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  • Writer's pictureF.W. Hume

If you only have 24 hours in Paris


We are beginning our descent to Paris Orly. This is going to be the most memorable 24 hours of your life, Allons-y!

Every journey, however impromptu, requires some kind of preparation. You may need to find guidebooks, practice a language or download a travel app. Or maybe just detach your mind from the occupations and concerns of home.

A little music for the background, if you like; Mozart Symp. 31 "Paris"

To make the most of this single day you need to prepare. The first step is simple; fall in love.

Yes, first fall in love. Bring your beloved and rekindle your passion. (Unless of course the object of your affections is a macrobiotic, a vegan, allergic to wine, averse to cheese, in which case--just for this trip--bring someone else.) Or meet someone new. Start asking around among your acquaintances, your social media followers, in bars, use Bang with Frien (or whatever it is called now), Tinder, whatever. "Who wants to come to Paris and be in love for 24 hours?" If you don't find a good match before you leave, look around for a girl or boy, lady or gent you find attractive (someone of ambiguous gender named Lola might even be the ideal companion) on the plane. At the taxi stand or from the crowded RER car on the way into town, on street, in your first café. This isn't necessarily a match for life. Soul mates aren't necessary. Just the willingness to believe, for a day, in this affaire de coeur.

Paris is a city for lovers. She is meant to be shared, discovered, walking hand in hand through her streets. Sure, any place is better if you are in love, but this is different. Visit any place in the stages of early love, and it will inevitably be bound to the memories of that lover, that time. The place is the backdrop, the painted scene behind the stage, and you will have a Pavlovian memory of the relationship whenever you visit it. Unless you wipe out those memories with new ones. But not Paris. She isn't a backdrop, but a participant. She will forge new memories into the steel of your brain with the fire of every light in the Ville de Lumiere. It may not seem so at the time. You may think you are just enjoying the city during your dalliance. But she will play a part in your romance, in your clandestine or otherwise. In Paris and in love, it is always a story of a menage à trois. And when you return, it is her you will remember most clearly.

No experience will be memorable if you don't concentrate on it sufficiently. Resolve to do so for this one day. Be alert, be attentive, remember the immortal words of Ram Das and George Harrison, "be here now".

Talk to the locals. A couple bent on romance who still is friendly and engaging makes others feel included in their glow. And Parisiens respond very, very well to that.

There are people who come here for fashion, to buy dresses on the avenue Montaigne. To say they have climbed the Eiffel Tower. Seen the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo in the Louvre. The Origine du Monde in the Orsay. Done the Picasso Museum and the sewers. And walked through the acres of bone-filled corridors in the catacombs.

Certainly these are all things to do in Paris. But you only have one day. And the best reasons to be in Paris are indeed for art, food, wine, love and sex. And to connect with the unique spirit of this place, its history and character. But, yeah those first five are the reasons that come to mind first.

But art is everywhere here. Built from the bones of the city, arching over a metro station or postmodernly rotating on a plinth planted in a decorative fountain. It isn't necessary to enter a single museum. So don't. Save that for a longer trip. Let Paris give you great memories instead.

Walk these streets and you will discover history, architecture, art, sculpture, and settings from the most romantic scenes from painting, photography and film. The density of these discoveries is astounding. Probably only Rome and Istanbul are richer. I have wandered these streets for well more than 6000 hours and find something new all the time.

Twenty four hours is very little time so don't waste it. Don't queue, don't wait on line anywhere. If there is a wait, move on to something else. There is so much to explore any loss will be more than made up for by the next experience. If you are footsore and moving too slowly take a taxi or bus. If there is traffic get out and walk some more. Sure take the metro as well for the experience. But the bus is above ground and has big windows. Much more of the city can be seen.

So let us go then while the morning is spread out against the sky. Hopefully with the aircraft contrails painting white lines on a perfect blue canvas lit by bright sunlight. Paris can be nice in the rain, but still....

Orly 8h00 Make your way by taxi, bus or train to the Latin Quarter

09h00 At one of Cafés here, maybe at Le Comptoir du Panthéon 5 Rue Soufflot 75005 Paris

Sit and have un petit crème (what Parisians say if they want a caffe latte, not ever "café au lait") and your first croissant au beurre. So buttery as to leave your hands slick with each bite. Or a chocolate chaud (so different from hot chocolate anywhere else less sweet and heavy, maybe better than anywhere but Mexico) and a tartine, fresh crusty chuncks of baguette with butter and jam. Watch the passersby, students, professors from the nearby Sorbonne, politicians and aides on their way to the Sénat in the Jardin de Luxembourg down the road. Shake off the fog of the flight as the city wakes.

The Pantheon is France's Wesminster Abbey, hall of fame, burial place of famous citizens. Before it was a national monument it was a church. But why do we start here? Because this is one of the oldest parts of Paris. The Romans built a fortress here on this hill, the mount of St. Genevieve, in the 2nd century protect their newly founded city of Lutetia.

