Express Paris

The challenge:

See Paris in less than 24 hours.

Can it be done?

You might hunch your shoulders, scrunch your nose and haughtily exclaim:

Mais non.  C’est impossible!

I say:

Game on!

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I recently left London early Thursday morning and arrived in Paris mid-afternoon.  My hours in this glorious city were numbered.  I had one half day and another brief morning before leaving the inner circle of Paris and heading to the outer ring of arrondissements to see the French Open on Friday.

The true mission of the trip was to enjoy a day of tennis on the iconic red clay courts of Roland Garros.  And though tennis was the leading lady of this excursion, Paris is not exactly an ugly step-child and demands some adoration and attention when in range.

We stayed in the fashionable 6th arrondissement at the quirky but cute boutique hotel, The Bellechasse, perfectly located in the heart of the St. Germain neighborhood within skipping distance from the Museé D’Orsay.

Our first day was spent strolling along the rambling rues of this lovely neighborhood, past the fruit stalls, charming cafes, alluring patisseries, and chic shops.

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I have written before about Chatelles on the Rue du Bac, a cheerful shop dressed up in cerulean blue paint that features my favorite quote from Victor Hugo:

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Literally: I cannot stay far from you any longer.  

How fitting for a shoe store that customizes adorable flats with colorful tassels of your choice.  Anyone who knows me, understands that I find shoes irresistible.  Yet, combining shoes with my favorite poem is just too much!  As I grow older I forget things all the time and barely remember what I ate for breakfast, but amazingly I recall Victor Hugo’s poem, Demain, dès l’aubeverbatim because I had to memorize it in my 9th grade French class.  It has always haunted me as it exquisitely describes Hugo’s feelings as he awakes at dawn and sets out on a melancholy journey to visit the grave of his daughter, Léopoldine, who drowned tragically at a young age.

After a full day of sightseeing and shopping, and with a new pair of shoes in my sac, we made our way to one of the hottest tables in Paris, Frenchie on Rue de Nils.

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I have been trying to get a reservation here for over two years.  Finally, I was able to score a table and realized upon arrival that with only 10 tables in the place, seating is indeed precious.  And so is the exquisite food.  There is no menu, and the small plates are as pretty as they are delicious.  Our two amuse bouches were followed by 5 perfect courses that kept us surprised and satisfied with every bite.

The next morning was filled with sunshine radiating from bright blue skies, a perfect day for tennis.  And an ideal morning for a power photo walk.  I was motivated by my friend, Page, who starts every day with an hour long city walk at a clip that I would refer to as a brisk jog. She has a terrific instagram page highlighting something beautiful that catches her eye each morning (follow her at pcvictor63)

It is amazing how much you can see in one hour, and I highly recommend making an early morning walk part of your travel routine if you want an invigorating way to take in the city sights.

Our walk started at the Museé d’Orsay…

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continued across the Seine to the Louvre where we walked around the perimeter of the grand museum and I.M Pei’s famed pyramid…

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under the Arc de Triomphe du Carroussel which framed the newly erected summer ferris wheel near the Place de la Concorde…

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through the lovely Jardin des Tuileries which was in full bloom with lovely statues posing among the foliage….

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around the circle at the Place de la Concorde with its beautiful fountain and views of the Eiffel Tower and statue of Brest…

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along the Champs-Élysées to the Grand Palais…

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over the magnificent Pont Alexandre III  with its beaux-arts cherubs, art nouveau lamps, and views of the Eiffel Tower..

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back to the St. Germain neighborhood where we strolled past the Museé Rodin..

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 down a small cobbled street below the towering spires of the Basilique St. Cotilde…

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beneath many iron balconies and windows boxes filled with bright red geraniums…

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along a nearly deserted picturesque and patriotic street…

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past the Assemblée Nationale which houses the lower seat of French parliament …

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and back to the hotel. Phew!!

Granted it is only a surface tour, but sometimes the shiny decorative exterior is so satisfying that you don’t miss the meaty middle too much.

After that, it was onward to the tennis, and a day at Roland Garros never disappoints.

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The French make everything stylish, including spectating a sport outfitted with chic fedoras to block the sun.

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The red clay glowed and players glistened under the sunshine as we enjoyed a full day of entertaining matches. We finished with the victory of Richard Gasquet, a beautiful French champion whose one-handed powerful backhand rivals Federer in its grace.

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Exactly 12 hours after our walk, we were back on the Eurostar and then happily tucked in our beds in London that night.

Voila! That is how to win the Paris Challenge.

Game, Set, Match.

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