Paris: More than Just Landmarks
Traveling to Paris is on most people’s bucket list, and for many it is a repeat destination. So what to do when you are a serial Paris visitor but your travel pals are first timers? Or what if it's your first time and you want to go beyond the landmarks in the guidebooks? At the top of any first timer's list will most likely be the five most visited places in Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Sacré-Couer, Notre Dame and L’Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées. But to keep things interesting, here is a list of “plus ones” near each of these landmarks that should keep even the most seasoned Paris visitor happy.
The Eiffel Tower Plus Napoleon’s Tomb
Probably the most iconic monument in Paris is the Eiffel Tower. It has a mesmerising sway over most people who visit. Its graceful arches and beautiful shape have entranced lovers for over a century, and it is reputed to be a popular place for marriage proposals. The view from the deck is extensive and literally breathtaking.
Once you have spent an hour or so here making sure you have all the best photos from every angle of the tower, it is time to move on. If you are lucky enough to have received a proposal your choice is simple: champagne! But if, like many of us, this didn’t happen then it is time to take a stroll down the Esplanade des Invalides to the Hotel des Invalides, which houses the magnificent tomb of Napoleon.
This beautiful building is a marble edifice to the great man and others who have served France, mainly in the military. The tomb itself is spectacular, with the sarcophagus placed in the heart of the building. It is quiet and cool, with statues and plaques detailing the life of the emperor. In other buildings there is an extensive museum of the army, which holds uniforms and materiel from throughout France’s history. It is worth spending a few quite contempative hours here.
The Louvre Plus Decadent Chocolate
On the other side of the Seine River is the palace, now an art gallery, known as the Louvre. The collection here could keep you busy for weeks. Home to Leonardo di Vinci’s enigmatic Mona Lisa and the equally intriguing Venus de Milo, the Louvre is a place to revisit time and again. Take a break from the art and walk down the Rue de Rivoli towards the rotunda. Directly across the road from the ferris wheel is the wonderfully elegant Angelina Tea Rooms. More than a cafe, Angelina’s has been serving delicious hot chocolate, cakes and hand made chocolates here for decades. The hot chocolate is not to be bested anywhere! And the chocolates and cakes are in the “to die for” category. This “plus one” is not to be missed.
Sacré-Coeur Plus Artisanal Perfumes
Sacré-Coeur sits atop the bohemian suburb of Montmartre. The journey up the hill is thrilling, as are the views and cool breezes that are afforded by the cathedral’s position. After viewing the interior and exterior of this beautiful building, leave via the funicular railway down the hill to the busy streets of Montmartre. Immediately across the street is your plus-one destination. Fragonard Parfumerie is a sweet smelling oasis of scents originating in the famous French perfume making area of Grasse.
If you have time, make your way to the nearby Opera metro station and visit the Fragonard Musée du Parfum. Occupying a Napoleon III townhouse built in 1860, it is free to enter and free tours are also offered. If perfume is your thing, this is the “plus one” for you.
Notre Dame Plus a Literary Institution
Back in the center of town is France’s most famous cathedral, Notre Dame. The crowds throng through this church and its forecourt every day of the year. After checking out the gargoyles and the imposing gothic architecture, step away from the crowds and head over to the nearby Latin Quarter. Only a few blocks away is the well known English language bookstore Shakespeare and Company. This Paris institution was patronized by some of the 20th century’s greatest literary names and still has a very bohemian feel to it. Although its irascible owner George Whitman is no longer around to grant you the privilege (or not!) of buying a book, the store buzzes with life.
Arc de Triomphe Plus French Cooking
Last but certainly not least is the Arc de Triomph and its equally famous boulevard, the Champs-Élysées. This exclusive shopping street is full of designer stores and high-end art galleries. After braving the incredible traffic that whizzes up and around the monument, take a plus-one look at the side streets around the area. The Rue de Miromesnil is home to several very accessible cooking schools, such the Atelier Guy Martin. With a bit of forward planning it is possible to learn the secrets to French cooking from famous chefs or, if time is short, take an afternoon course in how to make the perfect macaron or a sumptuous soufflé.
Featured photo by Moyan Brenn; soufflé photo by McPig.