Hi. My name is Danny. I’ve been touring with bands for some time and want to tell you about some of the places we’ve been. I know, I’m missing some important things from these cities but this is just what I’ve had time to see. If you have suggestions regarding where to go in your beloved hometown the next time I’m hurtling through in a van filled with drunk people, please let me know.
Just so we are on the same page, this is the tour manager’s guide to Paris, FR, not Paris, TX.
Top eleven signs your friend just went to Paris for the first time.
- They try and pronounce French cities or monuments the correct way but don’t speak French. For example you say, “Paris” with an S, and they are like, “Pa(clears back of throat)ghghghghrrrrrrEEEEEEE”.
- You walk into their apartment and they’re putting up an Audrey Hepburn poster.
- They’re studying art history.
- You and some friends are arguing about which Die Hard is best, and you are like, “DUDE. NO! Die Hard 1 is the best action movie of all time. Alan Rickman is the bad guy!”. Then your friend that just went to Paris is like, “Has anyone seen Amelie?”
- Any time you are making dinner they turn on Django Reindhart.
- They roll their eyes when you mention Woody Allen’s movie, “Midnight in Paris.”
- They suggest you come over to watch Breathless.
- They’re putting up a print of Gustov Klimt’s “The Kiss” next to their new poster of Audrey Hepburn.
- They talk about how American’s live to work, and in France, they work to live.
- They’re applying to the vacant cheese monger position at Whole Foods.
- A wood block with, “Bonjour” painted across the front is prominently displayed in their kitchen.
In 2012 I was 25, on tour in Europe for the first time, seeing things I’d always wanted to see, and absolutely miserable. Miserable I tell you. I was on tour with an irrelevant Pitchfork band with an inflated sense of self-importance from Los Angeles (surprise) who I will refer to as Brite Pewel. On our second day of tour in Brighton, UK, my backpack was stolen from the venue. Its contents consisted of my GPS, 200 pounds, my passport, tour book, cell phone, and a new (uninsured) mac book pro. Most shows the audience consisted of me in the center of an empty room eating shawarma; so the band was in a great mood. To make matters worse it was summer in the United Kingdom. And as most seasoned travelers know, summer weather in the UK is much like winter weather in the UK… terrible. June in England is best articulated by Forrest Gump when describing Vietnam, “One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night…”
Rain. No passport. No sleep. Grumpy people. But things balanced themselves out. Somehow I made it through our last two weeks in the UK. America’s glorious embassy in London gave me a temporary passport and I was allowed to drive our van onto the train that connects Folkestone, UK to Calais, FR. When we got to Paris the band decided to cancel the show. Apparently the sound system was insufficient. Whatever. I found our hotel, somehow parked the van, and realized I had 1.5 days in Paris to do whatever I wanted before we left for Spain. 1.5 days of freedom. The next it was sunny and warm enough to wear a t-shirt. I walked outside and sat down at a cafe I found somewhere down the road. I drank my coffee for a bit and thought about what I wanted to do on my day off in Paris when I saw a man and a woman in their mid twenties walking towards me. When they were about 10 feet away I realized it was my roommate in New York and her boyfriend. Unbeknownst to me, they’d taken a quick trip to Paris. They didn’t know my tour took me there, I had no idea they’d be there, and we stood in the street and hugged. It was one of the more relieving moments I’ve had.
That night I emptied the contents of a Jameson bottle I swiped from backstage into a flask and then emptied that into my stomach while walking around. Everyone has written something about Paris, so I’m not going to try and one up them or add my chapter to “A Moveable Feast” but I’ll say this; If walking around Paris at night can’t take you out of your own head, even briefly, you deserve to be stuffed into a rocket and shot into outer space. I was in a good mood for the next few days. Even when we played David Lynch’s club Silencio and I walked straight into a mirror because an entire wall is covered in mirrors, I was in a good mood. Paris puts me in a good mood. It takes me out of my head. Paris is not a great place to visit on tour. It’s too hectic and the parking is impossible. Paris is a great place to visit on your own or with a significant other, especially if you have friends in town.
Which brings me to my first piece of advice, have a Parisian friend show you around when you visit Paris. A Parisian friend will make the entire experience more fun and accessible. Duh. But it’s more important here than many other places.
I’ve spent a lot of time in this city and I still thoroughly enjoy going to see the major tourist attractions. Whether it’s Jardin Du Luxembourg or The Louvre, the big, popular tourist attractions are always enjoyable. I enjoy walking around the neighborhood, La Republique. If I’m not staying in an Air bnb or with a friend, my favorite sleeping space is Hotel Cosmos on Timbaud. My parents once stayed in a realllllly nice hotel called Hotel Tremoilles, but… unless you have like 500 Euros a night to spend, skip it. The 11th arrondissement, Ill Saint Louise, or The French Quarter, are also cool areas to Air bnb. The metro is my favorite metro in the world, it goes everywhere. If you are vegetarian please make an exception for this trip and open yourself up to eating anything they give you. Anthony Bourdain’s guide to Paris on his website has great options for nice dinners. Chez Robert Et Louise in particular is incredible. They cook large steaks in an open hearth. Funny detail, if they hear you speak English they sit your ass downstairs in the basement with other English speakers. Can you imagine being in NYC and seeing a French family escorted to a Francophone table? One time with Bears Den we played a venue called L’internationale, it was ok. If you want to see a cool gig I would check the website for Super Mon Amour. When I met them they were a group of really cool, motivated, ladies that booked tours all around France. I just checked their website and the events page is still full of solid concerts in great parts of the city. PRO TIP: Visit the Louvre late on Friday night and use the underground entrance. Most underrated Museum is the Musee D’evolution. Paris is wonderful in winter but very cold, I suggest summer although all the French people are gone on holiday during August.
