Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Paris - pouting schoolgirls

Paris smells of dark coffee, pouting schoolgirls, Magic Noire and tobacco.

Its sounds range from Piaff and Ravel to Algerian souks and speeding metros.

It comprises leafy faubourgs, boulevards sided by Belle Epoque buildings, and grim housing estates from which emerge young Parisians with that certain je ne sais quoi.

An Irishman, after quite a bit of Chateau Neuf du Pape, exclaimed, "The Parisians are not fat brain-washed philistines like some people across the Atlantic and they are not beer swilling louts like many people across La Manche. The Parisians are chic."

Well, Parisians are mainly chic.

And Paris is only three days journey from Scotland by Virgin Rail.

Where to STAY.

You may be on a package tour, in which case you won't need to read this.

For the independent traveller- Well, I have a flat near the Jardin du Luxembourg.

But may I suggest a hotel called RAPHAEL, 17 Avenue Kleber, in the 16th arrondissement. This hotel, being quiet and away from the centre, attracts French celebrities, and its decor is beautifully decadent. Expect to pay about the same as at the Ritz.

AGORA, 7 Rue de la Cossonerie, is a very cheap but clean hotel near Metro Les Halles, and the Pompidou Centre.

To be honest, a package tour would be simpler?

Where to EAT.

Some tourist restaurants in Paris are awful. You don't need to be told to look for the places full of 'locals'.

You might like to try the following:

At 22 Rue du Grenier-Saint-Lazare, near the Pompidou Centre, is AMBASSADE D'AUVERGNE (metro Rambuteau) which serves tres bon lentil cassoulet and potee auvergnate, a casserole of pork, sausages, and vegetables. Reasonable prices and the chef is French.

PERRAUDIN, 157 Rue St Jacques (RER line B Luxembourg) has low prices and excellent beef bourguignon and apple tart.

What to SEE.

If it's your first visit, then everything will be interesting and you'll love the Eiffel Tour, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysee, Musee D'Orsay (Cezanne, Monet, Renoir), Sacre Coeur (my favourite) and the funny loo in your hotel.

If you're lucky, the maid who cleans your hotel room will be wearing one of those somewhat revealing maid's outfits. Check that's she's not Brazilian and male.

Here are some ideas for the second time visitor:

The MOSQUE at Place du Puits-de-l'Ermite (Metro Monge) reminds us that France once ruled a huge empire including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.(Avoid Fridays and lunchtime: as it's closed then). This is the place to sample some fine Moorish-Spanish architecture, turkish baths, and mint tea and tasty pastries in the cafe.

PALAIS DE L'UNESCO, 7 Place de Fontenoy, (Metro Segur) is a moving and wonderful example of mid-20th century architecture. Think of dark wood and Japanese gardens. (Open Monday-Friday). Look for the art work by Miro and the zen garden.

SAINTE-CHAPELLE, 4 Boulevard du Palais, (Metro Cite) is a 13th century chapel within the Palais de Justice. It has the world's most stunning stained glass windows. Try getting them on film.

POMPIDOU CENTRE / BEAUBOURG (Metro Chatelet) (closed Tuesdays) looks like a beautiful multi-coloured oil refinery and inside there is lots of contemporary art. Wonderfully exciting.

MAISON DE VICTOR HUGO, 6 Place des Vosges (Metro Bastille). This is where Victor wrote bits of Les Miserables. I loved the furniture.

French films are the best in the world. Go to the CINEMA. Try CINEMATHEQUE FRANCAISE, Musee du Cinema, Palais de Chaillot, Place du Trocadero (Metro Trocadero). This cinema shows classic films both French and non-French.

The terrace of the Palais de Chaillot is a great place for taking photos of the Eiffel Tower.

JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG (RER line B Luxembourg) has a gorgeous pond (for sailing little boats) and the stunning Palais du Luxembourg (home of the Senate). You can roller skate, take a donkey ride, play boules or kiss someone under the plane trees.

JARDIN D'ACCLIMATION, Bois de Boulogne (Metro Les Sablons) has merry-go-rounds and an open air circus. Suited to little people.

Where to SHOP.

For teenage girls, try Agnes B Lolita, 3 Rue du Jour. (Metro Les Halles)

Lolita Lempicka, 3 bis Rue des rosiers (Metro St Paul) has classic clothes for the super rich elderly lolita.

Pierre Cardin espace boutique is at 59 Rue du faubourg Saint-Honore (Metro Madeleine). Some good ready to wear clothes for men and women.

Forum des Halles, (Metro Les Halles) is a shopping mall that is a maze of tunnels. Take a look at Videotheque where you can choose a video and watch it all there and then.

Second hand clothes can be found at the open air MARCHE DE LA PLACE DE JOINVILLE (Metro Crimee) (Open Thursday and Sunday 7.00-13.30). A fantastic place to brouse and take photos of people.

MARCHE AUX PUCES PORTE DE MONTREUIL (Metro Montreuil) (Saturday, Sunday, Monday 6.30-13.00) is another superb place to find old clothes.

MARCHE AUX PUCES PORTE DE SAINT-0UEN (Metro Porte de Saint Ouen) (Saturday, Sunday, Monday 7.30-19.00) is for antiques, vintage clothes, and all sorts of jumble and junk. Wonderful.



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