Is there nothing to do in Paris but eat, drink & look at art?
September 10, 2012 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Honeymooning in Paris, and trying to flesh out our plans (not to mention a wedding registry) with stuff other than restaurants & museums. Ideas?

I have... a friend... who's getting married this fall, and is planning a honeymoon in Paris, because why not. The plan is to rent an apartment for a month somewhere near the center of town where both of us can work on writing our books, and then spending the rest of the time going out & around, doing cool stuff.

We're putting together a registry through Honeyfund, and we're a little stuck. We're awash in restaurant recommendations (including some generous help from previous posts), and certainly Museums and the occasional bike tour are covered, but we feel like we're missing stuff. Aside from eating, drinking, people-watching, museuming and getting out of town every once in a while, what other cool or interesting things are there to do in Paris?

We are both lit nerds, but we really feel like we're open to anything.

We're not going until next May, so if we forget something dire there's no massive rush, but I feel like there's a blind spot in our preparations. Also, you know, the registry. People are asking. Ideas?
posted by chicobangs to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (25 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
There's a service that you can hire by the hour for a tour of Paris in an old, topless Citroen. It is recommended in the Rick Steves guidebook on Paris. We took it last year. The car (like a Volkswagen Beetle with the roof cut off) was driven by a smart, cool grad student who grew up in Paris. He told us what we were seeing as we passed. We went at night, so the lights were great. It was about $150, but it was worth it. Research this and call in advance to plan the tour you want. They pick you up and deliver you home.
posted by Jenna Brown at 10:46 AM on September 10, 2012

Best answer: How about a FranceRail pass. This way you can go out to some other places for a couple of days. For example, Dijon is adorable and a great place to spend a day or so.

I found that just walking around and being and doing is a nice occupation in Paris.

I like trolling the Monoprix.

Sewer tour

How about Disneyland Paris?

Cordon Bleu cooking class?

What do you like to do in the US? Is there a version of that you can do in Paris?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:49 AM on September 10, 2012

Response by poster: We live in New York, and, well, we like to eat, drink, write, wander around the city and look at art. In Paris, that will take up 80% of our time there, and we're fine with that. I just wanted to make sure there wasn't something we were missing, was all.

A sightseeing tour is a possibility, Jenna, though we've both been before (separately, a long time ago). If the trip is coming, and we feel underprepared, we'd totally call that guy up, as it sounds perfect. (I'll check Rick Steves out too.)

Cooking class is a great idea. (We're not really theme park people, but Disneyland might be fun for a change one day.)
posted by chicobangs at 11:01 AM on September 10, 2012

Best answer: The Promenade Plantée (which inspired the High Line park in Manhattan) is a nice place for a relaxing stroll. And as lit nerds you might enjoy browsing the bouqinistes' stalls along the Seine.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:08 AM on September 10, 2012

Best answer: I love Paris! On my next trip, I'd go on at least one Paris Walk, experience a hammam (the one at La Mosquée de Paris is the most well-known but gender segregated), and explore Les Puces. If I was brave (and, um knew how to drive one) I would also want to zoom around on a Vespa!

Also, if there is any interest in French cosmetics/ skincare products/ general poking around a foreign drugstore, you must visit City-Pharma which is pretty much drugstore mecca. Bonus it is just a few blocks away from Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots if you happened to be in the neighbourhood, getting your literary-café jaunt on.
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:22 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My wife and I had our delayed honeymoon in Paris last year, where we rented an apartment for two weeks. One of the highlights of our trip was a walking tour with Paris Greeters. It's a free service (donations accepted) offered only to visitors to Paris, where a local volunteer will give you a tour of a specific neighborhood of your choosing. It was a great way for us to see a little more of the area we were renting in through the eyes of a local. You can even choose the topics you're most interested in (e.g., history, architecture, etc.). I've been to Paris several times before and I still learned all sorts of new things. I highly recommend it!

