“The Centre for Lost Objects” – A room at Comptoire Generale
So since a few friends are coming over here these next few weeks, I’ve done a little bit of thinking about places that I’d love them to visit. Taking out all the main and very obvious attractions (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay – they’re a given) I think there’s a lot more to getting a “Parisian insight” than seeing the touristy hotspots. So that’s why I’m doing this post. Instead of mind-mapping the places I love and hoping I’ll remember it all, I’ve made a list here instead!
QUIRKY THINGS TO DO IN PARIS:
Peppermint tea – the speciality of La Mosquee
La Mosquee (The Mosque) cafe, (5eme arondisemment): There is the loveliest outdoor cafe attached to the Mosque in the 5eme right across from the Jardin des Plantes. It mainly serves peppermint tea so don’t go there if you’ve a craving for an Amerciano or anything, but the in the place is wonderful. It’s so tranquil and isn’t too touristy at all because I’m pretty sure that it’s a hidden gem of Paris and none of them really know about it. Our win and their loss. Birds fly in and all around the cafe, but it adds to the greenhouse feel of the place. It’s pretty cheap too, the tea is about two euro which is epic for Paris.
Comptoire Generale (10eme): This place is a cafe/restaurant during the day, epic alternative looking nightclub au soir. It’s not even remotely expensive either – you pay just a token donation at the door. It’s themed as a ghetto museum with rooms dedicated to different retro eras – there’s a 70s’esque hairdressers, a classroom/library, a beach hut, a living room and various other little areas. The drinks are quirky and a little outside the norm (It’s all randomly named beers, odd cocktails and juice concoctions). You have to queue for a while outside and you have to remain quiet until you get into the place as it’s hidden away in a residential part of Paris and the only way you really know it’s there is because there’s a security man positioned outside a random door doing crowd control. I’d love to know how many people just stumble across the place because they see people queuing and join in out of curiosity.
Comptoire Generale… again!
Le cafe des chats, (3eme): This is for cat lovers. It opened recently enough and bookings fill up quite fast, but it’s a pretty cool place to drop in for some pet-therapy over coffee. There’s strict rules about treatment of the felines in residence though – no stealing cats, no poisoning cats, no hitting or attacking cats…. But petting, cuddling, cooing over and playing with them is all cool.
Hot chocolate in Chez Angelina, Luxembourg Gardens (5eme): So the Luxembourg Gardens are quite obviously a favourite of mine given that they’re a stone stroke from my home. Although it’s a tourist hotspot, not everyone knows to go visit the cafe, Chez Angelina, and order a hot chocolate before leaving. Rookie mistake. Their hot chocolate is renowned all over Paris for being one of the most decadent and most luxurious cups you’ll get while in the city and, although a tad on the pricey side, it’s definitely worth every cent.
Shakespeare and Co, bookshop (Near Notre Dame, 6eme):
I love this bookshop. I visit this place on a weekly basis, if not more. I’ve dedicated an earlier post entirely to it’s brilliance, but if you’re not bothered getting the full review, I’ll summarise it for you: This is one of the oldest and quirkiest bookshops in Paris with locals who loved the place including Joyce and Hemingway. The history behind the shop is incredible, but then so is just randomly landing in for a nose about to the background music from a stranger on their “Please Play Me” piano. I don’t know a person yet who hasn’t loved the shop.
Vintage shopping in the Marais (3eme/4eme):For anyone and everyone who loves vintage clothes, there’s really only one place a person can go in Paris. The Marais. Although there’s a few more shops scattered around Paris (there’s some on Saint Germain if you want to do a quick stopover before tackling the big dog) this is essentially your vintage treasure trove. I can’t really pinpoint specific shops in the place that I’d insist on going to, instead I’d just say to get off the Metro at Saint Paul or near there and just start wandering around the little streets. You’ll find bookshops and clothes stores and all these lovely little caves of vintage treasure. Always take the winding staircases to their basements – that’s where the best finds are!
Spoken Word Poetry Evenings: Every Monday night in the Chat Noir (76 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11eme) English-speaking expats in Paris gather together in a little basement with benches, curtains and a make-shift stage and swap poetry, songs, thoughts, readings, ideas and the occasional jazz music. It’s gathered quite a following over the past few years and even publishes its own magazine. It’s great if you want to mingle with other English speakers or even just want a relaxing evening with wine and poetry.
Luxembourg Gardens…Visit Chez Angelina. That’s an order.
Eating Falafel in the Jewish Quarter (3eme/4eme): Okay I’m a foodie. Everyone knows it, personally I embrace it. And if you too are a foodie, then Paris won’t disappoint. Aside from all the wine, the cheese and the breads, Paris is also home to the most famous falafel houses in France and they’re right in the middle of the Jewish Quarter, in the Marais. So if you plan to go vintage shopping and get hungry (which is basically how I spend my Saturday afternoons) then don’t hesitate in grabbing falafel. You will have no regrets. None.
Wine by the Seine: This is pretty much weather dependent, but now that we’re heading into the Spring time it’s not really much of an issue. When the sun is out in Paris, tourists flock to the gardens and Parisians flock to the Seine. Public drinking is perfectly fine and even actively encouraged, so grabbing a few bottles of wine and a picnic and heading down to the riverbanks is a must-do. My favourite spot is near the Notre-Dame cathedral just along the banks under the Lock Bridge. You get the best views of boats going by, couples placing locks and the absolutely stunning cathedral right in front of you. If you’re lucky you might find that a few musicians will have come down and play near your spot too – that’s when you know you’ve hit the Parisian jackpot.
La Nuit Blanche (all over Paris!): I’m not sure how often this happens, so you’re probably better off googling it. That said, early October/November Paris takes a night where it decides not to sleep. The musuems, the art galleries, all the main cultural hotspots – they stay open all night (or at the very least quite late). Drinking before partaking in cultural activities is yet again an encouraged practice and the more wine/less sleep you have the more interesting frolicking around the city with the rest of the locals becomes.
Fashion Week(s) (look out for the fashion house shows and times online): Chanel, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Vera Wang, D&G – they all come out for fashion week. Although a person has to be specifically invited to attend a show, you can still have a really interesting afternoon standing outside the venues and watching all the fashionable guests go by. If you’re clued in you can do quite a bit of celebrity spotting too.
Christmas Markets on the Champs-Élysées: I loved this. If you happen to be in Paris any time in December – January then you’ll love the markets! They’re little huts down the very end of Paris’ most expensive street and are filled with sugary treats, handmade crafts, soaps and all sorts really. You have to delve into the heart of the markets though as the outskirts are just glorified crepe vans and waffle stalls. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just skimming around the best parts!