Spring is not quite yet in the air, but the days are getting discernibly longer and, now that the holidays have passed (as well as the anxiety associated with them), thoughts of friends and family are turning towards ‘summer vacation’. Although it has been many, many years since any of us officially got an annual three-month break from hard work, as academics we all still plan according to that September-May calendar. Luckily for me, my new hometown tends to be a major stop on many European tours, and with my foldout couch, great location and knowledge of the metro system, I have become an essential pit stop for many friends along the way.
In the past few weeks I have heard from a number of friends and family (and family of friends) who are starting to tentatively plan to travel this way for their spring or summer vacation. Some, with Paris as their main destination, have been welcomed to share my space as their home base, taking the time to explore everything Paris has to offer in those warmer months. With others, I am just hoping to catch a coffee or dinner as they pass through the city on their way to more exotic locales. Lastly there is quite a large group of casual acquaintances who, knowing I have settled here, inquire about recommendations for what really must be visited, seen, eaten or done while visiting the City of Light.
I have developed a general tour I give first-time visitors – a long day’s walk, which can take us past most of the big sites with a few tasty bistros along the way. However, once this is finished and we sit, discussing the best and worst of our day over a delicious French meal, I am often at a loss of what to recommend for someone’s remaining time here. There is just too much. This city certainly suffers from an embarrassment of riches. Depending on the time of year one visits, beyond the innumerable museums, there are the open air concerts, the lush, endless gardens and – within a short drive of Paris – castles, cathedrals, forests and chateaus that deserve tours of their own.
So, I am turning to you. If you were to make a trip to Paris (or the general Île-de-France), what would you absolutely not miss? If you only had one or two days, what sites/activities would be on the must-see list, as opposed to those that would get shuted to the second tier of priorities?
Are there particular museums that you rave about?
This is a hard one for me, as I often get asked if I had time for one museum, which would it be? For me, it would have to be the Musée d’Orsay – the Louvre is beyond amazing – but I am often paralyzed by the enormity of it. The Orsay can be seen, inside and out, in a day and has such an amazing collection of pieces that I always leave in awe of the beauty some have the potential to create. Yet, I have also heard that nothing can compare to the water lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie, a picnic sitting next to “The Thinker”, or the entirety of the Centre Pompidou.
What about restaurants? Meals that were quintessentially Paris for you? Or places you have heard of or read about that, if here, you could not wait to try? Admittedly this request is purely selfish, but I’ll share all associated eating adventures with you!
Please share your thoughts, ideas, best-of(s) (and/or worsts). Not only will it help with those recommendations I need to give, but will also help me figure out what I am going to do with my weekends once spring really does arrive!