Places in Paris
Paris is divided into twenty precincts or municipalities called ‘arrondissements’. I used the word municipalities because unlike neighborhoods or quarters, each of these arrondissements has its own mayor and services. For example if you want to know what’s happening in the 18th arrondissement, you can visit its website: www.mairie18.paris.fr.
Each arrondissement has its particularities and ‘rep’. Tell someone you live in the 16th or the 7th arrondissement. Assumption: ‘you’re doing well.’ Say you live in the 14th, and some people might ask you to specify. ‘Where in the 14th? Much real estate speculation was done in the nineties resulting in new cash flowing into what used to be blue-collar neighborhoods. Suddenly, the 15th, for example became a hot spot for good real estate deals.
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Right Bank vs. Left Bank
I am biased. Except for the Louvre, Places des Vosges and Opera, and Palais Royal Gardens, the rest of the Right Bank (including the Champs!) could tumble into the Seine and, for me, Paris would still be Paris.
So, if you asked where to book a hotel, I would probably zero in on either St. Germain des Pres, Ile St. Louis, or Montparnasse as possible choices.
With that bias in mind, here is a list of some Paris streets/Places with credits given to those who suggested exploring these streets:
1. Rue Vaugirard. (Metro Stops: Falguieres, St. Placide, Pasteur, Vaugirard, Convention) Purportedly the longest street in Paris. There is nothing extraordinarily unusual about this street with the exception of it being the formal address for the Senate, which borders the Luxembourg Gardens. If you walk from the front of the Senate through to the 15th arrondissement as far as the Metro stop: Convention, you’ve seen a pretty good slice of Paris commerce (and very little glitz). This is Christopher’s favorite street in Paris.
2. Rue Princesse. Metro: St. Germain des Pres. This is a very short street, but it has a great bookstore, The Village Voice. What I like about Rue Princesse is its location in a crossword puzzle of short streets spewing from Boulevard St. German, filled with restaurants and boutiques. The restaurants here are of a higher caliber (and naturally a little more pricey) than those you’ll find in the Latin Quarter or Rue Mouffetard. Dr. Mark Lutzner told me about Rue Princesse.
3. Rue Mouffetard. There are two times of day to visit Rue Mouffetard – in the morning for its market and in the evening for its restaurants. Start at the bottom near Metro: Monge and work your way up the hill to Place de le Contrescarpe for a stout beer at the pub. Or stop in any of the dozens of restaurants for a simple meal. Don’t expect much in the line of gourmet cuisine here, but prices are reasonable and a favorite locale for those on a tight budget. Therese and her husband introduced me to Rue Mouffetard on Bastille Day back in the 1970s.
4. Rue Daguerre. Metro: Denfert Rochereau. This is another great morning market street. There are plenty of casual restaurants like Café d’Enfer for intimate evening get-togethers. Check out the great hat shop across the street from Café d’Enfer. Heidi Loewen www.heidiloewen.com told me to check out the Rue Daguerre market way back in the 1970s. I’ve been going there ever since.
5. Rue Clerc. Between Avenue de la Motte Piquet and Rue de Grenelle. (Not far from Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower) Credit should go to Rick Steves for this one. He describes Rue Clerc in his guidebook Paris Through the Back Door. Like Vaugirard, it is a Parisian street unaffected by the Right Bank epidemic of mega stores. When Beth came to Paris, we took Rick Steves’ advice and grabbed a croissant and the designated Rue Clerc bakery.
6. Rue Vercingetorix. This is my favorite street in Paris because I think it’s still relatively ‘undiscovered’ by guidebooks. The old railroad tracks have been converted to park grounds. Stop by at Place Seoul to see the architectural antidote to a decade of uninspired low-income housing. Even though Notre Dame de Travail will probably not be open (unless you show up for Sunday services), know that inside you’ll find the same sort of structures that built the Eiffel Tower and the Gare d’Orsay, which is now Musee d’Orsay.
7. Rue des Rosiers. Metro: St. Paul. You’ll note this is a ‘Right Bank’ Street in the Marais. Although I don’t go there so often, it still is a favorite because it reminds me of Pierre. Pierre is the ‘specially challenged’ child I used to walk home from school, and then, took through the Metro system to meet his working mother at Montparnasse train station for their daily trek to the burbs. Rue des Rosiers is still a great street where you can find a pastrami sandwich at the kosher deli. For me, this will always be Pierre’s street.
8. Places des Vosges. If you go anywhere on the Right Bank, Places des Vosges is the place to go. Not so much for what it is today, but for what it represents in Paris’s history. Henri Langlois, founder of the Cinematheque Francaise took my father and me to Place des Vosges in the 1970s. It was one of his favorite places when the townhouses were all but abandoned and probably being considered for demolition. If you want to know more about Places des Vosges, you should pick up a copy of David Downie’s book: Paris, Paris, Journey into the City of Light He is also a Marais resident. (You can read my book review under the category Books about France and the French).
9. Rue Montorgueil. Metro: Les Halles or Etienne Marcel. It’s thanks to Sarah Turnbull’s book ‘Almost French’ that I came to know Rue Montorgueil. It also is on the Right Bank, but really is worth a visit as a Paris neighborhood street. If you stop at the Metro: Etienne Marcel, you can first visit the Tour Jean Sans Peur to put yourself in a medieval frame of mind. This is the part of the Right Bank, which seems to have slipped through 19th –century city planner, Haussman’s fingers.
10. Here it’s your turn. What is your favorite street (or place) in Paris?