I recommend Les visites particulières, which is a private tours agency in Paris.
They offer private guided excursions throughout several exceptional art locations in Paris. Their passionate guides open the doors of art galleries, foundations, museums, artist workshops and private collections of Paris.
Oh luxury, a personal driver is provided.
I've never lived such an experience anywhere. Paris is the capital of arts, I live there, and I didn't know there was so much beauty.
Paris is certainly jam-packed with some world class museum through which thousands of tourist trudge their way through daily. However a lesser known attraction is the rather intimate Edith Piaf Museum. She was most famous for her warbly voice and those timeless classics ‘La Vie en Rose’ and ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’. This tiny museum is housed in the apartment of a private apartment belonging to a friend of the singer. He has built something of a shrine to her memory as well as written a number of biographies of her life. Here you will find her dresses, gold discs, photos, private letters as well as a giant teddy bear on display. It of course helps if you like the singer herself, but this is a marvelous way to really get close up and personal with this legend.
It is worth mentioning the museum is accessed via four flights of stairs and there is no lift so it may not be suitable for all visitors. You will need to call ahead to gain the door entry code. Quaint huh?
5 Rue Crespin du Gast 75011 Paris
+33 1 43 55 52 72
Google map: bit.ly/QRT8mW
Ok, this has to be one of the most famous upmarket shopping streets in the world, but don't let that put you off taking a look round. Window shopping can be almost as much fun as carrying handfuls of bags home with you. This incredibly manicured street is the best place in town to do a little people watching. Enjoy a coffee in one of the many uber-chic cafes along the strip or simply wander at your leisure taking in the elegant ambience of it all. Horse chestnut trees line the streets, snipped and buffed within an inch of their life and of course everything around you is neat, polished and perfectly ..well.... perfect! That's 1.91 km of perfection - rather impressive, I'd say.
Check out the famous Arc de Triomphe at the western end of the street while you are here. It's bigger than you ever imagined.
Google map: bit.ly/U65Lbe
A beautiful castle, village, and forest just 40 minutes from the centre of Paris. There are loop walks around the forest starting from right by the train station, which give you an immediate sense of escape from the intensity of Paris. Then from there you can wander through the formal parkland towards the centre of the town. Plenty of restaurants offer lunch or dinner, or enormous ice creams and crepes. Then the chateau, the former country escape of French royalty, offers fine gardens, a large pond, grand rooms and plenty of history to explore.
Château de Fontainebleau, 77300 Fontainebleau
+33(0)1 60 71 50 70
Google map: bit.ly/QNMMyB
Take the train from the Gare-du-Nord to Auvers-sur-Oise where Van Gogh spent his last three months. Once there - walk up past the church and pretty backstreets to the cemetery where Van Gogh and his brother Theo are burried, taking in fabulous views of the town and familiar countryside. Carry on alongside the iconic cornfields and drop down into the Absinthe Museum (check opening times)before a delicious meal and genuine absinthe at the Auberge Ravoux where Van Gogh lived and worked. A wonderful day out whether into painting or not.
44 rue Callé, 95430 Auvers-sur-Oise
+33(0)1 30 36 83 26
Google map: bit.ly/S6bB9a
Place de la Mairie, 95430 Auvers sur Oise
+33 (0)1 30 36 60 60
Google map: bit.ly/QH1Q10
Try the fortified medieval town of Provins 1h25 by train (from Gare de l'Est) to the south-east of Paris. Away from the usual foreign tourist route. You tend only to find French visitors. Great with kids as there's a donjon, ramparts, underground passages. In summer there are lots of events such as jousting knights, etc. Plenty of restaurants from the good and cheap crepe (Le Fleur du Sel in the old town) to the fancier place with lovely outdoor dining areas.
Opened in 1992, one of the world’s finest post modernist public parks was built on 24 hectares of the site of the old Citroen factory. In the vast central area there are two enormous modern green houses, acres of grass, a large longitudinal mirror pool, complemented by a water feature of dancing jets rising from the paving, six themed gardens and blocks of enormous magnolias all contribute to a great place for a picnic, relaxation and passive enjoyment.
My favourite area is the White Garden easily accessed from the Balard Metro Station and comprises of walled multilevel pocket gardens connected by raised and sunken walk ways. Filled with perennials each garden is themed with plenty of seating and there is a children’s play area in the centre of them all.
Open everyday and free.
15e Arrondissement, 75015 Paris, France
+33 1 40 71 75 60
Google map: bit.ly/JKMm9e
If you ever thought to yourself, publicly or privately, what's the big deal about Bob Dylan? What's all the fuss about? Then this exhibition is for you. Equally if, like me, you are already a believer then this will only serve to fuel the fire. Compiled by the Grammy Museum of Los Angeles, "Bob Dylan, Rock explosion" takes you on a journey through his influences, image changes and historical backdrop. It includes photographs by Daniel Kramer, footage from the documentary "Don't Look Back", memorabilia connected to his childhood and formative influences and (my favourite part) areas to simply sit and listen to his music and read his lyrics. You'll be rushing home afterwards to listen to your favourite Dylan record.
This superb Belle Epoque building with painted frescoes in the heart of Les Lilas, a little village North-East of Paris (métro Mairie des Lilas), is also an art house cinema. Parisians in the know flock to Les Lilas to see films, in style.
