Trust me, I was more stoked than anyone to check out the national landmarks strewn throughout Paris. Need proof? See my enthusiasm captured below.
And while I feel like seeing the most popular tourist attractions is a right of passage, I found I preferred to spend time in off-the-map locations. The more I travel, the more I find this is the case; some of the coolest locations to experience aren’t frequented by tourists. You have to find them on your own. In a way, that’s part of the magic of travel. However, I am aware that time is often a factor and not everyone can afford to get lost in cities for days on end.
This being said, I have been receiving e-mail inquiries asking me to share some of my favorite hangout spots and secret loves in the countries I’ve visited. And since I’m all about enhancing the travel experience for everyone, I present you with…
Hilary’s Top Five Atypical Parisian Attractions
5. The backside of Notre Dame. Yeah, you read that right. I’m encouraging you to walk the extra couple meters from the bell tower around to the other side of one of Paris’ most infamous landmarks. You’d be surprised how many tourists are content taking their photos in front of the church only to call it a day. It would be a sin to miss the architectural detailing and surrounding gardens on the West side. If you thought that this church was breathtaking and unfathomable before, you will be in for a delightful surprise. You will also enjoy the uncrowded views and quiet lullabies of the native birds.
4. Point Zero. I would like to think that the saying, “All roads lead to Paris,” is in reference to this often overlooked but important brass detailing. This marker in front of Notre Dame is considered the center point of the city and the very spot in which all distances in Paris are measured. It is often trampled by the tourists on their way to Notre Dame, but be sure to take a moment to drink in this detail. Leave a penny and make a wish.
3. Les Philosophes. Not only is Les Philosophes located in the swanky arts district of Paris, but it is home to some of the best food at magnanimous prices. The waiters are extremely friendly, the restaurant is aesthetically pleasing, and there’s always something interesting going on street side. You can enjoy a delightful cappuccino, succulent bowl of French onion soup, or a flaky croissant sandwich while listening to the accordionist play outside. It’s the ultimate French dining experience without having to pay through the nose for it.
2. Lauduree. You have not experienced Paris until you have had a macaron from Lauduree Pastry Shop. A macaron, unlike an American macaroon, is a meringue based treat with a thin airy shell and light chewy filling. One of the best parts about macarons are the colors and flavors they can come in. I am partial to the pistachio, coffee, and caramel flavors.
Since coming back from Paris, I have started noticing these delightful confections popping up in local coffee shops but they are a lie. They do not hold the flavor, freshness, or flavor palate found in the macarons in Paris. They are cheap American imitations and I will cry heretic if someone claims otherwise. Go get a box in Paris. They are best if eaten right away (because they are not made with preservatives) but I did manage to get some boxes home for my family. They’re a little expensive as far as cookies go, but you’ll thank me. According to my Parisian friend and host, you will make a face like this when you eat them.
1. Angelina’s. This little pastry shop is tucked away on the boulevard across from the Louvre. They quite possibly have the best hot chocolate in the world but that claim is pending confirmation. Angelina’s was recommended to me by a United Nation’s Ambassador while I was in Austria. In the meaning of peace, I had to check it out. It didn’t take much arm twisting for me to convince my Parisian friend to help me find it. Even though she had lived in Paris her whole life, she had never been to Angelina’s. We were both in for the treat of a lifetime when our cups of liquid amazingness arrived. I imagine that if heaven had a taste, it would belong to an Angelina concoction. Go and taste the ethereal yourself. You won’t regret it.
So now that I’ve shared the uncrowded, unbelievable, and unmatched in Paris, tell me… What are you favorite unusual hangouts (in Paris or elsewhere)?