Paris through your 5 senses – Summer edition

In full sight – One of the problems you might have while in Paris is to suffer from chronic indecision if you have to chose what will you visit first. There are so many things to see (monuments, museums, parks, etc.) that you shall make a list before visiting the City of Lights. Forget about going from one museum to another the same day – it can be not only tiresome, but stressful as well. Better go to a museum in the morning, stroll in the parks, and finish with a monument such as the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe (both at walking distance from each other). Or start with the monuments in the morning so you can avoid queuing, stroll in the parks, and finish in a museum (consider that most of them close by 5 pm). My personal favourite is the Orsay Museum, just in front of the Senna River and not far from the Invalides esplanade.

The sound of music – Paris has so much to offer when it comes to cultural activities that you won’t have to worry about getting busy by night. Whether you are an open-air-jazz-concert-addict or a salsa dancer you will always find a place to go, the only restriction being that the bars and discos shut down at 2 am on weekdays. One of the best options is to buy in a kiosk L’Officiel des Spectacles, a very rich and up-to-date cultural guide of Paris and its region. And once you’ve got it, all you have to do is chose where will you end your night!

                                                             (French) Touch  This may be the favourite item of shopping addicts, and with good reason. Fashion capital of the world, Paris has a myriad of boutiques and stores where you can find that perfect dress or that lovely pair of shoes, as well as booking expensive rendez-vous with a designer that will make your fashion dream come true. Have you heard of Champs Elysées? Well, that is haven in Paris for fashionista’s from all around the world. Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton will be your best friends if you have the money to pay for them, and if you don’t you can always go window-shopping. Then, if you are interested in vintage clothing you should head to Le Marais, where the frippery shops are legion. They are not that cheap but it is worth taking a look if you’re around the corner.

Smell the glamour – Somewhere in the world, French people have this weird reputation of smelling bad. I cannot confirm nor deny this sentence, but in this domain you will be more than satisfied when visiting Paris and you might need an entire week to visit all the boutiques and beauty shops before you get an idea of what scent is the one you need. Champs Elysées avenue is an option – pricy, you know – otherwise you might find what you are looking for at Boulevard Haussmann and its thousand of shops. Got some more days? Visit the Perfume Museum at the Opéra district.

Taste it! – On a lazy summer afternoon, the best decision you could make after sunbathing in a park is to go for an ice cream at Pozzetto. Having only 12 flavours based on milk or fruit recipes, they will prepare a certain amount everyday for its costumers, so be ready to queue for at least 5 minutes. Yoghurt and Gianduja won’t disappoint you, fig will be rather scarce depending on the season.


Favourite spot #2: Métropolitain

Call it whatever you like. Tube, metro, subway, or as they call it in Paris, le métro. I could write pages and pages about the interesting experience that is using this urban transportation. It’s true, in Paris there are 14 lines that can make you feel a little crazy at first. In Prague, there are just three lines and you get as lost. In Santiago (Chile), there are four lines (plus one “auxiliary line”)…but le métro of Paris is a photographic experience in itself.

Once I was told that the subway service in Paris was not really clean. Well, this is true, but up to a certain point: it depends on the lines you’re moving within, the time of the day and your mood. For instance, the line 8 (the purple one) was launched on 1913, but it is still one of the cleanest.

The Parisian metro works until past midnight, so you can pretty much party for a while and then go back to your place like a Cinderella – or wait until dawn and take the first one by 5 am. The thing is that Paris is not a city as big as London (Paris intramuros, not the Ile-de-France), so you can walk anywhere if you don’t want to wait that long. And if you have to go outside the walls of the city, you have the RER, an urban train.

Among my favourite stations there is the Louvre-Rivoli, line 1, that has a permanent exhibiton of art (no wonder – it’s the station to get to the Louvre Museum). Or Bastille, on the same line, where you can see the Sena river through the large windows of the tube platform. And also, the “phantom metro stations”, that were built but never used or closed after a while – such as Saint Martin station.

