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Haddon Hall - A Glorious Country Manor House

Visiting historic houses is one of my favorite things to do in England and Derbyshire is a county that  offers an  extraordinary triumvirate of sites; Hardwick's Elizabethan glamour, the palatial splendors of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall, described by Simon Jenkins as "the most perfect English house to survive from the Middle Ages."  The joy of a visit to Derbyshire is that in visiting all three you can see the English country house through a variety of lenses and periods. 
In his definitive tome, England's1000 Best Houses Jenkins goes on to say of Haddon, "It has none of Hardwick's promiscuity or Chatsworth's bombast. It has not changed because it never needed to change". 
Indeed the house has remains in the hands of the Manners family since 1563 and is currently occupied by the Duke of Rutland's brother and his family. As they say on the website it has avoided, " fire; warfare;  family misfortune and changing fashions" and as such provid…

Top Ten Recommendations for Paris

One of the reasons I started the blog was to  create a resource for friends who asked us for our travel recommendations, though at this stage I know its  gone beyond my friends. Now I'm coming to the end of talking about "Our Small Adventure" in Paris and I thought I'd share my top ten recommendations. So, here is  my  eclectic, and not at all comprehensive, advice for the City of Lights. These may be my top ten but they're in no particular order. 

I've added lots of links to additional information, photos and/or blog posts so click away.
1. Take Underground Paris' Street Art Tour - After four months in Paris this was our very favorite tour. Yes, I liked the Paris Walks' "Modern Architecture" tour and the walking tour of "Art Nouveau Architecture" in the Time Out walking tour book, but Underground Paris' Street Art Tour was just the most memorable. It was great, Demain (the Brit who led the tour) was so enthusiastic, knowledgable and engaged. We learnt a lot about graffiti, graph and street art. You'll go to great neighborhoods (the eleventh and the twentieth) which you might otherwise miss and learn something about the contemporary arts scene in Paris today. Highly recommended and a steal at 15 euros per person. We sent friends of our on it this summer and they loved it too. Because street art is constantly being replace or covered by new work this is a tour I'm looking forward to taking again. This tour has our highest recommendation. I must get around to a separate blogpost you won't believe the stuff we saw!

2. Get Up to Date Local Advice - Lots of people have been to Paris and may want to tell you about a great little place they found on their trip. Sounds fabulous - until you realize they were last there in 1995. Yes you need advice, but make sure it's up-to-date. Check out the Europe Forum on Fodors which is a great place for good advice. Blogs are an excellent way to go too, particularly for current restaurant recommendations. I used Le Fooding, Hungry for ParisParis by Mouth, Patricia Wells and the fabulous David Liebovitz.
3. Eat Well and Check Out La Fourchette - I've written lots of posts on food in Paris including reviews of some of our favorites including Le GaigneAlain MilliatInexpensive Eats in the Marais as well as a list and discussion of suggested restaurants to reserve through La Fourchette. La Fourchette is certainly something you'll want to know about. This is an online restaurant reservation service similar to Open Table. The difference is that it offers discounts of up to 40%. No coupon, no fuss just read the terms (normally you have to order a starter and a main course) and wait to see 30-40% quietly taken off the final bill with no discussion. We can highly recommend it for places like Le Reminet, which is great value with the discount. As you can see in the photo above this is sophisticated food. The site has user reviews so stick to the places that are recommended, it's a great way to try a new place at a reasonable rate.
There are a couple of places we enjoyed that I didn't get around to blogging about include the excellent Piroutte in Les Halles and Le 6 Paul Bert which was a revelation of seasonal flavors, organic wines and small plates. 
4. Ride the Batobus - It's fun to ride down the river and the city looks different from the Seine. As I've raved elsewhere I love the Batobus and made great use of my annual pass, so get out on the water and glide past the sites. On my first ride late in the afternoon last Febrary I was the only customer on the boat! You can travel between the Jardin des Plantes and the Eiffel Tower with lots of stops along the way. Here's the Batobus at the Notre Dame.
5. Get out of the Center of Town - If you're in Paris for a week try to make time to see something outside the tourist center. I'm not talking about going to Versaille or Giverny where you'll be fighting the same  crowds you saw at the Louvre, but going somewhere a little lower key but no less fabulous. If you like churches or architecture try something historic like the Cathedral at St Denis (below) or Pere Lachaise cemetery. If you like gardens what about the extraordinary Albert Kahn Museum and Japanese garden or the splendid Bagatelle Gardens in the Bois du Boulonge? How about a walk in the Butte Chamount, along the Bassin de la Villete or the Canal St. Martin? We loved the walk along the elevated Promenade des Plantes, which will remind you of the HighLine in New York, though it was completed a decade earlier. If you don't want to venture too far you can visit the historic Grande Mosque (which is only 20 minutes from Notre Dame) and after your tour enjoy pastries at their delightful tearoom which will transport you to North Africa and remind you of the diversity of France. There's so much to see don't restrict yourself to the highlights, seek out something different it's just at the end of the metro. St. Denis cathedral below.

