When this former Parisian, now a tourist, visits the French capital, there is little pressure to hit landmarks, museums, or famous parks. It is all about taking a family stroll downtown, and getting reacquainted with my parents and my brother’s family while savoring favorite locations. Paris, always a willing partner and a generous host, provides the perfect backdrop for our adventures. This summer, we had a great day in the 14th arrondissement. A family stroll in Paris is more fun outside crowded touristy areas. I like “le 14ème” because it seems to have different personalities and does not show off. The architecture is not as uniform as in other areas. From the local eyesore (la Tour Montparnasse,) to the famous brasseries that helped establish Parisian café culture, the crêperies of the former Breton colony, to a handful of touristy sites (les Catacombes,) a famous cemetery, and cheaper-than-average hotels (mostly international chains,) the 14th arrondissement offers a lot of variety to a lot of different people. I like the neighborhood mostly for its authentic Parisian flavor, regular streets, lined with regular buildings, regular cafés, regular parks and regular shops. Yet, the 14th arrondissement is still Paris; it can be charming and surprise at every corner.
On an overcast July day, when Paris often seems to hesitate between spring and summer, my family and I strolled along peaceful streets in the western section of the 14th arrondissement. That time of year, the weather can change within minutes, and a few raindrops are not entirely out of the question. It is best to dress in layers, and to carry a small umbrella, sunglasses tucked away in the pocket of a denim jacket, just in case. Fortunately, these habits are easy to remember for a former Parisian turned Seattleite. Besides, the weather is mild and makes walking for hours an enjoyable experience.
To rest tired feet, there are small parks (“squares” en français) and benches along the way.
There are opportunities to peek into Parisian lives.
There are fun discoveries in the heart of the big city.
When we get hungry, there are many unassuming cafés and restaurants to choose from. Sans chi-chi. Low-key. Une terrasse. Une table. Cramped space. Simple fare. Good company… and people watching!
A little later, we pay tribute to favorite French icons au Cimetière de Montparnasse (Montparnasse cemetery.) There are so many celebrities resting there, it is difficult to choose. This time, we call on actor Philippe Noiret and Serge Gainsbourg.
Finally, after several hours of walking, talking, laughing, and exploring, it is time to head home, but first, l’Apéro: And what better place than a Parisian terrasse to wrap up our family stroll in Paris?
All photos by French Girl in Seattle
Please do not use without permission
A 1990 tribute to an ailing Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991,) and one of his iconic songs, la Javanaise, with Jane Birkin (in the audience,) Michel Sardou, Patrick Bruel, Laurent Voulzy, Vanessa Paradis.
My favorite Philippe Noiret movie: Le Vieux Fusil (the Old Gun,) Philippe Noiret (1930-2006,) Romy Schneider.