I’m going to Paris with a friend for two weeks and although we plan on visiting the tourist spots we also want to get a feel for the real Paris. Does anyone know of anything to do involving art or music preferably! Like an art exhibition or a gig? Or anything that would be different from the usual tourist spots!
1. Go on a skate through the streets of Paris.
Pari-Rollers organizes a skate at night complete with cops on roller blades to escort the group and a medical team following in case someone takes a spill. This began years ago as a sort of "underground" activity that the cops tried to stop. But when the numbers swelled to hundreds (and on some occasions thousands) they gave up and now cooperate. The route changes every week. Read about it here: http://www.pari-roller.com/
2. Have dinner with an icon of the 1960′s free love, hippy, movement.
Jim Haynes is still crazy after all these years. An American he helped organize the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, co-founded "Suck" (a magazine about sexual issues) in Amsterdam, and taught Media Studies and Sexual Politics at the University of Paris 8. He holds a dinner party every Sunday night at his atelier. Read about it here: http://www.jim-haynes.com/
3. Check out the Roman Arena
Although it gets mentioned in all the guide books I don’t see many people there. The Arènes de Lutèce was built in the 1st century when Paris was a Roman city. Over the centuries it was filled in, built over, and forgotten. It was rediscovered in the late 19th century and excavated. Today, it is a public park in the 5th arrondissement, accessible by three entrances . One is a passageway through the building at 47, rue Monge; the second is a long open corridor from rue de Navarre through a gate; the third is through the Square Capitan from its entrance at 10, rue des Arènes.
4. Visit the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette
I don’t know your nationality but if you are an American or just interested in history then go to the cemetery of Picpus at 35, rue de Picpus and pay your respects to this great man, a pivotal figure in both the American and French Revolutions.
An American flag flies over his grave and did so even during the Nazi occupation of Paris. The German Commandant of Paris, who was a scholar of American Revolutionary history, ordered a detachment of his Wehrmacht soldiers to march to the cemetery each morning and evening to raise and lower the American flag above the General’s grave with full military honors.
The only way into the cemetery is through an unmarked door in a larger, perpetually-closed gateway that guards the church within, which is itself attached to a cloistered nunnery. You have to know exactly where to find the doorbell and, once pressed, know to turn to the right after you pass through the door and find the entry ‘official’ who sits in silence and takes your entry fee.
For any American with an understanding of history it is a visit of obligation. Lay a white rose (the symbol of reverence and humility) on his grave and say “Lafayette, we are here.”
5. See the windmills of Montmartre
Most tourists go take a look at the Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill) nightclub. But the windmill there is a fake, just a decoration. However, there are still two real windmills in Montmartre. The last one, Le Moulin à Poivre, functioned until 1878. The Moulin de la Gallette and the Moulin du Radet are found by the rue Lepic.
6. If you’re into philosophy
Check out the meet up group that discusses philosophy in English. it only meets once a month but if you happen to be in Paris at the time its a great way to meet some intelligent people.
7. Check out my favorite bar.
Aux Trois Mialletz at 56 rue Galande is admittedly in a touristy area just a couple of blocks from Notre Dame but the crowd is mainly locals with a very big contingent of regulars. The people are very friendly and the piano bar on the ground floor staffed with very talented musicians and singers. Its the sort of place that stays open all night and where local musicians go to hang out after they’ve finished working someplace else. I’ve been going there for over 30 years ( I sing jazz) and its always a good time and a place I’ve made many, many friends.