Weekend in Paris
AAA Going Places Magazine

Paris never sleeps. At night, the City of Lights illuminates the River Seine with its myriad of monuments and outdoor musicians. By day, activity abounds amid the bustling bistros, boutiques and grand boulevards. Paris’ palatial parks and endless array of art and architecture make it one of the most memorable cities in the world. You can spend hours just people-watching at any one of the cafés made famous by great artists and writers.
Photo by: AAA Going Places Magazine
Photo Credit
AAA Going Places Magazine

Experiencing Paris for a weekend is just an appetizer. To at least savor the entrée into this magical city, you will need more time. But for those with just a few days to spare, here are the highlights to explore in your brief stay.

Day One
Start your morning with a café and croissant at Café Au Depart Luxembourg before strolling through enchanting Luxembourg Gardens, grounds of the 1615 palace and royal residence of Marie de Medici. The park’s colorful palate of flowerbeds are reminiscent of an Impressionist painting. Activity is everywhere, from children sailing toy boats in the large ponds to adults practicing Tai Chi under the trees.

Continue toward the Pantheon, tomb of Victor Hugo, Rousseau and Emile Zola. Walk back down Rue Soufflot past the 13th-century Sorbonne University off popular Boulevard Saint Michel, clogged with restaurants, shops and bookstores.

Cross over to the busy Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where you can stop for a drink at Café Flore, a lively literary landmark frequented by such intellectuals and writers as Camus and de Beauvoir. Head toward the Seine and visit Notre-Dame Cathedral, the city’s Gothic 12th-century gem. Across the way stands one of Paris’ oldest, quality restaurants, La Boutille d’Or (9 Quai de Montebello). You’ll enjoy a fabulous feast on white tablecloth at palatable prices, amid murals and paintings of Paris past. The beef or duck are highly recommended, as is the meringue ice cream cake.

Photo Credit - AAA Going Places Magazine
For a more casual dining experience, walk over to the hectic Rue Huchette and Saint Séverins, a multicultural enclave of ethnic restaurants. Droves of people and strolling musicians fill up the narrow pathways. Dine at Balthazar (17 Saint Séverins), open until midnight. The three-course, home-style menu includes a generous plate of mussels with cream and hearty onion soup for starters—and all for under $15. The night is young, so book your evening’s entertainment with Musique et Patrimoine (01 42 50 9618) to see what church venues are holding performances. There is nothing more heartrending than voices of Mozart’s Requiem resounding from the ancient walls of the 12th-century Saint Séverin Church.

Another option is to hop on the Metro Trocadero or #24 bus along the Seine to bridge Pont d’Lena. Cross to the Palace of Chaillot, with its flowing fountains, for one of the most dramatic illuminated views of the 984-foot Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides, site of Napoleon’s tomb.

Day Two
Take an early morning walk along the Seine down the Left Bank to the Musée D’Orsay, a converted railway station that holds an extensive collection of Impressionist paintings and art from 1848-1914. The open interior and palatial first-floor restaurant are equally impressive. Don’t miss the panoramic city view on the upper level near the Impressionists.

Continue your museum trek toward Les Invalides to the Rodin Museum, an 18th-century mansion with glorious gardens featuring some of Rodin’s masterpieces, including The Kiss and The Thinker.

Over the bridge to the Right Bank, past the Petit Palace, you approach the famous boulevard of Champs-Élysées and the legendary Hotel Crillon, once the palace of Louis XV, in view of the Place de la Concorde and famous Obelisque. Enjoy the hotel’s high tea or famous hot chocolate. Here on Rue de Rivoli, laden with shops and vendors, sits the elegant Hotel Meurice, where you can also sip tea in the epitome of French luxury. Their Belle E’toile suite, with all marble bathrooms, has a 360-degree terrace view of Paris.

If you are craving a decadent dessert and café, go next door to Angelina, the posh patisserie facing the Tuileries, the city’s popular park and gardens, filled with rides and a giant Ferris wheel to please any child or young at heart. Nearby is Paris’ most renowned museum, the Louvre, which takes an entire day to explore. If you can get past the lengthy lines, you may get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa.

Outside, continue your walk along Rue Royale, past the Place Vendome, an imperial square of sculptures and pricey stores. Along the way, the tempting tearoom Laduree may be difficult to resist. The desserts and extravagant interior are well worth the stop.

Photo Credit - Beverly Mann

Directly ahead is the Greco-Roman church of Madeleine. You have a choice here. Go west and take the metro toward the Bois de Boulogne, one of the city’s most magnificent parks, and the Marmottan, the Money Museum, or continue along the Boulevard de la Madeleine that veers into the gold-domed Opéra House, with daily tours of its majestic interior. Wind your way here though endless stores to the venerable Mollard restaurant (115 Saint Lazare) near Gare Lazare. Sensational seafood at affordable prices awaits you in this family-run establishment, amid regal 1867 decor of architect Edward Neirmans. Walk off your sumptuous meal and head toward the top of the steps at the artist enclave of Montmartre to revel in the crimson sunset and cityscape from the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur.

Day Three
Don’t leave Paris without a visit to the trendy Marais District and the Place des Vosges, a stately square of stone houses and arcades of galleries. Writer Victor Hugo’s residence at 6 Place de Vosges is now a museum. Rue de Rosiers, the Jewish section, offers some authentic Eastern Europe cuisine. Stop at Korcarz, a Russian-style bakery to nosh on bretzels or grab a corn beef sandwich or kosher foie gras at Jo Goldenbergs.

The nearby Jewish Museum of Art & History (71 Rue du Temple) houses an in-depth profile of Jewish heritage from the Middle Ages to 1900s. Take a respite in Marais district’s charming parks along the way to the Picasso Museum at 5 Rue de Thorigny, situated in the 17th-century Sale mansion. The collection includes Picasso’s earlier works as a teen til his 90s.

If your legs are holding up, stroll towards the Seine and Ile Saint-Louis, a historical city and museum piece. Cross the bridge at Tournelle and catch a bus to the Jardin des Plants, a day’s outing in itself, replete with a zoo and natural history, amid an awesome assemblage of flowers and plants.

Had enough traipsing? Take the metro to stop Vavin at Montparnasse, the once vibrant center of artists and writers. As you exit the station you will face the startling red-canopied La Rotonde (105 Montparnasse), the historic Brasserie and hangout for Picasso, Braque, Chagall and American writers. Owners Serge and Gerard Tafanel have created a mouthwatering menu with superb service and attention to detail—a great deal for the dollar. The restaurant is open til 2 a.m. Across the way is La Coupole, with entertainment nightly.

For the piece de resistance to your Parisian experience, have dinner and enjoy the spectacular C’est Magique show at the Lido on the Champs-Élysées. You can even dance on the stage before the show. For sure, it won’t be your last tango or visit to Paris.

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