When I travel to a new location, I like to see as much as possible, so I do a thorough research of what the travel guides are recommending. More often than not, I do not actually follow those recommendations, because I find myself walking around and discovering some spots or experiences that were not in any travel guide 😊 During my latest trip, I have discovered 5 Paris hidden gems, that I want to share with you 😀 I am sure you are going to love them, as I did 😛
Promenade plantée – Paris’ garden bridge
The promenade plantée, which you will find on the maps as Coulée verte René-Dumont, is a 4.5 km long elevated linear park, built on top of obsolete railway infrastructure in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. It was inaugurated in 1993. The promenade stretches between Bastille and Bois de Vincennes.
I stumbled upon it by mistake, as I was walking in Bastille, the neighborhood where our hotel was located. The promenade is reachable by stairs and elevators and on some of its portions only pedestrians are allowed. I did not know anything about this promenade, but I later found out that it is actually a Paris attraction for those who know about it 😛
The promenade or parkway (as it is called in architecture) is a breath of fresh air, in a busy city and it really cheered us up after our flight and metro ride to the hotel. As you walk on the it, you realize that even the sounds of the traffic below are somehow muffled by the beautiful trees, plants and flowers. You can spend an entire day here and not get bored. There are so many species of plants and insects to observe that, for sure you will find something captivating.
What I enjoyed seeing most, however, was the way the parkway blended into the neighborhood – in some parts, in such a way that it was actually impressive. It cuts through buildings, ascends and descends, following the lines of the old railway. At one point even, it goes below street level towards the east, passing through several tunnels.
We did not walk to the end, as we were already very tired, but I would love to come back there one day and see it to the end. A fun fact about this location is that it appears in the film Before Sunset, directed by Richard Linklater in 2004 with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (I am absolutely convinced that you have seen this film or at least you’ve heard of it! If not, please give it a try – it is amazing :P)
The parkway is open to the public, without an entrance fee, however it is closed during the night, so, if you plan on visiting it, just google it before – hand, to check whether it has closed for the night or not.
A small (or not so small!) antique shop in Versailles neighborhood
As we were making our way back to the train station, after our visit to the Versailles Castle, my mother stopped in her tracks and made me go into this antique shop, which she had found. She had the best of ideas, because, as soon as I entered the shop, I was simply mesmerized. I am a fan of antique shops, but I don’t visit them very often. Most of the times, I find that the prices of the things I want to buy are too high for me, so I end up disappointed and with a longing for a various object or another 😊
The antique shop, called “Au Facteur Cheval” (the name actually has a funny history – just google it to find out what I am talking about! 😊), is actually located in a covered yard, with smaller rooms on three sides, full of various objects, from decorative pieces to books and large pieces of furniture.
The yard is covered with glass, which gives it an almost surreal vibe. It was such a wonder to walk through the shelves filled with old books, glass objects or smaller pieces of decorations. Paintings were scattered on the floor, one over the other, just waiting to be discovered by an art lover and put where they belong. My mother got “lost” among the larger pieces of furniture – chairs, tables, secretaires (small writing desks), cupboards. You could have easily furnished an entire apartment with the items found here 😊 I would have loved to bring one or two of those with me home. Unfortunately, airlines do not allow furniture on planes, so… you can understand the rest ☹
I found something that made me extremely happy though. Just as we were prepared to leave the antique shop, I found an entire shelf full of postcards. And not just any type of postcards, but real postcards, the ones sent from vacation home to the family. There were for sure about a thousand of those there, but I chose 20, to complete my postcard collection. I am delighted that I now have postcards that go back as much as 1978, which is a start for me. Well, I guess that from now on I’ll be visiting antique shops more often 😀
You can find a sister shop of “Au Facteur Cheval” in Paris too.
A neighborhood garden – Le jardin nomade
If you find yourself walking aimlessly in the 11th arrondissement (Bastille neighborhood), at one intersection, you will come across a small garden, that looks like something out of a movie. Between two buildings, people from the neighborhood created a green oasis, open mainly during the summer, from Thursday to Sunday, in the afternoons.
An insalubrious abandoned plot was transformed into an open, healthy, shared community garden, offering a free and open space where locals of all age groups can meet and share this project.
This project helps bring communities together and also saves abandoned places, in the process. It is extraordinary what a bunch of people can do – neighborhood locals are given individual plots of land, which they can garden, under the strict supervision of a chief gardener. They can then enjoy a nice glass of something, while breathing fresher air, in the heart of a busy neighborhood.
I must admit, I was impressed by the project. Even more, when I found out that the Paris City Hall is also involved, providing (free of charge!) the plots for the community to create these gardens.
If you want to find out more about this project, visit Jardinons Ensemble (which translates to “we are gardening together”. You can find these small, community gardens all around Paris, so be sure to visit one 😊
The last two hidden gems are related to food 😀 😀 I am pretty sure this is not a surprise for anyone who knows me (or has read some of my previous posts :P), because I am a complete foodie and I absolutely adore eating new foods, trying out local dishes or finding new places when I travel.
To come back to my hidden gems…
As the sub-title suggests it, this is a small fast food place, which can be found on the grounds of the Versailles Castle.
Now, when you see fast food, you might think “bleah, fats and calories and whatever. No, thank you!”. But, hold on to your hats. This place (or should I better say, this small food cart!!) brings you the best boiled (or baked) potatoes that you ever had (in your lifetime!). The options of fillings vary, from the classic, basic one, which only adds butter to the hot potato, to a combination of cheeses to meat products or smoked fish, perfect for stuffing a hot baked goodness.
We discovered this small cart in front of Grand Trianon residence and did not pay much attention. We were starving though, so we decided to get ourselves a baked potato. The price is relatively okay, given the location of the stand – we paid 9 EUR for a potato filled with cheese, prosciutto crudo and pickels. What we particularly enjoyed was the fact that we took our take away package, walked a few meters and enjoyed our lunch on a bench, listening to the birds singing and the sun caressing our faces. The best take away I have had in a looong time. It was also a great energy input for continuing our trip through the Versailles castle grounds.
If you are like me and, apart from a coffee, you do not eat breakfast (most often the cause is that you are already late waking up!) the best option to have a quick energy burst is having a bagel at Bagelstein.
Believe me, once you have tried their bagels, you will be addicted. Lucky for some of you, Bagelstein has shops in Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland, so you may find some bagel goodness outside France. On a side note, I just realized I’ll be traveling to Belgium in June, so… yeeeey me!
What is great about Bagelstein is that all their products come from organic sources and you have an option for everyone. For example, I don’t eat wheat flour, but luckily for me, they had a multitude of options, such as corn flour bagels, different types of seeds bagels or, my choice, whole wheat flour bagels. I am always happy when I can find alternatives, as I am always struggling with eating a bit healthier when I am traveling 😛
In terms of what you get on the bagel, it can be whatever you want. I opted for a pesto sauce, mozzarella and dried tomatoes bagels and let me tell you… it was like my taste buds had died and gone to heaven. It was the perfect combination of the three ingredients and it made the bagel perfect for breakfast. And with only 6 EUR, it was quality-price ratio perfect 😊
I hope you have enjoyed the hidden gems I have discovered in Paris – be sure to discover some of your own when you get there. This is what makes trips the more exciting 😀