France | Paris Post Covid
Paris Post Covid
Whether it’s your first trip to Paris, second, third, or even more, there’s always something new to discover. Unable to travel for the past two years due to Covid restrictions, Monty and I embraced our recent time in Paris with a new lease on life.
We caught the Eurostar from London to Paris. Thankfully, mask wearing mandates weren’t enforced. Documents showing proof of immunization were not required. It seemed Covid was no longer an impediment for happy travellers.
There were some noticeable differences though, such as the need to book everything in advance. Although mandates had been relaxed, there were time limits and restrictions on the number of people allowed to go into certain venues. We noticed the city had changed in other ways too. The landscape was parched. Cooling sprays of mist from fountains was few and far between. For a city that boasts more than 200 fountains, it was quite unsettling to find only a few in action. The fountains on the Place de la Concorde were working but the main water fountain in the courtyard of the famous Louvre Museum was down to a bare trickle; many of the smaller fountains were empty. Even the Jardin des Tuileries gardens were almost bone-dry; the grounds men were fighting a tough battle to keep the plants looking verdant and healthy. Yet Paris still looked beautiful. In fact, there’s a noticeable number of makeovers happening, including famous monuments getting the gold-tinged paint job thanks to the coming 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
There are some things that haven’t changed too such as the prerequisite to always say Bonjour to everyone. Why? It’s a cultural thing – it’s just the way it is. It’s polite.
Seeking retail therapy? Remember, when you are in Paris, most retail shops don’t open until around 10am. That’s still a given.
Since Covid, however, it is often difficult to gain entry to most major events, exhibitions, and tourist attractions unless you have reserved or booked a ticket. Always check the websites before going to public venues, especially if they require an entry fee. Conditions of entry, opening hours and entry fees can change.
Beautiful Paris. There are so many things to see, do, and taste. Irrespective of whether you are a first-time visitor or you’ve stayed here before, there are some places that should be included on your ‘must’ list.
The Arc de Triomphe
For the best views of Paris, the immediate thought is to go to the Eiffel Tower. The “Iron Lady’ is currently getting an all-out makeover in preparation for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games which is impacting on access, hence queues times are longer. If it’s views you’re after, head to the Arc de Triomphe instead.
Why: you’ll be rewarded with one of the best 360 views of Paris. You can’t miss it! Located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly known as the Place de l’Etoile. (It’s also probably better for people who have issues with heights.)
Good to know: there are about 284 steps in total. I counted about 195 steps to the first level (where you’ll find displays and general information), about 47 steps to the second level (souvenirs gift shop) and another 34 to the top. (PS The number of steps depends on whether you count the landings on the flight of stairs to the top.)
When: go early in the morning to beat the queues.
Accessibility: make sure you are fit and able to climb hundreds of steps. There is a lift, but it is reserved for pregnant women, those with reduced mobility, and visitors with young children.
How to get there: take the underpass to reach the arch. Do not try to cross the road. It’s deadly.
Cost: 13 euro per person
Where: 27 rue Vernet www.paris-arc-de-triomphe.fr/
Stroll along “les Champs”
Why: it’s a touristy thing to do, but it is still charming to flâneur (stroll with no destination in mind) along the Champs-Élysées. The avenue boasts renowned French brands including Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Christian Dior, Nina Ricci, Guerlain, as well as typical global names such as H&M, Zara, even Foot Locker.
Culture hit – Musée Rodin
The Louvre is always at the top of the list for first time visitors. Musée d’Orsay runs a very close second. Then there’s Musée Rodin. An exquisite venue. Perfect every time. Stroll around manicured gardens after you’ve soaked in the splendour of it all. The house is home to works by Rodin and his colleagues.
Where: 77 rue de Varenne www.musee-rodin.fr/en/
Shop with a difference – Deyrolle
Why: this is the place if you’re looking for something unique and special to buy for yourself. Established in 1831, Deyrolle specialises in taxidermy and entomology. Spanning two floors and several rooms, this curiosity shop is a must visit. An extraordinary place stocked with all sorts of museum pieces for sale. Think fossils, insect specimens, stuffed tigers, lions, and leopards. Cabinets of colourful butterflies in all colours and sizes. Let your imagination fly – bet you’ll find it at Deyrolle.