09h30 Wander down the hill poking your heads in to St. Etienne du Mont to see the tomb of St Genevieve, one of the patron saints of the city. Get lost in these streets. It won't matter, Just keep making your way down the hill. Explore. Through gaps in the buildings you will occasionally see the spires of Notre Dame or La Sainte Chapelle poking up from the island in the Seine that is the center of our city. These are the streets around the Sorbonne, one of the first universities of Europe, one of the most influential intellectual centers of the medieval world. Here Marie Curie did the work that makes her the only person to win the nobel prize in chemistry and physics. Here, in these streets, the physical love of Abelard and Heloise was ripped apart along with his genitals by hired thugs. But one of the greatest love stories ever was born.

Make your way down and east to the corner of rue Sommerard and boulevard Saint Michel, Here near the giant bookstores serving the university is Cluny monastery, the medieval museum built on the Roman baths. You can make out the form of them through the fence. That striated brick and stone is instantly recognizable and can be seen throughout all the former lands of the empire. Cross the major axis of St. Germain and enter the warren of tourist-thronged pedestrian streets La Huchette. It is early enough in the day there is no need to worry about pushy touts. Glance and the beautiful late flamboyant Gothic church of St Severin. Just behind the church, cross the boulevard St Jacques and take rue Galande to the street and church of St. Julien le Pauvre. Look inside at the eastern Orthodox icons. Go around the corner to Shakespeare and Co. This is the Paris of the lost generation of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Paul Bowles. Also of course, of Joyce and Proust. Buy a book. Get the bookstore's official stamp inked into it.

10h15 Cross the river to Notre Dame. Examine the iconography of the portals to the best of your ability. Try to guess what they mean. Later, when you get home, you can research them. Or ask one of us on Quora about them. Notice the Point Zero brass plaque in the stones in front of the church, the mileage 0 point for the city and country.

Make your way behind the church to the back of the building, to the Holocaust Deportation Memorial. Enter. You will be moved. When you climb back up to the light of day, take each other's hands again and show each other tenderness. You will need it.

Cross the little bridge connecting the Island of the Cité to that of Saint Louis. Share an ice cream cone from any of the shops selling Berthillon, taste the cold, melting sweet in the heat of your lover's tongue.

11h15 Take the rue Saint Louis en L'ile to the Pont Marie and cross to the right bank of the river. Just ahead it the Hotel de Sens, one of the oldest pieces of secular architecture in town. Here Queen Margot had her lovers fight duels to the death in that beautiful little garden.

Continue to the Rue Charlemagne, turn right keep past the lycée with its huge stretch of medieval wall defensive city wall being used as part of the playground. Turn left on St Paul. This is the Marais, the "swamp", that the Knights Templar drained around the raised Roman road that would become the rue de Rivoli. This has long been the center of both the Paris Jewish and Gay communities. Sometimes both. Cross Rivoli/St. Antoine and take the tiny rue Caron to the marvelous little place du Marché St. Catherine. If you need a quick stop go have a café at Le Double Fond where the waiters are practising magicians. Exit back to St Antoine, continue east. You will see a large bronze column with a gold top marking the center of the Place de la Bastille. Head toward it until the rue Birague. Turn left and take it to the end where you will enter:

The superlative Place des Vosges

12h15 Lunch Ambroisie, Ma Bourgogne, or sandwiches with a bottle of wine

If you can afford it have an unforgettable meal at L'Ambroisie. Ambrosia. The most elegant of the 25 some-odd 3 starred restaurants in Paris

9 place des Vosges, 75004 PARIS

Tél : +33 (0)1 42 78 51 45

Otherwise you can have good, reasonable French fare, also right on the square, at

If you really need to skimp, that's ok. Go to any of the bakeries and shops on the streets around the square and get sandwiches with pate and pickles, camembert or just ham and butter. A bottle of wine. And, head on shoulder and arm around waist, on public bench or sprawled together on the lawn in the square you will still have a most memorable lunch.

13h30-45 Explore the Marais heading west on rue des Francs Bourgeous, cut down a block to see the rue des Rosiers (the main axis of the old Jewish quarter). At end jog south a half block on Temple to Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, sort of the old axis of the Gay communinity. Stop in either of the friendly adult toy shops in the street (depending on your current erotic proclivities).

