|If you’re considering a trip to Paris, I’m sure you already know all about the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and the typical places everyone expects to visit. When I return from a trip, I love telling stories about the experiences I didn’t expect to have or the things I hadn’t planned to do but stumbled upon while I was there. A fresh adventure. A real vacation, where I actually relaxed and recharged before coming back to the real world. How can you accomplish that in the City of Light?
One way is to get outside. Paris has hundreds of parks and gardens, which are perfect places to go for walks and bike rides, to relax and read or sketch, to eat a packed lunch and watch the locals walk by. In some parks, you can even rent a boat and paddle around. DiscoverWalks.com has some great tips for visiting one of their favorite areas: “Jog into the Bois de Vincennes. On the border between Paris and its suburbs, this late royal hunting playground is nowadays a zoo, a garden with its several lakes, and also the place for one of the most beautiful Parisian castles.”
There are two Paris woods—Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne (“bois” means “wood” in French). In the spring of 2017, the GoodPlanet Foundation will open the Domaine de Longchamp inside the Bois de Boulogne. This historic mansion and park will have exhibitions, lectures, walking paths, a cooking school, and more—all dedicated to sustainability, ecology, and humanism.
I recommend choosing an arrondissement (that’s French for “neighborhood”), and then hiring a bike from Vélib’ or booking a bicycle tour with a local guide. Explore all day by visiting different gardens, stopping to grab a bite, stocking up on cheese to munch on when you rest at the park, and hunting for Statues of Liberty—yes! There are several besides the one in the United States. Create your own list of favorite stops. Learn how to play boules. Make local friends. Become a real Parisian!
When you want a more low-key day, take advantage of the Paris Museum Pass and choose from over 60 museums and monuments in the region (with no lines). There are literally hundreds of museums in Paris, so I apologize in advance if the ones you want to visit aren’t included! But getting the Pass will open your options up to visiting a museum you weren’t planning on going to…and being glad that you did.
Another option to consider is visiting Paris by water. It’s one of the best ways to travel. Take a Seine cruise in the evening to see some great sights by moon and starlight. Better yet, have your travel agent book you on a river cruise with Viking River Cruises, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld, or Tauck. These are the big names in river cruising, and they do it right. Perfect for artists, history buffs, and culinary lovers, the itineraries and tours they offer are fantastic.
Of course, we are used to having our smartphones 24/7, aren’t we? Before you go, download “Welcome to Paris,” the new travel app from the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. The app will provide suggestions for dining, events, walking itineraries, practical information, and more. You can even buy tickets for museums and exhibitions in the area you’re in. The app will help you explore Paris from your chosen point of view—culture, gastronomy, nightlife, and more. Try it out!
If you’re planning a family trip to Disneyland Paris, ask your travel agent to set up a stay at the new Villages Nature, which opens in July. This “nature village” is a breathtaking blend of nature and architecture. It’s a destination in itself, or else a great way to recharge after a day or two at the theme park.
One last thing you have to do while you’re visiting Paris—take at least a day trip outside of the city to see wine country. I asked certified sommelier Scott Mattson (owner of Denver’s Nocturne) where to go for great wine. “I would head south…to the region of Chablis, which is home to some of the most articulate and precise white wines on the planet,” he says. “From Chablis, I would pack a picnic (with a lot of funky cheese) and cruise over to the eastern reaches of the Loire Valley to drink mineral-bomb sauvignon blanc from Pouilly Fumé and gorgeous pinot noir from Sancerre. Pinot is the often overlooked “secondary” grape of this famous appellation—and it’s absolutely stunning and complex.”
Of course, even a “typical” Paris holiday is pretty fantastic, but I encourage you to visit and see Paris in a different way. Try something new and see the City of Light in a new light.
Sources for this article included: us.france.fr, en.parisinfo.com, www.discoverwalks.com, and www.goodplanet.org.