Finally! Your Freedom to Travel...

Some of you might think that summertime in Paris is too crowded and should be avoided. I disagree. 
 
Paris, like many other European cities, is vibrant, young and buzzing with life during the summer. You’ll encounter recent college grads and backpackers trying to locate youth hostels, music festivals and navigating the train for the first time.
 
If you’ve been to Paris before, you can appreciate the energy and have the confidence that you won’t be getting lost on your way to the Louvre. You might even enjoy helping one of those new travelers find their way.
 
The best part is you won’t miss out on all the extra activities that are scheduled during the summer. You don’t need to be a twenty-something to enjoy all the energy and summertime fun! 
 
If you aren’t someone who wants to share the streets with oodles of other tourists then just partake of  the special summer concerts and activities. You might consider staying in an apartment or home-exchange opportunity. You can always retreat to your private haven for a few hours before attempting another outing. These options are especially great for travelers with special needs. You’ll have a kitchen and private bath to make sure you are refreshed and ready to tackle the next adventure.
 
Don’t get me wrong — a slow relaxing summer can be wonderful but try a week or two during this high energy time. Your Adirondack chair and lemonade will be waiting for you when you get home!
 

Check out this great site for discovering all the summer festivals in Paris Ile-de-France and this terrific city guide (excerpt follows) http://www.new-paris-ile-de-france.co.uk/  

Every summer, the Château of Versailles revives its past of grandiose parties and offers the general public some unique experiences. The most stunning of which occurs near the Neptune Fountain, the largest of the Garden’s ornamental water features with 99 different effects. At the start of summer, a terrace seating 7,000 is set up around the fountain, in a semicircle, looking towards the Château. Five new shows will be stirring this magical place once again this year.

On 24th June, the Groupe F, who lit up the Eiffel Tour on the eve of the new millennium, has a pyrotechnical enchantment in store, set to the spellbinding sound of Haendel’s Music for Royal Fireworks. A suite written for George II’s royal fireworks which took place on the Thames, performed here by the Concert Spirituel, directed by Hervé Niquet. You can see the Groupe F again with their new piece Les Noces Royales de Louis XIV on 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th 17th and 18th September.

As for recitals, the singer Mathieu Chedid, alias M, will perform a show commensurate with his exceptional talent and this sumptuous setting on 29th June.

Dance enthusiasts will be thrilled by the aerial duos of brilliant choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. Following the huge success of last year’s Snow White, he is back with his troupe to pay homage to the Ballets Russes, in this their centenary year, with two of their masterpieces: The Wedding and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky.

City Guide!  
 Les Batignolles: nature, art and a village-like spirit

From the metro Villiers, walk along the rue de Levis. This pedestrian axe is bordered with charming little shops, like Oliviers & Co (quality Olive Oils), or Petit Bateau (children’s clothing) and is also a gourmet sanctuary of fish shops, rotisseries and cheese shops, open 7 days a week. Take the time to admire the colourful market stalls, leaving to your right the rue des Dames.  The rue des Dames is punctuated with lovely restaurants, such as the Bistro des Dames, with its small planted terrace, not far from the convivial Russian table, La Gaieté Cosaque. One must admit, the area is full of good restaurants: Agapé, a little higher up, on the rue Jouffroy d’Abbans, is the new ‘bistronomic’ address, signed by three former students of Alain Passart (restaurant L’Arpège). At Porte Maillot, L’Orénoc (Meridien Hotel) serves a delicious fusion cuisine, while near to the place des Ternes, the very serious Rech – recently taken over by Alain Ducasse – is famous for its fresh seafood products, its camembert and its giant coffee eclair. If you don’t have room for a heavy lunch, take a moment to try one of the delicious pastries at L’Ecureuil, found at the end of the rue Lévis.

Also newly revisited, take the rue Cardinet on your right, to the Pont Cardinet Train Station and to the Clichy-Batignolles Park, large green place in the North-West of Paris. When crossing the bridge, you can see to your left a large abandoned area. In 2010, tree-lined aisles will line the way through this urban renovation project, mixing ecological commercial and residential structures of the new generation. In the meantime, the Batignolles district has already dedicated itself to welcoming sustainable development, for one of three Biological Markets takes place every Saturday morning along the Boulevard des Batignolles!

Once across the Cardinet bridge, you are now in front of the Batignolles Square.  If you like birds, ducks and black swans… take a walk through this English garden, complete with a cave, a waterfall and a river!  In the some country flavour, don’t miss the magnificent white church that sits just behind the square, on the rue de Legendre. You can browse the biological boutique, Biocoop at number 153.

Afterwards, to satisfy your picturesque soul, take a moment to stop by the workshop Kej, located in a building giving onto the square.  The area is extremely dynamic as far as ecology and arts go: between the rue de Legendre, the rue des Batignolles and the avenue de Clichy, there are more than fifteen galleries and workshops!  Paris-Ateliers Adac (61 rue de Legendre) is specialised in the restoration of old paintings. The gallery, Antigravité, (n° 80) exhibits jewellery, paintings and photographic mobiles. The decorative spirit also has a place on this street,  with interior decorator Aleth Vignon (n° 98) working with vegetal fibres, and the Japanese influenced shop Home Trotter (n° 77).

Need to catch your breath after all this beauty?  Make a quick stop at the restaurant-bar Les Puces des Batignolles for a terrific week-end brunch or wine on a string (the bottle is opened before you, but you only pay for what you drink). At the cross-roads of the rue Nollet, take a sharp right to find the Atelier Nollet and the Galerie Espace (n°1 & 1 ter) and the Madar Décors workshop (n° 4).  In the evening, these well-known or unknown addresses are home to the local crowds and bring an authentic feeling to the area.

