Where do we start with Paris? We’re honestly not entirely sure, but we are mildly convinced that it isn’t the Eiffel Tower. Like Rome, London and Amsterdam, Paris has so many back alleys and underground hangouts that it makes it almost impossible to recommend anything, knowing full well that we, ourselves, have merely scratched the surface of this cultural capital. Even after years of visiting the City of Lights, we still leave anxious that we missed something– A wing in the Louvre or a(nother) bar with no name. We’d love to show you around ourselves, but, in the meantime, let us know what you think of our suggestions. One of the most exciting parts of spending time in Paris is the opportunity to learn from the way Parisians interact with the history of their own city. Paris continues to inspire.
Album: Jaques Dutronc – Jaques Dutronc ’66
Book: Paris France – Gertrude Stein
Movie: Bande à part (1964)
The Louvre’s Secret Entrance
Port de Lions
If it’s really important to you to wait in line in front of the Louvre’s famous glass pyramids just for the classic experience, don’t let us try and persuade you against it. If, however, you’d rather spend those ninety-plus minutes exploring France’s largest museum, allow us to direct you towards a completely public entrance that only Parisians seem to utilize. Look (or ask) around the complex for the easily identifiable Port de Lions, or better yet, take the Metro to the lucky stop. If you get off at station Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre follow signs for Carrousel, grab a ticket from the automated credit card machine, and waltz in like a well-intentioned Napoleon.
22 Rue des Saules
A favorite of Picasso during his formative Montmarte years, ‘The Dancing Rabbit’ is the cabaret that saw him charm and swindles his way into a (near) nightly dinner. By flirting with anyone in the place, he managed to barter some rough drawings (some on paper napkins) in exchange for a warm meal. The cabaret still runs and is far and away a safer (and more affordable) bet than anywhere further down the hill near Moulin Rouge. A great stop on your walk to Sacré-Cœur, if you continue up the road you’ll be following van Gogh’s route towards the small tavern that ultimately pushed him over the edge (watch out for sultry redheads).
Bar ‘Chez Ammad (?)’
18 rue Véron
We’re not entirely sure who owns this place, or even exactly what it’s called. We do know though, that it appears to be stuck back in the 1930s, its walls lined with old photographs of local celebrities who used to frequent the ‘fashionable’ dive bar. If you don’t know French, be ready to play charades, and whatever you do, don’t act like a tourist. If you manage to win the bartender and patrons over, be ready for a long night full of cheap rounds and indiscernible stories of Edith Piaf and old boxing champs.
37 Rue de la Bûcherie
A favorite spot of the Lost Generation, from the upstairs of this legendary independent book shop, it’s hard not to imagine Gertrude Stein scolding Hemingway for getting Fitzgerald too drunk, or Pound staring out the window across the Seine. Even though most of the upstairs collection is privately owned and not for sale (but just think of who’s hands might have graced each leather or canvas spine!), the piano room is not to be missed. Grab a seat and soak in the atmosphere. You don’t need a lit degree to appreciate this building.
20 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Decent accommodations at a decent price can be really hard to come by in this town. What this hostel lacks in creature comforts, it makes up for in hospitality and location. There is just no way, without knowing a French diplomat, that you could spend your time in Paris so close to the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries. What’s more, on the right nights, its less than twenty euros per bed, and that includes breakfast. Strict on their age limit, consider yourself lucky (in many ways) if you’re under 36.
16 rue du Repos
We know that to some, walking around a cemetery seems like a strange way to spend an afternoon. Typically, it may very well be, but we feel there are certain exceptions, Pere-Lachaise is one of them. This Catholic cemetery embodies everything a final resting place should, it’s the sanctuary Jim Morrison asked for and the final rest Oscar Wilde spent much of his life racing toward. The grounds are beautiful, one of the city’s most peaceful unofficial parks. Easily reached by lines two and three of the Metro.