Paris is ridiculously enormous. You can’t walk it in an hour and a half like you can Venice. In fact you can hardly walk from one side of your own area to the other in that time.
There are 20 areas or municipalities known as arrondissements. They are arranged in a clockwise spiral or snail shell shape, with the 1st arrondissement in the middle, which is where the Louvre is. Our apartment was in the 7th (Eiffel Tower country) just south west of the 1st.
For the 3 months we lived there, I kept thinking that if we were going to another site in the 7th it would just be a short walk, but no! Sometimes we’d walk one hour to places in the 7th.
I have no idea why this shocked me every time, especially considering it wasn’t my first rodeo, as they say. It was probably my 4th time in Paris. Maybe the previous three times I’ve concentrated on seeing the main sites, which are all fairly central to the 1st. With more time comes more spread out ambitions.
Before we left, we used Google Maps to mark approximately 105 things that we wanted to see as little dots. We did the same in Venice. By the end of Venice we managed to see everything we had marked, and do it at a fairly leisurely pace. Our Venice sightseeing life included plenty of sleep ins, lazy days and way too many pit stops at gelateries and cafes. If anyone from child services is reading this, clearly by sleep ins and gelateries I mean “homeschooling”.
Three days after moving to Paris, the immense size of the city hit me and I had a mild hyperventilation attack looking at our map. There was no chance in hell we were going to get through it all. Us nicking off to Germany and Austria for three weeks on day four didn’t help. We had heaps of fun but on our return I was ready to bunker down and tackle this Paris thing. So when Andrew suggested on our 2nd day back that we should go to the zoo, WHICH WASN’T EVEN MARKED ON OUR CAREFULLY PLANNED MAP, I kind of lost the plot.
‘We can’t waste precious gallery and museum time doing spontaneous things, that the kids would enjoy way more than a stupid gallery or museum, therefore making our lives easier!!!!!’ I screamed. Andrew realised that my mental state was a bit fragile and, being the wonderful man that he is, suggested we go to the zoo that’s inside the Jardin des Plantes rather than the main zoo. The Jardin was marked on our map so I wouldn’t need to be put into an induced coma to cope with such a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ attitude. I hugged him and we packed a picnic lunch and went off to have a wonderful day at dot number five
After spending another week in Paris and amazingly getting through about 10 dots. My panic subsided and I realized we were going to smash this thing. I even agreed to to do an unplanned adventure to check out some of the Statue(s) of Liberty. Aren’t I like totes unpredictable and crazy!!!
Our time in Paris came to an end a month ago so I decided to write this post because Andrew and I would like to make a very exciting announcement.
No I’m not but something way better has happened. We realised we marked off every single one of our 105 dots of Paris!!!!
In honour of our achievement I’ve compiled a list of some of some of our favourite spots in order of Arrondissements:
I have to admit being completely surprised that we liked the Louvre. We left it to the second last week because we weren’t super keen to go but decided that if you’re staying for three months it’s almost embarrassing not seeing such an iconic site.
We ended up loving it, mainly because we had the place relatively to ourselves. The Louvre is open till 10pm on Wednesdays and Fridays so we bought tickets online for 7pm Friday night. Best decision ever! The time we chose and the fact it was late October meant that there were hardly any people.
Even if you aren’t a major fan of the artwork the actual building is absolutely beautiful. This isn’t surprising considering it was a royal palace between the fourteenth century until 1682, when Louis XIV moved the royal residence to Versailles. What I didn’t know was that long before it became a royal residence, the Louvre was a fortress. It was built in 1190 AD by King Philippe Auguste to protect the city of Paris. This was the King who paved the streets and built the walls of Paris. In the mid-1980’s archaeologists uncovered large areas of the fortress. You can walk along the path of the moat and admire the old fortress wall on the lower level of the museum’s Sully Wing.
It’s easy to forget to stop admiring the building and check out the artwork. There is definitely a bewildering amount to see. My tip would be to work out your top five priorities and spend time slowly wandering between them. You can use the fantastic Louvre website to work out which wing and section they are in.
Our top five recommendations are the Mona Lisa, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, Venus de Milo, Napoleon III Apartments and Mummy of a man. Walking between these particular artworks will help you cover quite a substantial area of the Louvre.
Musée de l’Orangerie
This is a truly lovely little museum, and probably the kids favourite as it’s so tiny that they didn’t feel like their heads were exploding from boredom. Saying that, they both loved the Louvre so maybe they are slightly more cultured than I give them credit for.
The ground floor houses eight of Monet’s water-lily paintings in an oval shaped room but my favourite area is the collection of Impressionist masters such as Cézanne, Modigliani, Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso and Derain.
It’s size and central location makes it an ideal museum to go to if you don’t have much time to walk around the larger ones but would like to pretend you’re chockers full of culcha for an hour or so.
Petit dejeuner at Le Café Saint-Médard
One of the greatest joys of being in Paris is going out for breakfast. In the warmer months it’s so lovely to sit outside and watch the city come to life.
Our favourite place for petit dejeuner is Le Café Saint-Médard, which was actually about 40 minutes by transport from our apartment, but definitely worth the effort.
We found this cafe in 2015 when I made a bunch of friends (including 4 tiny kids) walk around this area looking for a particular patisserie I had read about. We finally found it but the stupid place was closed. Actually it isn’t a stupid place. It’s exquisite and completely delightful, with white gloved assistance delicately placing your mouth watering Opera Cake into gorgeous little boxes with ribbon ties. We have been lucky enough to gorge ourselves on their cakes multiple times since then but this particular time it was closed and we were hungry so we sat down at the closest cafe we could find, which happened to be Le Café Saint-Médard.
