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Paris Travel Tips

Travel advice collected from fellow bloggers & my trips to the City of Light. 
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17 Ideas for an Afternoon in Paris



Well, we're off tomorrow for the Lorraine and some much-needed French family TLC, and more importantly, some amazing home cooking.  It was really fantastic to receive so many suggestions for our 4-hour Paris stopover on our return trip. Many thanks to everyone who commented & it's going to be incredibly hard to decide what to do! Although most suggestions seem to revolve around food, so think we're all in fairly good company. Packing the stretchy-pants for sure.

Hope you'll enjoy reading all the fabulous tips for a quickie afternoon in glorious Paris and a special congrats to Corinne from Gourmantic who was chosen (thanks to random.org, phew) for the choco-kit. Enjoy & merci bien everyone!

17 Fabulous Suggestions for 4-hours in Paris

1. Jen S. 
Hmmm I would probably just spend the time walking along the Seine, and visiting everything along the way- finishing with the Eiffel Tower- and I would try and time it right so I could enjoy a bottle of champagne (with company of course) in the Parc du Champs de Mars while watching the Eiffel Tower light show at 11pm! 
Jennifer Stafford Events (site)

2. Stephanie 
I would take the metro to Saint Paul and meander my way through the Marais collecting french cheeses, a baguette, and maybe even a bottle of wine along my way to Place des Vosges where I would enjoy a picnic. Then on my way back to the metro (in time so as not to miss my train ;) ) I would stop off at a chocolaterie and pick out a few treats to savor with my last moments in Paris.
La Belle in France (site


3. Sion 
Sounds like you did the right thing - I think strolling through the Marais and heading to the Seine is a great way to spend just a few hours.

If you want another body of water, though, you could head to the Canal St Martin, pick a cafe along the way, or have Pink Flamingo - gourmet pizza - delivered to you on the canal for your own picnic! Follow it up to Point Ephemere to see if there's anything going on, then cross over to Canal de L'Ourcq. You'll see people playing petanque and can get drinks to go from Bar Ourcq. From there you can hit the beautiful Buttes Chaumont Park or the Villette. 
Paris Imperfect (site)  

4. Lindsey 
I would say head to Odéon/Saint Germain and walk down rue de Seine for window shopping, fantastic take-away speciality shops, cafés. After about 10 minutes you'll hit the Seine where you should stroll to the right and head toward Hôtel de Ville where there is always something going on - a show, a market, a concert - and even better, in proximity to St. Paul and the Marais where you can head to Schwart's Jewish deli for a delicious bite. 
Lost in Cheeseland (site

5. Anonymous
After a picnic in the place de Vosges (yes, I know it's a cliche, but what the heck), I'd walk down to the Seine and along the eastern end of the Ile St. Louis (I once rented an apartment at 15, quai de Bourbon for a vacation, and I think the highlight was opening the shutters every morning and taking in the view of the Seine and the Pont Marie. My God, it's beautiful). Then I'd get a glass of a lovely wine at the overpriced-but-who-cares terrace at the western tip of the island, by the bridge that connects it to the Ile de la Cite, and drink in the wine and the view at the same time. 

6. Libby 
I, too, would head to the Village St. Paul! Then wander up the Rue Vieille du Temple to a restaurant where I had the very best crepe (pears, chocolate...) in Paris! Can't remember the name right now...but I would know it by sight. Oh, fabulous! 
An Eye for Detail (site


7. Corinne 
Here’s a link to what I'd do in Paris in 5 hours.
http://www.gourmantic.com/2010/05/25/five-hours-in-paris/
I'd skip the Berthillon part just to make it 4 hours! :)
Gourmantic (site)

8. Tanya 
November, at night, and it's cold. After a quick dinner at the George V cafe (I'd have duck I think) on the Champs Elysees I'd warm up with a walk down the Champs Elysees and enjoy the Christmas market. At the end, I'd do the touristy thing and pay the exorbitant fee to ride the huge ferris wheel.
Tanya in Transition (site 

9. Shannon 
In winter I'd go to Musé d'Orsay, then get a mulled wine in the Tuleries Park, then mosey over to the theatre :)
Je Ne Sais Quoi, Paris (site

10. Françoise 
I would say the place to be when you have only four hours in Paris is right in the centre. Head for rue de Buci, in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, to sit at a nice café (or to visit some of the many fabulous chocolate shops nearby!) and enjoy the buzz. From there you can stroll along rue de Seine, rue Mazarine and rue Dauphine. The area is filled with small art galleries and interesting shops and just a short stroll from the Seine. 