Also, if you go out to Versailles, absolutely, without question, rent an electric golf cart to toodle around in. The rental booth is just past the main entrance to the grounds, off to the left. We went on a dry, hot day and were seriously considering leaving until we rented the golf cart. Day saved! We pretended to be aristocracy and waved to the peasants as we passed.
posted by ga$money at 11:25 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: OH. Also since it's for your honeymoon, you should also get an engraved padlock to attach to Pont des Arts or Pont de l’Archevêché! It would probably be easiest to purchase and engrave a lock to take to Paris instead of finding a local locksmith.
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:34 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

Kind of related to the (awesome!) sewer tour, have you toured the Catacombs of Paris? You could probably consider them to be a museum, but it's definitely a change from the art-art-look some art! slog the Louvre and Pompidou can seem like.

Also, don't forget some of the less big-name museums -- like the French National Library or the Musee de Cluny or the Musée de la Monnaie. Or maybe those are big names to most people? I mostly mean don't forget museums that don't just have art. They're pretty cool!
posted by itsamermaid at 11:40 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Last trip we did a dinner cruise. I know it sounds horrid, and I was fully expecting it to be horrid, but it ended up being a highlight for us. I found it quite romantic at night.

@kitkatcathy A padlock for les ponts is a great idea. Remember to ceremonially throw the key into the Seine after you lock it!
posted by acheekymonkey at 11:44 AM on September 10, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, the padlocks! See, I knew I'd forget something awesome and crucial. We'd have gotten there, seen them on the bridge, and thought, ahhhh, crap.

Sewers and catacombs are definitely on the to-do list (as are Deux Magots & the Mosquée Hammam), and we have a list of niche museums as long as... something that is very long.

Golf cart at Versailles! Of course! See, I'd pretend I was Rodney Dangerfield, but MMMV.

So far, these are fantastic ideas. I knew this was the right place to ask.
posted by chicobangs at 12:02 PM on September 10, 2012

Get a velib pass for the whole month - the bikes make everything so much easier.

Also, yes, get out in to the country for a couple of days here or there - rental car / hotel for a trip to the Loire Valley or Fontainbleau (those are the two I just did and loved) or farther afield. I liked the chateau at Fontainbleau even better than Versailles, maybe because it didn't feel like you needed a golf cart to traverse it (and it was still Grand).
posted by ldthomps at 12:47 PM on September 10, 2012

Best answer: When we're over there, I'd really like to take a tour from Black Paris Tours - covers a lot of sites in Paris that are important in African-American history, and ends up with a dinner in an African immigrant district of Paris.
posted by matildaben at 12:53 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Monet's house and gardens in Giverny are breathtaking. A one hour trip outside of Paris.
posted by kdern at 12:57 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't miss market day(s) in the neighborhood for the freshest food, incredible cheese, cheap wine and even clothes and crafts. It's fun even if you're not buying.

There are some really fine flea markets. The famous one is Pusces, but it's a bit of a hike from central Paris. I like Vanves.

I also like Rue Moufffetard, mainly for people-watching.

Also, it's really important to have a cafe. Pick one in your neighborhood and make it your own for your entire stay - you'll make friends and you've always got a meeting place.

Music is huge in Paris. There's lots of jazz. There's something really cool about going to a concert in a foreign country, possibly because even if you don't understand the language, the music is universal.

Those Versailles golf carts sound cool - the grounds are spectacular. I rode my bike there (it's a bit of a hike from the city, but it's quite safe and the route goes through parks).
posted by sixpack at 12:58 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Les Puces
posted by cacofonie at 1:17 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've never been to Paris, and while I definitely go for musea, historic sites and so on, I also like visiting a city's Parks. I used to watch a French Language series called "French in Action" and everyone in that hung out in the Jardin de Luxembourg, so I'd like visit there. And there's some park I haven't identified in the 14th Arondissement, from the movie "Paris Je T'aime" in which a narrating character played wonderfully by Margo Martindale experiences her trip's climactic moment.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:33 PM on September 10, 2012

Best answer: Sunburnt - I think that might be Parc Montsouris. Beautiful spot. 14th is my favorite.
posted by sixpack at 1:51 PM on September 10, 2012

Regarding the padlocks on the bridges, there is usually someone nearby selling small ones for €5 so don't worry if you forget. They'll let you borrow a permanent marker to sign the lock. It's still a lot of fun.

