Ernest Hemingway once said “…it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” The same is true for cities, you get to cover more ground quickly, feel the shape of the land you peddle over. With recent years seeing more and more urban areas around the world introducing public bike-sharing schemes and miles of brand new bike paths to encourage exploring on two wheels, there are so many amazing urban bike routes out there. Here are just a few of my favourites you should coast along one day. Continue reading
So far this summer everything seems to be about watching men I don’t know kick balls about, seeing men I wouldn’t admit to knowing whizzing about in questionable Lycra and wondering how David Beckam ended up at Wimbledon dressed for a Grouse Shoot c. 1922.
Thanks be then for the blissful breath of Alpine air that is The Salzburg Music Festival. Five weeks of opera, drama and classical concerts in one of Austria’s most beautiful cities where sporting is sharing your bag of Mozartkugel and any biting is strictly verboten. Apart from a few ancient Zen gardens in Kyoto, I can’t think of anywhere more civilised than Salzburg this July and August. Continue reading
Passion and independence define Madrid’s booksellers. They don’t just give you a bit of peace and sanctuary from the Emperor’s New Clothes or the likes of J. K. Rowling’s agonisingly alliterative attempts at adult angst or another 50 shades of purple prose. They have a reverence for books born of necessity, not really surprising when you think about Spain’s 20th century political history. Continue reading
A young country that’s indescribably ancient, Morocco is fascinating and exotic and inescapably lovely. Not too much of surprise to find so many influences and cultures clustered across its landscape, Morocco has always been much coveted. Before Independence in the mid 1970’s the country had variously been home to the Ancient Romans, the French, the Portuguese and – in a less proprietorial fashion – some of the world’s most glamorous and famous writers, artists, designers and bon viveur.
The challenge for UNESCO in Morocco has always been to balance their commitment to protect and preserve with respect for the fact that most of the country’s ancient and historic sites are still living and working environments for many Moroccans. The magnificent Medinas, mosques and monuments don’t exist in aspic; they’re at the heart of the country’s culture and commerce. Continue reading
Not so long ago, I shared a collection of spots in Paris where you can find spring blossoming in Paris. Well, now that the seasons have moved on and summer sunshine is dancing off the white walls of Paris’ arrondissements, there really is no better time to explore and enjoy the City of Light. Here’s what a perfect summer’s day in Paris could look like.
A Morning Market
Wake as early as you please and enjoy un petit dej’ of your pleasing from a local patisserie or in the comfort of your own kitchen before slipping into comfortable walking shoes and hitting the streets. Depending where you’re staying, you may find it satisfying just to wander around your local neighbourhood, otherwise you can attack this list of places in Paris to get lost in.
Alternatively if you need a bit of direction and want to avoid the tourists hanging out at their usual spots, the morning is a good time to blend in with locals and enjoy the atmosphere of one of central Paris’ historic markets. There’s the city’s first undercover market at Marché des Enfants, the sea of floral colour on display at Marché aux Fleurs close to Notre Dame, or the traditional favourite French produce for sale at Marché Bastille, this is a great way to start your day.
Coffee (and art) at Cafe du Petit Palais
Not far from Champs Elysee is the Museé des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Art), in the centre of which you’ll find a small oasis of green lined with pillared porticos and the Jardin du Petit Palais café. With mosaics underfoot and a painted ceiling above, this is one of the most beautiful terrace cafes in Paris and a must-enjoy on a summer’s day. Should the weather take a turn for the worse, the museum is a stunning place to seek refuge and the permanent exhibition is always free.
Go to the beach!
Paris has become famous for its city plages and from late July to the end of August you can enjoy three kilometres of sand along the Seine stretching from the Louvre to Pont du Sully. If you’d rather avoid being so central then head north to the 19th arrondissement where you’ll find a pop-up beach at Bassin de la Villette, a man-made lake that few tourists go out of their way to discover. Much more than just a place to sunbathe, you can also kayak or row on the water and you’ll find a plethora of cafes and restaurants lining the promenades on both sides.
Lunch al fresco
If you choose to stay at Bassin de la Villette for lunch you can try get a table on the terrace at 25° Est, a popular Paris restaurant that is a rare combination of perfect location – right on the water – and fairly-priced French fare.
Back closer to the Seine, you can enjoy rooftop dining at Le Georges in the Pompidou Centre or a secret garden alcove at ChantAirelle in the 5th arrondissement; reservations are recommended at both. Other restaurants with open air dining areas include Café A on Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin and the artistic-meets-rustic Les Petits Gouttes in the 18th. If you don’t want to plan ahead, your best bet is to head to the Latin Quarter where you can take your pick from street-side dining. Alternatively, use the brilliant website 123terrasse to enter a postcode or street name and find your nearest terrace café!
An Afternoon of Festival Fun
Paris is a city brimming with festival fun in the summer and you can take your pick from music, culture and art events, many of which are free to attend. There’s Versailles Festival from May to July, Festival de Saint-Denis in June, Paris Jazz Festival in June and July and then Paris Quartier d’Été takes over the city in July and August with a wide range of performances and live shows in Paris’ most historic buildings and squares.
Relax and Recline in the Park
Paris parks offer visitors (and locals) the opportunity to sit back and relax, thanks to their famous dark green recliner chairs set out in summer months. You’ll find them in Jardin du Luxembourg, les Jardins du Palais-Royale and in the Tuileries Garden. While you may have to hunt for a while before you find one that’s not already occupied, feel free to move it around the park to find your ideal spot in the sun or the shade.
Cinema En Plein Air de la Villette
End your busy day of walking around Paris by sitting down and watching a movie at the Cinema en Plein Air in Parc de la Villette. Not just any cinema, this opportunity to watch a film outdoors in one of Paris’ more rugged parks is free entry and you can bring your own picnic.
Sunset with a view
Photo by Liz Bennington
Alternatively let nature put on a show and watch the sun go down on Paris. Prime locations for watching the sunset include the western tip of the Ile de la Cite, the open space of Place de la Concorde – with the Eiffel Tower framing your view – or you can join the other romantics on the steps of La Basilique du Sacre Coeur. Alternatively, if you’d like a cocktail in your hand as the sky changes colour, head to Wanderlust, a huge restaurant-bar-nightclub complex that also has a floating terrace on the river, which it fondly describes as a “playground on the Seine”.
Have you ever visited Paris in summertime? What was your favourite thing to do?