Since then, we have been to countless other places for petit dejeuner but nothing matches this lovely cafe. There’s a wonderful outdoor area where you can watch the world go by. The clientele is a nice mix of locals and understated tourists. The croissant and baguette servings are generous and delicious. You can also order eggs, which isn’t available for breakfast in all cafes. The location is great as it’s opposite a church with a small playground and next to Rue Mouffetard, which is a lively street with a great daily street market.
If you go there then make sure to visit the aforementioned patisserie, Carl Marletti and send me a photo so I can cry into my instant coffee that I’m not there with you.
I’m pretty sure a taxidermy shop isn’t on most people’s top things to do when hanging out in Paris but those people be cray cray!!!
From the outside, there is little sign of the weird and wacky world awaiting you upstairs. The ground floor is a beautiful little shop that sells exquisite gardening tools and accessories. I have often wondered how many people walk in to admire a lovely pair of secateurs and leave, not knowing they are standing under the biggest polar bear imaginable, positioned on it’s hind legs ready to eat the tiny child that is staring at it in amazement.
It’s truly a bizarre and magical experience walking around this unique store. There is an incredible variety of creatures, from gorgeous blue winged butterflies to magnificent giraffes, and everything is available to purchase. Generally, buying dead animals isn’t really my thing but slightly disturbing thoughts kept popping into my mind, such as, “I’d like to buy that Impala but don’t think it would go well with our grey couch”.
If you find the concept of taxidermy disturbing, clearly, this place isn’t for you. If, like us, you are intrigued by this strange art form and fascinated by seeing these creatures up close and personal it’s comforting to know that most of the animals died of natural causes and were given to the shop by circuses and zoos. Some were killed as part of supervised culling programs. Some insects, such as the butterflies, come from breeding farms that encourage sustainable development of natural habitats.
There are 421 municipal parks and gardens in Paris so, understandably, it’s pretty difficult to decide which ones to check out. Our recommendations if you are after larger gardens are Luxembourg Gardens, Jardin des Plantes and Bois de Boulogne. These are all absolutely incredible and you could easily spend half a day or more wandering around them but if you are after a smaller, more local style garden I’d recommend Parc Monceau. It’s small enough to wander around in an hour but large enough to spend longer if you have the time.
Historically it’s quite interesting. It was established in 1778 by the Duc d’Orléans (cousin of Louis XVI) as a public garden. He wanted to surprise and amaze visitors so commissioned the reconstructions of buildings of different ages and continents. There is an Egyptian pyramid, a Chinese fort, a Dutch windmill, and Corinthian pillar.
In 1861 the park was bought by the city of Paris. It was updated by Baron Haussmann, the dude who was commissioned by Napoleon to plan the grand transformation of Paris. It was the first public park in Paris to be created by him. Luckily, he retained all the reconstructions built by the Duc. Nowdays there is also a lovely playground, a carousel and lots of park benches to relax on.
One of the coolest things about the park is it’s gates. There are nine entry points, four of which are monumental gilded wrought iron gates. Walking through one of these four gates feels like you are stepping back in time. Even more olde worlde is the fact that all nine entries to the park are monitored by a fifth-generation park watchman who lives above the royal rotunda at the north entrance.
Porte de Vanves Flea Market
There are so many fantastic flea markets to choose from in Paris but this one is definitely one of the best. It’s not super central but really worth going to, if you have the time.
Going to a market like this is bittersweet for us Aussies. I spent most of the time ogling the incredible dinnerware sets and cursing Australia for being the arse end of the world and too far to make it economically viable to ship a 200 tonne container of crockery, glassware and cutlery.
As a side note, there are a bunch of local markets known as Brocantes that are really worth checking out. These are similar to flea markets but are less frequent and smaller, so more manageable than the larger flea markets if you have less time. Often they’re just a group of people from the community getting together to have one massive garage sale. Sometimes they are once off events and others are twice a year. We have had a few successful purchases at a couple of them. The best way to find out if there is one near you is by going to this garage sale website.
President Wilson Market
You know when you’ve lived somewhere for three months and on your last day you decide to go to a market that’s only about 15 minutes walk from your house and it’s the most amazing food market you’ve ever seen and you are cursing that you didn’t discover it earlier in your stay as it would have been so fun to do your weekly shopping there? Yeah that feeling really sucks.
When we found the President Wilson market on our last day, I managed to console myself by buying a lovely necklace and stuffing my face with some incredibly delicious Pastéis de Natas (Portuguese custard tarts to us Aussies).
It’s definitely a locals market and half the fun is watching stall holders greet their regular customers and have in depth conversations about which of the unplucked ducks would be the juiciest.
This market has it all, from the previously mentioned unplucked (and plucked) poultry to beautiful flowers, lovely jewellery stalls, delicious looking seafood, pastries, cheese, fruits, vegetables as well as Spanish and middle eastern dishes that are warm and ready to eat. Even if you don’t want to buy things to cook at home, it’s definitely worth a visit just to experience a fun, colourful and truly local market. It’s a great place to pick up some delicious picnic fare if you want to head off to one of Paris’s beautiful gardens afterwards.
Finishing this post has been rather tricky as I keep wanting to add more and more things to the list but 7 will have to do. I actually started writing it 2 weeks before we left Paris but then I got lazy and didn’t finish it. It’s been quite sad changing the tense from present to past now that we are back to reality. Not that our reality sucks. Being back in the Hamptons is quite delightful, especially this time of year but if anyone wants to pay us to live in Paris every summer for the rest of our lives and write blog posts once a month or so then I wouldn’t say no. All reasonable offers considered.
Till then, we bid you adieu. Thanks so much for following us on our incredible six month life break!!!