6. Avoid Bottled Water - Don't hesitate to order tap water while you're in France. It's the environmental option and it tastes fine. The magic words you'll need to know are "Un carafe du l'eau si vous plait?" This won't work in a two star Michelin place ( believe me I took my life into my hands when I tried it) however it's fine elsewhere! Bring a refillable bottle and use it, the decorative and historic Wallace fountains  you'll see all around Paris are fully functional, I thought I had a photo but couldn't find it. 

7. Look at the Eiffel Tower not out from it! I don't understand the attraction of the Eiffel Tower. Sure it's iconic, but I'd rather look at it than fight the crowds to look out from it. I recommend a drink and an opportunity to drink in the view at Ciel on the 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse. Not the viewing platform, you want the restaurant/bar which you enter from the lift in the main enterance. See further details in my blog post here. If you don't make it to Montparnasse check out the view from the top floor of the  Pompidou Center.
8. Go to the Markets - In a way the best market is the one closest to your flat or hotel, but having said that I love the Richard Lenoir market in the Bastille on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons. It's extremely comprehensive and you'll have a chance to see produce and artisanal  products from all over France. You'll probably stumble upon a market or two while you're walking around but if not you could check out one of the market streets where you'll find a wide assortment of food purveyors including bakers, butchers, fishmongers etc. There are a variety of these all across Paris but I'm partial to the Rue Montorgueil near Les Halles.
9. Visit the Smaller Museums - I love the big guys and certainly Paris has lots of great large museums but there are so many extraordinary smaller collections. People wouldn't be looking half so shellshocked if they swapped the Louvre for something more manageable and perhaps they'd enjoy it more too. I brought my mother and aunts  to the Jaquemart Andre and they loved it. It's a great small museum and an interesting and important art collection housed in a beautiful house with a wonderful story to tell. 
 
If you like science or engineering head to the Arts et Metier Museum. If you enjoyed the D'Orsay you might like the the Rodin Museum which is nearby, or the collection at the Marmottan Monet out in the Sixteenth Arrondissement. The Museum at the Memorial de la Shoah in the Marais is fascinating and moving.  The Nissim Camodo  Museum houses an unparalleled collection of 18th century French furniture and decorative arts all of which are beautifully displayed in a magnificent mansion bordering the Parc Monceau. This homage to the Grand Siecle, which was collected and donated to the state by one man, is overshadowed by the story of his children; a son who died fighting for France in the First World War and his daughter and grandchildren who were deported and died in concentration camps in the Second World War. It's a chilling tale of art, patronage, identity , religion and belonging.
I also enjoyed the Bourdelle Museum (below),  the Gustav Moureau Museum and the  city of Paris museum, the  Carnavalet.
10. Meet the Locals - It may sound like a tall order on a quick trip but it's easy to meet the Parisians and they'll even show you their town for free. Here finally is something that sounds too good to be true but isn't! You need to know about  Paris Greeters - what a fabulous organization. Email them before you leave, give them a few weeks notice, and they'll set you up with one of their greeters who will show you their corner of Paris. I hit the jackpot with M. (below) who was charming, insightful, knowledgable, generous and fun. I couldn't have asked for more. She showed me parts of Paris I wouldn't have see on my own including the auctioneers Drouot. Most importantly it was a non-commercial cultural exchange which is hard to find in the tourist capital of the world! I don't know that they're all as great as M. but meeting a Paris Greeter will give you some insight into Paris as a living city.

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