Hey there!! (Remember me? I wrote the post about São Paulo...)
I am traveling with my family to Europe on April, and I was wondering if you are in the mood for another city-guide type of post.
We're visiting Paris, Rome and Copenhagen. I have never been to Rome, so I'm super excited to see all the touristy stuff, and major landmarks...
I have been in Paris before, and would love for some not so popular, but equally cool places to see and to eat and to go out at night (my brother is a tango dancer so at least one night we're book for dancing)...I'm not planning to splurge on shopping, perhaps a visit to Monoprix...heheh...
And Copenhagen, of course, we chose for the price of the plane tickets....heheh...and we have no idea what to expect or visit over there, and all that comes to mind is Hamlet and The Little Mermaid. I visited the Lonely Planet and discovered that is a jazz-loving city. And that's it!
If you find someone to send advice on either city I would be deeply and forever thankful!
It took me FOREVER to get someone to write up Paris. I think maybe Parisian women are too cool for ESB?
Anyhoo. The adorable (Irish) Badger and Bear finally volunteered, and when I saw this photo on her blog I knew she could handle the job....
Most of the things I love most about Paris involve food, wine, and people-watching, so this guide reflects that. I think most of the museums are over-rated, though I do make an exception for the marble polar bear in the Musée d'Orsay, and I do have some nostalgia for the Musée Rodin, since I proposed to my fiancé in a tiny cafe nearby.
(Praline Macaron from Pierre Hermé)
For food and wine and wandering all together, I still think the Marais is worth spending an afternoon in, although many think it's too gentrified now. This was historically the Jewish quarter, and still boasts a very popular Yiddish bakery (Sacha Finkelstein's) which the Parisians adore, although personally I think you're better off grabbing lunch to go from L'As Du Fallafel nearby. The Marais is now home to a lively gay scene, which makes for excellent people-watching and bar-hopping. La Belle Hortense (a wine-bar/book shop) and Le Petit Fer à Cheval (proper old Parisian hang-out with a stunning marble horse shoe-shaped bar) are some of my favourite watering holes here.
There plenty of great open-air food markets all around Paris, but one of my favourites is Bastille Market (Thursdays and Sundays), not far from the Marais. Here, the stall-holders compete loudly for the attention of passersby, and even the hippest young things tote granny trolleys for their baguettes and fromage. Also, the Promenade Plantée (which starts near the market) is worth a look, it's a public garden and walkway planted on an old railway line overlooking Paris, and apparently inspired the creation of the High Line in New York.
If the Marais isn't edgy enough for you, then Belleville is what you're after. Properly gritty and hip, with prostitutes touting their wares most afternoons, the spectacular graffiti displays on Rue Denoyez make the adventure worthwhile. Grab a drink at Aux Folies and watch the world go by. Also make sure to visit Au Rouleau de Printemps for the best Vietnamese sandwiches I've yet had in Europe. Oh and the step on which Edith Piaf was said to be born is also nearby. From here, you can also easily visit the Buttes Chaumont, a beautiful, if lesser-known Parisian park, where the Temple of Sybil sits atop a hill, and there's even a film festival here in September, where they show movies in the park after dark.
The quintessential Parisian park though has to be the Luxembourg Gardens. My love for it may or may not be influenced by an amazing macaron experience I once had there (involving a giant raspberry macaron, stuffed with vanilla cream and fresh raspberries) - but in any case, it's worth a visit. It often has live music in the summer months under the bandstand, and has great paths for running on, plenty of ice-cream and waffle vendors around the edges of the park, and deck-chairs for people watching from and flicking cigarette ash at pigeons. The French Senate is housed in the old palace in the grounds of the Garden, and is spectacularly beautiful inside, so if you can manage to fit in a tour, it's well worth it.
If you want to play at being Amelie (or better yet, Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina), take a stroll through Montmatre. Dodge the hawkers offering to braid your hair or make you a friendship bracelet and climb the steps to Sacre Coeur (or if you're lazy, hop on the funicular), to peer out over the city through the viewfinders at the top of the hill. Montmatre itself has become quite touristy, but the nearby area Abbesses is quieter, and I think cooler. Try the tiny, crazy Argentinian bar Les Canons, or the excellent eatery Le Petit Parisien, where you MUST order the 'poulet roti de nos enfances' - which comes with dreamy puréed potatoes and a sprig of thyme, still smouldering from the fire.
Finally, the two properly touristy things which I think are worth doing, are to visit Père Lachaise cemetery, final resting place of Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Marceau, and Jim Morrisson among others), and of course to have macaroons at Hermé. I also highly recommend a stroll along the banks of the Seine - with an ice-cream in hand from Berthillion. Notable stops on your stroll should include the Marché des Fleurs et Oiseaux on the Left Bank, and the string of pet shops on the Right Bank, which reliably, have puppies sleeping on top of each other in the windows.
Since you asked specifically about places to go dancing - it's not my forte, but a reliable source tells me that Le Pompon, a former synagogue in the 10th arr. is good fun - the bar upstairs plays swing and rockabilly, and downstairs it's more of a hip hop vibe, although sometimes there are live bands and guest DJs. If you want to see and be seen, you could try Le Montana in St Germain des Pres. April is probably a bit early for this, but the Jardin Tino Rossi has outdoor dancing (including tango!) in the summer time.
I couldn't reliably tell you anything about where to go in Rome, as the last time I was there I was a teenager, BUT, I did go to Copenhagen on a work trip last year and I really liked it - full of friendly hipsters - but it is expensive. My recommendations are Soupanaturel for lunch (as the name suggests, only serves soup, and a percentage of profits go to the homeless), Dyrehaven for a slightly scrubbed-up dive bar with excellent Danish beer, the Laundromat Cafe for lounging, reading and drinking, Sweet Treat for coffee and macaroons, and Fiskebaren for the BEST. FISH. EVER.
(Fiskebaren via The Sunday Times UK)
Everyone in Copenhagen cycles, so I'd recommend renting a bike as a fun way to get around the city.
[Editor's Note: I tried to get all the little French accent marks in the right places but I'm sure I missed a few and now I sorta wonder why I bothered.]
At top: Miss Tic via Dreemzology