If you’re really lucky in life, you will get to visit great destinations in the world more than once. But, how do you retain the magic that you felt on that first trip? Years ago when I lived in Berlin I had a friend who visited the same small art museum several times each year. I asked her how she always came back with fresh eyes. Her answer was simple, she focused on something different on each visit. One time it might be the hair, the next time the jewelry.
So this summer when I returned to Paris I chose to keep the tradition of having a Crouque Monsieur Sandwich at a sidewalk cafe, but also doing things I had never done before. With search engines such as Google and Trip Advisor this was very easy to accomplish. I quickly found new places to explore and even wished I had more time.
New Place #1 – Shakespeare and Company
On any trip to Paris it is hard to miss the Bouquinistes booksellers selling books and magazines out of large green wooden boxes near Notre-Dame on the Left Bank. As the story goes, a boat full of books was sinking into the Seine River during the Middle-Ages. The sailors on board grabbed what they could and sold the books to Parisians along the Left Bank. Viola, a Paris tradition was born.
But if you are looking for an English book, then head for Shakespeare & Company located a block away on the Rue St. Julien le Pauvre. It seams like everyone in the world knows about this small English bookstore, but it has avoided my knowledge until now. The store was opened in 1951 by the American George Whitman. The original name was Le Mistral, but George renamed it on William Shakespeare’s 400th birthday. He renamed it after Syliva Beach’s former Paris bookstore which was frequented by famous American authors such as Hemingway, Joyce and Fitzgerald.
The store is a bibliophile’s paradise. The words charming, cute, rustic, old, squeaky, crowded, mysterious all came to my mind when I entered through the green doorway. It feels more like someone’s home than a bookstore. WARNING: if you love books, you might have trouble leaving. The store left me with one thought as I walked out the door, “I wonder where the other great bookstores in the world might be?” Time to do a Google search.
New Place #2 – The Rue Mouffetard Market
Like many women, I love to shop and want a bargain, but please no crowds. In London I love the Portobello Road Market, and I wanted to find something similar in Paris. With a quick search on Sunday morning I discovered the Rue Mouffetard Market in the Latin Quarter. If Ernest Hemmingway could mention the street in A Moveable Feast, then it was worth my time.
The market is advertised as a place to meet, eat, drink, shop, sing and dance. It holds true to this promise. You can wander down the cobblestone Rue Mouffetard gazing in the old shops while you enjoy some fresh fruit, one of the 200 varieties of cheese or a pastry. The tourist crowds are far away allowing you to imagine what it might be like to live in this neighborhood. If you go on the weekend, bring along a dancer partner. At the southern end you can enjoy some lovely French accordion music as the locals dance and sing along. My Video: Sunday at the Rue Mouffetard Market.
New Place #3 – Sainte-Chapelle
As many Americans, I’m a fan of Rick Steves’ European travel books. I have found his advise to be usually helpful. I highly recommend downloading the free Rick Steves’smartphone app for the audio walking tours. I have found these walking tours to be both fun and extremely informative. The Paris walking tour took us to Sainte-Chapelle. I’m very puzzled on why we have never been here, but I’m so glad we stood in line for 30 min. to visit this exquisite cathedral. It was built by Louis IX, king of France, to be the home for Jesus’ Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross. You won’t find them at Sainte-Chapelle, but you will be surrounded by stunning stained glass windows.
New Experience #4 – The Top of the Eiffel Tower
Back in the early 1980’s I went to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, but never to the very top. The top floor is a nice way to put the city into perspective. I quickly realized why my feet were so tired from walking everywhere. I also enjoyed reading the facts posted at the top and seeing Gustave Eiffel’s restored office that he shared with his daughter. If this sounds like something you would like to do, BOOK EARLY (1-3 months) unless you like to wait in very long lines. Then if you have the time and your knees are willing, take the stairs down. There is also an Eiffel Tower app available to download.
Even though I’ve been to Paris many times, I hope this article lets you realize that you can return to any destination many times and always find something new. You can even embellish on your favorites. Remember the Croquet Monsieur traditional? A part of our time in Paris was spent tracking down restaurants known for this popular French sandwich.
So what will I find to do the next time I am in Paris? I already have my eye on taking a cooking class at Alain Ducasse Cooking School and for a summer trip a bike tour posted on Trip Advisor that goes around Versailles . Then at the top of the list, I really want to visit Monet’s Garden of Giverny. It is always nice to save a little for the next time.
Additional Articles on this subject:
I recently read an article in the NY Times Magazine about using Instagram and other apps that offer geolocation to help with finding new places to explore. I think this could also be helpful for telling you where the photographer stood to take that awesome picture of the Eiffel Tower. Check out the article Turning Instagram Into a Radically Unfiltered Travel Guide.