Discovering the ‘real’ Paris, beyond the famous monuments, leads to wanting to live ‘la vie Parisienne,’ even if just for a holiday
“Paris is a cliché,” said a friend as we walked leisurely after dinner one winter night, not realizing until we sat at a café to rest our feet that we had been walking for over three hours, and we had covered over four kilometers of Paris.
Four hours of Parisian wonder was what we had just experienced, and we did all the clichés that night.
After washing down a raclette dinner with bottles of wine at a small, crowded bistro on a narrow, cobbled street deep in the picturesque and touristy St. Michel quartier, we thought a short walk would do wonders for digestion.
So we walked from the restaurant through a maze of twisted streets, filled with tourists, with shop after shop hawking the same souvenirs in our faces, continuing until we got out of the picturesqueness of it all and into the Place St. Michel with its Baroque fountain.
In front of the place was a sweeping sight, the wide, open grandeur of the Seine.
There we stood on the quay. The view? Cliché No. 1: There was Notre Dame Cathedral across the river, beautifully lit, its façade reflecting perfectly on the Seine.
Splendid it was, just like the guidebook said it would be.
We thought we’d cross the river, so we walked to the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge that leads to the Louvre.
Cliché No. 2: Framed by the magnificent architecture, the Pyramid of the Louvre, lit from the inside, shone like a diamond at night. On the opposite end of the large courtyard, an open plaza with the Arc de Carroussel framed a long perspective of the Champs Elysées with the Tour Eiffel glistening so transparently in the distance.
The City of Light Paris most certainly is.
There was no stopping now. We walked into side streets that either opened out to small plazas or led us to wide boulevards which, in true Parisian style, were grand promenades, backdrops for magnificent architectural monuments sited so nobly at the end of the boulevard.
At the end of one boulevard we walked on was the Palais Garnier, the National Opéra built in 1875. Other boulevards brought us face-to-face with obelisks, sculpture; and, always, magnificent architecture.
We were doing all of the tourist clichés that night, doing it on foot, and loving every moment of it.
Paris is a moveable feast, another cliché, but in truth, that is what Paris really is.
Digging deeper, moving away from guidebook clichés, gets one into the little neighborhoods, urban treasures where much of the city’s daily life happens away from tourist view.
One area is Rue Mouffetard, a neighborhood of ancient buildings, medieval streets and passages that escaped the Napoleonic destruction and redevelopment of Paris under the hand of Baron Haussmann.
Rue Mouffetard is one of those places where students, young families and professionals live together with older people who have been there all their lives.
There, locals sit in cafés passing time, buying provisions from wonderful food shops that stock produce of such freshness that visitors pause to wonder at the quality and abundance of vegetables, poultry, meat.
It is this lively mix of people, cafés, restaurants, food shops and markets that makes Rue Mouffetard the vibrant neighborhood full of character and charm that it is, every day, all year round.
Another cliché this could be, but the fascination of discovering the “real” Paris, beyond the famous monuments, leads to wanting to live “la vie Parisienne,” even if just for a holiday.
Immersion in a Parisian neighborhood is the best way to be part of Paris life. Instead of a hotel, book a fully equipped, serviced apartment in a residential neighborhood.
Gourmand Apartments has various locations in Paris, but the one to aim for is Le Gourmand du Mouffetard in the bustling, medieval Rue Mouffetard area. It is Parisian everyday living at its most fulfilling.
The apartment is comfortable, fully fitted out, with a bonus of a private, open-air terrasse so rare in Paris. If it’s cliché tourist destinations that you are looking for, the apartment is walking distance to the Panthéon, Jardin des Plantes, Ile St. Louis and Notre Dame.
Le Gourmand Maubert is another delightful property owned by the same Australian couple. Located in a quieter neighborhood just on the other side of the river from Notre Dame Cathedral, the apartment is across the street from the fabled 4-star Tour d’Argent. Plan your stay at the Maubert around your booking at the Tour d’Argent.
It’s a coveted experience that must be done well in advance.
Both apartments are one-bedroom flats fitted out with all essentials for Parisian comfort, including fully equipped kitchens with appliances and crockery, microwave, TV and DVD.
Furnishings are elegant and comfortable, the luxurious bonus being high-thread-count bed linen. There is nothing like living the Parisian life in comfort.
For information on Le Gourmand de Mouffetard or Maubert, go to www.parisgourmandapartments.com.
Feedback and comments are welcome at [email protected]