One of the most pleasant ways to relax in Paris is to take a stroll along the banks of the Seine. It’s a busy, working river with a constant flow of craft of all descriptions. Ranging from the many tourist boats crammed with sightseers enjoying the unique perspective of the city’s great landmarks from the river, to serious, business-like barges riding low in the water, filled with anything from building site rubble to bales of shredded paper heading to the recycling depot, while others are piled high with freight. Many also have homey touches such as pot plants, plastic garden furniture, laundry fluttering in the breeze, and perhaps a small car and bicycles perched on the back deck. As well, there are other barges, tied up dockside, that are clearly used as floating homes. Aside from these though, there are a number of traditional barges, or péniches, that have been converted to quite different uses.
One of the great pleasures of a visit to Paris is spending time exploring the many wonderful food markets. You can take your pick from 69 open-air and 13 covered markets in the city, meaning that some arrondissements have more than one market. Everyone has their personal favourites, and we certainly have ours, but we also love to visit other markets in various parts of the city to see what’s on offer. Produce is always seasonal and high quality, and one of the fascinating things is to observe which vendors attract long queues while others are slower. Each market’s produce will usually reflect the profile of its neighbourhood, which means you can find the flavours of the West African community in the Marché Dejean in the 18th arr. or German smoked ham at Marché Saint-Martin in the 10th. So take plenty of cash, a big supply of re-usable shopping bags, and head off to discover some edible delights.
A description that’s often used to describe the Musée Marmottan Monet is that it’s a “hidden” gem. Rather, I’d say it’s perhaps more overlooked than hidden, given its location in the chic Passy neighbourhood in the 16th arr. on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, beside one of the loveliest parks in Paris. Famous for the world’s largest collection of works by Claude Monet, the museum also has works by other Impressionist painters such as Morisot, Degas, Manet, Sisley, Pissarro, Renoir, Gauguin and Signac as well as over 300 masterpieces from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and First Empire period.
When you think of châteaux in the Paris area, Versailles is likely the first that would spring to mind. For its sheer beauty, opulence and size, not to mention the wonderful gardens and parklands surrounding it, it’s no wonder that Versailles is one of the most visited destinations in the entire country. However, for those who have “been there, done that” and would like to explore another former royal residence in Paris, the enormous Château de Vincennes offers a most interesting contrast.
Paris has long been famous as a world capital of fashion and design, but it is also a city with a wealth of exciting design concept stores bursting with products unique to France. It’s a country and a society with a history of commitment to artisan craft skills, a deep appreciation of the handmade object, innovative use of natural materials and the creative expression of the individual artist or designer.