Today, we’re going back to Paris yet again for a few of my favorite “hidden” spots. We had plenty of time in the City of Lights to explore different corners. I’m not sure anything in Paris is left undiscovered by someone, but these were my off-the-beaten-path favorites.
1. Promenade Plantée. A 3-mile walk along an old elevated railway line, now a gorgeous garden amble. Opened in 1993, the park was the only elevated park in the world for awhile, but now cities like New York and Chicago are planning their own skinny garden paths. The promenade isn’t a must-see sight at all, but it is the liveable Paris full of joggers, strollers, families, and lovers. A nice break from the mini-Eiffel-Tower hawkers around the Louvre and said tower.
2. Finding St. Denis. I’m a huge nerd at heart, and when I learn something that I can apply later, I just love it. While in Notre Dame we learned that St. Denis, a Bishop of Paris, had his head chopped off. Not to be deterred, he picked it up and walked 10 km while preaching a sermon, thus contributing his name to streets, towns, churches and more. Whenever I saw a statue with its head cut off, I knew it was St. Denis. You can also do this with St. Sebastian and arrows in practically any medieval painting.
3. Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore. This is actually right on the beaten path, and listed in most guidebooks. There’s a reason the path is beaten, though. Shakespeare and Co. is an old bookstore that pays homage to an even older bookstore of the same name who saw the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. The store allows writers and poets to stay there in exchange for work, and you can see the cots and beds upstairs. Check out Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare and Co. by James Mercer for more of the story. The bookstore itself is a jumble of great titles and dusty tomes, an English paradise in a Francophone world.
Another great place for books are the booksellers along the Seine. Stored in little locked boxes at night, during the day they unleash their old beauties. On my first trip to Paris I was lucky enough to find an old copy of A Tale of Two Cities for 5 euros. I still haven’t read it. Shame on me.
4. Music Museum. This was more Jesse’s favorite than mine, but with an excellent free audio guide the musical exhibitions were actually pretty interesting. Covering the history of music from the 1600s to today, the displays show dozens of old instruments. Push the corresponding button on the audio guide and you can hear the actual instrument being played, like a harpsichord, something called an octabass, a beautiful Stradivarius violin, and the three-necked guitar below. Pretty cool, even for casual music lover like me.
I’ve already mentioned the bikes, the cheese, the macarons. There are so many other gems in Paris that even locals can’t find them all! It’s a little overwhelming for me, to be honest.
Have you been? What was your favorite?