Place de Clichy : popular culture and musical effervescence

From the rue Nollet, keep going straight until you cross the rue des Dames.  Turn to the left, you will find a tiny little street called the rue Biot where you will make a right. Passing in front of the intimate Théâtre de l’Européen or its neighbour, the bar-brasserie Cyrano  before arriving at the place de Clichy, which boasts the hugely popular Brasserie Wepler, notably frequented by Henry Miller.
What a contrast to the arty bohemian spirit of the Batignolles ! This is one of the busiest areas in Parisian nightlife. Following the boulevard de Clichy, you will notice starting from métro Blanche, a succession of sex-shops and girlie bars, but most importantly a host of music halls like La Boule Noire, La Cigale, le Trianon… With a concentration of concert halls and theatres, the area is famous for its evenings of fun and its white nights in hip-hop clubs or discotheques like the Bus Palladium, rue Fontaine. The vocation of this « singing village » hasn’t changed and the new addition to the French singing tradition,  Les Trois baudets, proves that the Place Blanche and Place Clichy are still singing and swinging!

In anticipation of the evenings events, return to the effervescent place de Clichy.  After a game of billiards at the Académie de Billard (rue de Clichy), loose yourself in the popular flow of passers by that haunt the avenue de Clichy.  Have a look at the elitist Cinéma des Cinéastes (7 avenue de Clichy) with its New York style wine bar, Au Père Lathuille, on the first floor.  At metro La Fourche, put yourself on the left pavement of the avenue de Clichy to catch a glimpse of the shop window of jewellery and accessory designer Zinat (1 rue Jacquemont).  In case you get hungry, at the end of the road you will cross the rue Lemercier and its lively restaurant Au Bon Coin, which serves its traditional ‘veal head’ every week. Once is never enough!

A bit further to the North (after the metro Brochant), the avenue de Clichy crosses the rue Guy Moquet on the right. Here you will find the Le Kloog Café, small café-resto with a great wine list. La Cité des Fleurs sits at the start of the rue Guy Moquet, in the Epinettes area. This tiny little street is lined with charming houses that each have their own private garden. In the beginning, all of the owners were required to plant three trees, and in the warm weather the smell is wonderful. A few hundred metres away, the restaurant Le Bouclard serves a traditional French cuisine. You will find in this neighbourhood the feeling that Henry Miller aptly described in his novel, Quiet Days in Clichy.  Miller didn’t actually live at place de Clichy, but rather in a modest flat on the other side of the peripheral boulevard (4 ave Anatole France). A new art-deco building has since replaced the former building, but a commemorative plaque reminds us of the writers passage.

After this bucolic pause, it is time to discover the unknown side of the capital. Take the number 13 metro line at La Fourche, direction the Basilica of Saint-Denis.

Saint-Denis: the beauty of the unknown

As you exit the station, take the passage Héloïse to the passage Six Chapelles, both of which are pedestrian. You will pass in front of the Café culturel Arts et Rencontres, now widely known thanks to the ‘Slams’ of French musician Grand Corps Malade. You may even cross the popular and colourful Saint-Denis Market , held every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday morning, on your way to the Saint-Denis Basilica.  After a visit to this sumptuous, royal necropolis, take a few minutes to appreciate the splendid Legion of Honour Park, with its facade of 140 metres, designed by architect Robert de Cotte, in 1717.  The park also houses the Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis.  A marvelous example of 18th-century architecture that was transformed into the Girls Academy of the Legion of Honour, by Napoleon.

Turn around and follow the same path back towards the Basilica, turning onto the rue de la République.  The central axe of the city is animated by lively little Moroccan restaurants, but also by a large department store selling products from the Caribbean – Exotic Centre (44 rue de la République). Before arriving, you will cross the rue Gabriel Péri and take it on your left. The famous Hammam Pacha (n° 147) is home to Parisians looking for something a bit more exotic. The Musée d’art et d’histoire  (The Art & History Museum), installed in an ancient wine cellar, offers a passionate visit and if you continue you will cross the rue des Ursulines, where the Ursuline Convent awaits behind impressive doors. A few feet away, on the rue Franciade, the workshop-boutique with the same name proposes objects from yesterday, with the savoir-faire of today. From the rue Franciade, take the rue Désiré Lelay to the boulevard Marcel Sembat. Walk back up the boulevard towards the tramway, you can follow the rails on your left, to the charming little street rue du Port.

All this walking will take you to the Saint-Denis train station, where you can take the RER D, direction Paris. Get off at the stop: La Plaine Stade de France.  Follow the avenue François Mitterrand, then the avenue du Président Wilson to the left (800 metres) to arrive at the trendy restaurant L’Usine, Installed in the former building of the French Central Chemist, founded in 1852 (379 avenue du Président Wilson). Enjoy a meal or a drink, admiring the backbone of the city: the Stade de France ! Less than one hundred metres from the esplanade of the French Stadium, this architectural wonder is brilliant. For those who want more, feast your eyes on the Fratellini Academy, dedicated to the circus arts, or enter for a meal in the restaurant Amazir (advanced booking advised). A lovely way to end the day, just 300 metres from the metro station Saint-Denis Porte de Paris.

Another Option : A walk along the Canal Saint-Martin

If you have the time, follow the banks of the canal, from the Saint-Denis or the Stade de France train stations, towards Paris for an architectural stroll that will take you all the way to the Parc de la Villette.  A bicycle path runs along the canal for 6 kilometres.  You can pedal, roll or even walk along the water, admiring the poetry of this region, hidden from most.