My Favourite Paris Neighbourhood: 1st Arrondissement
Every time I’m in Paris I instinctively head for the Jardin des Tuileries; I must pass the Louvre at least once; devour a club sandwich and frites at Bar 228; admire the glorious courtyard of the Palais Royal; shop on rue Saint-Honoré; and gaze, even if only for a moment, at the Ritz Paris. Always. Every time.
I thoroughly enjoy areas such as the Marais and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, but it is the very heart of Paris that pulls me in the most. Perhaps it’s the rich history of the area, or it could simply be a few beautiful memories.
The Jardin des Tuileries gives me an overwhelming feeling of peace. Sitting on a green iron chair while watching the children play, wondering what it would have been like hundreds of years ago as I glide my eyes over the buildings that surround the Tuileries: it brings me such joy.
We were in the Louvre when my husband reacted to sleeping pills that he had taken on the plane to Paris. A little late, I’d say! It put my husband in such a state that an emergency nap was required. “I need to sleep right now!” he said, while we were enjoying the Louvre. So we left the Louvre and ran to find a little quiet corner in the Jardin des Tuileries. I put my sweater down and he slept for a solid two hours there.
Bar 228 in Le Meurice is my favourite lounge in Paris, hands down. If I had all the money in the world this lounge would belong to me. Absolutely! I would carve it out of Le Meurice, wrap it up and send it home. The ambience and vibe is nothing less than spectacular.
Its lavish decor, perfect lighting and comfortable leather chairs make for the ultimate setting, whether it be for lunch, a decadent cocktail in the afternoon or evening drinks.
A few years back, my husband and I were in a sweet little café in the jardin at Palais Royal. He ordered an iced cappuccino to go. The waiter had no idea what he was asking for. After a few more attempts at trying to understand he eventually allowed Scott behind the counter to make his own! With not a word of French under his belt, there was my husband, canoodling with the waiters. He came back with two wonderfully-cold iced caps in hand, which we enjoyed under a tree-lined path.
My favorite shop in all of Paris is unquestionably Astier de Villatte, which is located on Rue St Honoré. It makes my heart melt.
This rustic piece of heaven holds the most wonderful hand-made pottery I have ever seen. These little pieces of art (cups, saucers, mugs, plates, bowls, vases, etc.) are mostly in white and there are many patterns to choose from. No two are the same. Their simplicity is what makes them so desirable.
Every time I’m in Paris I add to my collection, Alexandre, and pick up their Commune de Paris candle. For me, this candle literally smells of Paris.
For years Ritz Paris was a dream of mine. I had to pinch myself when the dream finally came true. I spent a memorable three nights here with my mother a few years ago. Among the precious little chocolates left on your pillow to the ultra-luxurious pink towels and beautifully decorated rooms, I have to say we acted like two girls and could hardly contain our excitement. We were just short of jumping up and down on our beds. It was simply marvellous!
At the moment, Ritz Paris is undergoing a two-year renovation and is expected to reopen in 2014. I am anxiously waiting!
I do need to leave the first and step into the fourth arrondissement, but only for a moment. Not a trip goes by where I don’t make my way to Notre Dame for a traditional lighting of a candle and prayers for my family and friends. If you have never been to Paris, Notre Dame should be on the very top of your list.
I often receive emails from first-time Paris travelers who want to experience the non-tourist attractions. “Get me away from the other tourists,” they say. I understand their reasons, but why would you ever want to visit Paris and miss the most precious areas?
If you are looking to avoid the crowds, visit the Louvre on a Wednesday or Friday when it is open in the evenings. See Notre Dame first thing in the morning while the other tourists are still sleeping. There will be times when beating the crowds will be impossible. You must endure! Do not let it deter you from seeing Paris’s most beautiful places.
A passionate Francophile, Norma Thiessen is the creator of the popular blog, My Beautiful Paris. Contact her at [email protected] Photos in this article by Joanne Tsakos.
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