Going to Paris? You don’t need to make a list of things to see; it’s been in your head for as long as you can remember. Like all world capitols, Paris has little-known attractions that are fascinating. Perhaps you will think about including a few of these after you’ve shopped for scarves and shoes and toured the Louvre, the Orsay Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral:
- Musée National du Moyen Age (formerly The Cluny Museum) is built on Roman ruins and you can see the mosaic floors. “The Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries woven in Flanders in the 1500s celebrate the senses. The lady is known as the Mona Lisa of woven art. The museum has a large collection of medieval stained glass, religious art, and furnishings;
- Galerie Vivienne, built before shopping malls, is a 19th-Century era covered passageway with glass domed ceilings and carved wood wall accents. The mosaic walkways wend past elegant shops and a tea shop named A Priori Thé that serves scones and tea the British way. You can sit inside the shop or at an “outdoor” table on the mosaic walkway with glass above. Their hot chocolate should win a “world’s best” award. There are other covered “galeries” to explore, all reminiscent of a by-gone time.
Rue Cler, about eight blocks from the Eiffel Towner, is a pedestrian-only street of gastronomic wonders. First, have crepes and coffee at one of Ulysee’s outdoor tables on Rue Cler. You can watch the owner whip up your crepe and plan your Rue Cler excursion: an unassuming grocery store for those boring basic provisions, then on to the fun shops. Rue Cler has two chocolate shops, two wine shops, produce stands with farm fresh fruit and vegetables, the French bakery of your dreams, a cheese shop with 400 varieties to choose from, a shoe shop, and two delis across from each other — each claiming to have the best food for the cheapest price;
- The Museum of Montmartre is in the bohemian district where the first cabaret, Le Chat Noir, opened in 1881 and the cancan was born. The museum is in a 300-year-old house and contains art that illustrate the history of the area — including the iconic “black cat” posters. Renoir had a studio here, and using his paintings as a guide the gardens are recreated as they were when he was painting some of his masterpieces. You can sit on the swing in the garden and feel like you are in his “Girl on a Swing” painting that nobody liked during his lifetime. Now, the painting hangs in the Orsay Museum and is worth millions. From the garden you can look down on a vineyard that produces, according to the New York Times “The most expensive bad wine in Paris.
- The official Le Petit Prince store is quite modest considering La Petit Prince is one of the best selling books ever published. The store is in quiet neighborhood with understated signage. But for anyone who loves The Little Prince, it has everything one could possibly yearn for as a memento of the story: fuzzy foxes and sheep, the Prince’s proud rose, scarves, note and post cards, baby clothes, cups and plates — and the book itself translated into many languages;
- Parapluies Simon (Umbrellas Simon) is in the Latin Quarter, between the Musée National du Moyen Age and the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens. The shop opened in 1897 and offers about three-thousand umbrellas of every imaginable style. This is where Parisians take their umbrellas for repair. Imagine owning an umbrella worth repairing!
- The Eiffel Tower is certainly on your list, but keep in mind that after dark, the lights twinkle every hour, on the hour, for five minutes. People take blankets, cheese, and wine and make a party of it.
Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea.” Exploring the city, you will find out why.