The best of Paris as seen by locals, Michael and Marlys
Marlys Alfiler-Schuermann and her husband Michael are the couple behind the very popular Easy Hiker travel blog. Michael, a journalist and author of Paris Movie Walks, characterizes himself as the “other, lazy half of the Easy Hiker couple (my wife does all the hard work)”. Let’s find out about their Paris favorites based on 20 years of living in the City of Light.
Restaurant: Le Relais Gascon, Rue des Abbesses, near the Metro station Abbesses in Montmartre. This is where we always take our guests. Cheapish and cheerful, good, convivial atmosphere, unstuffy and full of young people. Food is good, too – specialties of the house are the warm salads.
Outdoor activity: Hiking in Fontainebleau. The Forest of Fontainebleau – scattered boulders, enchanted lakes, dramatic scenery – provides the best hiking trails in the area around Paris. (And we should know because we write a lot about that on our own blog.) Combine your hike with a trip to the Castle in the centre of Fontainebleau town, the second most visited chateau of the country (after Versailles).
Cultural or historical venue: There are too many places of cultural significance to list them all, too many in fact to visit even if you stayed for a whole month. Which is why we will only tell you: Be selective. Only go to places that you really, really want to see. This is true for individual museums (ask yourself: how deep is my interest in 18th century porcelain figurines …) as well as for the departments of larger ones such as the Louvre (… or Etruscan pottery?)
See it this way: when you come back home and somebody asks you to tell him or her about the best moment you had on your entire trip to Paris, how likely would you be to start by saying: well, that happened when I was in a museum and saw this amazing piece of …
Event or festival: Fete de la Musique, 21 June, various locations is a festival to celebrate music in all of its styles and dimensions. Some well-known artists perform for free in public squares and places, but the real fun is to be had where amateurs and semi-professional musicians play in front of pubs and on street corners. Best for this are the Bastille quarter and Montmartre. Come after dinner and leave before midnight.
Day trip: Auvers-sur-Oise. Visit the places where Vincent van Gogh spent the last months of his life and stand where Vincent stood when he painted some of his host famous works – and pay your respect at the cemetery where Vincent is buried, next to his brother Theo.
Place for romance or nightlife: The Pont des Arts on a summer night. Street musicians, artists offering their paintings, students celebrating something or the other – and all that totally for free. Just make sure you bring whatever you want to eat or drink while joining the crowd: there are no shops or supermarkets anywhere near.
- Do not buy yourself a daily or weekly travel pass but a Carnet of 10 tickets for buses and the Metro which is far better value.
- Paris is small enough to walk from one sight to the other, so you will ordinarily need only two tickets every day (one to get to town and one back).
- Walk at least once from your hotel to town – instead of taking the bus or a Metro train – or, if your hotel is centrally located, to a sight which is a little off-centre (such as Montmartre). That’s the best way of finding out all those things about Paris that your travel guide fails to mention.
Anecdote: Paris is an old city – it was, for example, the largest city in Europe throughout the Middle Ages – but little of all that remains, and modern-day Paris can be best understood as a 19th century city with some old buildings thrown in. Most of today’s Paris was built in the period from 1850 to 1910 as the “showpiece city of its time”, showing the world how to do it, which is why Paris is for the “Belle Epoque” what New York is for the early 20th century and – God help us all – Las Vegas for the present day.