Paris is a great city to visit any time of year. It’s a city full of charm and beauty, full of delights. But it is, bien sûr, best in springtime. Think of Cole Porter’s enduring song I Love Paris in the Springtime from the film Can-Can. It has astounding architecture, richly endowed museums, chic boutiques, a huge amount of gastronomic excitements and is studded with hidden gardens.
You can do a lot in a weekend in Paris. A good way to start is to take a batteaux mouches, or riverboat, along the Seine and check out everything.
The city is divided into two Banks … either side of the River Seine.
The Left Bank has the Eiffel Tower, Luxembourg Gardens, the Pantheon in the heart of the Latin Quarter, d’Orsay Museum, Rodin Museum and Le Bon Marché. Shopaholics will go straight to Le Bon Marché, the world’s first department store … opened in 1852.
Across the other side of the river there’s the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysées, the Opera and stores like Printemps which opened in 1865. Here you will also find Galeries Lafayette which reign supreme in the Haussmann-Opera district, Les Halles and the old Marais district, ‘marais’ meaning ‘marshes’ and once the market garden area.
Then there are the two islands, Île de la Cité with Notre Dame and the elegant Île St Louis.
I chose to spend some of my time on my weekend in Paris in the Musée d’Orsay, a belle époque railway station built in 1898 and now a cavernous gallery full of some of the greatest paintings you can imagine. While the old station clock with giant hands ticks away, half a day can slip by.
Also on my list of things to do was to walk through the Tuileries Gardens, across the rue de Rivoli and up Castiglione to go into the Place
Vendôme and follow the Napoleonic victories celebrated on the column there. Constructed with 425 spiralling bas relief plates made out of cannons, it’s just like an elaborate comic book of battles.
I also set off north-east to take a cappuccino in the restored Canal St Martin district where life is buzzing and cool. It was either that or a cup of tea in one of the sublime salons de thé around the beautiful Place des Vosges (1606-12). Next time!
In the grand Bois de Boulogne to the west of the city is hidden the new Frank Gehry designed Louis Vuitton Museum. Built in glass like a ship on a high sea and perched on a cascade of water, it is a mad fantasy. To get there take the navette (minibus) (cost Euro 1) from Ave de Friedland and expect to rub your eyes in disbelief.
As the night draws in, head for Les Halles (metro line No 4), lively with late night bars and jazz clubs. Or be more brazen and go north, direction Montmartre, to the Boulevard de Clichy for the twirling neon sails of the Moulin Rouge above Pigalle for a bit of can-canning. Paris never sleeps. You can eat, drink and be merry throughout the night, just watching the world go by.
I only scratched the surface. Many more weekends are needed to see the Catacombs (at Denfert Rochereau) − underground ossuaries with the bones of six millions people in the ancient mines of Paris’ underground network − or watch the sun go down in Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the north-eastern 19th arrondissement with it’s lake temple and suspension bridge. Have lunch in Bistrot Littéraire Les Cascades, 82 Rue des Cascades in leafy Belleville, one of the last of the bohemian cafes, and visit the Musée des Arts et Métiers (industrial design) housed in the deserted priory of St Martin des Champs which contains items like Louis Bleriot’s XI plane and the first mechanical calculator.
By Marianne Gray
Eurostar operates a high-speed train service from
London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord
in just over two hours. Fares start from £34.50 one way in