By: Sandy Braz
I’m freshly back home in Toronto from a month’s stay in Paris and I bring very good news: If you ever find yourself there for just 24 hours – on a layover, for a pit-stop or on a dare – it’s possible to make the most of your rendez vous just by keeping things simple (Save the big museums and gothic churches for another time).
Here are a few nuggets on how to make the most of your short stay in Paris:
This arrondissement is where I stayed for the month. I loved the lively mix of people, nouveau concept galleries, modern and traditional cuisine and some of the best boutique shopping in the city (nay, the world). If you have just one day in Paris, this is a neighbourhood you don’t want to skip – it’s a good place to start your mini grand tour.
Place Georges Pompidou
While you’re in the Marais, for just 3 euros, take the escalator to the top where you’ll see one of the most prized views of the city. Then head down to the gallery floors housing permanent works by artists like Picasso, Matisee, Brassaii, Warhol and Kalho. It’s a cool experience and much more low-key than the other museums.
Travel tip: Centre Pompidou is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Shakespeare and Company Bookshop
37 rue de la Bûcherie
Make your way to the left bank via Pont Louis-Philli and take in the grandeur and spectacular gargoyles of Notre Dame…but only from the outside.
Skip the crowds and cross the courtyard to the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop. Scan its impressive collection of rare books and journals or get lost amidst the hundreds of shelves that house modern literature and magazines.
Notable patrons of this famous shop include Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, to name a few.
Travel Tip: Have the clerk brand your purchase with an official “Shakespeare and Company” stamp.
Jardin du Luxembourg
The second largest park in all of Paris, fans of Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables might remember this garden as where the love story between Cosette and Marius unfolds.
In the warmer months, expect to see bubbling fountains, flowers and lively trees on almost every square inch of these gardens. Parisians and tourists sit side-by-side picnicking in the shade of a tree with friends, a good baguette and a bottle of wine.
Travel tip: Don’t forget the corkscrew.
20 avenue Rachel
Take a walk through the winding hills of historic Montmartre (a map downloadable here http://www.aparisguide.com/montmartre/index.html). Once you get passed the gaudy gift shops and neon windmills, you’ll arrive at the summit, Sacre Coeur, and enjoy yet another fantastic vista of all of Paris. There’s no better way to drink in the city than with a bird’s eye view of it.
Travel fact: This area was once the stomping ground of artists like Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and de Beauvoir.
The Eiffel Tower
I highly recommend going at dusk so you can enjoy the anticipation of nightfall on the Champs de Mars (the Eiffel Tower’s epic front lawn) and look up to watch the tower light up the sky with thousands of light bulbs. It never fails to amaze and impress.
Travel tip: To ride the elevator to the summit, be sure to reserve tickets online, especially during high season. http://www.tour-eiffel.fr
When it comes to making the most out of a short stay, the best piece of advice I can share is to not be too ambitious with your time. Pick quality (a picnic in a Renaissance garden) over quantity (seeing as many sights before noon as you can). Keep that in mind, along with a few euros in your pocket for toilet breaks, coffee and the occasional crepe craving, and you’ll love your stay, no matter how brief.
Sandy Braz is a magazine writer, blogger and yoga lover working in Toronto (and sometimes Paris). She is writing her first book. Sandy knows the best places to sip Kir Royals and talk to strangers in the city. She blogs at http://reinventingsandyb.com