Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What to do with 2 days in Paris?

A dear friend from high school emailed me a few days ago:

We're arriving in Paris Friday for a very short visit before our bike trip in Normandy starts.
Should we do the boat on the Seine at night??
Any other “must do’s” you can think of or restaurant we should go to?
Only have 3 nights and 2 days really!

And when a question like that comes in over the transom, and I don't have lots of time to think or research, I know that my speedy answer is coming straight from the heart. Here is what my fingers replied hastily:

So exciting!! It's apparently really hot in Paris right now, so a boat ride on the Bateaux Mouches might be nice, if you can be on the upper deck and it's open.

Two days? All I can recommend is walking walking walking around everywhere. Go from Place Vendome (that's where you're staying, right?) to the Opera to the Madeleine to the place de la Concorde, then (if you can bear it) up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.

Then -- perhaps the next day, go to the Trocadero for an unforgettable view of the Eiffel Tower, then go down to the Seine and go "left" along the quais, admiring the houseboats etc., then cross the Pont Alexandre III. Okay, actually stop here and go to the restaurant at le Grand Palais called Le Minipalais. Then cross over the Seine, head toward the Invalides, wander through there and then go to the Musee Rodin. Great shady garden to cool off in.

If you only have a few days, do NOT try to actually go into places like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. You'll spend too much time in line.

If the weather were cold, I'd recommend Angelina on rue de Rivoli for a hot chocolate!

If you want something fun, try a car ride in a classic Deux Chevaux through Paris through Quatres Roues sous un parapluie.

The Palais Royal is another of my favorite spots. And Cafe Marly next to the Louvre is a great spot to stop for lunch or dinner.

Of course, the classic Cafe de Flore or Les Deux Magots in the 6e are great even just to stop by for a coffee or glass of wine. Great people watching, which is what Paris is all about.

Have fun and send photos!!!
xxoo Polly

ps. Avoid Montmartre Place du Tertre, avoid  Chatelet les Halles, and do not pay any attention to beggars or to anyone who asks "Do you speak English?" They are gypsies and/or pickpockets.

pps: In all establishments, stores, restaurants, boutiques, buses, taxis, whatever, always begin with "Bonjour, Monsieur," or "Bonjour, Madame." Then move to English if necessary. But you'll always get better service. And "Merci, monsieur/madame, au revoir," at the end. It will make a world of difference in your visit!!!

I'm sure there are favorites that I have forgotten.  I neglected shopping spots and the Hotel de Ville.  What have I left out?  What do you think? What would YOU have suggested? How would you recommend condensing Paris into 2 days?


Anne said...

I would recommend one of the smaller museums based on interest: Rodin, Musee de l'Armee, Carnavalet, etc.

I would also recommend going to a market and taking a walking tour with Paris Walks.

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

Merci for this! We'll be in Paris soon, second time, and can skip most museums. Just want to be there and pretend we're Parisian!

Going Like Sixty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GoingLikeSixty said...

I would never contradict your expert opinion, but I will (did I give you whiplash?)

IF this is possibly the ONLY time they will ever set foot in Paris, to not go up in the Eiffel Tower at night would be a huge mistake. It is a memory I will always remember.

(sorry about the multiple comments that I had to be deleted!)

Going Like Sixty said...

Since I'm here, I'm gonna up your comment count! Need to figure out how to post using Google Account "identity" when I have multiple accounts! ;-)

Polly-Vous Francais said...

These are great ideas! And I do think it would be a worthy idea to gather all the different recommendations in one spot i.e. "Two Days in Paris" except Julie Delpy already has that name cornered. Because there is NO definitive answer,n'est-ce pas? But a great collection of ideas is a very good thing. Merci everyone, and keep the ideas coming!!

diamant said...

Have you visited Eiffel tower? and don't miss the museums and explore the Paris culture.

Sigrid said...

You are SO right about "walk walk walk". That's what we keep telling each and every of our visitors. Especially in the 6th and 7th arrondissement with all those little streets.

The second thing we tell everybody is to try to fit in a stroll through one of the marchés. I can't really compare the offer to American farmers' markets but for us Europeans the French marchés are a new world. Not only because of the produce and whatever is offered there but especially for this very unique ambiance. Just listening to a butcher explain to his costumer(s) who to prepare a chicken/boeuf/whatever is magic, even if you don't speak French.

Yes, and definitely skip the Eiffel tower and the museums. Use the time to sit outside a bistro - much more Parisian.

Who is Mary Blake? said...

Why not Montmartre without La Place des Tetre?
Atelier Mary Blake? A walk along The Seine?
Bistro de la Fontaine. Barack did it.

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Unknown said...

Hmm... Place de la Concorde, Étoile, Trocadéro, pont Alexandre III. I don't want to be rude, but... Wait! I'm French, so let's reinforce the stereotypes ;-).
As I was saying, all these places may look great in Woody Allen's movies or for "typical Americans in Paris", but no Parisian ever goes there, do they?
My advice to anybody who comes for a short visit:
- use the Batobus to see all the classics along the Seine. You can hop in and out and won't lose too much time walking along wide avenues noisy with cars (western Paris is comparatively modern so the cars aren't prevented from speeding by the twisty little streets).
- go to the Île Saint Louis and have an ice cream or sorbet by Berthillon The area is beautiful and very pittoresque, the ice creams are excellent and you can eat yours in peace on the banks facing the rive gauche.
- Right bank: walk through the numerous passages couverts special mention to the Galerie Vero-Dodat, the galerie Vivienne, the passage des Panoramas and passage Jouffroy
- Right bank: go to Place des Vosges and wander around in the Marais.
- If it's too hot (there tends to be thunderstorms at the end of the summer), aim for gardens/parks Palais Royal if you're near the Seine, parc des Buttes Chaumont if you're further north east.
- Left bank: go to the Jardin des plantes, it's beautiful whatever the weather looks like and just next door to it, go to the salon de thé de la grande mosquée de Paris The mauresque architecture may not be very authentic but it's charming, the oriental pastries are excellent and the restaurant is quite good.
- You can then go on to the jardin du musée de Cluny, set in gorgeous medieval surroundings and next door to the ruins of the Roman baths.
- Also on the Left bank, rather than the "inénarrables" café de Flore and Deux Magots, I would head to the pâtisserie viennoise, rue de l'école de médecine, in the Latin quarter. I can't guarantee it's open every day but it's a fine institution of the neighbourhood.

