What would you do with 5 hours in Paris?
Paris. My spiritual home. The city that holds my heart captive. The place that feeds my inspiration, awaits my return just to seduce me all over again. Five hours seem like a cursory glance, a knowing smile, a stolen kiss or a hurried rendez-vous with a secret lover. And like all stolen moments, I would cherish every minute spent together until it is time we part.
Five hours in Paris may be the equivalent of a tweet in lieu of writing a travel article. And this is exactly the inspiration behind this post. Food Lover Kathy of Food Lover’s Odyssey asked me the question in a tweet as she prepares to go on a holiday which allows her just five hours in Paris.
What would I do given the chance to see Paris again? I may not have time to lose myself in Montmartre, or shop at Lafayette Gourmet for zizi-shaped mints, or rub Victor Noir’s bulge for luck at Cimetière du Père–Lachaise. But once I have dropped my luggage at Gare d’Austerlitz, I would make every minute a memory to last.
Hop on the Métro
Le métro. A quintessential part of Parisian life. I cannot imagine seeing Paris without traversing its tunnels, marvelling at the interior of its stations and catching a glimpse of daily life.
Catch the metro to Cité, avoiding any line changes at Châtelet or Montparnasse-Bienvenüe as these stations run for kilometres underground. Catch Line 10 in the direction of Boulogne/Pont de St Cloud, change at Odéon, taking Line 4 in the direction of Porte de Clignancourt to reach Cité.
If you’re in luck, an accordionist may hop on a train and play La vie en rose. You may be entertained by a puppet show, or get a feel for the significant population of the homeless begging for food or money. You can never predict what the métro will show you. A young demoiselle may kindly give up her seat for you, someone may pinch your bottom or you may just quietly observe the Parisians going about their daily activities. Snap a photograph of the interior of your originating station, then one of the steel interior of Cité and another of its art nouveau entrance.
Stroll Along the Seine
From the métro station Cité, veer past the Préfecture de Police and head towards la rive gauche, the left bank, passing by Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame. Walk along Quai de Montebello which leads to Quai la Tournelle, pausing in front of Les Bouquinistes for a quick browse through old books and vintage art. Take in the grandeur of Notre-Dame de Paris on Ile de la Cité. Feel a sudden warmth envelop you as your mind captures the scene better than any photograph can.
Indulge in an Ice Cream
From Quai de la Tournelle, look up at the grand building that houses the pinnacle of dining, La Tour d’Argent. When you reach the bridge Pont de la Tournelle, cross over the Seine into the delightful Ile-St-Louis. Treat yourself to the best ice cream in Paris at Berthillon. The tiny shop is synonymous with the best glaces. Don’t dawdle too long choosing from the various parfums that will invariably tempt you. Keep an eye out for cerise, cherry, if you prefer sorbets to ice cream.
Enjoy a Traditional Bistro Lunch
Work up an appetite with a brisk walk or catch a short taxi ride towards boulevard st-germain where good bistros and brasseries abound. Choose from either Les Editeurs, Le Procope, Vagenende, Le Comptoir, Le Danton, or any place that serves good Parisian bistro fare. Smile and tell your waiter that you have a train to catch in an hour but couldn’t pass the chance to lunch there.
Depending on your choice of bistro, sit outside and watch le beau monde Parisien pass you by as you sip on your apéritif , a Kir Royale, made with crème de cassis and a sparkling wine. Order a little glass of Sauternes to go with your foie gras. Enjoy a glass of red such as a Côtes du Rhône with your confit de canard and a Badoit water. Skip dessert and end your meal with un petit noir, or an espresso.
Pick up a Box of Macarons
From boulevard st-germain, turn into rue Bonaparte and you’ll see the unmistakable colours of Ladurée Bonaparte at number 21. Pick up a selection of macarons in a gorgeous box of your choice to enjoy en route. Aren’t you glad you skipped dessert now? Step out of Ladurée wearing a smile and showing off with your little green bag like the latest Dior accessory. Wait… how did that little gateau sneak into your bag?
While on rue de Bonaparte walk down to number 72 for more macarons from Pierre Hermé. You’re only buying them for research purposes, n’est-ce pas?
See All the 3 Arches at Once
Catch the métro to Louvre-Rivoli station and as you alight onto the platform, take a few photos of the museum artefacts. Head towards the Pyramide du Louvre. With your back to the controversial glass pyramid, you can see the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Arc de Triomphe and La Grande Arche at La Défense all in a straight line. Marvel at the town planning of this beautiful city. If you’re in the mood for another stroll, walk through Le Jardin des Tuileries towards Place de la Concorde. From there, you can see the ornate fountain and catch a view all the way up the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe.
Walk along the right bank, la rive droite, towards the most beautiful bridge, Pont Alexandre III. Admire the gilded statues, the ornate pillars and the cherubs on the street lights. It can’t get more romantic than this bridge at any time of the day. You may even spot a bride and groom posing for wedding photographs. And just when you think you can’t prise your eyes off its detail, turn around for a view of La Grande Dame de Fer, the Eiffel Tower.
Time is quickly running out but there’s one more thing left to do. Open your arms wide and turn 360 degrees in a slow pan taking in all the sights and sounds around you. You have just embraced Paris one more time, encore une fois, with open arms.
As you take your leave with a heavy heart, quietly say your au revoir. And quickly follow it up with à la prochaine.
Until next time.
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Addresses and Resources to help you plan your time in Paris
Métro Trip Planner
Useful tool for pre-planning your metro rides
31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile
21 Rue Bonaparte
72, rue Bonaparte
4 Carrefour de l’Odéon
13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie
9 Carrefour de l’Odéon
142 Boulevard Saint-Germain
103 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris
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