Anyway. Ok. Those are some basics above. Some time ago I asked a French friend named Marc for a few recommendations in his hometown. He sent the below. It is the most comprehensive Paris guide known to man… except for the hundreds of other guides to the city. I use it every time I go. If you’ve always wanted to go to Paris, just go. It’s not that expensive and you can make it work. In Russia they say, “See Paris then die” except in Russian. Well you can just go there on a budget airline and live afterwards. A week is enough. Overlook the spelling.
From Marc Azoulay;
“The best way to get an overview of Paris – riding a bike. The Velibs are bikes that have stations all over Paris – you can take one anywhere and leave it anywhere – and when i say anywhere, you’ll see, there are stations everywhere!
Take the metro a lot, you’ll get a good idea of the city and its neighborhoods – line 2 and line 6 are amazing because some parts are aerial. In Paris, the metro goes everywhere, very convenient.
And of course, you’ll have to walk. Walk walk walk until you’re tired, the beauty of Paris is that you have monuments at each corner. Please get lost in the small streets – anywhere – and you’ll find amazing spots.
The neighbourhoods you can’t miss:
– Le Marais: jewish, gay and trendy, you have to have a falafel rue des Rosiers (sunday lunch if there’s one), to walk rue de Bretagne (marchédes Enfants Rouges), to spend time Place des Vosges (my favourite square in Paris), rue des Francs Bourgeois, Musée Picasso if you want, do not hesitate to push old doors
– Etienne Marcel/ Place des Victoires: for clothes shopping, this area is great – amazing… and there you’re not too far from Bourse, Sentier… You can have lunch rue des Petits Carreaux (very nice pasta restaurant called Little Italy) or rue Montorgueil
– Opéra: I love to walk form Opéra. You have the Galeries Lafayette behind (you might want to see – I hate department stores, but inside this one looks nice), and up the Avenue de l’Opéra, you can have sushi rue Saint Anne or around, a little Japan in Paris, very cool… The best sushi I know is 14 rue de la Michaudière, called Koba, the place looks like shit, but the sushis (ask a chirashi special) really are the best I’ve ever had. On Place du Marché Saint Honoré, various nice restaurants – a great one is Cuisine et Confidences – could definitely be part of Sex and the City
– Saint Germain des Prés/Quartier Latin: a chic area, with amazing shopping for you, beautiful buildings, in front of the little church, don’t miss the little Place Furstemberg, see the Sorbonne, the streets around Saint Michel, rue de Seine, rue de Buci
– Ile de la Cité/Ile Saint Louis: the historical center of Paris, I think one day if I’m ever rich, I’ll live on Ile Saint Louis, a small village – please walk on the “quais” there, spy inside the apartments, have a Berthillon sorbet (the best and most famous in Paris) On Ile Saint Louis, there’s a restaurant called Les Fous dans l’Ile, I like it a lot – good food and typical French
– Oberkampf/ Canal Saint Martin: a nice area, with many small bars and restaurants. Canal Saint Martin is beautiful and has great “alternative” shopping as well.
– Bastille: go to rue de la Roquette and around, see 12 place de la Bastille, there’s a small passage, really cool place. And behind, streets with nice little bars – try the Café de l’Industrie
– Ménilmontant: artists on a hill. If you can, walk around there, it’s not typical for tourists, and few Parisians form the West (the wealthy) know this area. Go to the Parc de Belleville to have a nice view. In the rue Georges Lardennois (19ème) you have an amazing viewpoint of Paris
– Montmartre: the most famous hill in Paris, invaded by tourists, I suggest that you go there after midnight, you’ll have the view (almost) for yourselves – and trust me it’s worth it. You can go up by the Avenue Junot, to see some beautiful houses.
– Champs Elysées/ Avenue Montaigne/Concorde/Madeleine : the most beautiful avenue in the world as they say, well i dont necessarily think so. My recommandation: you start a day there, and you walk from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysées to Concorde and then the Tuileries ( an amazing park) and the Louvre, then les quais de Seine, ile saint louis… until Bastille. A very nice walk, to give you a perfect overview. Avenue Montaigne is very luxuous, you’ll want to have a look…
– Other Parks you have to go to: Luxembourg, when you’re in the Quartier Latin, Parc Monceau (next to where I live), Montsouris if you have time (and the Cité Universitaire internationale – where I’d have loved to study if i wasn’t French – all the small houses from each country – don’t miss La Maison du Brésil by Le Corbusier)
– Streets with a nice life/markets: rue de Lévis (next to my place, again!), rue Cler (7ème), rue Daguerre (14ème). This last one is next to the Catacombs, a very nice tourist spot (an undergound cemetery from the XIXth century – impressive)
– Cemeteries: you’ve got a couple in Montmartre, a beautiful one in Montparnasse, and the famous Père Lachaise: they are very quiet places, and nice to have a walk
– Museums: to me, there are 2 museums you can’t miss: le Centre Pompidou (contemporary art) and Musée d’Orsay. Why I don’t include the Louvre is a matter we’ve discussed already if I remember well. You definitely have to go to the Louvre, to see how it is outside, the pyramide, and the building, you can even have a drink at Le Saut du Loup, or dinner at Le Marly (the restaurant on the inside terrace, nice and posh), but I’m not sure it’s worth to lose a couple of hours in a line to rush to see the Mona Lisa. Other amazing museums: MAMVP (Musée d’Art modernede la Ville de Paris) and right next to it the Palais de Tokyo (for ultra contemporary art) – those two are not far from the Eiffel Tower.
Stop in cafés, sit on terraces, and people-watch!
A nice restaurant also, or just to have a drink: Mama Shelter, in the 19ème
First discover all the famous places in the West, but try to go East, where there are not so many tourists…”