Another idea is to pick one thing you've always wanted to see and just do that. For example, the Musée Jacquemart-André, on bd. Haussmann, may be a little out of the way, but four hours is certainly enough time and it is a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon.
Choco Paris (site



11. Sara Louise 
If it's nice and sunny out, I'd head to the Jardin de Tuileries, grab a cafe from the Paul kiosk and stroll around admiring the Louvre palace and then window shop all along the Place de la Concord before having a little lunch somewhere.
If it's raining, definitely Galleries Lafayette and maybe visit Degas Ballerina at Musee de Orsay. Nothing too exciting but if I only had four hours, I'd want to do my favorites :-)
Sara in Le Petit Village (site)

14. The Armchair Parisian 
A walk by Notre Dame on my way to St. Germain would be a must. Some window shopping, then a drink and a nice leisurely meal in a cafe followed by some serious people watching. (site)


13. Krista 
Oh, I know EXACTLY what I'd do, Tuula! :-) I'd take a taxi directly to Aux Crus de Bourgogne (http://www.restoaparis.com/fiche-restaurant-paris/aux-crus-de-bourgogne.html) for dinner and have their most fabulous Boeuf Bourguignon and delicious red wine, then pop into a patisserie, fill a bag with an assortment of macarons and take the nighttime riverboat cruise because I never tire of it. :-)
Rambling Tart (site)

14. Brenna 
I would definitely rent a Velib, and take a leisurely strole through the Marais, pick up a falafel at L'As du Falafel, and eat it in Place Vosges. Then I'd ride through the Louvre/Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg, because it never gets old. Finally, I'd drive to Rue Cler to pick up some essentials for the trip home (as well as maybe to stock up!). Paris, je t'aime :)
Fabuleux Destin de Breanna (site  
                                                            

15. Jerilyn
Since it's possible you'll get rain (I know, bad karma), but since it's possible--think about lunch in the gorgeous restaurant at the Musee Jacquemart-Andre (can't beat lunch under a Tiepolo ceiling--and the collection ain't bad! A wonderful way to pass a few hours. And if you have time left, you can walk down the boulevard Haussmann to the pl. de la Madeleine and have tea at the original Laduree. Just watch your knees--not much space.



16. Melissa
Ok, grab line 14 from Gare de Lyon, zoom to the Grand Magasins to see the Noël windows which are always fun! Then, if it's lunch time head around the Opera house over to L'Entreacte for a bite (it has a lovely view on the theater), or a café at the Café de la Paix on their grand terrace. Grab the bus or metro a few stops and go stroll in the Jardins du Palais Royal behind the Palais Royale and the Comédie française. Then you are right on line 1 that you can grab back to the Gare de Lyon, et voilà!
Prete Moi Paris (site
                                                                                    
17. Kathy 
Ok, this is a food, and even more so a pastry, lovers guide to 4 hours in Paris: I would walk up rue Mouffetard, stopping at the various food & wine shops to buy a picnic lunch with a stop at Carl Maletti for a few pastries, then walk over to the Jardin du Luxembourg to eat a romantic picnic lunch with the boyfriend. (If the weather didn't cooperate, I would go to Ze Kitchen Gallerie in the 6th.) From there, a walk to rue Bonaparte to pick up desserts for the train ride home with stops at Pierre Herme and La Duree. Take Line 10 from Mabillon or St. Germain to Severes Babylone and pick up a few more pastries at Hugo and Victor. From there a walk to and along the Seine, finding a seat along the banks to snack on a few of the pastries. Last stops would be at G. Detou for baking supplies (pistachio paste, baking size bars of Valrhona chocolate-especially gianduja and cocoa powder) and a stop at Librairie Gourmand to pick up the lastest pastry cookbooks (I've heard LaDuree now has a savory cookbook to accompany their sweet one). And finally, a mad dash to Gare Lyon. Have a wonderful time in Lorraine and with your four hours in Paris.
Food Lover's Odyssey (site





Lessons from Le Road, 8 Things I Learned in Paris

The lights, the action, the impossibly chic fashions (with impossibly chic people to match), Paris has something for everyone. And, if you're like me, that something includes sampling, tasting, and trying on just about everything that I can squeeze in (or into) during a four-day trip to le grand capital. Fresh back from fooding, finding budget ways to enjoy the city, and fighting the urge to spend a fortune at les soldes (the summer sales), I've gathered a few lessons & observations from my trip.

