Paris, a name to conjure with. What does it conjure up for you? For me definitely champagne, fromage, baguette and patisserie. But of course Paris is so much more than that.

My fourth visit to Paris

For my fourth visit to Paris (and my third with Rowan) we combined some very local experiences in the 11eme with some more touristy experiences. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle after 8 pm on a Thursday night after our long flight from Singapore. Knowing we would feel ragged on arrival we had booked our transfer with Paris Shuttle, and we were so pleased we had done so. After long queues for immigration and then a wait for our luggage, it was a relief to walk out and see our names on a sign. By the time we arrived at our apartment in the 11eme it was after 11 pm, but there is no way we could go to sleep without a glass of Champagne. Fortunately, there is a great bar on the corner of our street so we hastened up there and toasted our arrival. A few nights later we were given an education in Pastis by the owner/manager of the bar, who introduced us to a much more herbal (and alcoholic) version than we had seen before.

A lesson in Pastis at Dans La Foulee, 11eme, Paris
A lesson in Pastis at Dans La Foulee

About now you might want to make yourself a coffee or pour a glass of wine, this is a long post 😉

At home in the 11eme in Paris

This is the second time we have stayed in this area and we greatly enjoy it. Having said that, it may or may not be for you. The Menilmontant area and those surrounding it, Oberkampf and Parmentier, are rapidly changing and gentrifying but they are definitely not touristy, and I guess that’s why we like it. We enjoy feeling less like a tourist and more like a local (even though they all know we are not).

Stocking up at local markets at Menilmontant
Stocking up at local markets at Menilmontant

Our first day started with a visit to the local markets, just a hop skip and a jump from the apartment. We stocked up on cheese, fruit, some fresh fish, pate etc. and then headed to the boulangerie for baguette and croissant. It was time for breakfast.

We have previously enjoyed a delicious meal at Le Diamant de Paris (a five minute walk from the apartment) and we returned (twice). We also took advantage of the emerging food scene in the area including breakfast at The Beans on Fire. Finally good coffee in Paris!

Pate de foie canard at Le Diamant de Paris
Pate de foie canard at Le Diamant de Paris
Salted caramel macaron at Le Diamant de Paris
Salted caramel macaron at Le Diamant de Paris
Le petit dejeuner at Beans on Fire, 11eme, Paris
Le petit dejeuner at The Beans on Fire

Our second day dawned sunny so we took the opportunity to walk along La Promenade Plantee or Coulée verte René-Dumont. This 4.5 km walk is partially above the streets of Paris and a lovely green walk (or cycle or run) for the most part. It is built on the site of an unused railway line and covers an area from Opera Bastille to Bois de Vincennes. A great way to get some exercise and see some more of Paris at your own pace.

La Promenade Plantee or Coulée verte René-Dumont
La Promenade Plantee or Coulée verte René-Dumont

Famous Paris sights – Musee d’Orsay, Tour Eiffel and L’Orangerie

Prior to leaving Australia we pre-booked tickets to the Musee d’Orsay and L’Orangerie (combined) and to the top of the Eiffel Tower. This was such a good decision as it gave us priority entry on arrival at each place. Having later seen the long queues on a rainy afternoon outside Musee d’Orsay we felt very pleased with ourselves.

Whistler at Musee d'Orsay
Whistler at Musee d’Orsay

I barely know where to begin with describing our experience at Musee d’Orsay. Having studied Art History for four years I was delightfully overwhelmed to be in the presence of so many of the great Impressionists; Degas, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Renoir… My eyes filled with tears of joy as I walked around seeing one famous piece after another. Let me add that you don’t need to have studied art history to feel that way; Rowan too was blown away. We only scratched the surface of this Gallery and would definitely return. We also had lunch in the restaurant there and would recommend your doing so. A magnificent room with good food and professional and fun service.

Terrine de lapin at Restaurant Musee d'Orsay, Paris
Terrine de lapin at Restaurant Musee d’Orsay

L’Orangerie

On initial entry to L’Orangerie and viewing the enormous Monet waterlilies ‘Les Nymphéas’ I felt a little let down to be honest. We have been to Monet’s house and garden and that was a wonderful experience, so seeing these huge works was great, but it was when we went downstairs to the other exhibits that I was again delighted. Rousseau, Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Gauguin, Modigliani … they were all there. Again delightful overwhelm and a sense of great privilege.

Cezanne at L'Orangerie, Paris
Cezanne at L’Orangerie
Picasso at L'Orangerie, Paris
Picasso at L’Orangerie

The Eiffel Tower

On our last visit to Paris we had booked to have dinner at the Eiffel Tower but did not get to do so. We arrived drenched from a heavy rainstorm to find that the Tower was closed due to a security alert.

This time we booked tickets to travel to the top during daylight hours and were so glad we persevered. It was incredibly windy but sunny and even though I was carrying a sprained ankle this was worth any twinge I might have felt. You have to be ‘inside’ the Tower to fully appreciate the scale and how amazing a piece of construction it is.

Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower

Do be aware that security is tight and you will pass through two security checks so that all takes time. Also you will queue for the lifts even though your pre-purchased ticket will have a time allocation. Patience is essential but it will definitely be worthwhile.

Feeling safe in Paris and being in the company of Parisians

I have some feelings about Paris that I feel I must share with you. We felt totally safe there every minute of our stay. It was a salutary moment when we walked by the Bataclan Theatre and yes there is a huge police and military presence, but we used the Metro daily without fear and were heartened by the increased security at the Eiffel Tower and the museums.

The Bataclan Theatre, Paris
The Bataclan Theatre

In case you have any residual feelings that the Parisians are rude, I could not disagree more. Over and over we have found them polite, and patient with our attempts to speak French. We have felt welcomed by everyone around us, including in our local area where there are few tourists.

Finally, Paris does not have to be expensive. We have self catered and eaten a delicious breakfast in our apartment most mornings; Rowan having kindly headed out for fresh baguette and croissant, and we have eaten from the menu formule when out for lunch. The fresh food at the local markets is much less expensive that we find in Australia and better quality too. We did note that food was more expensive in Montmartre, but even so, not outrageous. Of course the Metro is an inexpensive way to navigate the City and walking is also a great option. Don’t assume you need a huge budget to enjoy Paris.

Tarte au framboise from Paris patisserie
Tarte au framboise from our local boulangerie/patisserie

If I have encouraged you to visit Paris and you would like more tips on the City pop over and read our post from two years ago.

So over to you. Have you been to Paris or is it on your bucket list? If you have been there what was your favourite experience? What should I put on my list for next time?