Hi Frugalistas! Do you wish you had a best friend who lived in Paris? One who could fill you in on all those places that only locals know about? Or are you someone who is terrified at the thought of tackling Paris on your own? Either way, help is at hand! Rosemary of the blog Aussie in France agreed to an interview with me recently to share some of her favorite secrets with we Frugalistas. Having lived in Paris since 1975, Rosemary is the perfect person to help us find the best of Paris beyond the Eiffel Tower and I was delighted she was willing to share her experience with us.
frugalfirstclasstravel: A lot of first time visitors to Paris find it a bit intimidating. What are your best tips for “fitting in”?
Rosemary: I hadn’t thought of Paris as intimidating! I remember my first visit as exhilarating.
I would suggest that visitors start by walking along the Seine, starting at Bastille and ending up at the Eiffel Tower (they don’t have to do it in one go!) so that they get a feel of the city and know where different monuments are in relation to one another.
I would also suggest they take the bus – that’s what “real” Parisians do. The metro is efficient but doesn’t give you much idea of where you are. The 72 which you can take on Rue de Rivoli outside the Louvre, goes right down to the Eiffel Tower, along the Seine from Concorde. Get off at Bir Hakeim bridge and walk across and you’ll have one of the finest views of the tower in Paris. You’ll go past the Australian Embassy on the way.
Don’t plan to spend more than one and a half hours in a museum or you’ll soon reach saturation point. It’s pointless trying to be exhaustive. Choose what corresponds to your interests and make a priority list. You can always come back – the museums will still be there next time!
The French have a reputation for being rude but it is often because visitors don’t know how to approach them. Always say “bonjour” before you do anything else, no matter where you go – bakery, restaurant, shop, ticket window. More and more people speak English these days but they will appreciate a couple of words in French even if you think you’ve got a terrible accent. I’ve started a series of posts called Friday’s French which visitors should find helpful.
Being an expat, I would imagine you have family and friends visit you regularly. What is your favorite place in Paris to take overseas visitors, and what makes it so special?
I live in the 1st arrondissement, right in the centre, about 5 minutes from the Louvre, in the Palais Royal, so that is where I take them first. The gardens below my window, with the fountain in the middle are an intimate part of Paris, frequented by locals. Then I take them to the many early 19th-century covered arcades in the area, such as Galérie Vivienne, Galérie Colbert, Véro Daudat, Passage Choiseul and Passage des Deux-Pavillons.
Tell me about your favorite place that I wouldn’t find in a guidebook.
The old Bourse du Commerce or commodities market on Rue du Louvre. Everyone wonders what the big rotunda is but they don’t realize you can go inside. It’s now part of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and has beautiful frescoes on the wall depicting the four seasons. You can read more about the Bourse du Commerce here.
What is your perfect day out and about in Paris and why?
I love having the time to explore new areas, just walking around and looking at the buildings, squares and specialty shops. Each area of Paris is different and so is the architecture. I used to visit more museums and galleries but over the years, I’ve become more interested in architecture.
There are many great day trips from Paris. Could you share some of your favorite day trip destinations?
Chartres, Senlis, Chantilly, Fontainebleau, Giverny (Monet’s garden) and Reims are all less than an hour and a half’s drive from the centre of Paris, even less by train. A little bit further afield (2 hours by car, 1 ½ hours by train) is the Loire Valley with all its wonderful châteaux – Chambord, Chaumont, Chenonceau, Cheverny and many more.
What is the best way to find out about concerts, exhibitions and other special events for English speakers?
This is a tough one for me because I have lived here for so many years that my French is as fluent as my English! However, there are various websites that keep up with the latest happenings, such as Time Out Paris http://www.timeout.com/paris/en.
And finally, some quick fire favorites
Favorite gardens: Palais Royal, obviously, and the Tuileries Gardens
Favorite window shopping street: I really don’t know – I’m not a shopper – but when I need clothes, I go to Rue de Rennes
Favorite market: Our local market at Sainte Eustache on Sunday morning and Thursday afternoon.
Favorite spot for a tea or coffee: A priori thé in Galérie Vivienne for the décor and Verlet in Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré for the coffee
Favorite value for money restaurants: Le Mesturet, L’Imprimerie, L’Arbre Sec, La Grille Montorgueil, Louise and the Royal Valois, all within walking distance, are our favourite haunts.
Thanks so much to Rosemary for sharing her experience. Even though I’ve visited Paris numerous times, I’ve learned plenty of new places to visit next time!
I’m a Townsville-born technical and legal translator and have been living in France since 1975. I love sharing my experiences and showing friends and family the things I like best in my neighbourhood, which is next to the Louvre and the Palais Royal, and in the Loire Valley where my French husband, Jean Michel, and I recently bought a beautifully renovated Renaissance home. My main interests are reading, writing, languages, travelling, art, architecture, mushroom-picking, cycling, fine dining and wine tasting.
The ground floor and front courtyard of Rosemary’s gorgeous house in the Loire Valley is available for rent for holiday accommodation. The accommodation is fully equipped (including linen, towels, free wifi and even bikes for the adventurous) and is located in the beautiful town of Blois. www.closeriefalaiseau.com
Rosemary’s blog www.aussieinfrance.com is a great repository of information for anyone who loves France or is planning a visit.
If you are planning your own visit to Paris, do check out my favorite Paris guidebook here. You can also check out Paris hotels, including my own personal favorite Paris hotel on my favorite booking sites. These are affiliate links, so I do earn a small commission if you make a purchase, but you don’t pay anymore.
Photo credits: All photos courtesy of Aussie in France