Posts Tagged ‘champs elysees’

On the Champs-Élysées

May 27, 2012

The legendary Avenue des Champs-Élysées where chestnut trees shade the wide sidewalks

The Experienced Travelers confess that the vast Champs-Élysées is not a favorite destination in Paris. But despite our personal preferences, we felt we owed it to the dear Readership to investigate the legendary avenue.  This way you are fully informed when you loiter there on a café terrace and spend twice as much money for the dubious pleasure of doing so.  There.  Have we made our feelings known?

Melinda outside Restaurant Fouquet, where 30 euro buys you a smoked salmon starter and you can rub elbows with the elite. Fouquet is an historical monument.

Extending 1.8 miles from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Champs-Élysées begins peacefully with lovely gardens.  Then just beyond the Grand Palais, it bursts into the frenzied madness that gives the ETs a case of vertigo.  But the Champs-Élysées has it’s fans and you may well become one of them if you have energy to spare and a penchant for shopping and clubbing.

The Champs-Élysées decked out for Christmas. Perhaps the ETs could be persuaded to love the avenue if they got a ride on that ferris wheel. Photo by David Monniaux

A walk down the avenue lit by fairy lights for Christmas might soften the ETs feelings.  Or maybe we should wake early to catch a morning vista that highlights the Historical Axis, a miracle of urban planning with the perfect alignment of the Petit Carrousel, Tuilleries gardens, Luxor Obelisk, Arc de Triomphe and La Grande Arch at La Défense.

Louis Vuitton’s store window. This talented zebra tosses exquisite handbags with aplomb. You can take one home, but the zebra stays…

I recently read an article that described the Champs-Élysées as a the urban equivalent of an airport duty-free mall. (I wish I could remember where I read that…).  Several high-end stores are there – Cartier, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton – but so is Disney, Gap and Nike.  We suppose it’s an egalitarian mix, but the French government is taking steps to limit the encroachment of chain-style retail in an effort to restore the old girl’s reputation.

See and be seen in 1903 on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

With a little imagination,  the grandeur that recalls her proud and elegant history is still there.  As the city expanded westward through the late 1800s, the wealthy built fashionable town homes with elaborate gardens along the avenue and it was the perfect promenade for the elite.  The Élysée Palace, home today to the  new French President Hollande, was once owned by the Marquise de Pompadour.  Were she alive today, we suppose she would gleefully drop Louis XVs Found Money down the street at Benetton. (Alas things didn’t work out for La Pomp, but that’s another post)

A relatively quiet moment at the Place de l’Étoile. Buckle up and prepare for a crazy ride. Barbara and Christine took this picture on our last visit.

Napoleon commissioned the crowning glory of the avenue, the magnificent Arc de Triomphe.  It now serves as a giant traffic roundabout that Parisian drivers regard as a eight-lane NASCAR track.  On a clear day, the trip to the top is rewarded by the excellent view.

In the dark days of the Occcupation, the Nazis staged regular military parades.  Four years later, the Free French and Liberation forces took back the avenue with triumphant marches of their own.  Now, Bastille Day celebrations on the Champs-Élysées are a riotous time and a legitimate reason for champagne before noon.

Risking personal safety for the sake of a photo. It only took one valium to prepare me for my mission.

Today the triumphant marches down the avenue are Manolo Blahnik-shod  troops of shoppers liberating handbags, clothing and glittering bling from locked display cases in stores. If your exchange rate against the euro is better than our dollar, you can help free France from the daunting European financial crisis. Do your part and shop for the good of la belle France!

Resting at the Cafe Roma. Would Mme. de Pompadour care to join me?

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Paris Neighborhoods: Rive Droite

November 7, 2011

The Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre are across the river from one another. Art lovers take note! Photo by Associate ET Felzer

An previous post regaled you with the Experienced Travelers Paris Hotel Tips. (Read it here)  Now we’ll take a whirlwind tour of a few Paris neighborhoods so you can settle on a handy address for your sojurn.

Left bank?  Right bank?  Montparnasse? Montmartre?   It sounds like a Piaf ballad, n’est pas? The choices are bountiful dear Readership, and we assure you that you’ll find just the right spot to suit your mood and itinerary.  (tell us you do have an itinerary… oh dear me,  that’s another post.)

The ETs recommend staying in a central location that's nearby major sights.

Some travelers will trade a central location for cheaper digs on the outskirts.  The ETs believe that there’s something to be said for proximity when you get the yen to walk along the Seine in the moonlight. So we recommend the city center, and there are perfect neighborhoods on both banks of the Seine with hotels in virtually all price ranges. Each area has it’s fans, and aspects that make it unique.  Go get your map and a glass of wine and lets start with a few arrondissements on the rive droite, or right bank.

Staying near the Louvre is central and convenient if you have just a few days in Paris. Photo by Associate ET Felzer.

