Paris, its sometimes called the ‘City of Lights’, and many know it as the ‘City of Love’, but for those who have been there know it is much more than that. It’s charming, chic, sophisticated, sublime come to mind, and for me its the enchantment of Paris the city that I love.
Perhaps when you are in Paris next put on your walking shoes and wonder off the main streets. Enjoy the surprises that just pop up in the small quiet neighbourhoods. Cast a glimpse sideways and you may see a winding pathway. Why not follow it? Take mystery steps to even more mysterious roads and cul de sacs that may remind you of astonishing beautiful Parisian scenes. In fact the best way to experience Paris is to lose yourself within it for an afternoon and venture off the beaten path. The Places or Squares, with their bench chairs taken up by both the young and young at heart; the small cafés and wine bars that you come across unexpectedly, just around the corner, the small gardens that you just happen upon; with their old elegant street lamp. Even in the larger spaces like the Luxumberg Gardens, the Pallais Royal, the Louvre and the divine Jardins de Babylone to name a few have their little secret spaces.
Paris is divided up into 20 neighbourhoods called arrondissements. Many of these are know by their general name, the Marias, Saint-Germain etc. They are also recognised by corresponding numbers which is how they are identified by the Paris postal services. In English they are the First, 1st, the Second, 2nd etc. in French they are written 1ème, 2 ème etc. Each arrondissement has it’s own character and personality. The Marias for instance is regarded as having a bohemian style, lively and ‘hip’ with shops, cafés buzzing, and many of the streets having that feeling of an alternative lifestyle about them. The Latin Quarter is similarly a bohemian style and is occupied more by students. The Boulevard Saint Germain has that sophisticated feeling, frequented by with intellectuals, philosophers and writers. It has a large number of bookshops and a number of publishing houses which attracts a more refined community. Other arrondissements also have their own style and spirit reflecting their different character. All are worth visiting and exploring to experience what makes up Paris.
What a number of visitors to Paris don’t realize is that inside each of the arrondissements there are smaller more intimate quartiers, which are also full of character and spirit of that particular Quartier. Each arrondissement has four quartiers and even though they can be in the same arrondissement they can be slightly different from the Quartier beside it. If you are really keen, give yourself some time to discover each arrondissements and their quartiers, allow yourself to be immersed in the local history its atmosphere its beauty and its various moods during different moments of the day. Even the local Parisians can be discovered in its parks, cafés, patisseries and bistros. This is one of the best ways to explore Paris is with an open mind and heart, without the confines of being labelled a tourist as such and you will find yourself enjoying Paris even more than you think you would. You will find you too will fall in love with Paris in your own way, like I did. It’s only by being a flâneur and aimlessly wondering, strolling through the city streets that you will truly discover Paris.
There are some wonderful side streets can be found on Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, or why not join us on our Boutique Tours & Travel - Paris Indulgence Women’s Tour in 2016 and discover more.
I would love to hear where Your favourite ‘surprise side-streets’ are, and send me a photo too if you have one.