It may be the most beautiful city in the world, but most of all, the French capital is small. That said, if there's one thing Paris can make us do, it's walk.
“You know, I want to take my class to visit Paris,” I hear on the phone. “Your whole class?” “Yes! They’re a little closed-minded. I want to have them to discover something magnificent. Versailles and Paris… some of them have never seen the capital. Any ideas for an itinerary?”
You see, my sister is a teacher in the Aquitaine region, which is around 300km (186 miles) from Paris. And each year, she takes her class on an extended field trip. It’s the perfect opportunity to spend the day together. Like any self-respecting Breton, I’ve been living in Paris for a long time: I had a tourist guide ready in no time, and—get ready for product placement—my trusty Move ECG on my wrist. Note: Move ECG is coming soon, but yes, working at Withings has its perks. Namely, we get to test out and wear the products before anyone else.
From the Île de la Cité to Place de la Concorde
The best starting point is Notre-Dame de Paris. After all, that’s where Paris Point Zero is located, and of course, the recent highly publicized event of the devastating fire. Still, it’s an excellent reason to take a walk around the cathedral. The next logical stop is the Sainte-Chapelle, which teaches us two important life lessons.
First of all, if you’re visiting Paris, come in June (or August) and most of all, come during the week. The weather is kind of nice, the city is kind of quiet — it’s just kind of ideal. Instead of the usually endless line to get into these sites, we were able to walk right in.
Second, try to remember to remove any metal from your bag before going through security gates. That way, you’ll avoid setting off the alarm, getting searched, and eventually hearing an exasperated “Fine, go ahead,” delivered with a sigh as curious tourists look on. Just so you know.
Riverboats glide over the Seine while cars honk above. Here is the tip of the Louvre, and the famous theater known as the Comédie Française. We turn towards the Opéra Garnier (“It looks like a big cake”) and walk down Rue de la Paix and Place Vendôme for a leisurely lunch at the Tuileries.
The garden is quiet, nearly empty. A few meters away, an empty carousel plays light music. The students look at each other. “I saw the price, it’s 2€ per person.” “That’s EXPENSIVE!” “Want to go?” “I only have one Euro.” A delegation is sent forth. “They’ll gave us a deal: just 15€ for the entire group!” A mad rush towards the wooden horses — and the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are completely forgotten.
Grand Palais, Rive Gauche
From the Grand Palais, we take the Alexandre III bridge. The view stretches out to the dome of the Invalides. The sun comes out for a few moments, the Seine sparkles, Eiffel Tower is up close… Time is suspended, until a scream breaks the spell: one of the students is terrified of things that fly; the pigeons here, however, are fearless. Don’t worry, she got over it.
Time to explore Rive Gauche a/k/a the left bank. Sèvres-Babylone and Saint-Germain des Prés, Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore: yes, people really know how to live here. But Paris is also full of hidden spots: you could walk past number 140 Rue du Bac without noticing anything unusual. And yet, it is one of the most visited monuments in Paris.
Hannah Arendt once said that Parisians were the first to make something charming out of the small things. Personally, I’ve always wondered how such cold people could make such delicious pastries. The answer: because this is a city made for walking, so those pastries don’t stay on your hips. Q.E.D.
It’s time to wrap this visit up. After a detour for some ice cream, we headed back to the Seine and stumble across the old Orsay train station, which was turned into the immense Orsay museum. I leave the little group at the entrance: I’d just visited the museum a few days before, and I’d rather leave it to the experts to explain the Origin of the World. Move ECG tracked my itinerary using Connected GPS and without using up too much of my phone’s battery, which was still 60% full when Ieft. Pas mal. Best of all, though, I burned enough calories to treat myself to a few macarons on the way home. Hashtag so French.