I had more places to see on my Paris list…
… my first time there. After I had ticked the major landmarks off my list, it was time to delve deeper into the city. Thankfully, I had nine days in Paris, and a former local to help me navigate the city.
If you've got a lot of time to spare in Paris and don't mind taking the metro and running all over the place, you might want to check out the spots that Queenie and I made sure to head to. Here are some of my favorites.
Père Lachaise Cemetery. We made our way to Paris' largest cemetery in the morning because we did not want to get caught exploring famous people's graves too close to sunset / dusk (for obvious reasons). Queenie had the smarts to take a photo of the cemetery's map as soon as we made our way in—if you don't have a guide with you and don't have the benefit of WiFi, this is a good idea because the grounds are extensive. And creepy.
Number one on my list was Oscar Wilde's grave. Dotted with lipstick marks and lined with a couple of the writer's books, the tombstone is now enclosed in glass to protect it from overeager visitors and fans.
Other famous people we saw were Frederic Chopin, Edith Piaf, and Géricault, a painter who I learned about just a few days before at my Louvre tour (I was so chuffed to recognize a tableau of his famous painting on the grave).
Jim Morrison is another big one. I don't think anyone visits Père Lachaise without stopping by this landmark.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
16 Rue de Repos
Angelina. Home of the famous hot chocolate (which—surprise—you can actually get at La Creperie in Manila), we had first intended to make it to this spot at Versailles only to discover it was no longer there. We headed instead to its more popular location, along the famous walkways of Rue de Rivoli.
The place was packed (with tourists, I'm sure). If you go here for breakfast, you're going to have to wait a while before you get seated. That said, the whole experience is worth it—I don't think a first visit to Paris is complete without a taste of their chocolat chaud. Sidebar: the comfort room is lovely—try to make your way up there if you can!
226 Rue de Rivoli
Shakespeare and Company. AFAIK, this famous bookstore already has a cafe to go with it… but on my first trip to Paris, it was just books, a delightful attic with a piano (that someone was actually playing), a couple of dingy couches and the wonderful smell of old books. I have a soft spot for this shop because it figures in my favorite one of the "Before Sunrise" trilogy, "Before Sunset" (where Ethan Hawke's character does a book reading).
Typewriters! Dirty floors! Old hardcover books! What is not to love?
You can type your own stuff using the in-house typewriter (it even had a little booth). I didn't though, too much pressure. Haha.
Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie
Musée de l'Orangerie. This was the one thing on Queenie's Paris list when we visited and I did not mind at all, as I do love me some Monet. Located in the Tuileries, we had a lovely morning walk in the gardens. Our day at the museum coincided with a couple of Fashion Week shows at the Tuileries so we did sneak a peek at some models, editors, and fashion folks making their way inside a tent, invites in hand.
Before even noticing the art in *any* museum, I always have to pause and appreciate the lighting and the architecture. I loved how the modern form of the l'Orangerie houses Monet's organic Water Lilies.
We spent a good half hour or so just seated at the museum benches, staring right at the paintings. If you're an art lover, these pieces are transcendent.
There's a hefty impressionist collection at the basement of the museum that's also worth a look.
One of the fun surprises the day brought was a glance at Rodin's The Kiss just outside the museum.
Musée de l'Orangerie
Le Soufflé. Queenie and I were on the hunt for Pierre Herme macarons when we stumbled on this restaurant. My cousin, who I had kicked off my trip with, had mentioned this little place just a short walk away from Rue de Rivoli, so we decided to give it a try.
The charming robin's egg blue of the restaurant is unmissable when you find your way in the back alleys behind Rue de Rivoli.
Its interiors are charming and are incredibly French.
My most memorable Parisian meal to date, I had a salad and a Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert. It doesn't sound like much, but to put my meal into perspective, I would have to tell you that Queenie had the tasting menu, which consisted of three full-sized soufflés she delightfully gobbled up until we were the only two people in the restaurant. (We literally closed it down).
36 Rue du Mont Thabor
Café Constant. I did a ton of research on food before my trip to Paris—I had pages upon pages of dishes and treats that I was sure I wouldn't be able to get to. That said, I'd found a restaurant that was known for serving my favorite French dessert of all time, Ile Flottante or Floating Island. Queenie and I decided to have our first dinner right here.
I don't remember much about our meal—we were really too busy catching up to pay attention to our food—but I do remember my light, frothy, caramel-tinged dessert. I am so proud of this photo. LOL.