Where: 46 Rue du Bac, on the left bank. www.deyrolle.com
Something out of the box – the Catacombs
It may not be everyone’s taste but the story behind the creation of the catacombs makes it a worthy contender of your time. The underground ossuary holds the skulls, human femurs, and bones of more than 6 million Parisians from other cemeteries of Paris. In the late 1700’s, public health problems were directly connected to the city’s cemeteries; it was decided to transfer their contents to an underground site outside the capital – the former Tombe-Issoire quarries under the plain of Montrouge.
Where: 1 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. www.catacombes.paris.fr
Stop for a glass of wine or coffee at Café George V
It is overpriced but grab a table at the front and it’s worth the view and people watching. (Not to be confused with the luxury hotel Four Seasons Hotel George V at 31 Avenue George V)
Two glasses of Tulipe Bordeaux 19,60 euro (9,80 euro a standard glass)
Where: 120 Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Frog Beer far from French
Why: If you’ve been in Paris for a few days and wanting a hit of good old English spirit, pop into Frog Hop House. There are Frogpubs throughout Paris, as well as Bordeaux and Toulouse.
The beers are impressive; the prices are reasonable. Don’t count on buying frogs legs.
Where: 10 rue des Capucines www.frogpubs.com
Bistrot that’s truly traditional French – Les Antiquaires
Near the Muse d’Orsay, this bistro is a delightful change from the usual headliners. We had brunch but based on the service and quality of food I think lunch, and better still, dinner, would be a good decision. The crepe suzette was outstanding both in presentation and taste.
Where: 13 rue du Bac www.lesantiquaires.net
Best mussels ever
Lovers of Moules: take note. Dine at Leon de Bruxelle. You know it’s going to be good when the patrons are feasting on mussels. It’s the local Moules go-to in Paris seems. We had Moules Mariniere served with a generous serve of crisp frites. 14,90 euro per person. Indescribably good.
Where: 30 Boulevard des Italiens www.brasserie.restaurantleon.fr
Famous place for dinner – Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole
What a treat to dine this quintessential Parisian restaurant located barely 100 metres from Notre Dame. Situated on Île de la Cité (an island in the middle of the Seine River), Vieux Paris has been making media headlines for years, mainly because it is famous for its wisteria-covered exterior. The interior is equally charming with its age-old ambience; you feel as though you have stepped back in time.
Where: 24 Rue Chanoinesse, between the left and right banks on Île de la Cité. www.restaurantauvieuxparis.fr
Quiet night in
If you’re jet lagged, tired from being on your feet all day sightseeing, watching your budget, or all reasons combined, sometimes it’s nice to relax in your hotel room. Paris is home to some cool express shops. Google Monop’ (it’s the baby version of retail chain Monoprix), Intermarché, Carrefors, Franprix, or Casino Shop. You’ll find one of them close to you. You’ll find well-priced wines in these stores too. If you’re looking for something more upmarket head to Galeries Lafayette Le Gourmet (35 Boulevard Haussmann) for a spectacular array of fine wines, savory, and sweet temptations.
Macarons: + Eclairs:
Everyone thinks of Laduree when they think of macrons. Do consider going to Galeries Lafayette Le Gourmet. The macarons and eclairs on display are, dare I say, beautiful!
Where: 35 Boulevard Haussmann
Searching for an artisanal bakery? Give Eric Kayser a moment of your tastebuds’ time. Acknowledging Paul Bakery in Paris rigorously catches the food bloggers’ words of praise consistently, I think Kayser gives Paul a seriously hard nudge. We certainly gave him a big tick of approval based on our food choices. Side note: Kayser’s father and grandfather were bakers too; it’s in his genes.
Where: There are several Kayser bakeries in Paris. www.maison-kayser.com
Staying in Paris
Where you stay will be determined by budget, location, how long you are planning to be in Paris. Both the Left and Right Banks are great locations but keep as close to the Seine River as possible if you’re wanting the convenience of ease of access to the main attractions. Check your accommodation is near a metro station – it’s the easiest way of getting around Paris (apart from on foot).
Everyone will give a different perspective of where they think the best place is to stay. Google and read different reviews from locals and visitors to help you make the right decision for you.
For further images see www.johnmontaguephotography.com