Visiting France: Five things you may not yet have done in Paris
Every first-time visitor to Paris sees the obligatory French sites (as well they should): the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur, the Louvre, etc. Every tourist strolls around the Marais, Saint-Germain and Montmartre (not that I would ever get sick of repeating this).
If you have been to Paris several times, you have probably climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, walked the back streets of the Latin Quarter, visited Les Invalides and a few other museums – the Musée d’Orsay or perhaps Carnavalet?
If you are really a seasoned Paris traveler, I bet you spent one whole afternoon people-watching at a café. Maybe you ventured as far as east as Père Lachaise cemetery. Or as far west as Parc Monceau in the 17th arrondissement? Wonderful, I salute you.
Visitors to Paris can be overwhelmed with all there is to see. So why not focus your next trip on what there is to do? Plan a weekend or a week of experiences, not just sightseeing. Here are my top five suggestions for things you may not yet have done in Paris:
1. Sign up for a cooking class.
Through cooking together, you meet a local chef and likely some residents of Paris as well as other visitors. You learn a new skill, you gain insight into the culture, and best of all, you eat! In pastry classes, you often even leave with a goodie bag of extras. There are a number of cooking schools out there. Cook’n with Class and l’Atelier des Sens are just two that I would recommend.
2. Take a wine tasting course.
Wine is a huge part of French culture. Why not learn a bit more about the wine industry and its regions and varietals while you drink? Sign up with Cave Elzevir or Ô Chateau, or ask your local caviste (wine merchant) for a recommendation.
3. Do a bike or walking tour.
I have lived in Paris over five years now and I never get sick of the walking tours. I always learn something new. I have joined a number of the Paris Walks 2-hour rain-or-shine guided walks. If you prefer the adrenaline of a day or even night bike ride, try Fat Tire Bike Tours.
4. Attend a concert or cabaret.
Look ahead on a site such as Time Out Paris, the FNAC website or Digitick to find out what is happening during your stay and to buy tickets in advance online. Digitick lists some cabarets, or check the websites for the cabaret theaters directly (The Moulin Rouge, Lido, Crazy Horse and Lapin Agile are just some examples).
5. Plan your trip around a special event or festival.
On New Year’s Eve, the crowds fill in the Champs-Elysées and the Champs de Mars. In late May and early June, the city gears up for Roland Garros (The French Open). June 21 is Fête de la Musique, a celebration of the longest day of the year with music all over town, all night long. Early October welcomes Nuit Blanche, a night of concerts, museum exhibits and other events open all night long.
Or try to visit during one of Paris’s salons du vin (wine fairs), when one to several hundred winemakers and other culinary craftsmen gather to show off their products.
Off you go, do something new!