower or Versailles. Or a private audience at one of the Parisian fashion houses, or a meeting with a famous Michelin star’d chef for private instruction can be arranged. You could even commission your own scent from one of the famous parfumeries. Prices starting at $595 per person.
Deux Chevaux anyone?
Paris Architectural bicycle tour. So, if you need a refresher to re-gain your bearings, and if you can put your foot to the pedal, why not take a guided bike tour!? It’s a total blast! Bike tours are led by friendly English/French-speaking guides and operate for not more than 10-15 preserving the up-close-and-personal touch. And you can choose to tour either side of the river. On the Right Bank for example, tours start at the Place des Vosges, past the Louvre, into the trendy Marais district, past Saint Eustache and the Palais Royal, and ending at Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint Louis. On the Left Bank tours start at the Lutece, and visit Saint Germain des Pres, the Sorbonne, the Jardin du Luxembourg, and end in the streets of the “Ile.” Now as a reminder, you’ll be riding a “vélo” (the French word for bike). If you ask for ask for a “bicyclette”, you’ll look silly! It means “tri-cycle”! And by the way, we Americans still visualize the French as pedaling along in “raincoat and beret, armed with baguette and bouteille.” But that is of a bygone era. Today you’ll most likely see them rushing to work with their laptops! Weather permitting, tours operate Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and last 3-hours. Approx.$45 per person.
The center garden at the Palais Royal where ancient meets contemporary, and where the tour groups do not go!
Le Palais-Royal. The palace and its gardens are on the Right Bank (1 st Arrondissement) standing adjacent to the North wing of the Louvre Museum on the Rue de Rivoli (Metro: Louvre) and are an oasis of quiet tranquility and genteel history in the bustling heart of the city. Originally built in 1629 as the home of Cardinal Richelieu, the palace has had a rich and varied history, including as the government seat during the reign of Louis XV. Today it houses the French Ministry of Culture, and La Bibliotheque National de France (the French National Archives,) housing some 6,000,000 volumes and documents. The palace’s center garden is screened-in with columns that hide unique shops. I love walking through here, it’s a wonderful place to stroll, ponder, think, or take a photo op without all the crowds (the tour groups usually don’t stop here.) Early evening, before the Palais closes, beams of light shine upwards in the center garden, contrasting the black and white striped modernist cylinder stumps that were planted in 1986 by conceptual artist Daniel Buren. The Palais-Royal has been featured in such films as Charade (1963,) Marathan Man (1977,) and most recently The Davinci Code (2007.) I always make a point of passing through the Palais Royal whenever I'm in town, just to cop a feel of "Old Paris," and to prowl around in the unique, uncrowded shops.
The Air & Space Museum at Le Bourget (loo boor-zhay) Airport (Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace du Bourget). Located seven miles Northeast of the city, le Bourget was Paris’ original airport opened in 1919, and is a great day trip from Paris if you’re there for a week or longer ((take the RER interurban train “line B” from Paris, and get off at le Bourget station.) It was here that Charles Lindbergh landed after making his historic solo nonstop Transatlantic flight in 1927. “Can you just imagine what he must’ve thought as he buzzed the field in the dark of night (his plane devoid of communication,) dazed from 30 hours of flying, and saw spot lights shining up into the sky, and thousands of Parisians jamming the field in mass hysteria!?” It was here also that Adolf Hitler landed, and began his tour of Paris at the beginning of the German invasion and occupation of France in 1940. Today the airport only handles private traffic, but it houses the world’s very first air and space museum. At the museum, you can catch a glimpse of many of the primitive airplanes flown by the earliest aviators (Saint Exupéry, Santos-Dumont, and Nungesser for example) all beautifully preserved, not to mention an Air France 747 and the hauntingly exotic Air France Concorde. Entrance fee is EUR7.00 (about $11.00), but for the time being entrance is FREE!