Three years ago when my husband and I visited Paris we saw most of the "major sites" we had time for - and that was a lot. However, this visit we hoped to have more time for some additional sites, to re-visit favorite sites and to explore the streets of Paris.
We decided to use the company"Paris Walks" for three of their walks. We would have gone on a fourth walk, but got held up in the Orsay Museum. Oh well, the Orsay is a great place to get waylaid. Paris Walks is a tour group that guides you on two hour walks through various themed areas. Their guides are English speaking, very knowledgeable, and quite interesting. You do not have to make prior reservations (except for a couple special tours); you just havr to show up at the appointed time and place. We printed off a September schedule from their website before we left home and then fit in what we wanted, when we had time. Here's a quick review of the tours we availed ourselves of.
Hemingway's Paris takes you on a tour past his first home, where he worked and where he drank. Other authors' haunts were also pointed out. A fragment of the medieval city wall, the Pantheon, and St. Etienne-du-Mont Church were also included. We ended up in the Mouffetard market area and decided to have lunch at a recommended local restaurant (not included in the tour). Many references were made to Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast." ( I would like to underline that book title, but don't seem to be able to figure out how to do it.)
The French Revolution Tour explored the areas where the Cordeliers' Club held their debates, we saw where Thomas Paine lived after leaving America - he was also an important player in the French Revolution, and saw an old guillotine - it's not as big as in the movies, just big enough for a neck. Many other buildings important to the Revolution were also pointed out.
The third tour we took was of the two islands, Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cite. This tour really pointed out the very beginnings of the city of Paris. One interesting story revolved around the apartment/studio of Rodin's pupil, model and lover, Camille Claudel. It was where she lived after leaving Rodin and before her mother committed her to an insane asylum for the rest of her life. This story prompted my return visit to the Orsay to see her sculpture, L'Age Mur.
We also went exploring on our own. This is no small feat as we find more and more we have become directionally challenged. We seemed to be able to navigate the metro system with no difficulty, but once we emerged to street level at the end stop and were presented with a choice of going left or right, we inevitable chose the wrong direction, even though we had maps in hand. After walking a couple blocks we would decide we were going the wrong way and had to turn around to retrace our steps.
One place I wanted to search out was a address that figured prominently in a book I had recently read for my book club. "Sarah's Key" is a fiction book that is based on the true event known as La Grande Rafle, the name given to the roundup of over 10,000 Jewish men, women and children on July 16, 1942. They were arrested by the French police on order of the Nazis. The adults were sent directly to a camp at Drancy, while parents with children were taken to the Velodrome d' Hiver, a huge stadium where they were held for several days before also be shipped off to camps. The book interweaves the stories of Sarah beginning in 1942 and Julia's present day quest to discover Sarah's story, all beginning with the address at 26 Rue de Saintange. We found the apartment address and also the memorial to the victims of this roundup. This memorial is located at the former site of the Velodrome, was dedicated on July 17, 1994, and is located just across from the Bir Hakim metro. It informs people to "never forget."
On a lighter note, we also tracked down the store E. Dehillerin, where Julia Child bought much of her cooking equipment. It was an interesting store and I enjoyed overhearing an exchange between an American customer and a store employee. She asked him if this copper pot was a 2 quart or a 3 quart pan and he replied with a very haughty tone, "Madame, I do not deal in quarts, only liters."
In addition, we found our way to Place des Vosges where we ate lunch on a park bench, enjoyed the people watching, and fed the pigeons. Located on this square, we also visited Victor Hugo's home.
Of course, we also visited some more traditional sites of Paris such as Napoleon's Tomb, Marmottan Museum, Jacquemart-Andre Museum, Opera Garnier, Giverny and Fontainebleau. We made return visits fo the Louvre, Orsay Museum, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Deportation Memorial, Champs-Elysees, and the L'Orangerie Museum. These are all wonderful places, but our walking explorations will be stand-outs of our trip. However, we didn't get around to walking the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Ahh, it is but one more reason to return.