This week I’ve been thinking about cancelled holidays and hoping that next year we will have a few more getaways. We were due to go to Paris for a short break this September, following up on my first visit several years ago. That trip was just a long weekend and as we were meeting friends for part of it, I wanted to make sure I spent the rest of the time exploring.
A big city can’t be squashed into a three day visit and I have a horror of tick box travel. This meant planning local and luckily the arrondissements of the city are perfect for a slow travel itinerary. Our hotel was in the 10th arrondissement and this is where we spent most of our time.
At the planning stage, the key landmark that caught my attention was the Canal St Martin which runs through this district, with its lovely old iron bridges crossing the water. This became the focus of many walks and its restaurants and bars offered a variety of options for dining and nightlife. But equally pleasant was picnicking beside the canal.
We found the 10th arrondissement to be a neighbourhood type of place; from my hotel room window I could see a greengrocer that stayed open until about 9pm every day. Two minutes walk took me to excellent butchers, cheese shops and bakeries. (Tempting but extremely impractical for taking home by train.)
Our favourite bakery Du Pain et Des Idées was a slightly longer walk from our hotel, but still in our arrondissement and well worth the detour. When we first visited the shop had a queue snaking out the door and along the street. People squeezed in past the queue to look at the rows of cake and racks of bread then returned to wait in line. It was so good that we came back on the Monday and bought some treats to take home with us before we headed to the Gare du Nord.
We didn’t visit the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, or any of the must do tourist spots, but we felt we entered into the daily life of the city. At some point, we will come back and visit another arrondissement and perhaps get to see some of the more famous sites, or perhaps we will just continue to explore the city as a living place rather than a tourist attraction.