October has mostly been a wash-out here in Paris which can leave locals and visitors alike feeling crestfallen - what about those long walks atop growing piles of crunchy leaves in the Tuileries Gardens? Sad, I know. Even faced with relentless rain, author Amy Thomas thinks there's plenty to make any Paris experience special.
When I think of my favorite moments in Paris, they’re the ones I’ve spent bombing down the streets on a Velib or exploring the different quartiers on foot—stumbling past beautiful boutique vitrines, admiring the doorways and courtyards, and suddenly realizing you’ve been adrift for hours. In other words, they’re moments that require the weather gods’ full cooperation. And anyone who’s spent any time in Paris knows “cooperation” does not often pair with “weather.” It can be unforgivably cold, rain for days, and inspire desires to curl up in a warm ball inside. What you need when the weather turns is a plan. Or my three-pronged strategy for Inside Paris: art, transportation and tea.
Art Museums are the obvious choice for escaping the outdoors. So obvious that the whole city (or at least its millions of tourists) seems to flock to the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay on inclement days. To avoid the inevitable crowds (and potential claustrophobia), opt for open, airy institutions. My two favorites are the Centre Pompidou and the Fondation Cartier. Formidable modern art aside, one of my favorite things about the Pompidou is riding the escalator up to the top floor, taking in the increasingly expansive views along the way. Then you can just stand for hours, looking at the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, Sacre-Coeur and all those grey buildings and rooftops with terra cotta chimneys in between. It’s a million dollar view that costs only the 13-euros entry fee.
The Fondation Cartier, while also glass-walled, has a totally different vibe. This small artistic gem, designed by Jean Nouvel and located in the 14ème, is surrounded by trees and grass, inviting the outside in with you. It’s especially splendid when the leaves are golden brown or when the snow is slowly falling outside.
It’s true that sometimes the cold, rain and snow make Paris seem even more romantic than normal. Since one of the most romantic parts of the city is the Seine, I also like to cozy up on one of the boat tours. Though there are tons of options, the Bateaux Vedettes is my go-to, as it’s smaller and less chaotic than the popular Bateaux Mouches.
Though the Bateaux Vedettes are surprisingly affordable—only 13 euros for an hour-long ride up and down the river—nothing beats hopping on a public bus and riding through the grand boulevards, commercial centers and residential areas for hours. The 68 line cruises past such iconic destinations as the Louvre and Opéra Garnier; 96 goes through the Marais and Bastille and past the Hotel de Ville; and Line 38 runs north to south, with views of Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter. It’s like being a tourist and a local at the same time.
Ladurée on the Champs-Elysées to the beatniky comfort of Les Deux Abeilles in the 7eme; from the prickly waitresses at Angelina to the gracious servers at Mariage Frères; not to mention the chocolaty comfort at Jean-Paul Hevin and Jacques Génin… if ever there was a reason to look forward to staying inside while in Paris, it’s delicious comforts such as these.
Thanks, Amy! Catch Amy's musing on God I Love Paris and pick up a copy of her book "Paris, My Sweet".
*Related: Afternoon Tea in Paris