The Louvre-Palais Royale area (1st arrondissement) is smack in the center of Paris, between the Place de la Concorde and Châtelet -Les Halles.  If your inner Rembrandt yearns for the major museums, this could be the spot.  The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are across the Seine from each other.  The Jeu de Paume and the Orangerie are at the edge of the Tuilleries.  You’ll find busy restaurants – including the legendary Angelina’s –  and tourist shops selling sno-globe Eiffel Towers under the arcades on the rue de Rivoli.  Nearby restaurants tend to be more expensive because of the proximity to the museums.  If you’re hungry venture north to the trendy rue Montorgueil street market where you can get a cheaper meal, and browse delicious kitchen stores like E. Dehillerin on the edge of Les Halles.

It’s worth noting that the Louvre-Palais Royale area lacks the “lived-in” feeling of other quartiers, if that’s important to you.  You’re also dependent on Metro line 1, which serves many major sights, but as a result it’s jam-packed most of the day.   And avoid the Châtelet metro correspondence – it’s enormous and confusing.  Consider staying in this area if you have a limited time in Paris and you want to be central to most major sights.

  • What’s nearby:  Place de la Concorde, Madeleine, Tuilleries Gardens, Musée d’Orsay, l’Opera, grandes magasins (Printemps and Galeries Lafayette), Place Vendome, Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame, Les Halles, Châtelet.

Ile St-Louis. If you stay here, don't worry. They all go home at night and leave you alone with beautiful 17th century buildings.

The upscale Ile St.-Louis is a coveted address for visitor and resident alike.  This lovely island in the Seine is awash with tourists during the day, but quiet and village-like at night.  Alongside the aristocratic townhouses, there are a few hotels and some excellent restaurants.  The lower Marais, the edge of the Latin Quarter and it’s sister island, the Ile de la Cité are within easy reach.  It is necessary to cross a bridge to reach a metro stop, but there are several in the area. This is a good choice if you want to be centrally located in an area that’s pleasant and peaceful in the evening.  We don’t recommend the Ile de la Cité next door. It’s not convenient as a base.

  • What’s nearby:  Villages St.-Paul, the lower Marais, Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, the Latin Quarter, Berthillion ice cream.

The Marais is a popular location that's convenient and shop-worthy

The Marais (3-4th arrondissements) runs from the Seine to Temple, and Beaubourg to Bastille.  This quartier is fresh from a gentrification which started in the 1980s, and attracted small hotels, chi-chi boutiques, artisan studios and Gay residents (suffice it to say “le clubbing” must be good!)  The centuries-old streets off the rue des Archives aren’t dormant anymore, with lots of walking-shopping on the narrow sidewalks. But you quickly get a sense of old Paris in the side streets and courtyards.  The jewel in the Marais crown is the exquisite Place des Vosges featuring Henry IVs arcades.  Stay in the Marais and it could be your neighborhood garden.

  • What’s nearby:  boutique shopping, the Musees Carnavalet, Picasso and Pompidou, the St-Paul quartier with antiques and very old architecture, the Ile-St.-Louis and Ile de la Cite, Place de la Bastille, Hotel de Ville (and the fabulous BHV department store)

The legendary Avenue des Champs-Elysees has plenty of places to spend your Found Money

The vast, chaotic Champs-Elysees (8th arrondissement) is riddled with hotels in all price ranges, but the noise and traffic make the ETs grateful to hurry back to the residential 7th.  Perhaps you’re made of stronger stuff and will thrive on the energy.

Many people choose the Champs-Elysees as a home base and the quantity of major hotels attests to that. It’s a shopping haven.  Global brand names line the wide avenue.  The grands magasins are nearby.  High-end retailers fill the Golden Triangle, and the elegant stores of the Place de la Madeleine and the rue Royale are just off the Place de la Concorde.

Associate ETs Joanne and Clare strike a pose before the monumental Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees

If you are superhuman and have a shred of energy left after shopping, nightclubs like the Lido abound. There are five metro stops on the Champs-Elysees (Line 1)with convenient correspondances to other lines.  Be warned that a glass of wine or a meal will cost much more here.   We think the visitors who stay here do so for access to shopping or major hotel brands.

  • What’s nearby: High-end shopping; The Arc de Triomphe, Grande and Petit Palais, stores in the rue Faubourg St.-Honoré, Golden Triangle and Place de la Madeleine.

We need another Paris trip to explore the 9th, 10th and 11th arrondissements. These neighborhoods are gaining in popularity with young singles, particularly the 10th along the Canal St-Martin.  I spent an afternoon in the 9th wandering from the Place St-Georges to Place Pigalle (in search of Simenon’s Maigret, of course).  I thought it was an unremarkable area and feel that I must have missed something.  Do please tell me what it was.

I haven’t visited the 10th or 11th, so I don’t  recommend for or against them as a base for visitors.  But I have read that new up-and-coming super-chef restaurants are opening there.  I hope we’ll get informative comments from fans of these areas who will enlighten us.

