Oftentimes I receive a call from a friend or an acquaintance telling me that they are going to tour Europe and will be in Paris for two or three days. They mention the sights they plan on seeing (in two or three days) and ask me to review their itinerary. My reaction is usually, “wow!” (eyes nearly popping out of my head), “you’re planning to do all THIS in a couple of days? You’re crazy!”
Apologies to all first-timers, but you cannot expect to climb the Eiffel Tower, tour the Louvre AND see the Mona Lisa; climb atop Notre Dame’s towers, enter the bowels of the Catacombs, pretend you are Amélie skimming little rocks off the waters of the Canal St. Martin; sit on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur while enjoying the view of Paris, visit the Musée d’Orsay for more spectacular art and saunter the Champs- Elysées. And for the love of Pete, don’t tell me you are going to spend your well-earned money to see a Can-can show at the Moulin-Rouge! Oh… and you plan on doing a ton of shopping too? When will you have time to stop and enjoy a café crème or a long lunch or relaxing dinner?
Paris is a beautiful city. It’s better to take the visit slowly. Study the history of the buildings; be an explorer and walk through the many passages and alleys. Relax along the Seine on a spectacularly clear and sunny day. Allow Paris to discover you! Although I’m probably going against the grain of the experts, here are some suggestions to see on that short, first-time visit to the City of Light:
- Whether cabbing or taking the bus or train into city centre from Charles de Gaulle airport, take a few minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee from Le Comptoir. You may be tired, or anxious. These moments will allow you to regroup.
- You’ve arrived at your destination. Take a nap. Trust me, the coffee will have no effect on you if you’ve been flying overnight. If you try to see any of the sights when you’re tired, it’s just going to make you irritable—after all, you do want to enjoy Paris after dark. Set your alarm if you fear that you won’t wake up! Once rested, you will feel like a new person.
- Focus on one main sight. Be it the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame or the Pompidou Centre. Make that one attraction the highlight of your visit. You don’t want to spend a great deal of time during this visit waiting in line. There’s way too much to see.
- Visit Les Invalides. The home of Napoléon’s tomb, it is also an incredible and fascinating military museum. To this day, it remains one of my favourite places to visit when I’m in Paris – and I’m a pacifist!
- Musée Rodin. The gardens alone are worth visiting. Beautifully maintained grounds are serene and a nice respite when you want some quiet. The museum is sculptural heaven. An added bonus is the few salvaged sculptures of Camille Claudel.
- The National Museum of Natural History. Located in the Jardin des Plantes, this museum is filled with fossils, skeletons, and curiosities both interesting and creepy. However, the beauty of the gallery itself is a wonder. Wrought iron, wood, glass and the natural light filtering through make you wish buildings were still constructed in this manner. This museum is an absolute treat.
- Musée Delacroix. Situated in the sixth arrondissement and a bit off the beaten path, this museum was Eugène Delacroix’s home. Chock-full of Delacroix’s paintings and memorabilia, it’s a great way to spend a few hours of an afternoon – especially if the weather is rainy or cloudy and damp.
- The Ferris Wheel near the Louvre. On a clear day, this is the ride to take! Inexpensive, it lends itself to some of the best photo ops in the entire city. Got a zoom lens? You’ll get fabulous pics of the Sacré-Coeur! If the ferris wheel is up and in action, I highly recommend a ride and don’t forget your camera!
- Get a baguette and some cheese, stop at Nicolas for an inexpensive bottle of wine and enjoy a lunch by the Seine or at the Jardins du Luxembourg. Use your jacket as a bespoke blanket while you lie down and watch the clouds float by, read a book or write in your journal. Enjoy the moment!
- Take as many photos as you can. Seriously. The photos not only make great memories of the trip, but you can also have photos printed and framed as gifts for friends and family.
My list can go on and on. Quite frankly, after a dozen or so visits to Paris, I still haven’t seen or experienced everything I would like to do. But what I do see and experience, I take my time with and I enjoy every single second! Bonne chance and bon voyage!