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|Written by Will Parker|
|Friday, 20 August 2010 00:00|
I was recently provided with a wonderful opportunity. It started with my younger brother accepting a job in the Netherlands. While I was very happy to hear that he would be doing swanky legal work that is well beyond me, I was much more focused on what is important -- namely, how to manoeuvre his new employment success into a valid excuse for me to go to Paris. Surprisingly, this didn't prove to be terribly difficult, despite the six-hour drive and entire country of Belgium that separates Den Haag from the City of Lights. I explained to my family that I would go make sure my brother was doing alright, and take in the sights in Paris while I was at it. A few weeks after he had signed his employment contract, I booked my flight.
Aside from visiting my brother, my plan was to try to eat, see and do pretty much everything I could in Paris. I had grandiose ideas of walking from boulangerie to boulangerie, and determining which croissant reigns supreme. After about five bakeries, I realized they were all beyond fantastic and to choose one would be like choosing a favourite child. Similarly, I had extravagant plans of shopping along the Champs, popping into Goyard for a wallet, and sampling the pret-a-porter at Lanvin. After my first encounter with Hermes, I realised my extravagant plans were beyond my monetary reach. Nevertheless, the shopping in Paris was excellent, and choosing a few select magasins is as difficult as selecting the best song written by ABBA (as in they are all good). And of course, I planned on seeing all of the sights - going to every museum possible and soaking up as much Parisien culture as I could handle. After six different museums in the span of three days, I realized that you could spend years trying to see everything there is to see in this wonderful city. I resigned myself to simply relax and enjoy things as they come.
That is not to say that there weren't a few things on my 'must-do' list that are causing me to consider booking another trip abroad as I write these words. Among all the fantastique things to see, do and eat, a few were really noteworthy. Because we are such tres bons amis, I am happy to share those top picks with you for the next time you have a valid excuse to go to the Old Country. So put on some good walking shoes, and pack a water bottle - here are my recommendations for your next visit to the best city on the planet:
At L'Avant Comptoir, L'As du Falafel and Creperie Bretonne. Delicious meals are available at all of these places for less than ten euros a piece. L'Avant Comptoir does a French spin on tapas, in a trendy little bar with standing-room only. My mouth waters as I think of the salmon croquettes with fresh aioli. L'As du Falafel is reputedly the best falafel in Paris, France, and arguably on Earth. It is certainly the best I have ever tasted, and at five euros for a giant sandwich, it tastes even better than you can imagine. Finally, Creperie Bretonne stuffs deliciously thin buckwheat galettes with sweet and savoury fillings to provide a traditional taste of Brittany. Served alongside a large bottle of the house apple cider, your tummy will be content and ready for an evening out on the town.
At Come on Eileen, Le Prince Jardinier, and La Grande ...picerie. Come on Eileen is hands down the best vintage second-hand store I have ever experienced, with racks of high quality designer clothing at fantastic prices. I almost died when I stumbled upon the full rack of vintage Burberry trenches. My partner actually was concerned that I may have passed out based on the amount of time I spent there. Le Prince Jardinier is a very upscale gardening store that stocks beautiful tools and implements that I imagine only the finest French gardeners would use. A surprise awaits on the second floor of the flagship store, as a giant room of taxidermy animals are available for purchase. Kind of creepy, kind of fascinating, and absolutely French. I considered the albino peacock but realized Canadian customs would be a bitch. And finally, La Grande ...picerie is everything the title promises. This is honestly the best fine foods store I have ever visited. I went there three times, and left with bags and bags of goodies upon each successive trip. No stay in Paris is complete without picking up a few choice Fauchon, Hediard or any other gourmet items here.
Le Pompidou, Musee D'Orsay and Napoleon's Tomb. All three recommendations are touristy, I know, but among the many wonderful museums in Paris, I would visit these again. The Pompidou houses a fantastic collection of art moderne, and the building itself is a sight to see. The true highlight of this museum are the outdoor escalators that provide a view of the city that is unparalleled. The experience can be extended at the 6th floor Cafe George for a tasty outdoor snack. The Musee D'Orsay houses a large impressionist gallery that contains numerous famous pieces. However, the real draw for me is the beautiful building itself, that at one point in time was used to house one of the city's main train stations. Finally, Napoleon's Tomb is a striking monument to the former French emperor. The haunting sense of history that surrounds you as pass Les Invalides and enter the monument cannot be overstated.
So there you have it. A quick list of the best of the best. I hope you all come up with a valid excuse to go visit soon. And s'il vous plait, feel free to invite me along! One last thing: for those of you who were wondering, I did manage to see my brother in Holland. He is doing quite well, I am pleased to report. Mission accomplished!