Hot Spots

Who needs to travel the world when Paris alone has enough di­ver­sions to make even the most ex­ten­sive bucket list splash over the brim?

Destiny Man - - CONTENTS -

“To know Paris is to know a great deal,” wrote con­tro­ver­sial Amer­i­can nov­el­ist Henry Miller, who spent a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of his life wag­ing a run­ning philo­soph­i­cal bat­tle with the City of Lights. To truly know Paris, you’d have spend a life­time at its exquisitely pedi­cured feet.

The prob­lem many trav­ellers to the French cap­i­tal have is sim­ply fit­ting all that won­der­ment into a rel­a­tively com­pact va­ca­tion. The to­tal num­ber of vis­i­tors to Greater Paris, all ac­com­mo­da­tion com­bined, ex­ceeded a record 40 mil­lion in 2017, with about 7 mil­lion of them opt­ing to visit the Eif­fel Tower, the world’s most pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion, and just one of hun­dreds crammed into its pul­sat­ing heart.

This was a prob­lem my part­ner and I shared on our week-long sab­bat­i­cal in Paris. Hav­ing dis­em­barked at the sprawl­ing Charles de Gaulle Air­port, we were soon in­stalled in a thor­oughly mod­ern stu­dio in a 300-yearold mai­son – sourced at a com­pet­i­tive rate via Airbnb – in Le Marais. So in­fin­itely cool is this ar­rondisse­ment,

close to all the ma­jor sights and marked by trendy bou­tiques, open-air mar­kets, patis­series and Lenny Kravitz-ap­proved falafel, that even the home­less sport top buns. We’d com­piled a hope­lessly im­prac­ti­cal list of must-do things for each of the seven days, but were soon forced to whit­tle it down to the bare bones as we bat­tled sub­way delir­ium and queue de­men­tia.

If you spent 60 sec­onds look­ing at each of the ob­jects in the Lou­vre, the world’s largest art mu­seum and home to the Venus de Milo, Eugène Delacroix’s Lib­erty Lead­ing the Peo­ple and, of course, the cu­ri­ously un­set­tling Mona Lisa, go­ing steadily for eight hours a day, it would take you 75 days to see them all. And when you con­sider that there’s still the haunting cathe­dral of Notre Dame, the fas­ci­nat­ing Army Mu­seum hous­ing Napoleon’s Tomb and a host of ar­ti­facts, the iconic Arc de Tri­om­phe and the sheer mag­nif­i­cence of the Palace of Ver­sailles to see, the re­sult can only be over­load.

Thank­fully, Paris has any num­ber of drink­ing holes of­fer­ing respite from the teem­ing swarm of tourists. The Cave de Lou­vre is an un­der­ground cel­lar built in the 18th cen­tury by Trudon, the wine stew­ard of King Louis XV, and of­fers tours by som­me­liers who don’t take them­selves too se­ri­ously and give you the chance to cre­ate your own vin­tage. Then there’s the Hem­ing­way Bar, an in­ti­mate al­cove in the Ritz Ho­tel where – as soon as the oc­cu­py­ing Nazis be­gan re­treat­ing from Paris – the fa­mously al­co­holic No­bel Lau­re­ate per­son­ally “lib­er­ated” the bar by down­ing 52 dry mar­ti­nis in a row. Though I was ea­ger to em­u­late my lit­er­ary hero’s im­pres­sive feat, one Old-Fash­ioned cock­tail, at €30, was enough to “lib­er­ate” my wal­let of its con­tents.

We did visit most of our must-see tar­gets, in­clud­ing the eerie Cat­a­combs and the dis­ap­point­ing Moulin

Rouge (which re­minded me of a cabaret show at

Sun City in the Nineties). We found the Paris Pass, which of­fers dis­counted and skip-the-queue ac­cess to over 100 at­trac­tions, to be in­valu­able.

Hit­ting the tourist trail isn’t the only way to im­bibe Parisian cul­ture. If you can bring your­self to es­chew the rick­ety sub­way sys­tem and take to the streets, you’ll be richly re­warded. There’s even a word for it in French – flâneur – to wan­der freely around the city. Whether

01

02 0301 A view of the city against the back­drop of the Eif­fel Tower. 02 A grisly ar­ti­fact in the Cat­a­combs. 03 The Arc de Tri­om­phe de l’Étoile and the Champs-Élysées at sun­set.

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