When you just arrive in Paris, it is quite easy to get lost when trying to change from one line to another. Gare de Lyon, Nation, Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord and Montparnasse are big elephants filled with three, four or five other lines. And if you try to change to the RER lines, bonne chance!

Travelling by metro it’s a sociological experience…or better, a zoological one. All you get to see in the underground Paris it’s impressive – from the tramps sleeping on the platforms to the musicians that range from very good to please-stop-playing. One does not simply goes out in Paris, one always gets surprised. Sometimes, when riding the metro, you will have a guy talking on his own sitting next to you. Then you have people reading in every language you can imagine. The colours, the smells, the looks and the horizons get mixed in the wagons…

Favourite spot #1: The bridges of Paris

Talking about Paris…an infinite story.

Golden lions! Credits: Flaneusemag

The bridges of this city are something like the gate to an alternative world. A Toulouse-Lautrec kind of world, bohemian and artistic.

Take the groovy Pont des arts. Located in the heart of Paris just in front of the Louvre Museum, this bridge is well known to locals that like to share a wine and cheese dinner in summer. When the good weather comes, flâneurs from all around the globe will take their instruments and meet up at the bridge to watch the sunset go down while the music starts playing.

With golden lions staring at the Eiffel Tower, the Pont Alexandre III is my personal favourite. Just a five-minute walk up north and you are crossing the Champs Elysées avenue, so if you are up for some luxury shopping, this bridge may be the one you are looking for. Pay attention to the details of this bridge – you won’t regret it!

Those who watched Amélie and came to visit Paris following her trail, you might want to go check the bridges over the Canal Saint Martin. Encompassed by countless cafés  and bistrots this is the ideal Sunday-morning-brunch promenade. And of course, take a shot at stone skipping – as our French heroine did when she was feeling pensive.

Word of the day: New Year

(OK, I know, it’s two words, not one).

Starting a new blog was part of the New Year’s resolutions for 2012. The thing is that if you decide to begin on January 1st, you might have to deal with the hungover first. Luckily, this time I didn’t have to, but I couldn’t help to remember the previous times where I needed at least two days to get together myself back among the living.

For sure, the best New Year parties I have had were in Valparaiso, Chile. In Europe I have experienced Paris and Amsterdam so far, but none of them could compare to the tremendous party that takes place every 31st December at the Valparaiso docks. It is true that almost a million of people congregate there to watch the fireworks and to party afterwards, and it might get dodgy at some point of the evening. But it is definitely worth it to be there for the fireworks display, and if you are a party animal, you will just love staying there.

Whether you ride by bus or you rent a car to get there, the best plan is to arrive at least one day earlier to avoid the masses of cars and find yourself a good spot to enjoy the fireworks. Once there though, try to use the public transport (buses and metro) so you won’t suffer the endless pain of finding where to park.

Some of my personal favourite places to watch the fireworks are the Paseo Gervasoni, Paseo Yugoslavo and Paseo Atkinson, all of them close to each other (in case one is too crowded you can check the other two). These are high-demand spots, so better make sure you get there early – like in the morning early. The view is stunning, and the party goes all night long. Make sure you are wearing solid shoes, cause the broken bottles are legion around 2 am.

Going to the northern side of Valpo (towards Muelle Baron) there are other good spots – not as close as the ones I listed before, but good view and stunning landscape anyway. Mirador Portales and Paseo Wheelwright are my personal favourites, the latter being the newest one (it was finished in 2006). This coast promenade  connects Muelle Baron and Caleta Portales, so if you want to be really close to the sea for the fireworks display, just go there.

Other options for enjoying the fireworks are renting boats (at Muelle Prat mostly) so you and your family/friends get to see the show real close. Check this link if you want to get an idea of how much will it cost for the night.

Yes, Valparaiso might be at the end of the world. But it is one of the most beautifully eclectic cities I’ve ever been to. And the New Year’s Eve it’s oh, such an experience!

(Here you can check a map with the spots I mentioned before)

And some pictures to get you in the mood 😉

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