14h30 Continue till the end, cross rue du Renard and you emerge onto the surreal Place Stravinsky. This is a perfect, unique French juxtaposition. It might make you laugh out loud. With pure pleasure. It should Modernism, Postmodernism, Gothic all interposed and functioning in contrast to one another. St. Merri, the fountain and Beaubourg museum


Place Stravinsky

Now Ascend Beaubourg for some of the best views of Paris

Leave the Centre Pompidou/Beaubourg. Take the rue St. Merri/ rue Berger on west, look at the giant construction site of the old Halles Paris food market, to the rue du Pont Neuf, turn left and take the street down to the river. On your way stop and look at the old prints and volumes at the Bouquinistes along the river. Here the New Bridge, the oldest of them, sculpted with heads on its vaults spans the river and the edge of the Isle de la Cité. In the middle, look slightly inland, on your left and you will find another of the uber-romantic Paris squares, the Place Dauphine, made famous by Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

15h15 Across the bridge, back on the left bank, wander the streets of Mazarine, Dauphine and Seine. This is the gallery district, highly concentrated with art old, new and downright ancient. Spend some time browsing. One of you pretend you are going to buy a piece while the other tries to dissuade you.

16h15 Make your way to Mabillon. Take the rue des Canettes off of rue du Four till you find Chez Georges on your left. Georges passed away a couple of years ago. But this place hasn't changed since Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir held court here in the 50's. Have a quick small glass of wine and soak up the atmosphere. (you may have to visit another time as it seems they don't open as early anymore). Continue to the end where you will find the magnificent totally classical and pagan looking St. Sulpice along with its punning fountain of the cardinal points that are Non (Point) Cardinals.

17h15 Back down rue Bonaparte, around the corner to St. Germain des Pres. Go inside. This is Paris' best piece of romanesque architecture and the eternal parish of her literary and intellectual great. Or at least good and fashionable. Afterwards have a café très serre on the terrace of les Deux Magots or Flores to observe them.

Now, haven't you walked enough for one day?

18:00 Take a taxi or bus to Montparnasse then the elevator for the bar-restaurant at the top. Have some tea or a juice as you admire the views of monumental Paris; the Eiffel tower, Trocadero and the Arch of Triumph without having to fight the tourists around them.

(If it is Thursday you could detour for the 18h30 Mass in Latin at Saint Germain l'Auxerrois. Not for religious reasons necessarily. A good latin mass can be quite an aphrodisiac. Just ask Georges Brassens about Latin.)



19.00 Go to the Le Petit Journal Montparnasse just below your view. Have a "coupe" of Champagne or a Kir Royal while listening to the aperitif Jazz set.

20h00 Taxi or metro to Dinner

Laperouse is the most romantic resto in town. Since the days when Victor Hugo entertained his grandchildren in one part of the place and his mistresses in another. The food has gone up and down and back up over the years. Great wine list. Reserve one of the private rooms. Small sofa by the fireplace. The waiters knock before entering. You can ring for them at need.

If you just want the whole gastronomic experience and are able to afford it…My vote, after a lot of reflection, goes to:


For the starving artists trying to make do on Love and Cold Water, with the occasional glass of wine go keep your energy up with a cheap steak back in the neighborhood where you started your day at the

Les Pipos

20 rue de l”encolle Polytechnique , 75005 Paris, France (Panthéon)

Paris By Night

22h00 Take a taxi or public transport to the Arch of Triumph, wander with the festive crowds down les Champs Elysses to another of the beautiful public squares; the place de la Concorde. Hard to imagine the guillotine stood here during the revolution. But it has changed a lot since then. The American Embassy stands gracefully here as does the old Consulate in the former palace of Talleyrand.


23h00 Playtime and Nap

This really depends on the progress of your romance with each other and the city. Whether or not you dined at the Laperouse. And how open-minded you are feeling at this point.

You can often get a discounted rate at a hotel late at night if they still have availability Sometimes the night clerk will rent you a room off the books….

Since they officially rent for a short time during the day, these might be a few options to approach

Paris recently saw its first love hotel open, modeled on those of Japan. 25 euros per hour, you and your playmate can catch a few z's in a private room on the upper floors of a sex shop. Or Not catch a few z's.

If you are prudish you probably won't have made it this far. But still. You want memorable. Paris has one of the largest per capita concentration of etablissements libertins in the world. (The term swingers seems repellant to the community here.) Even if you don't "play" with others, this is certainly a very Parisian possibility for a memory. And they are very friendly people. They won't bite unless you ask them nicely. The most elegant of the places is the famous Chandelles. And the most accessible for newcomers possibly Le Mask, I've heard.

But it gets even edgier. :

Now if you want it hot and spicy, and are going to make ABSOLUTELY sure you remember (Or Else, baby) this 24 hours, you can try Cris et Chuchotements. Screams and Whispers.

04h00 Leave for a tour of Rungis

When les halles the food market closed and moved out of Paris, you might have thought it would get smaller. Nope. This is quite probably the largest, most complex food market in the world. The stomach not just of Paris but of a whole Gargantuan France. The Disneyland of Gastronomy. There are a few organizations that provide tours. Or ask a friendly restaurant owner to be your private guide.

5:30 Breakfast at Rungis and return directly to Orly which is very close.

After checking in, getting stowed and safety belted. After you hear, "Flight attendants prepare for departure" Close your eyes.

Remember. Sleep. Dream.

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