City Locker – Paris Luggage Storage in 3 Central Locations

City Locker – a genius idea.  Three locations in the city where you can check your luggage in either while waiting to check in or after you’ve checked out of your accommodation.  They’re open from 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week.  You have to book online in advance with a credit card and they’ll send you a code so you can access your locker without the need for staff.

 

Location, Location, Location – where to stay in Paris

by Laura Bauerlein

Does it matter how central you are in Paris? Of course it does. But perhaps less so than in many other cites, thanks to such an amazing metro system. Having just returned from a recent trip, I’m able to compare what it’s like staying in the center vs. staying farther afield.

Paris has an Amazing metro system, with a capital A. You can literally get from one end of the city to the other in 40 minutes, and that is, from ANY end of the city to any other end. In Rome, for example, a similar endeavor would take you between 1.5 to 5 hours, at least (with a possibility of never rather than 5 hours). In Paris, it’s: hop on the metro (and not one place that I have visited was farther than 10 minutes – absolute maximum – by foot from a metro stop), switch trains, maybe switch again (a switch-switch can easily be done in less than 5 minutes) and get out.

The best thing about metro-hopping is that you won’t miss out on some of Paris’ biggest and maybe most neglected attractions: metro musicians! There are also all kinds of buses, tramways, etc that I didn’t even really consider as I could never get enough of the metro (a great place to study people, too, of course!).  If you want to stop and smell the roses, the metro at Châtelet, with the Symphonie Metropolitain, is a great way to experience something of beauty in stark contrast to the hordes of people busily rushing by.

The best thing to do is to buy a 10 ticket carnet at any one of the automatic vending machines – 10 tickets are 12.70 Euro as opposed to 1.70 Euro for a single ticket (hint: the machines are operated by a ‘rolling’ thing to move change your selection). The tickets are still good when you change trains as long as you don’t EXIT the metro system. The same kind of ticket is good for the tram, too.

Check this to see how greatly organized it all is.

On top of that, there’s the Vélib bike-sharing stations throughout the city, even in the most remote areas.

During my recent stay of more than 2 weeks, I changed neighborhood three times: I stayed in one very central apartment in the 5th arrondissement, and two less central ones – one in the 18th and one in the 20th.  Naturally there are advantages of staying in the center. Being able to walk to many sights and feel the center’s vibe, stumbling upon the Eiffel tower or the Arch du Triomphe when you least expect it – are all pretty cool.

But to be honest, I almost liked it better to ‘come home’ to a more remote, residential area – just like thousands of Parisians coming home from work or school every day. Living in a neighborhood somewhat removed from the center, you get to live more closely with the local masses, cue in the less known but just as amazing boulangeries, sit in a park in the evenings, away from tourists and the busy center. And just because you live in a more remote ‘quarter’ doesn’t mean you won’t get Haussman buildings, rooftop views or other sorts of Parisian-ness! Living in neighborhoods where the majority of Parisian everyday life takes place (as opposed to the areas where everyday Parisian tourism takes place) just made me feel more at home, and knowing that everything is really just a metro ride away should put that part of you that wants to see the famous sights at ease.

A guide to Paris’ “Big Three Museums”

by Jessica Infantino Trumble

With literally hundreds of museums and monuments in Paris, it’s easy for even veteran travelers to get overwhelmed. Here’s a guide to the city’s “big three” museums – Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou – which are conveniently organized by time period to help you set your sightseeing game plan.

Musée du Louvre

Thanks to its famous resident, the Mona Lisa, the Louvre is one of the most well-known museums in the world and third most visited attraction in Paris, after Notre Dame and Sacré Cœur. It’s also one of the oldest and largest museums, with more than 30,000 works of art ranging from Greek sculpture (including the Venus de Milo) to Italian and French paintings and other artifacts from ancient times through 1850. We can thank King Louis XIV, a great patron of the arts, for this grand and glorious collection, which was first opened to the public in 1793 after the French Revolution. This U-shaped royal palace-turned-museum is located on the Right Bank in the 1st arrondissement, connected to the Arc de Triomphe via a straight shot through the Tuileries and down the Champs des Élysées, giving visitors a sense of the lavish processional route that dates back to Napoléonic times. The entrance of the Louvre is adorned with a modern glass pyramid, designed by Chinese architect I.M. Pei, which was added to the museum in 1989. It’s impossible to see everything in one visit, so pace yourself and decide which galleries are your top priority.

 

Musée d’Orsay

France is synonymous with Impressionism, and the Orsay picks up where the Louvre leaves off, housing treasures from greats like Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Degas. The museum’s impressive collection spans 1848 to 1914 and includes a mix of paintings and sculptures, as well as decorative and graphic art. Inhabiting the former Gare d’Orléans train station in the 7th arrondissement, the beautiful steel and glass building is a work of art itself and a testament to the glory of the Industrial Age. Two restored clocks provide a backdrop to the light-filled gallery, which complements the light that the Impressionist masters set out to capture in their paintings.

 

Centre Pompidou

You don’t have to look twice: the building that houses Paris’ modern art museum is indeed “inside out.” Named after France’s president from 1969 to 1974, the Pompidou Center is located in the 4th arrondissement and boasts an impressive exterior of glass, steel and brightly-colored pipes (green for plumbing, blue for climate control, yellow for electricity and red for safety and circulation elements). Inside you’ll find the largest collection of modern art in the world, with works from the early 20th century to the present, including must-see paintings by Picasso and Warhol to other more “out there” art. Even if modern art isn’t for you, the distinctive exterior of the museum is definitely worth a look. You can also take the exposed escalator to the top for a great bird’s-eye view of Paris.