139 Rue Saint-Dominique
Centre Georges Pompidou. One of the details that stuck with me from the Hop On, Hop Off tour (which I will never stop referencing) was that Paris' super huge art collection was divided into three main structures. The Louvre held antiquities, the Musée d'Orsay held the Impressionists, and the Pompidou held all things modern.
Designed by Renzo Piano, we studied this building which has its guts outside rather than in, semester after semester in college. I was more interested in the architecture rather than the art it contained, so I thought that a walk around the structure would suffice.
And it really did. I liked that there was a huge space just outside the building where students could sit and sketch and just lay out.
To my surprise, there was also a pretty vibrant back lot behind the museum where I caught a couple of kids playing around the fountain installations and where I saw a yogi practicing his headstand.
Grit and graffiti become the Pompidou's landscape, creating a nice contrast to the old-timey buildings that are essential to Paris' cityscape.
Centre Georges Pompidou
Sacré-Cœur and Montmartre. After the Notre Dame, the only other church I really wanted to see was the Sacré-Cœur. A little out of the way from our Airbnb at the Trocadero, it took a while for us to get to the hills and steep streets of Montmartre. The vibe here is decidedly different from the rest of the city I'd seen so far—known for its bohemian roots and artist-filled community, you do get a sense of La Vie Boheme once you step into Montmartre.
Not for the faint-hearted and cardio-phobes out there, you're going to have to climb a lot of steps to get to the church.
The view, however, will be worth the extra effort.
Especially when you catch the sunset. Nothing beats seeing the lights slowly go up all over the city below.
35 Rue de Chevalier de la Barre
Place des Vosges. The Marais district is pretty popular with its host of restaurants, bars and boutiques. We wanted to catch dinner here but since we'd arrived in the afternoon, we decided instead to make our way to Place des Voges, one of Paris' oldest squares. Still well-kept and I imagine, looking pretty similar to the way it did decades and maybe centuries ago, we caught a lot of folks hanging out under the sun (and another Fashion Week shoot happening right at the driveway!).
Place des Vosges is known for its brick inlays and quaint corridors.
The alleyways are also home to street artists and some graffiti as well.
Still keeping with the blue roofs found all over the city, the building that envelopes the square has a vibrant hue that makes for a lovely complement to the shrubbery and greens all around.
Instead of going for dinner, we decided to sit at a sidewalk café instead and indulge in some classic crepes.
Places des Vosges
straddles the 3rd and 4th arrondisements
Trocadero. I stayed in two Airbnbs at the Trocadero during this trip. The first one, along Rue de Magdebourg was part of a classic apartment complex with an inner courtyard and romantic French railings up the steps. The second one was on the other side of the district and was part of a slightly more modern complex. I loved the view from our window, which looked out into the bricks and blue roofs of the structure.
Parc du Champ de Mars. If you're going to Paris for the first time, you can't not linger in front of the Eiffel Tower—the Champ de Mars is the perfect place to plant yourself and see the day turn, along with the Tower right beside it. It was a short walk from our flat, so we passed through the park several times and at different parts of the day.
Because of the droves of tourists in this area, it's important to keep your bags and money close to you at all times. Don't fall for the folks stopping tourists to ask for participation in surveys—it's most probably a hoax!
I love the fall—especially because I don't experience it in Manila! The crisp weather is perfect for lazy afternoons in the park.
And of course, we couldn't miss out on seeing the Eiffel Tower at night. The light show (in all its cheesiness!) is pretty captivating, especially for first-timers enamored by all things Parisian.
Parc du Champ de Mars
2 Allée Adrienne Lecouvrer
The Seine. If I had gone full-on tourist, I would have probably jumped into one of those boats going down the Seine, but I settled for a nice walk… that's until the surrounding walls got a little too stinky :P
I'm on a total nostalgia kick, seeing all these photos from three years ago. I was able to make it back to Paris, two years after my first time there, and while the city was beautiful and I was really proud of myself for knowing how to navigate through it, the excitement and thrill I had waned a little bit.
That said, I can't wait to share the different parts of Paris I encountered on my next trip. I made it a point to go to see other spots… except for the soufflé place, which pretty much demanded a return visit!
Fingers crossed, I'm able to make my way back to the City of Lights next year. I'm slowly starting to put my To See list together (and am probably going back to Le Soufflé a third time).