181 bis, rue de Paris, Les Lilas 93260
+33(0)1 43 60 41 89
Encompassing the best of contemporary Parisian culture, this great music venue was the staging ground for my initiation into Paris nightlife. Nestled between the Seine and the urban sprawl of north east Paris this venue caters to a young, arty crowd. In the day the Point Ephemere acts as a gallery showcasing installation art and photography. However, my girlfriend and I stumbled upon this place at night at which point the venue kicks into a higher gear letting rip with some of the best dance and electro music in Paris. We got down to a live set from Freestylers and witnessed a blistering gig with a frenzied crowd that was less propelled by booze and more energized by the atmosphere and people around them. For lovers of big beats, an electric atmosphere and friendly crowds the Point Ephemere is a must and should be your first stop on a night out in Paris.
Ever wondered where Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg got their dancing shoes from? The supplier of ballet companies throughout the world, Repetto is an artisan chausseur worth the detour. One piece of advice: wait for the sales!
Open from 7am to midnight, the 30 metre long swimming pool rue Pontoise is built like an art-déco ship with individual cabin for every swimmer. From 8pm onwards, the pool is lit from within while music blares out ...
A little bijou of a museum. Sheltered in a magnificent 18th century hôtel particulier in the Marais, right near the Pompidou Centre, Le Musée de la Chasse boasts wonderful stuffed animals such as a white polar bear standing on its feet ...
There's a real buzz about city blog vingtparis.com. A team of excellent and knowledgeable writers highlight and review a superb leftfield, less mainstream, unpredictable selection of music, art, literature, theatre and dance events. And the occasional picnic too! Each event I've found through vingtparis.com has had the same buzz and gave me that great but rare feeling when you're in Paris: 'This is the right place to be. This is where I should be right now.'
The Louvre is well worth every cent of the admission price, but it is best to go in with some idea of what you'd most like to see. I'm an art history enthusiast with the stamina of a hiker, but spending a full day in the Louvre seems unfeasible to me: I'm willing to bet the sheer magnitude of the Louvre's collections will wear anyone's appreciation out in about three hours. Hence, grab a map, try to make sense of it and proceed towards the section that interests you the most. Leave while you're still amazed instead of overwhelmed and bored - and come back for more either in the next afternoon or on your next trip.
As for practicalities, the side entrance in the Richelieu wing is far less crowded than the main one under the pyramid. The Paris museum pass is very handy for skipping the ticket lines. It is also worth noting that not all of the many toilets marked on the map will be in working order, so if you come across one that is, best make use of it.
Amélie was filmed mostly in Montmartre in Paris. Two métro stations feature: Barbès-Rochechouart and Abbesses, as does the Gare du Nord train station. There is a scene in the gardens which lead up to Sacré Coeur - there are great views there - and the bar where Amélie worked is on the right of a street which leads down from Rue Lepic towards Pigalle, where the sex shop is situated. The grocer's shop is recognisable and is also on Rue Lepic, but is now a gift shop. Amélie was skimming stones on the Canal St Martin, very near the Gare du Nord. The whole lot would make an enjoyable two-hour walk.
Montmartre, Abbesses, Gare du Nord, Canal St Martin, Barbes-Rochechouart
The first Sunday of the month is free, as everybody knows. Therefore, to avoid the crowds, the best time to go is on the day before - everyone's waiting for the free entry the next day!
We went on the Saturday and had the place to ourselves, apart from the usual crowd that is always gathered around the Mona Lisa. We went again on the Sunday and it was hideously busy. We didn't have to queue though: a nice security guard spotted our pushchair and let us jump the queue! It's a surprisingly child-friendly place, and of course the advantage of the free Sunday is that you can take the kids (they are always free on any day) and you haven't wasted the cost of your ticket if their behaviour is such that you have to leave after five minutes.
Forget the big stuffy international hotels and book yourself into the Christian Lacroix designed Petit Moulin in the Mariais. It is a charming little hotel in a 17th century building that used to be a boulangerie and still has the old signage. There is wireless internet in all the rooms, and you are right in the heart of a very trendy district full of design shops and art galleries – getting into town isn’t difficult and the extra minutes spent traveling are well worth it for staying in such an original place, with none of the hollow impersonality of larger hotels.
'Nuit Blanche' is an annual event in Paris, whereby (so rumour would have it) everything stays open all night for revelry and awe. Imagine touring the Louvre at 2am, followed by a quiet 4am brunch in a streetside cafe watching the crowds walk past, and the carnival-like atmosphere.
It would be great - if it were true!
Last year's was a shambles. The authorities didn't (wouldn't) release guides until the night itself (and then didn't explain how to get them) and most Parisians had no idea what was open, or where.
We joined the crowds milling outside the Louvre (closed), tried the Musee d'Orsay (closed) and settled for a Bateau Mouche - which turned out to provide the long awaited guidebook once you'd bought your ticket.
The boat trip itself was pleasant, during which we could read the guide - to discover few places indeed were open at all, and the promised 'all night opening' of the Metro only applied to certain lines in certain directions.
The only bar we could find open and not crammed with similarly baffled tourists was Australian (not very Parisian). When we finally gave up, we joined the thousands of others equally trying to desperately get a taxi home in the sub-zero temperatures, and ended up huddled in a Metro entrance (closed) for warmth until the hordes had thinned enough for us to try and get back.
It can't be blamed on our being tourists - as we have French friends who live in Paris and who we'd joined to spend the 'event' with!
Hopefully this year's will be better, but I'd definitely check every detail out in advance, just in case!
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