Something else that looked interesting on our last visit but never had a chance to try was a service that pairs you up with a local family for dinner.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:48 PM on September 10, 2012

I'm sure it's on your list already, being lit nerds and all, but don't forget to stop by Shakespeare & Co (even though Woody Allen kind of ruined it for me.) Avoid the retail area, and get thee to the reading library upstairs. Absolutely darling (if a little trite and over-fetishized).
For extra nerd points, recreate a day from Hem's "Moveable Feast" while you're on the Left Bank. If nothing else, it'll provide you both with an excuse to drink too much in the middle of the afternoon, then write terse, repetitive sentences all evening....

(I went through a modernist phase. I'm over it now.)
posted by Dorinda at 4:16 PM on September 10, 2012

Seconding the bikes--a super fun way to cruise around the city.

There's a street in the Belleville neighborhood that's all graffiti and found-object art that's well worth seeking out.

Taking a side trip down to Chartres Cathedral is so worth your time. It's in the middle of a lengthy restoration and it's absolutely dazzling.
posted by padraigin at 7:02 PM on September 10, 2012

Best answer: The Catacombs open at 10am. Get there at 9 for minimum waiting. Seriously. I went this summer, arrived at 9:30 and entered at 11:30. Don't even bother arriving after noon. You should also take a jacket, because the temperature is constant all year round at about 14C/57F. And a light, especially if you plan on taking pictures, as flash is forbidden in the ossuary.

This year I also visited the Sewer Museum. Really interesting, but you have to be careful not to touch the walls, not to eat or drink, and to wash your hands thoroughly before leaving.

Another great way to discover Paris is a cruise. The one I did this summer started in La Villette, along Canal Saint-Martin, then on the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay.
posted by snakeling at 2:47 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: Bird market! (Sundays through 6 or 7pm, takes the place of the flower market that runs there the rest of the week (Place Louis Lepine, I believe))
posted by genug at 8:04 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: My SO and I went last year, and we initially thought the Eiffel Tower would be a bit naff and touristy. We went up at sunset and I am SO glad we did - the view of the city as the lights came on was really beautiful. Just thought I'd mention this in case it seemed too obvious a thing to do.

Montmartre is probably another obvious one, but it's so pretty to wander round. And Pere-LaChaise and the other large cemeteries are really interesting to have a look around - we saw Serge Gainsbourg and Jean Seberg's graves alongside a really cool surrealist monument at Montparnasse, Pere LaChaise has Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde. The other left-field thing I loved was the taxidermy museum Deyrolle, at which you can buy a stuffed dodo or giraffe if you have the money and the luggage space.

I'm going back in five weeks (woo!) with a friend of mine who's a huge beauty fiend, and we plan to visit some of the perfume house stores - Serge Lutens, Guerlain, Annick Goutal, maybe JAR - to sample things we can't get at home (and then not buy them because both of us are saving up). If you or your SO is into scent, or just wants to look at a lovely bottle of Shalimar on the dressing table and be reminded of Paris, it's a good place to go. I mention this because if you are lit nerds, you should read Perfume before you visit.
posted by mippy at 8:11 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Re: The lock thing. Read this article about how Parisians feel about the custom before deciding to do it.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:42 AM on September 11, 2012

Best answer: If you're a Julia Child fan, you can find her old apartment where she and her two friends Lisette Bertholle and Simone Beck cooked and baked like madwomen while composing "The Art of French Cooking." It's someone's apartment, so not a preserved museum or anything. So your value of this experience will vary with your fandom.

She lived at 81 Rue de L'Universite, 75007 Paris; it's in Les Invalides, in the 7th Arondissement, quite close (a nice walk it appears) to La Place de la Concorde; her husband worked as an artist for the US State Dept. making propaganda, and he worked at the US Embassy which is across the Seine and La Concorde, so he biked/walked to work.

Also, I recall a song from French class in high school that claims that "Il y a tout que vous voulez au Champs-Elysées!" "There is verything you want on the Champs-Elysées!" It connects La Concorde with L'Arc de Triomphe and is some of the most premium real-estate on the planet. Next time you capture and/or liberate Paris, you must be sure to march your armies down the Champs-Elysées, for all the cameras!
posted by Sunburnt at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2012

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