  • What’s nearby: 9th – Opera Garnier, grandes magasins, Gare St-Lazare. 10th – Place de la République , Gares du Nord and L’Est. 11th – Place de la Bastille, eastern edge of the Marais, Père Lachaise cemetery.

Marketing in the rue de Levis near the Parc Monceau.

May we make a plug for a residential area on the south-eastern edge of the 17th arrondissement near the beautiful Parc Monceau?  In the bloom of my youth, I rented a room overlooking the market in the rue de Lévis.   I often return for a sentimental visit, hoping to catch a glimpse of my eccentric Algerian landlady.  The market here is authentic, with fewer fashion boutiques and more food and services stores.  If you want a true residential experience in Paris, I can recommend this neighborhood.  Do not stay further north or east than Ave. Villiers and Ave. Wagram.  Stick close by the Parc Monceau. Convenient metro stops are found along the Ave. de Villiers.

  • What’s nearby: Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees, Parc Monceau, Proust’s rooms in the Blvd. Haussmann.

Picasso, Utrillo, Modigliani - you! This alluring view of the Place du Tertre might tempt you to book a room here.

And finally on our right bank tour, we come to that  storied butte in the 18th arrondissement.  Lovers of Montmartre are a feisty bunch, and claim that the charm of the place outweighs the long breathless ascent.  The ETs can’t imagine  schlepping back and forth by bus or metro to get to major sights.  And there’s that hill to climb at the end of the day. Again.   But if you have a 19th century, absinthe-ridden artistic-genius fantasy, you’ll find very affordable hotels and restaurants in Montmartre.  Be warned that the area between Sacré-Cœur and the Place du Tertre is sheer tourist madness during the day, especially on sunny weekends.  It gets better at night.

Dear Readership, this is only the right bank!  Imagine what we’ll find when we explore the 5th and 6th arrondissements on the left bank in a future post!

Paris experts – use the comment link below and enlighten us about your favourite right bank haunt!

Enjoying the sun on the Ile St.-Louis, and pondering our exploration of the Left Bank in the next post! Someone needs a haircut....

Twelve days of revels

December 18, 2010

The City of Lights at Christmas (Agatellier, Wikipedia commons)

The holidays are nigh upon us, and the Experienced Travelers sleep with images of foie gras dancing in their heads.  Letters were duly posted to Père Noël at his atelier in the Rue Guillemites, so now we wait.   

Pere Noel forsakes the North Pole for the Rue Guillemites in the Marais

France is a secular country – unless the Church provides an excuse for leisure and dining.  Christmas is a twelve-day extravaganza, beginning with le Réveillon after Midnight Mass.  Imagine a table laden with roasts, salads, oysters, foie gras, champagne and the “bûche de Noël” or Christmas log cake. Paris will be awake all night, eating, drinking and visiting. 

Beware the hidden crown in this Galette des Rois

Twelve exhausting days later, the season comes to a close at Epiphany.  Naturally there is a meal, which features la Galette des Rois, a round cake containing a small hidden crown.  Whoever finds it in their slice gets to be King or Queen. (which can be a risky proposition in France)  We hope they chew carefully.

The ETs speculate that this tradition was started in the 14th century by the medieval guild of Baker Dentists, rivals of the better-known Barber Surgeons. Translated from the Latin, their motto reads “Bake a crown – Make a crown”. It’s still upheld by dentists across France.

We asked Pere for more time to visit this friendly fromagerie

We have been very, very good all year, so we hope that Père Noël will be generous.  Nurse wants time to explore the other fromagerie near our apartment, a Gordon Ramsay gift certificate, fresh radishes and haricots verts, Laduree macarons, the vintage Hermès scarf from the shop on the corner, and for me to get bored with Proust.

We both asked Pere Noel for dinner at Le Florimond

I asked for two chairs by the fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens, the view from the Centre Pompidou, the unforgettable omelette from La Fontaine Saint-Michel, to find Napoleon’s stuffed dog in the Musee de L’Armee and to gain entry to the bank conference room that was once Proust’s bedroom. 

Open late for last minute shopping (Noel Remi Jouan, Wikipedia Commons)

JuliesParis will be on hiatus until the New Year while we rest by the fire with a glass of wine and our Paris maps.  Until then, we invite you to join us in the final chorus of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”, which will sound better once we open the wine:

Twelve vintage bottles / Eleven lost Picassos
Ten chefs creating / Nine waiters waiting
Eight “Gordon” courses/ Seven Marly horses
Six scarves from Hermès / Five Ma-ca-rons
Four garden chairs / Three baguettes / Two camemberts
And a pied-à-terre in the Rue Cler

This video features the bells of Notre Dame on Christmas Eve.  As you listen, imagine every church bell in Paris ringing out at midnight.  We wish all the loyal Readership the best of the season, and the best of Paris!


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