All three of these museums are covered by the Paris Museum Pass, which grants you access to more than 60 museums and monuments throughout Paris and the surrounding area. The pass offers other perks too, like skipping the line at most sites, so you’ll have more time to explore Paris’ cultural wonders.  You can find more time and money-saving tips for visiting Paris here.

Jessica is a Cross-Pollinate guest (having rented through us in Rome and Venice) who lives in the U.S. but attributes to her love of travel to her Italian heritage.  When she’s not dreaming of Europe, she’s exploring it with her husband and favorite travel partner, Jeremy.  You can read more of Jessica’s tips and experiences at her travel blog Boarding Pass

 

Yoga in the Marais

On a recent trip to Paris I decided I needed to fit some yoga into my busy schedule of seeing apartments and meeting owners. I don’t know what compelled me, as I don’t even keep up a practice regularly at home. I literally arrived at Orly airport around 5pm and took a taxi straight to the Yoga du Maria Center for a 6:30pm class, suitcase and all.

Sounds a bit fanatical, I know.  The truth is, I prefer to think of Paris as a big red wine and chocolate eclair retreat rather than a place to cultivate inner balance.  But aren’t vacations a good opportunity for breaking out of normal routines? It’s a great time to not just see the sites but to also try and incorporate other practices that at home we’re too busy, or too distracted, to do. Plus, it’s fun to do familiar activities in foreign cities and see how they compare.

The owner of the center, Michelle, is an American expatriate who’s been Paris for ages.  She and her other teachers conduct a nice range of classes every day in the Hatha style.   They’re located centrally at 72, Rue du Vertbois in the 3rd Arrondissement.  More info, as well as their schedule and prices, can be found on their website here.

by Steven Brenner

Vegetarian Paris

My last time in Paris, about 3 years ago, it was almost impossible to find vegetarian food.  Waiters would disdainfully propose a salad – always the same salad, with goat cheese.  Nice stuff, but not something I wanted to eat at every meal.  A few years later and I’m amazed not only at how many vegetarian and vegetarian friendly options have emerged, but also how well it mixes with French food and the French approach to food in general.

Here’s 4 places worth checking out:

1.  Nanashi – Le Bento Parisien.  One on 57, Rue Charlot in the 3rd and another on 31, Rue de Paradis in the 10th.

This place isn’t 100% vegetarian, but very vegetarian-friendly.  It’s like a long train of a place with a variety of regular offerings and daily specials, all written out on a large blackboard.

I had a vegetarian spring roll wrap with rice paper, filled with sprouts and a honey sauce to dip into.  I then had a vegetable soba noodle dish, full of cooked mushrooms and lightly sauteed grated carrots, with a little nama shoe.  It was amazing — fresh and flavorful and a clever combination of Asian and European flavors.  With a glass (or two) of sake, it was a great meal for only around 30 euro or so.

The staff was also extremely helpful and nice and eager to please.

2.  Soya – Cantine Bio on 20, Rue de la Pierre Levee in the 11th.  A bit more upscale at night, it’s a good bet for a semi-fancy dinner and is probably more casual at lunch time.  Located on a residential street with almost no other activity, and without a sign, you could easily miss it, but that just adds to the charm.

Inside are dark cement walls, warmed up by dramatic lighting and some simple, eclectic, unpretentious design.  All vegetarian and mostly organic.

I had a tartare of alge, and a couscous dish with mixed vegetables.

For dessert, it was hard to settle on a choice, but I was very happy with my apple crumble and cream.  All with red wine and coffee for about 35 euro.

3.  Le Potager au Marais at 22-24, Rue Rambuteau in the 3rd about half a block from the Pompidou.  Probably the most well-known by vegans and vegetarians, it gets lots of attention from both locals and tourists.  The menu is large, with interesting daily specials.  The international staff is friendly, and happy to help in a variety of languages.

I went for the seitan à la bourguignon – a dish I’ve always adored and needed to taste what it would be like without meat.  I also wanted some onion soup, but felt it would be too much, so I took the suggestion from the staff and had a velouté of fennel, which was nice and light and flavorful.

Then came the bourgiugnon with rice, which was as hearty and filling as the original.  Ok, it’s seitan — not meat.  I won’t pretend it’s the same thing, but it sure did the trick.  I don’t think a meat eater would have anything to complain about this dish.

In the end  I had no space for dessert, which was a shame as they seemed to know what they were doing in the vegan dessert department as well.  Open for lunch and dinner, they stay open until midnight.  It’s the kind of place you could return to a few times in one trip.

4.  Le Tête dans le cuisine on 29, Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in the 11th near Oberkampf.  This is a small place that specializes in homemade cakes, tarts, quiches and bagels, mostly for takeaway but also for a quick bite for lunch.

Not really on the tourist trail, but if you’re staying in the 11th, it’s worth passing by for a soup and sandwich, or get something to go and have it later when you’re out and about.

There are also a number of suggestions at Happy Cow, especially for vegetarian Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine.

by Steven Brenner