It's not easy to summarise the world's primary tourist destination in a single blog post, and selecting what to write about is no small task either. For a start, Paris is not only filled with world-class attractions and museums as well as a world-famous restaurant scene; it has also given its name to the notorious "Paris syndrome", affecting star-struck travellers from all over the world who expect to arrive in Paris to the tune of a beret-sporting accordeonist and discover paradise, only to spend half their money on mediocre snacks and have the other half stolen by the local low-life. No matter: here is a highly subjective account of our own weekend break in Paris.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of being in Paris is walking the streets and taking in the city's quite unique cityscape as well as its street life: some politically dubious 19th-century city planning has created a remarkably uniform architectural pattern, intersected with broad, tree-lined boulevards and narrow if arrow-straight side streets. Accordeonists may be in short supply, but we did locate some musicians of a different kind (see picture above).
In terms of sights, it's obviously hard to avoid the Eiffel Tower: visible from almost everywhere in the city, it is every bit as stunning as it is famous up close. Be sure to save some time for Père Lachaise Cemetery, more like a large landscaped park with a population of deceased famous residents.
On our weekend break, we visited the Musée d'Orsay and Centre Pompidou (National Museum of Modern Art): between them, these two giants of the global museum industry contain an amazing overview of world modern and contemporary art, in world-class buildings. (Musée d'Orsay, housed in a converted train station, also offers an unusual view of the city through the facade's twin clock faces.) Additionally, we opted for the free-of-charge City of Paris Museum of Modern Art, whose rather confusing layout conceals a very endearing collection, including our favourite: Alain Séchas's Writer Cat.
Then for the food. The bad news is, food in Paris can be awfully expensive, and it isn't always as good as you'd expect given Paris's reputation. The good news is, it's not always awfully expensive, and by checking around carefully you can have absolutely wonderful, set-piece meals at an affordable price. The "classic" Paris brasseries tend to offer very good food at a less exorbitant price (including, for half of your foodie travel team, mouth-watering cuts of meat unknown anywhere else), while most neighbourhoods are also dotted with corner bistrots, where you can often get no less amazing food for surprisingly good money. As everywhere, just try to avoid tourist traps.
In the classic brasserie category, we ate at La Rotonde Montparnasse in the city's main food district (while you're here, check out the world's first modern public monument, Auguste Rodin's statue of Honoré de Balzac, on the boulevard outside) and at Terminus Nord, directly opposite the eponymous train station. Our favourite corner bistrot so far is Le Chaland (no website: find it at 2 Passage Delessert, 10th district) on the Canal Saint-Martin waterfront (the area also known as Hipster Paris), but a favourable mention also goes to Le Père Lachaise.
What are your tips to avoid the Paris syndrome?