May 22, 2015 | By Ilona Kauremszky |
Across the City of Light, the grey shroud of winter has lifted, replaced by the welcoming embrace of spring. Shopkeepers mill around their stalls, cyclists purposefully whizz through traffic and best of all, glorious sunshine lifts the heart and soul.
Spring time fuels romance in Paris too. Here’s how to fall in love with Paris in 24 hours:
At your hotel, fuel up on croissants, jam and a grande cup of café au lait, then pack yourself a light lunch from your previous day’s shopping escapade before you set out on your Paris day tour.
Head to the nearest metro station and purchase the Mobilis Pass (7 euros) that gets you in and around central Paris in this full-day traveller’s extravaganza.
Make your way to the Notre-Dame Cathedral on the Île de la Cité. Get off at Cité station (line 4), stop at the Palais de Justice for a photo op of the ornate gates and ask a friendly local to point you in the right direction of the esteemed Notre-Dame.
As you wander around, you’ll also discover a spectacular park called Square Jean XXIII in a spring symphony of floral colours and fragrant blossoms.
Cross the love lock- laden bridge known as the Pont de l’Archevêché to La Rive Gauche (the Left Bank). Not too far away is an extraordinary book store that has been a magnet for artists and writers-in-the-making ever since its first opening. Pass by the locked-in-time streets in the Latin Quarter with their narrow passageways until you reach the René Viviani Square. Again, more beautiful florals with bouquets of daffodils and a fully blooming magnolia tree spur on the quest to find perhaps the most famous book store in the world: Shakespeare and Company.
There it is. Across from the park on 37 Rue de Bûcherie is this shrine to books, an iconic landmark with its green-painted facade laden with bookstands and postcard racks by the entrance. The store is a well-known hangout for literature buffs, and little has changed as you spot book lovers comfortably finding their existential moment leafing through copies of Sartre and Camus. Spot classic chapbooks like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame too.
Lunch time is here and the clock is ticking. Still there’s still so much to see. Return to Notre Dame, find a bench overlooking the cathedral, and enjoy that boxed lunch you packed earlier. People watch and gaze at the historic place of worship that has inspired writers and artists for centuries.
With romance in the air, track down France’s famous writer of love letters, Madame de Sévigné, who longingly and lovingly wrote reams of letters – many from her private city residence in the Marais district. The historic mansion is home to the Carnavalet Museum, devoted to Paris’ rich history from its bygone era to present day.
Pass by the Paroisse St. Paul-St. Louis, another stunning church (Hunchback of Notre Dame author Victor Hugo’s daughter Leopoldine was secretly married here), and amble along the Rue de Sévigné, a narrow winding street lined by historic facades that now house eclectic shops and boutiques.
For an afternoon pick-me-up, the Swedish Institute on 11 Rue Payenne is a great find for coffee, homemade cakes and light snacks. Near the Carnavelet Museum, the popular coffee house is tucked inside a private courtyard rife with café drinkers enjoying the outdoor terrace. Inside, there’s a fun cue of repeat patrons from every age group waiting to place their orders.
Once you’ve finished your coffee, you are ready to resume your Parisian love affair. Next stop is the most iconic monument of them all: the Eiffel Tower.
By the St. Paul Metro, you proceed to Bir-Hakeim Station (line 6) to the Eiffel Tower. Paris’ symbol seems to change every time you see it. The changing light from the clouds sets off dramatic shadows as the glistening sun gives a moody effect, a perfect backdrop for all the canoodling couples.
For a grand view, it’s off to the Trocadero. Tip: Every evening on the hour, the tower lights up for 5 minutes – best to get there 15 minutes in advance.
It’s impossible to visit Paris without a bit of shopping – the next quick stop is to Haussmann Boulevard, home to the Printemps department store and the renowned Galeries Lafayette.
Inside both retail landmarks, attentive staff offer their assistance. By the acclaimed parfumerie counters, sales reps squirt the latest Chanel and Guerlain fragrances as you glance around to admire the grand interiors with the lavish-domed glass ceiling, an Art Nouveau classic.
Next, head inside a brasserie (your choice) and linger on a fixed prix, 3-course dinner but don’t enjoy the surrounds too long. There’s a not-to-be-missed boat to catch for an amazing night river cruise along the Seine.
Hop aboard the Vedettes de Paris with its evening champagne river cruise that departs at the foot of the Eiffel Tower by Port Suffren. The night sky is blazing in stars and so is the Eiffel Tower, all lit up in a whimsical pattern of diamond-like lights. As the boat sails past Paris’ iconic landmarks, you sip your champagne and smile to yourself.
And that’s how you fall in love with Paris in 24 hours.