I could go on and on but your friends only have two days after all.

Chopped Liver said...

I love the bit:
'Go from Place Vendome (that's where you're staying, right?)'

Emails like this drive me up the wall but I shall save and reuse yours if I may with a link bien sur.

Yrs Truly,
Ms. Chopped Liver

Carrie said...

I am a big fan of walking, walking, walking, but it can get tiring. What about Velib' bikes? The machine may not take US credit cards, but you can buy a pass online and print out your code and use it unlimited for small fee. It is a heavenly answer to too much walking.

Speaking of, walking up the Eiffel Tower is not usually such a long line and it's really fun if you're in good shape. Buy a combo pass 5 euro walking to 2eme etage, 5 euro elevator to the tippy top. At the top, reward yourself and your savings with a glass of champagne.

-Musee Jacquemart Andre is exquisite.
-Luxembourg Gardens a favorite, maybe with picnic stuff bought from Bon Marche Grand Epicerie neaby.
-Completely agree on Place des Voges, maybe a wander thru Rue des Rosiers for a delicious falafel takeaway and enjoy it at the hidden and lovely Parc Francs Bourgeois
-Saint Sulpice, beautiful and there is a Pierre Herme Macaron place nearby and some lovely shopping.
-Tuileries, pretty at dusk
-Musee Monde Arabe, is free to take elevator to the observation deck and have a beautiful view.

I would focus on a handful of authentic experiences rather than try to cram in everything. They'll be back!

wonky73 said...

When I was Paris for 4 days in April I mostly just walked walked walked.
I did go into the Louvre and a few other museums but my favorite thing was just walking around the city. I even forgot to eat at times :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Unknown, your list was too touristy. When you only have 2 days, just walk and mingle with the people rather than trying to hit all the tourist spots. Go to a regular café rather than the 2 you suggested where other tourists are all trying desperately to experience the Parisian thing. I think you missed the mark, but then again you know your friends better than I do so I could be totally wrong! Enough said!

Minette said...

Walk through Le Marais -- up rue des Francs Bourgeois to rue des Rosiers then head to the Seine, cross the bridge after passing by Hotel de Ville, wander into or around Notre Dame... hop on the BateauBus near Notre Dame and hop off where you want to or do the entire short ride just to take in the views. Find Jardin de Luxembourg, wander over to rue Mouffetard market street and head up to rue Cardinal LeMoine to see where Hemingway lived. Definitely go the area of rue Bonaparte and rue Jacob, Laduree is on the corner. Find La Sorbonne area and have a glass of wine at the cafe near the front doors. Yes, walk, walk walk! If you love art and want some, try to go to Musee D'Orsay, just amazing and easy to find as it is on the Seine.

Autolycus said...

I wouldn't try to "condense" Paris into two days - the best you could do is get a taste of it. In which case, some varied flavours are essential, and for me, the pomposity of the western sights is just too much trudging along more or less identical (and often, seemingly endless) Haussmann boulevards, looking at very similar pompous 19th century exteriors.

So I second many of the other suggestions and would add: see the Eiffel Tower when it lights up at night, and if you're there on a Friday night, find somewhere along that week's route for the rollerblade rally. Spend a bit of time resting the feet in a park: on a quick trip like this, any of the Luxembourg, Tuileries, Monceau and Place des Vosges might well fit in to a general walking tour.

France Forever 24/7 said...

You could do a "Paris Walks" guided tour (various themes offered on different days) - a great way to see and learn more in 2 hours or so!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Loving the comments! I think the point is, given the absolute impossibility of seeing Paris in 2 days, what are the must-sees? I know many people who love the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, but personally, I have always been disappointed: it's Paris at a distance! And after waiting in line all that time. I guess my point is: see as much of Paris as you can (which excludes waiting in lines). And I adore museums, but in the end, do you feel as though you have really experienced a city, and the soul of that city, if you've spent a large portion of your 48 hours in its museums?

Polly-Vous Francais said...

p.s. Anonymous, I am totally with you about Berthillon and alternate cafes in the 6e. But these friends asked about the "must-sees" so I wanted to offer that option. One of my personal faves is Cafe de la Mairie at St Sulpice. That's where I go when I am actually the tour guide. Ask any of my friends who have visited me in Paris!

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François Roland said...

lol ! There is no visiting Paris in two days ! :) I was born there, and I'm really not sure I know it all. Of course I sincerely doubt they could see all what you say, except really " "au pas de charge" as we say! And I didn't heard you mention the old quarters around Bastille or le Marais. Now dodging Place du Tertre can make sense, they really ruined what it was originally, but Montamartre and all around is remains as a precious "vestige" of my old Paris!

luxury apartments buenos aires said...

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Gites in France said...

Fantastic tips! You can stumble across so many wonderful cafes and shops by wandering around Paris.

Best wishes, Alex

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