...Actually, make that when it snows and drizzles... I often advocate off-season vacations because you can get better air and hotel deals -- and fewer other tourists. All in all, that adds up to a plus for this womantraveler, who arrived in Paris during a light snow storm. Many of us, when we plan our vacations, imagine the picture-perfect weather -- but, oops, not so fast. I recommend contemplating vacations with all-weather options. Example -- in the 10 days I will be here, the temperature will not move far from 32 degrees F, sometimes snowing like determined blizzard, other times raining, and only occasionally a glimpse of blue sky. So those lovely loafers with discreet heels, perfect for walking all over the city without looking like a klutz, will never leave the suitcase. Thank heavens for stylish red hiking boots from Santa Fe one Thanksgiving, because this is ski season weather.
The point of my travel writing is to provide information that will help other womentravelers put together vacations on their own and customize their trips to suit their own interests. For me, that means getting out and doing stuff, not being paralyzed and disappointed by uncooperative weather, and visually knowing where you are so you can take care of yourself and not be fully dependent on others, regardless of language differences.
That also means organizing the trip in manageable chunks, with some active and some slow time each day. For the next week or so, I'll tell you how I did it -- and would like to hear back from you about its usefulness. I'm fortunate to be staying in Paris in an apartment of friends, but have been here several times and will share info about the hotel scene as well. You'll get a glimpse of "the real Paris," better than the typical tourist experience that is captured in the other information guides.
The bells of the 16th century St. Étienne-du-Mont church ring often but never so seriously as 8 a.m. each morning. As the church is located only a half-block away in the 5th Arrondisement (district -- abbreviated "Ar." on maps) on the same "mountain" that houses the magnificent Panthéon church, my first full day in France is initiated with purposefulness. It is also raining/snowing with strong winds from the west. As I had previously visited the Louvre and other incredible museums, it is the perfect day for the Musée d'Orsay and in particular its extensive Impressionist collection. To get needed exercise to ward off the jet lag, plus to re-orient myself, I walked.
I recommend the 5th, 6th and 7th Arrondisements in Paris as the best places to stay for solo womentravelers. These Left Bank districts are convenient to everything, very manageable, quaint and accessible, with wonderful variety and quality that aren't overwhelming. Excellent small boutique hotels include Hotel des Grandes Écoles (warm and homey hospitality) and the Hotel St. Germain-des-Prés (where I saw Julie Christie strolling through the lobby 30 years ago). My route took me along Boulevard St. Germain des Prés, north on Rue Bonaparte and west along Rue Jacob, which becomes Rue l'Université. Eventually, in about 20 brisk minutes, I practically ran into the D'Orsay Museum. But along the way I passed the antique and high-end home stores, small art galleries, book binders and stores with exquisite fabrics worth stopping into, as they have collectively made the 6th Arrondisement in this area a venue for taste, style and charm.
A two-hour stroll through the D'Orsay Museum was worth it both for the art and for the breathtaking beauty of the building, which was opened in 1986 in the restored former 19th century Orsay Palace (and later train station), a premier example of Beaux Arts architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the end of my tour, I ate a large and delightful salade nicoise (with a bottled water) for $15.
Best other museums for a rainy (or lovely) day -- Musée National de L'Orangerie (Monet's very large and magnificent Water Lilies series), Marmottan Museum (more Monets and other Impressionists), Musée Picasso (Picasso Museum) and the Pompidou Center.