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Off the Main Track in Paris

Sandwiched in between our last hike and a bike ride on this adventure we spent four days in Paris. We’ve managed to see some of the best sights in this, and previous stays, but thought it might be fun to cover a few that are also fun, but not as well known.

First, a few suggestions to make a trip to Paris, or almost any big European city, better.

We used the Rick Steves Audio App a lot on this trip. You can find walking tours for major cities—sometimes multiple—and the app is free. We used it in Rome, Lisbon, Munich, and finally here in Paris. In the past Laurie and I have used it within major museums to help us find and understand the highlights without getting lost. At least, lost too much. We are also big advocates of finding pay-what-it’s-worth walking tours or food tours, but for this trip we hung with Rick.

Book ahead. Years ago Laurie and I missed out on seeing Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper near Milan in 2019 because we didn’t make reservations. Some places (like the Arc de Triomphe) you might be able to book a day ahead, or even walk up, but others sell out well in advance. Make a list of popular sites you want to see and see what kind of lead time you need for booking.

Off the Main Track Ideas

La Tour de Saint Jacque

This is a must see for people doing a Camino. This tower is all that remains of a church dedicated to Saint James—who supposedly is buried in the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. It was a prime meeting point on the Camino. You can actually make reservations to climb it June through November, Fridays through Sunday. See the link here. The church itself was destroyed during the French Revolution but the remaining tower is an historic landmark. It’s walking distance from Notre Dame.

Coulée verte René-Dumont

This is a park built along a former raised rail line. The gardens themselves are amazing, and you get some views of the surrounding neighborhood. The park is 4.5 KM long—almost three miles—but the first part starting near the Opera Bastille running to the park 1.5 KM in is the best. Trev created the map below to show the best part.

Bring a picnic or pick up something to eat at a local store.

Bar Hemingway

For us, third time was the charm. Ernest Hemingway spent most of the 1920s in Paris as a foreign correspondent and struggling writer. Struggling sometimes involved catching local pigeons and taking them home to cook and eat. When he was more flush with cash, he loved hanging out at the bar at the Ritz Hotel with other writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald. The bar is now named for him and decorated with Hemingway memorabilia. Our friend, Phill, told us about Bar Hemingway last year and we tried to stop by there one evening on our way to hike the Camino from Le Puy, France. The place opens at 5:30 and was already packed when we got there shortly after. On our second night on this trip we got there early, and they wouldn’t allow me in as I was wearing shorts. The next night we showed up at 4:30 (first in line!). When they opened the hostess wanted me to change out of my sandals into regular shoes—after waiting in line for an hour. Not sure they would have appreciated my hiking shoes anymore—wardrobe choices are highly limited on these trips. But, Laurie talked them into letting us in.

Drinks are expensive, but very good. The women get a rose on their first drink. And the snacks that come with drinks could suffice for a small meal. It’s an indulgence.

Honorable Mention

Fortunately for us, Trev did a significant amount of research and there were plenty of things for us to do—many free. Check out Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Quartier de la Mouzaia, and Jardin de Luxembourg (where Hemingway hunted pigeons). See pics below.

How about you?

Got a favorite place that you think others should know about? In Paris or even your hometown? Note it in the comments.