I’m not about to lure you along with gobs of information on the obvious attractions that help define Paris; Eiffel Tower, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, Luvre and so on.
Any first-time visitor to Paris will want to see them. We did, and we’re glad we did. But the traffic, the throngs of tourists, and the lineups can be daunting and tiring. If you want to take some time to escape the lines, here’s 3 awesome ways to spend an afternoon and a spectacular evening on a bridge.
1. Vendor’s market
Disappointing Champs-Elysées had as much to offer as our local mall. Stores like Banana Republic and Foot Locker seem to have replaced the glamorous, luxury designer brands that Mary and I were expecting.
However, we found a vendor’s market to be an excellent and fascinating alternative and a great way to while away the afternoon.
Our nav system escorted us to Marché Bastille, one of the largest markets in the city. Over a hundred stalls sprawl up the Boulevard Richard Lenoir twice a week – Thursday’s and Sunday’s. A great source for local cheeses, fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, interspersed with stalls offering cheap jewellery, handbags, collectables and clothing. It will take you most of the afternoon to wander this territory and bargain your way to savings.
2. Late lunch at Le Royal Turenne
We stopped for a late lunch at Royal Turenne just a short hop from the Place des Vosges. The large terrace offered us a perfect table for people watching that is so much a part of Paris life.
We ordered the Filet de Bair, la Tapenade. (Sea bass topped with a sauce made from black olives, capers, and anchovies). I can’t say enough about this dish, it was delicious. Paired with a chilled French wine, that didn’t last as long as we wanted. But time was ticking and The Ritz was waiting.
3. The Ritz, Bar Hemingway
Next slide on over to the Ritz for a later afternoon cocktail in the world-famous Bar Hemingway. Luckily for us the hotel had just reopened after a four-year renovation, so we were excited to see it.
The 5-Star Ritz is a Paris palatial landmark hosting illustrious guests as varied as Princess Diana, Elton John, Audrey Hepburn and was home-away-from-home for none other than Ernest Hemingway.
I had read about Bar Hemingway and we were anxious to see it and experience it for ourselves. Upon entering the Ritz we were greeted by a friendly and personable staff member who escorted us on a brief tour. The hotel is truly a jaw-dropping, impeccable statement of luxury. I’ll let Mary’s iPhone photos do most of the talking – but Bar Hemingway was next and a martini had our name on it.
Bar Hemingway was much smaller than I’d expected – we actually had to wait for a table. But soon Head Barman Colin Peter Field escorted us to a small table for two and quickly presented us with a menu.
Mary and I almost made the mistake of ordering their most famous cocktail in the world “The Ritz Sidecar” until we realized the price, 1500 Euros each!!! No really… becoming the Guinness book of Records world’s most expensive cocktail!! We opted for their “Clean Dirty Martini” and, according to Head Barman Colin Peter Field this recipe (which remains a secret) is a pure work of art! No argument here.
But, it’s getting late and I had plans for the ‘golden hour.’
4. The bridge
As an aspiring travel and landscape photographer I was on the lookout for the ideal shot of the tower. I had done some pre-scouting the day before in search of a location for an evening shot. I thought that photographing off a bridge would work best, but which one would give me the right vantage point.
There are many bridges that cross the Seine River but Pont Alexandre III delivered everything that I wanted. The extravagant features like the exuberant Art Nouveau lamps and ornate balusters were ideal, with just a peak of the tower beyond the bridge with the river boats cruising the Seine made this picture perfect. (Our featured photo above).
Here’s the best part (that couldn’t be scripted any better)… I had probably shot more than a hundred or so images when a bride and groom came on the scene right beside us and starting shooting wedding photos. I snapped a few of course, quite magical. But it didn’t stop there.
A few minutes later the young couple camped out beside us (also taking photos) all of a sudden the young man drops down on one knee and asks his girlfriend to marry him. Mary caught the whole thing on the iPhone.
Photographs by Murray Sye: The top featured image, the river shot, and the wedding shot, were all photographed on the Pont Alexandre just after the sun went down. Setting the tripod on the bridge that night, I never expected the sky to be as beautiful as it was – you’re rarely in the right place at the right time. Mary was always active with the iPhone providing additional images.