Pretty in Paris

Paris is always a good idea.

It is a city that is worth returning to again and again.  Just a short train ride away, repeat visits are as easy as un, deux, trois!

Though I have written about Paris several times, I am still amazed by its romantic beauty.  The architecture in London is square and squat; in Paris it is all curves and grace.


Back in early June, I returned to Paris with Katie and her friend for a quick weekend visit.  The challenge was to keep these teens engaged and trick them into seeing all the sights without feeling like tourists.  My goals were simple:  avoid the dreaded “museum shuffle”, long lines, and tourist traps.

Here is my guide to a successful three day Paris immersion with teens.

I made the decision to stay in the Marais in a simple B&B.  My choice was applauded by an actual Frenchman I recently met who approved of my sojourn in the hip 3rd arrondisement.  If any of you know the French, you will realize that a rare nod of approval instead of a typical smirk of disgust is a very big deal!  I was off to a good start….


Friday – Day One:

We pulled into Gare du Nord around noon, making lunch the first priority after dropping bags at the hotel.  Located in the heart of the Marais, Georges Restaurant on the top of the architecturally inventive Pompidou Museum is always a crowd pleaser.  Great food is trumped by even greater views over the gray slate roofs of Paris.


From there it was off to the Rodin Museum, my favorite of all the Paris museums. Rather than feel confined by walls and bored by art (in the case of teenagers), this outdoor oasis contains beautiful bronze sculptures that become part of the landscape among gorgeous roses and topiaries.


Just a short walk across the street is the Invalides with its brazen gold dome.

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And then just a few blocks further is the most iconic building of all, the Eiffel Tower.  This symbol of Paris often seems just within reach from anywhere in the city as it peeks above the buildings from nearly every corner.  Nothing is better than witnessing its full glory up close.


We waited on line to climb to the very top, a feat I recommend for both the pleasure of getting an inside view of the lattice structure of the building and a true bird’s eye view over the entire city.

I find dinners challenging in Paris.  French food can be too precious, too strange, or too stuck up.  This time, I found a gem for teens and adults alike:  Pershing Hall.  We knocked off Place de la ConcordeChamps-Élysées, and the Arc de Triomphe in one fell swoop as we approached the restaurant just off the famous boulevard.  I don’t know if it was the verdant “green” wall of floor-to-ceiling plantings, the hip nightclub ambiance, the yummy asian-fusion food, or the pitcher of “sex on the sofa” cocktails, but this place definitely hit the spot!


Saturday – Day Two:

If you want to visit Versailles, I have three words for you:  Fat Tire Bikes.  These tours are well run, informative, and fun!  With our young guide in tow, we took the train to Versailles and then collected our bikes in front of a lovely church plaza.


First stop along our journey was a visit to a charming local market to stock up on warm baguettes, sharp comté and buttery brie cheese, homemade jams, fresh fruits, sinful chocolate…oh, and rosé wine, the “pink water” of France!

We rode through the vast gardens of Versailles along tree-lined paths and surrounded by bucolic beauty. We pulled in to the Petit and Grand Trianons, the off-site playgrounds for Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XIV when they needed an escape from the confines of the palace.


Ultimately we arrived at our picnic destination in front of the Grand Canal with the palace looming large in the background.



After lunch it was off to the palace.  Honestly, this was my least favorite part of this outing.  Overflowing with tourists fumbling with selfie sticks and cameras, it was nearly unbearable trying to navigate through the palace halls.  Only the truly massive Hall of Mirrors seemed large enough to accommodate the bumbling crowds with some breathing room.  I felt sorry for people who had made the trip to Versailles and only stayed within the palace’s golden gates…the best part is found outside the palace walls: the town, the market, the gardens, the tree-lined paths, and the canals.

Dinner back in Paris was in the Latin Quarter, the student area on the West Bank near the Sorbonne.  We dined at the lovely Bouillon Racine and enjoyed traditional French fare in this heritage-listed 1906 art-nouveau “soup kitchen” with mirrored walls, floral motifs, and ceramic designs.  I enjoyed one of the best bowls of onion soup EVER!


We walked back past the Sorbonne and the Luxembourg Gardens to the Île de la Cité for some ice cream at the famous Bertillon storefront.  This little unassuming shop always has long lines for a good reason; it is my favorite ice cream in all of Europe, and a burnt sugar caramel scoop is worth every luscious calorie. Heading home across the Seine, we watched the sun set on another perfect day.


Sunday – Day Three:

If you want a truly religious experience, queue up early and be the first person in the doors of Sainte- Chapelle, the medieval gothic cathedral with the most extensive and beautiful 13th century stained glass windows in the world.  Walking in and having this kaleidoscope all too ourselves (for a brief moment) was breathtaking.  Even the girls were impressed, and I heard some involuntary “oohs and ahhs” escape their lips!

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With half a day remaining until our train to London, we walked back to the Marais via the bridge with the best views of Notre Dame cathedral.


Eager to sneak in a little more culture, we wandered around the Marais neighborhood which was packed with shoppers, tourists, locals, and musicians, all of whom created a festive mood.  We passed the boutiques and creperies and found ourselves at the newly refurbished Picasso Museum which is definitely worth a visit.  From there, we walked around the corner to the Carnavalet, another one of my favorite museums dedicated to the history of the city and filled with traditional art and random oddities in a gorgeous old mansion.


We continued our adventure as we strolled through a vintage clothing market, had a quick bite to eat at one of the many cafes lining the rues, and observed some interesting street art.


We then walked a little further to the Place des Vosges where we ambled in and out of contemporary art shops that line the plaza, peeked in the window of Victor Hugo’s house, and enjoyed some street serenades.


Voilà!!  All that in three days and no teenage “eye rolls” in sight!  It’s hard not to fall under Paris’ spell.  After all, Paris certainly is a charmer; a city of light that always shines.


In this seductive city, though you may leave satisfied, there is always room for more.

I can’t wait to go back!

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