When it's your first time in Paris, you're under a lot of pressure. You have to see the Louvre, Notre Dame, Luxembourg Gardens, Montmartre — and that's usually just in the first 24 hours. But when you've visited Paris (or any other great city) several times before, you can relax and revisit your favorite attractions. Amanda Lobell, who has family in Paris, spent a week there last month. Here, she shares some of the City of Light's lesser-known gems.
Best Views of Paris: I loved going on the rides at the temporary amusement park set up in the Jardin des Tuileries. The view from the ferris wheel (pictured left) was so great that I rode it twice. At night, I enjoyed the magical view of Paris all lit up. But the daytime ride was better for seeing faraway sights like Sacre Coeur.
Middle Eastern Meals in the Marais: Some of the best food in Paris isn't French. One of my favorite restaurants is Le 404, a hip Moroccan place in the Marais. It has a great atmosphere (low tables, wood carvings, exotic fabrics, etc.) and really good food — couscous, tagines and awesome pigeon pastille.
I'm also a huge fan of Parisan falafel, particularly of the kind you find on Marais' Rue des Rosiers (also known as Falafel Alley). These eateries are hardly a secret — at lunchtime they're mobbed with locals and tourists alike. In March I visited L'As du Falafel, and I loved the fried eggplant that topped my falafel sandwich. This time, the line there too long so I headed across the street to Mi-Va-Mi and had a falafel sandwich that I thought was even better — it had the fried eggplant and an awesome sauce. (Mi-Va-Mi's optional hot sauce is also really tasty, if you're a hot sauce kind of person.).
Musee du Quai Branly: I was lucky enough to be in Paris this summer on Bastille Day (July 14th) and I watched the fireworks (pictured right) from the rooftop of Musee du Quai Branly, which is a cool museum showcasing African/Pacific/Asian indigenous art right near the Eiffel Tower. This museum has excellent special exhibits. In March, I saw one about the history of jazz. In July, I enjoyed the exhibit about the history and cultural impact of Tarzan, which will be on display through the end of September.
Favorite Restaurant: As much I like those restaurants mentioned above, my absolute favorite is Sardegna a Tavola, a casual Sardianian restaurant located in the 12th arrondissement, which is sort of off the beaten tourist track. Sardinian cuisine is closest to Italian, but even more Mediterranean-feeling. I've only had the appetizers, pastas and desserts, all of which are amazing — especially the fig ravioli, truffle tortellini and homemade ice cream. But I've heard that the meat and fish are great there, too.