1.  Be open to Parisians, they might surprise you. 
Having had quite a few hit & miss experiences in Paris (ie. that old devil customer service), I returned to Paris ready to do battle with dismissive shop assistants & snooty waiters.  Instead, I found pleasant service and helpful people in shops, on the street, and in the even the (dreaded) Metro. Blame it on the flickers of August sunshine, or maybe we were simply enjoying a less crowded, more relaxed Paris, but no complaints from the customer service department here. 


2. You may want to skip the hotel buffet.
Even if those pain au chocolats look trés appealing, it's best not to overindulge in the Continental wonders of a hotel breakfast. Taking advantage of the hotel + free breakfast option is great for the budget, but more than likely you won't be able to resist the temptation to snatch up a few choice pastries at the wonderful boulangeries and patisseries around the city. Save a bit of space and spend the extra Euros; it's deliciously worth it.

3.  The weather really does change on a dime; plan accordingly.
Strappy shoes & strapless dresses, check. Shorts, skirts, and tank tops, check. Clouds and rain, check. Packing for Paris can be quite challenging. Like many gals, I had my fantasies of strolling along the Champs-Elysées in something à la Sex in le City, but my strapless dresses never saw the light of day. Bare shoulders can work for a quick evening out, but for treks around the city, toting around a light jacket and cotton scarf can help combat any sudden climate swings.

4. If you visit the gourmet section of  Galeries Lafayette bring a lot of money & sturdy shopping bags.
Being hit with every language from Italian to Japanese, you quickly come to realize what a foodie mecca the gourmet hall at Galeries Lafayette is, and if that doesn't convince you, then take a peak at the display cases overflowing with cheeses, meats, and every kind of sweet under the sun.  Did I mention there's also a sushi bar? Oh, and a prosciutto & wine bar? What about the three patisseries; one dedicated solely to macaroons?  The food selection is quite simply amazing, so prepare to pass a few hours (and spend beaucoup Euros) carting away everything from artisan jams & mustards to sea-salted caramels.  




5.  It's not a myth. Many restaurants & shops are closed in late July & August. 
It's all true folks.  I had already received the sad news that my favorite restaurant, Le Florimond, would be closed for our trip, so I wasn't surprised to find many shops closed on my first morning in Paris. Besides being a bit of an inconvenience, I actually enjoyed the lack of people in the streets; less fighting for space & more room for admiring all things Parisian. Be prepared to move around a bit if you have a must-see favorite; some shops, like A La Mere de Famille, will be open in other areas of the city.

 

6. Air-conditioning on the Metro would greatly improve the transportation experience.
Not a news flash by any means, but it can be really uncomfortable at peak traveling times, and with the summer crowds, that can literally be all day. Prepare for grumpy faces and bring a fan.

7.  The Tuileries Garden is a surprisingly nice place to have a picnic.
The Eiffel Tower seemed a clear choice for a budget gourmet spread, but an afternoon stroll through the Tuileries proved a perfect spot to set up foodie camp and watch the world (& about 1000 tourists) wander by. There's also a carnival set-up for the kids (or kids at heart).


8. It's difficult to do Paris on a budget.
Not impossible, mind you. I managed to do quite well with my gourmet sampling & neighborhood tours (to be highlighted in upcoming posts), but it becomes more difficult when you pass all those lovely specialty stores laden with pastries, chocolates, and enough gourmet goods to plunge any unsuspecting tourist into debt. Not to mention the need to avoid boutiques carrying anything labelled Chanel or Dior.  I stuck mainly to my budget but splurged on what, in my opinion, makes Paris one of the best cities in the world to visit: the exquisite food, and lots of it.