Melanmag.com contributor Khadija Sanusi gives us the low down on the real gems of Paris.
A friend of mine came to Paris a couple of weekends ago. He was attending a work-related event on a Sunday so he’d arrived on Saturday evening and by Monday, he was out of the city. It was a short rendez-vous, but the only thing he was interested in seeing was the Eiffel tower. “It’s romantic,” he said. It was around 9 or 10pm and the tower had lit up gold, like it does every single night. This is a sight I’d become accustomed to and don’t find – even slightly – romantic (anymore). “You know what the Parisians find romantic?” I asked (of course he didn’t), “walking by the Seine – the river – at night.”
It occurred to me, then, how local I’d become, looking at my friend romanticizing the idea of standing beneath a steeple. Many people come to Paris to do the conventional things – climb up the tower (I live here and I still haven’t done that), go to Notre-Dame, Versailles (so many mirrors!), Musée du Louvre, etc. It is so easy to spot a tourist in Paris – there’s always that American teenage girl you can hear from across the street, talking on the phone, “Oh my God! I’m literally dying right now.”
But no one likes being the tourist, so here’s a list of my favourite things to enjoy in the city.
I always tell people, “I know where to get the best Macaroons in Paris” and Pierre Hermé never disappoints. You can buy pieces of Macaroons or you can buy them in boxes (a box of seven is 18 Euros). Also, the servers also speak English. On Champs-Élysées, there’s a building called “Publicis.” It sits across the Metro stations Charles de Gaulle Étoile, sortie (exit) one. You can take the Metro lines 1, 2, 6 and the RER A train to get to the station.
Shakespeare and Company
Sometimes, you are just homesick or you want to curl up in a blanket on a rainy day, reading a good book. Shakespeare and Company provides a variety of books by Anglophone authors. Apart from Librairie Galignani and (perhaps) WH Smith on rue de Rivoli, Shakespeare and Company is the only place in Paris that you can be sure to find good books in English. It’s situated at 37, rue de la Bûcherie; very close to the Latin Quarter and Cathédrale Notre-Dame as well. The nearest Metro stations to it are “Cluny – La Sorbonne”(Line 10, RER B and C) and “Métro Saint Germain des Près” (Line 4) and “Saint-Michel” (Line 4, RER B and C).
Musicians have no boundaries in Paris. Some gather a large group of people on streets (very popular on Champs-Élysées) and others, at the Metro stations. Some even get on the trains with you and start making music with instruments you’ve never seen and singing too. Take a second to drop a coin or two into the cups/mugs/bags provided and enjoy the show. And if you know any record producers looking for someone to sign, be sure to direct them to Paris!
I used to live on the 15th arrondissement of Paris. The Metro stations closest to me were La Motte-Piquet Grenelle (lines 6, 8, 10) and Dupleix (line 6), both of them over ground. And every Wednesday and Sunday (8am-2pm) a little marché opens up between the two stations. You can find anything from fish to belts to coats, shirts and even underwear at the cheapest prices. And since it’s Paris (and almost every shop is closed on Sundays), you will enjoy spending a Sunday afternoon there – you never know what you might find!
Flame de la Liberté
I promised not to write about conventional things (and I wont), but this sight is underrated. A lot of people come to Paris to visit Pont des Arts (the padlock bridge); they are often unaware that the padlocks have been removed. In different areas of Paris, you can find places to ‘lock” your secrets, love, etc. Flame de le Liberté is one of such places. It is a replica of the flame carried by the Statue of Liberty, New York. (Fun fact: the Statue of Liberty in New York was a gift from France and it has another- though smaller – version of it). You can find the flame after crossing the bridge Pont de l’Alma to the 8th arrondissement of Paris. Between the bridge and the Alma Marceau Metro station (line 9) is “Place de l’Alma” and the Flame is situated there. The flame is also situated above the tunnel in which Princess Diana died (many take the opportunity to write an obituary for her).
I don’t know about you, but I calculate my distances in time, rather than distance. If you tell me I have to walk for 15km to reach a certain destination, I’d have no idea what you’re talking about. But, in France, they measure with distance and calculate using the “Point Zero.” Point Zero’s been calculated to be the Center of Paris; it is the place by which French people measure all distances. It can be found in front of Cathédrale Notre-Dame, but it’s very easy to miss too (I found it on my fourth visit). If by chance you see a group of people in a small circle in front of the Cathédrale, that’s usually it.
You’ll notice after a couple of days (or hours) that Parisians cannot function without coffee. Sure Paris is known for it’s Chocolat Chaud (hot chocolate), but with the way Parisians consume coffee, you’d think only visitors order hot chocolate. There are Starbucks coffee shops all over the city (but they are always crowded). If you’re meeting a friend for coffee (and want to relax with a piece of cake or a quiche) in a calm environment, Kozy – I’ve found – is the best. It even has fast Wi-Fi and their staff speak English (which – in Paris – is equivalent to a miracle). Kozy is at 79, Avenue Bosquet in the 7th arrondissement; Metro École Militaire (line 8).
Au chat Noir
Yes, this is a bar, but hear me out first. Every Monday, in the basement of this bar in the 11th arrondissement, writers (some half-drunken) gather and share their work. Sometimes, people play instruments or sing, but poets are most popular here. They share their work in English and French and you can share yours, too (if you sign up at 8). The spoken word event takes place every Monday night at 8:30 at Au Chat Noir (76, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud). Nearest Metro: Parmentier (line 3).
You can’t come to Paris and not eat Baguettes and Cheese; it’s unheard of. But sometimes, I just miss home food and want to eat something familiar. The best solution for an African craving is African Kitchen. It’s at 92, rue Saint-Maur in the 11th arrondissement.
Rue de Grenelle
While walking down this street in the 7th arrondissement, many people have testified to hearing a piano playing. There’s a pianist who lives on the street and plays for the whole neighbourhood at no specific time. Have a wander down and you may get to catch his free concert!
Pierre Hermé – foodtravelist.com
Shakespeare & Company – wikipedia.com
Marché – yelp.fr
Flame de la Liberté – www.123rf.com – Article Image; Featured Inage – Reymon de Real
Point Zero – atlasobscura.com
Kozy – yelp.com
Au Chat Noir – parasiticide.com
African Kitchen – @africankitchenparis – Instagram
Free Concerts – youtube.com