We’ll always have Paris. Because it is a city of secrets that multiply like a conjurror’s box of mirrors.
1. The narrow lane that flanks Gallerie Printemps: Located on Boulevard Haussmann in the IX arrondissement, Printemps itself is no secret. Every year, millions enter this wonderland of eye-popping, wallet-busting delights. But step out into the traffic-addled air, and you can sniff some serious bargains. Ignore the swilling crowds and the confusing clusters of roads, stores and fast-food shops. Dive purposefully into the windpipe-thin lanes that hug the back of Printemps, and you will find fine quality shoes, bags, tees and much more, at gladdening prices .
2. L’As du Fallafel: If you like falafel hot and spicy, and are prepared for an agonisingly long wait, it’s worth it—reputed to be the best outside Israel. Local tip: skip the queue and grab a table. 34 Rue des Rosiers 75004.
3. The city’s loveliest street is rue des Francs-Bourgeois, with trendy but also affordable boutiques. Located in the Marais district, this is a long, long street with scores of wonderful fashion stores. Some say the street gets its name from a group of people nicknamed ‘francs-bourgeois’ because they were too poor to pay taxes, but no signs of that as you walk down this alluring stretch are visible.
4. The Museum of Paris History: While roaming rue des Francs-Bourgeois, don’t forget to keep time for this fascinating museum that unlocks the secrets of how Paris evolved. Housed inside Hotel Carnavalet, built in 1548, it showcases old-time shop signs, old Parisian art, antique furniture and a charming sculpte-filled garden. The permanent collection is free to view.
5. Lefty is a highly popular American bistro. You won’t find it in the guidebooks, but is a great place for a hearty bite at a pocket-friendly price. If, after polite bites of hors d’ouvres and too much amuse bouche, you crave onion rings, hearty burgers and potato fries, Lefty is just the right choice. Rue Vivienne 75002.
6. The 9th floor of Gallerie Printemps: Stop by at the self-service counter to buy coffee. Then step on to the lovely balcony and take a deep breath. Paris stretches out before you in full glory, a 360-degree panoramic feast for the eyes. En route to Printemps, on the Paris metro, a kindly local leaned forward and let me in on this secret. If not for her, I would have missed a view with a whew!
7. Paparazzi is the best pizza place in town, say Parisians, who are familiar with the innumerable pizzerias that populatre Paris from the cheap to the ones that could cost more than your wrist watch. 6 Square de l’Opéra-Louis Jouvet 75009.
8. Kooka Boora coffee shop is perfect for a stopover just before you climb up Sacre Coeur. It’s a cafe with character and a terrace. It also serve excellent salads, sandwiches and muffins. (Psst: there’s free wi-fi, too!) 62 Rue des Martyrs 75009.
9. Paris is full of places calling themselves Boulangerie-Patisseries, which means they sell both breads and cakes. Avoid those, and go to ones that focuses on cakes and has local customers. If all they are baking is cakes, they are sure to be good. In France, artisan baking is more than just pleasure—it is a religion.
10. The back of the Sacre Coeur: If you spend more than a couple of days in Paris, chances are that you’d be going to Montmatre and climbing up the Sacre Coeur, the highest point in Paris. Been there, seen that? Next time, stop by at rue Lepic where Vincent Van Gogh once lived. It’s easy to miss because all that announces its presence is a small plaque. Take a stroll behind the cathedral, and you will chance upon sunlit gardens that offer great peace. Not far from there is bustling square called Place du Tertre, where artists and musicians hang out, and lots of cheap cafes and boutiques line the street.