Paris in One Weekend
Often I am asked, “What can you do in Paris in three days?” To which I have often replied, “Don’t even bother. It takes a lifetime to see Paris.”
What a cynical remark. It comes from having gone beyond the status of “tourist” or even “new resident” when one realizes that Paris so profound, that to attempt to visit it over just a few days is a fruitless endeavor.
Let’s face it; Paris can’t be seen in just a few days…but you certainly can have a great time trying. And if you’re very efficient about it, you can cover a lot of ground, without feeling rushed or unsatisfied.
It had been a very long time since I had played tourist/tour guide, but in the process realized how much I had missed seeing Paris from fresh eyes. Naturally, one of the first things on the agenda was to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It still gives me a thrill to see “La Grande Dame” sparkle and the view of the city, day or night, is breathtaking. Parisians don’t go to the Eiffel Tower — hardly ever. One senior Parisian friend told me had only been there twice in his lifetime and that could be twice more than most. They don’t know what they are missing.
Even after all these years, lunch at the outdoor cafe and a stroll through the Jardins du Luxembourg could not be matched for sensual ambiance. The waiters always seem jolly — it must be the leafy environment under which they serve up omelets that keep them smiling. At this time of year, the flowers are high and bright, the grass thick and glowing green, the palm trees are resting comfortably in their big square pots and the urns are overflowing with happy geraniums. The Fontaine de Médicis is shady and serene — the coolest spot in Paris and one of the most romantic — a perfect place to read a novel or meet your lover.
We found more readers peacefully set among the graves at Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. The cloudy day added to the graveside manner as we wound our way along the paths with map in hand to find those we’ve read so much about. Many of the tomb stones are sculptured representations of their inhabitants — one of them a man holding the face of a woman, many women in tortured poses and direct likenesses of the deceased. Jim Morrison is still attracting the hordes who leave flowers, notes and rolling papers. Oscar Wilde is still receiving big red kisses all over his winged angel tomb stone that is like no other. The cemetery may not be on everyone’s tour schedule, but it’s in fact, one of the most fascinating ways to tap into a little bit of French history in very little time.
At the Opéra, we took in the Grand Escalier imagining the elegant ladies in plumed hats, white gloves and trailing gowns drinking sparkling champagne between acts before starting on a stroll down the avenue toward Le Louvre. Don’t go directly — make a left turn detour to enter the Jardin du Palais Royal for a brief repose at one of the sidewalk cafés. The flowers this year are all shades of lavender, violet and fuchsia set against white roses. The fountains are in full force and the trees thick with dark green leaves, pruned square in French formal fashion. Children are playing under them; their parents sunning their faces on the benches lining the garden.
Le Louvre needs more than a weekend for a proper visit, but La Pyramide becomes increasingly more spectacular with each one. From any vantage point, it is stunning — whether you view it from outside on the plaza, from the arched halls or from within looking up and out past the triangular panes of glass to see the main buildings.
Later that evening, we took in another view of the city from the top of La Grande Roue — the several-stories-high Ferris Wheel at the Jardin des Tuileries Summer Fair. Looking down on Le Louvre affords another stunning view and when the wheel stopped with us at the top, the chair swung in the night breeze, with all of Paris below our feet, and I realized again how vast and profound she really is.
Upon deciding what we could afford to give up seeing in such a limited amount of time, my visiting friend made the point, “The things I miss doing give me a reason to come back.” How that chord rang so true.
It’s exactly why I kept coming back until I stayed for what may become a lifetime.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]
P.S. Coming this Fall…Leonard Pitt, author of the bestselling “Promenades dans le Paris Disparu,” will be in Paris for one month, September 15 to October 16 and is now organizing groups for several three-hour walks through the city. For more information, visit the Parler Paris Previews…A Weekly Community Calendar for English-Speaking Paris at /parlerparis/calendar.html.html
Plus, Leonard Pitt will be the guest speaker in San Francisco at the Living and Investing in France Conference October 21- 23, 2005! For more information, visit /frenchproperty/conference/index.html or contact Schuyler Hoffman, Conference Coordinator, at [email protected] to be put on a special mailing list to be notified when the details are in place (very, very soon!).