So you’ve been up the Eiffel Tower, walked around the Louvre, up the Arc de Triomphe and have an album full of pictures from your first trip to the most romantic city in the world… What’s on the agenda for your next trip to Paris? While it will still be exciting to see all of those things the second time around, it’s always nice to do new things on holiday. But what is there to do, other than the main tourist attractions that lured you there in the first place? We’ll tell you, this month, as we count down the 10 best things to do in Paris the second time around.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
It’s one of Paris’s most enchanting family parks, yet Parc des Buttes remains relatively untouched by the swarms of tourists that rush in every year. The park’s name comes from the unusual landforms there: buttes and mont, meaning small hills and mounts. The set up is like a child’s imagination, with a faux waterfall encasing an eerie grotto, and a series of odd mountain-like hills in the center of a small lake. The main centerpiece is the landmark Belvedere (or Temple) of Sybil, which overlooks the park from the highest point.
It’s a fantastic day out for families and a chance to really share the experience with your children. During Spring, when the trees are starting to get their layers back and flowers are coming into bloom, the trails and walks at this 5 kilometer public park are exquisite.
Walk And Play Along The Canal de l'Ourcq
Paris by waterway, along the Canal de l’Ourcq, is a pretty piece of the city’s history. The canals were ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 1800’s (for transportation reasons) and financed by a tax on wine – which, as we know, is a rather popular staple in France.
What remains today is a beautiful waterway that cuts through the lushes of Paris’s outer limits. Pleasure boats take people on tours of the canals – which go on for over 100 kilometers and through 10 locks. If you’re not into boating or the motion of the water makes you feel a bit ill, there is always the walking option. The paths that line the shore give you a much closer look at the beautiful countryside just beyond the city sprawl. There are also bars and restaurants that line the canals – great places to sit and have a lazy afternoon drink, waving at the boats passing by.
Fragonard Perfume Museum
France has been at the forefront manufacturing perfume since the seventeenth century, when most of the world still considered a bar of soap to be advanced scenting. The Fragonard Perfume Museum is Paris’s finest monument to the art of making people smell like flower petals and elegant spices. The double storey facility is located at the center of Paris’s historic Old Town, in a building that pays homage to the era of Perfumery’s beginnings. Admission is free, and the highly informative tours (which blend history with the process in perfect balance) are available in English.
For opening dates, times and further tour information, check out www.fragonard.com
Le Cimetière des Chiens (Pet Cemetery)
One of Paris’s quirkier sites is the Le Cimetiere des Chiens – literally translated as the Cemetery Of Dogs. According to their websites, it is "the first virtual pet cemetery, where you can meet the animals that are no longer with us, with utmost respect." Although it initially began as a burial site for dogs, today it hosts a variety of pets that have touched the lives of their owners - in such a way that a burial in the backyard will not suffice. From famous hounds, like Rin Tin Tin, Barry the World War 1 rescue dog, to the lap companions of the bourgeois, the lanes of the Le Cimetière des Chiens are lined with some incredibly touching, ornate and grand monuments to fallen companions. It might seem a bit strange at first, but after you take a look at the inscriptions on some of the graves, the global significance of our pets is what rises to the surface. It’ll make you feel like every dog and cat you’ve ever owned deserves to be remembered with the "utmost respect."
For more information visit www.purr-n-fur.org.uk
Montmartre And The Basilica Sacre Coeur
Although the Montmartre hill and the Basilica of Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) are two of the most recognizable landmarks in Paris, it’s hard to take everything in on your first visit. Inevitably you’ll end up spending time more wondering around the streets of the famous artsy suburb below the hill, or you’ll be itchy to see Paris from the highest natural point in the city and miss out on the suburb of Montmatre. The point here is that visiting this area a second time is well worth it.
Cruise Around On A Segway
Segways are funny vehicles. On your first trip to Paris, cruising around the streets on something that looks like an electric staircase with wheels and handle bars might seem like an unthinkable faux pas, but wait… You’ll soon see other people doing it in tour groups, zipping around with giant smiles, and suddenly it won’t seem like such a silly idea anymore – your kids will probably still think it looks ridiculous though.
City Segway Tours provide a mandatory 30 minute orientation for everyone taking a Segway, which gets your group up to speed as far as safety goes. Once that’s done, you are ready to take to the streets of Paris on the goofiest thing on two wheels. You are still touring Paris and going past all the main attractions, but to do it with a group while jollying around is a completely different experience that will make everything feel like the first time.
For booking information, tour types and times, look at citysegwaytours.com
Roller Skating may not be too many rungs higher on the social hierarchy from Segways, but there is something undeniably enduring about it. Paris Roller gets our vote for being the most awesome self-governed sports group in Europe. On Friday nights, thousands of people gather at the metro Bastille to go for a cruise through the city - the route changes every time. The organisers have no political or financial motivation for the group: it's purely for fun and enjoyment. As their website says, their goal is: "to encourage roller skating as a leisure activity, as a sport or as a means of transportation, to skate for pleasure, discover the city and meet other people...in other words, for freedom." Cavorting through the streets of Paris like a gang from the eighties might sound very dangerous, but the ride is fully protected by the police. The only requirement for people to join in the fun is to be a competent skater - this is for the safety of all participants. Skaters are encouraged to wear bright clothing (visibility = safety) and to bring water, because it gets exhausting. If you're looking for a healthy way to see the city, meet people and an excuse to bring out the old skates gathering dust in your closet, get to Paris Roller.
Find out more at www.pari-roller.com
Become A Parisian In One Hour
Once you’ve been to Paris and experienced some of the culture, Oliver Giraud’s critically acclaimed one man show becomes that much more hilarious. His guide to becoming a Parisian plays on international stereotypes in a way that gets to the heart of the French cynicism, intellect and culture, and will have you snorting, grunting and almost rolling out of your chair.
See www.oliviergiraud.com for booking information and times.
Ballet At Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier is the Wimbledon of Opera houses. Designed in 1862 during the great reconstruction of Paris, Charles Garnier threaded aspects of Baroque, Greek and Napoleonic architecture; the result is something magnificent, which transcends the ages and will never go out of style. Taking a day tour of the magnificent building blows your mind, but it’s worth getting tickets to the ballet one evening – it will multiply the experience ten fold.
Parisian Picnic (Baguettes + Cheese + Wine)
This could be an article about what to do in Paris on your fiftieth visit, and we’d still have the French picnic recipe in there. There is a simple, timeless pleasure to buying a freshly baked baguette, a hunk of cheese and a bottle of red wine, and then finding somewhere to enjoy it – it might be on a wooden bench opposite your hotel, or in front of the Eiffel Tower. These ingredients are part of the French staple diet, so you can find them everywhere; and in a city as beautiful as Paris, there is no shortage of enchanting places to park yourself for a lazy snack. The atmosphere on a warm summer’s evening is intoxicating - even more so than the red wine.
Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.