There is something to be said of a capital city that prohibits buildings from exceeding six stories, to ensure that the sun can reach the streets.
Food and Drink
I'm not going to sit here and spout off every famous restaurant in Paris for a couple of reasons:
1. I didn't have sufficient means to attend any of those fine establishments.
2. You can get that kind of bull malarkey from any travel show that has ever been put to paper or film. This is for the rest of us meager, huddled backpackers -- the travel "proletariat" as it were -- because there are ways to eat and drink like a Parisian without selling the shirt off of your back to do so.
Wine on the Seine, Eiffel Tower -- Do you want to escape the throngs of tourists for a bit? Grab a couple of bottles of wine and head on down to the Seine. No, no. This isn't Pamplona and the wine isn't all for you. It's to share. On a nice night, hundreds of locals head down to the river and have a few friendly drinks. Go with a friend and invite a couple of Parisians to join you as well. If you're looking to run into a few more tourists, head on over to the Eiffel Tower.
Parisian Bakeries -- the Bible quotes Jesus as saying that man cannot live on bread alone. What he didn't say is that you'd be incredibly tempted to do just that in Paris. I had a baguette with/for breakfast for most of my week-long stay in Paris because they taste wonderful and are a cheap way to fill up. A baguette, some yogurt and a coffee is all you need to give any of Paris' fine museums a run for their money.
Once again, everybody knows about the most popular sights of Paris -- such as Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower -- so there is absolutely no reason to go any deeper into the subject other than say that, while popular, all three are still worth any wait and any amount of tourist activity. When you're looking for an alternative, though, check out other prominent, but oft forgotten, Parisian staples.
Sacre Coeur -- Located at the top of Montserrat, the Sacre Coeur has -- however ironically -- a permanent post in the shadow of it's more famous companion: Notre Dame. As a cathedral enthusiast, however, I have to say that I enjoyed Sacre Coeur more than its more popular counterpart. Then again, I may be biased because of the shrine to St. Vincent de Paul located inside the cathedral. St. Vincent is the patron of the Vincentian brotherhood, the brotherhood that founded St. John's University, my alma mater.
Musee d'Orsay, Musee d'Rodin -- The Louvre is the single most visited monument on the world and contains arguably the most famous (that doesn't mean best) painting of all time, La Joconde. With this in mind, I have no intentions of telling you anything about the Louvre other than to book a tour guide. Well worth $50. Once again, though, if you want to escape the throngs of tourists and are in the mood for some great art, check out both Orsay and Rodin. The former is known for its vast collection of Impressionist-era work (my favorite) and the latter is most famous for one particular inhabitant of its gardens: The Thinker.
Bastille Day -- If it is at all possible, try to work Bastille Day into your itinerary by visiting Paris on 14 July. The French military empties into the streets of Champs Elysees and the skies above in a display of the power of man, machine and funny looking berets. After the procession, typically lasting from about 10AM to noon, everyone migrates to the Eiffel Tower and the surrounding area for the fireworks. Get there early, though. The Eiffel Tower is closed off to the public by 5PM and surrounding parks and bridges are quick to follow.
Want to see more of France and Europe? Check out Mike Yarbrough's blog here.