Paris: The City of Art and Jazz
Paris is synonymous with cafes, romance, architecture, politics, tourism, and so much more. Indeed, it can be a dilemma for the visitor as to what to cover if time is limited. So, here are a few ideas that should keep you occupied for a least a day or two if you’re prepared to do a bit of walking – actually, a lot of walking, unless you have the inclination to use taxis which is a shame in a city noted for its beautiful parks and boulevards.
Paris is very much a residential city with a large population living in the centre. This has a positive influence on the local life: as well as the tourist attractions and businesses, there are countless bakeries, fruit stalls and local services open at all times of the day and night. The leafy Bastille in the 11th arrondissement is a good example and a great place to stay with its reasonably priced hotels and pensions tucked away down the backstreets. People will often baulk when you mention ‘prices’ and Paris in the same breath, but with its residential makeup, the city has an advantage over many others – if the prices on the main boulevards are a little high, head to the backstreets and you’ll soon find bars, cafes, restaurants and supermarkets with prices that might well be cheaper than those back home.
From the Bastille, an early start could see you talking a stroll along the banks of The Seine to check out the striking Notre Dame, looming up with its majestic gothic spires. Quite a touristy area, but even when busy, somehow manageable and a definite coffee stop. Admire also the artworks often on display on the banks of the river. It’s a real mix ranging from chalk drawings, old postcards, and black and white photos, to a healthy collection of erotic art. And if you’re looking for a gift, the prices are good, and a bit of negotiation is all part of the fun.
Head a little further along the river, cut inland, and you’ll happen upon The Louvre with its distinctive pyramid and stunning surrounding courtyards and buildings. From here, brace yourself for a long trek along boulevards bearing titles such as Rue Montmarte or Rue Pierre Fontaine, until you arrive at the Moulin Rouge. As well ultimate cures for shopaholics, numerous cafes and restaurants abound on route if you’re getting weak at the knees and fancy a croissant, or lunch – usually served with tasty frites.
From the bustle surrounding the Moulin – and with a bit of map rustling and head scratching – head through the backstreets and ascend to the Monmarte with its distinct white dome-shaped Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. This is the principal artistic centre of Paris and a feast for the eyes: artists and performers ply their trade on the cobbled streets amongst the tourists and onlookers. The surrounding architecture is stunning, as are the views across the city. You could spend days learning about the history of the place and those artists and musicians such as Vincent van Gogh, Pierre Brissaud, Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, and Django Reinhardt who were inspired by it.
After a long walk back to the 11th arrondissement to regroup at the hotel, or to catch a drink in a bar, you should then plan the nighttime explorations. Head across the river to the lively Latin Quarter, and maybe even catch a gig with David Reinhardt in the L’atelier Charonne bar and restaurant playing jazz manouche in the style of his grandfather, Django.