Eiffel Tower Carousel

Eiffel Tower Carousel | Photo by: thelastminute – Flickr

As travelers, we’ve all done it: we venture to a new city, our guidebooks recommendations in hand, only to find out later that we missed out on some good stuff that never makes it into those books, so when my friend, Kim, asked me what she  should do on her first trip to Paris, I started a list that just keeps on growing, and includes both some must-see’s and some good stuff.  She has just one week in the City of Light; I think she should spend at least two.  Just sayin’. The Eiffel Tower light show is, of course, a must-see.  The show begins after sunset and twinkles every hour on the hour until 1AM, and until 2AM in the summer.  On the grass in the Champs du Mars on a blanket along with your sweetie and a bottle of wine is the recommended viewing method. No matter the level of your shopping addiction, a visit to Galeries Lafayette is a must-see.  When you need re-feuling, head to the new Terrace Restaurant where you can dine on a menu by Fumiko Kono with desserts by Pierre Hermé while you enjoy a panoramic view of Paris.  Definitely a part of the good stuff. Near the Odéon theater, L’Avant Comptoir is a narrow, standing-room only, hors d’ouevres bar owned by Yves Cambdeborde, chef/owner of Le Comptoir du Relais next door. Order a savory or sweet crepe from the sidewalk window and head to the Luxembourg Gardens for an al fresco lunch while you enjoy the serene Medici Fountain and the beautifully manicured gardens. Good stuff.   The gourmet shops and the lovely cafés of the Rue Cler are a favorite of both locals as well as tourists.  The selections available in the cheese shop will make any frommage lover swoon.

Vins de France, vins de pays, vin pas cher, cote du rhone, vigneron indépendant, vin biologique, vin bio dynamique, vin du terroir, vin rouge, vin blanc, vin rosé, note de dégustation A wine tasting is a popular event to attend  no matter where you are, and Juan Sanchez of La Dernière Goutte/ The Last Drop offers a variety of tastings in a relaxed setting located in the 6th arrondissement.

For your foodie friends back home, a stop at Le Grand Épicerie next to Le Bon Marché is a must.  The selection of fresh ready-to-eat foods is also amazing, with choices from all over the globe.  In its current location, Le Bon Marché opened as the first department store in Paris and was designed in part by Gustave Eiffel.

After some serious haute couture shopping in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Angelina’s across from the Tuilleries Gardens is the perfect place to enjoy the French tradition of the quatre heures/ four o’clock snack.  The hot chocolate is divine and, together with the house special, the Mont Blanc, is a sugar lover’s fantasy pairing. Definitely good stuff.

The Orsay Museum hosts a fantastic Impressionist exhibit, located on the fifth floor along with its iconic clock window.  Its Restaurant on the first floor offers a delicious menu in a truly magnificent setting.

Chef Christian Constant has become well-known for his three popular restaurants on rue Saint Dominique.  What many people do not know is that he offers  a cooking class at Café Constant on Monday evenings just prior to opening.  Run by Chef Eduardo (right), it’s really more eyes-on than hands-on, as this picture taken from the doorway of the kitchen reveals.  The place is tiny.  Best of all, you eat what they made plus enjoy carefully chosen wines with each course.  Good stuff.

The food in Paris is great, the coffee not so much, which is why the Parisians love Starbucks.  Check out this not-your-average-Starbucks near the Opéra Garnier.  
I always opt to rent an apartment and Paris Perfect is my favorite company, offering luxurious spaces in the best locations.  The English-speaking group can arrange for special occasion packages, cooking classes, French classes and more to help make your Paris experience even more memorable. Check the Paris Perfect website for details and contact information.
What’s your favorite good stuff in Paris?  Please share in the comment box below!

5 comments on “Paris for first-timers

  1. Maria Gallagher on said:

    First order of business: I head for a cafe and order a plate of Belon oysters and a glass of Sancerre. At some point, I walk down the Boulevard St. Michel to the student residence where I stayed more than 25 years ago. I used to stop at a crepe truck after classes at the Sorbonne, and there is still a crepe truck at the same location! I also need a Berthillon ice cream fix during my visit. One scoop of chocolat amer, and one of salted caramel, SVP.

  2. Mary Madden on said:

    While i love the Musee D’Orsay, the Marmottan Museum is definately worth a visit. You have to go through a lovely park to get to the villa. The basement is full of Monet’s Waterlilies. I have taken many of the Paris Walks walking tours and find them to be full of little tidbits of information. They are always 2 hours long and no reservations are required. The guides are all art historians and have lots of fun stories about the neighborhood. The one in the St Germain neighborhood came complete with stories of a lady killing off (by poisoning) her male family members so that she could inherit the family fortune…but was found when her accomplice boyfriend accidently poisoned himself. These tours are somewhat off the beaten path of tourist sites.

    • Thanks for the details about the tours and the Marmottan sounds delightful! I am going to Paris again in March for another of Particia’s classes, so I will check it out. I tried one of the tours last December, but not the St. Germain. Sounds like a great way to gain a insider’s knowledge of Paris!

  3. Paris has so many temptations, a week does seem barely enough. On our first visit we stayed a week, the second visit was two weeks, next year we’re renting an apartment for 4 weeks. I can barely believe it but I haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower light show, not properly. We went to Musee d’Orsay, but didn’t find the clock. Next time, perhaps. Happily I’ve been to Angelina’s, and had both the so, so divine hot chocolate (it does need to be a cool day though, it wasn’t nearly so good on a hot day), and a Mont Blanc. We’ll be staying near Le Bon Marche and Le Grand Epicerie next year, am very excited to check them out, I have vague memories of LBM on my first visit back in 98.

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