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Paris Family Activities
Perfect for budget diners with haute-cuisine taste, discover delicious sandwiches, pastries, and more at this bakery/grocery store in the 8th, jointly owned by Alain Ducasse and master baker Éric Kayser; the shop's ideal for gourmet lunches or picnic supplies (20-acre Parc Monceau is nearby), with both indoor and outdoor seating.
Canal St. Martin
Artists fleeing high rents in the Marais have transformed the once-dodgy Canal St. Martin into Paris's hippest neighborhood. Dug in the 1820s as a source of drinking water, today the 2.7-mile-long canal (part of it is underground) is lined with trendy restaurants, bars and shops. There are boat tours through the locks. Come on Sunday when the Quai de Valmy is closed to traffic.
Think fish and Hollywood (but not Waterworld, merci). Across from the Eiffel Tower at the bottom of Trocadéro Gardens, the Paris aquarium is home to more than 10,000 fish, including 25 sharks, and a giant touch tank full of friendlier critters. But there are also two movie screens showing four films daily, exhibits about creating special effects, live performances, a Japanese restaurant, and an area for crafts - enough to keep any child busy.
Soak up the stellar tower views from the Place du Trocadéro esplanade, and follow up with a visit to the highest of the tower's three observation decks for breathtaking panoramic city views. At night, the 1,063-foot tower, built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, sparkles like fireworks for the first five minutes of every hour.
For travelers on a tight budget, this cheap, cheerful, and charming hotel – named for the famous pianist and opened in 1846 – hits all the right notes. Overlooking the glass-roofed shopping arcade of the Passage Jouffroy, the 36-room property has one thing that others in the budget category often lack: peace and quiet. The rooms themselves, though not terribly stylish or modern, are decently comfortable and – if you get one facing the arcade – gloriously bright. The hotel's entrance, tucked away at the end of a pedestrian passageway very close to the Opéra Garnier and the city's biggest department stores, may seem difficult to locate after a long day of sightseeing, but you won't soon forget the price.
Jardin des Plantes
Begun in 1626 as the royal medicinal plant garden for Louis XIII, Paris'
botanical garden is an orderly, charming, and somewhat bedraggled affair,
complete with tropical greenhouse and Alpine garden. There's a small zoo along
one side, while the National Museum of Natural History, Grand Gallery of
Evolution, and Galleries of Paleontology and Compared Anatomy (and its
collection of one thousand skeletons) sit across it.
La Crêperie de Josselin
This is the place to sample delectable Breton crepes filled with everything from traditional eggs and ham to bananas and ice cream - snug environs are offset by the attentive service. For hearty fare, try the crêpe maraichère, stuffed with spinach, bacon, egg and cheese, and wash it down with a Breton hard cider. Cash only. No reservations.
La Réserve Paris
Bored by the thought of mere hotels? Seduced by the allure of space and discretion? Opened in 2007, only La Réserve's doorbell reveals its location from the street. Located in two neighboring buildings, you'll find 10 apartments (some duplex and triplex) on five floors, ranging from 1,600 to 3,200 square feet, and from one to four bedrooms. Several have gardens, balconies or terraces – with the Eiffel Tower so close you can almost touch it. And that is just a small detail in the surprisingly-easy-to-realize dream of having your own extremely well-appointed apartment in Paris, staffed with a team of silent housekeepers that wake you each morning with freshly squeezed orange juice or the scent of just-baked croissants from the famous nearby patisserie, Carette. Wi-Fi, a fully stocked wine cooler, a multimedia center, multi-jet bathtubs, voluminous closets, and concierges that can secure the hardest-to-get dinner reservations or arrange for a professional chef to cook at your humble abode make La Réserve a perfect combination of privacy, understated elegance (thanks to Rémi Tessier's minimalist white, black, and gray designs), and the chance to feel right at home, while the best hotel service in Paris is always within easy reach. Stay for a few nights (minimum three) or for as long as a year (perhaps with a mini-vacation to La Réserve's newish (opened in May 2009) St. Tropez hotel spa mixed in).
Les Egouts (The Sewers)
Everyone goes to the Eiffel Tower - but how many go to the sewers? Built by Napoléon, the cavernous sewers inspired the mythical escape route for the Phantom of Opera and for Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, and served as the real-life hiding place for resistance fighters in World War II. Today, a small portion of the more than 1,300 miles of tunnels that wind under Paris are open to visitors.There are street signs, photos, and historical explainers. Don't worry about the smell; the water rushing past is drain water (waste is channeled in separate pipes.)
Sit down for a Parisian-style pique-nique or just give museum-trodden tootsies a rest in this 55-acre haven of extensive lawns, gravel footpaths, embellished fountains, elegant sculptures, and meticulously designed flower gardens. France's Sénat occupies the 17th-century Luxembourg Palace on the park's northern edge, while the southwest corner holds a puppet theater. Rent and sail model boats in the large octagonal pond in the park's center.
Trek the 255 tower steps for fantastic Paris views and a close-up of the 12th-century cathedral's flying buttresses, gargoyles and fantastical creatures. Go inside for the magnificent rosette stained-glass windows depicting Old and New Testament scenes. Expect a steady stream of crowds at this Gothic masterpiece.
Paris's underground ossuary contains 6 million bones arranged according to type: Rows of skulls, arms, and legs line miles of (well-lighted) tunnels. The bones were moved here beginning in 1786 when the city began closing many of its over-crowded cemeteries, blamed for outbreaks of diseases.
The Château de Versailles, with its extensive fountain-speckled gardens, is testimony to the royal extravagance of 17th-century France's notorious "Sun King," Louis XIV, who embellished them to what they are today. A complete visit includes stops at the Petit Trianon, where Marie Antoinette lived, and at the Grand Trianon, once home to Napoleon and Peter the Great and today a presidential residence. To visit all three structures, plus Versailles' nearly 2,000-acre grounds, rent a golf cart for 30 euro per hour (The cars seat four. Driver's license required.) or hop on the Chateau's mini-train shuttle (6.50 euros for the complete circuit).
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