Paris invented the flâneur – the idler, the urban explorer, the solitary stroller who walks to observe. The archetype is alive and well today, for Paris remains one of the great cities to explore by foot. But there's a limit to the charms of central Paris's riverbanks and boulevards; once you find yourself craving space far from the madding crowds, follow one of these itineraries out into the banlieue.
Surrounded on all sides by the Parisian conurbation, these 2,000 hectares of semi-wild national parkland stand as a bastion of green space against the encroaching city. Vast and remarkably untamed, the Forêt de Montmorency remains one of the more enchanting green spaces in the banlieue. Stray off the beaten path, and you'll find yourself among more badgers than men.
How to get there: Take the Transilien H to Taverny.
Sure, the several million tourists who descend on the forest every year spoil things somewhat. Yet the largest forest in Île-de-France – 17,000 hectares, no less – provides plenty of opportunities to peel off from the crowds and get some alone time. Your best bet is to steer clear of the château and the various motorways that cut through the woods.
How to get there: Take the Transilien R to Fontainebleau-Avon.
Paris for solo travellers
Eating alone can be a joy, especially in Paris, where café culture means that lingering over coffee and a book is positively encouraged. Still, you want to find somewhere with the right vibe. For business or solo travellers, or if you just fancy spoiling yourself without having to make conversation, these are some of our favourites. Have another restaurant you want to recommend for a meal in blissful solitude? Let us know in the comments box below. Dishes for one • Les Cocottes Christian Constant has found the perfect recipe for pleasing Parisians at his new bistro: a flexible menu of salads, soups, verrines (light dishes served in jars) and cocottes (served in cast-iron pots), all at bargain prices – for this neighbourhood. Service is swift and the food satisfying, though the vraie salade César Ritz, which contains hard-boiled egg, shouldn't be confused with US-style Caesar salad. Soups such as an iced pea velouté are spot-on, and cocottes range from sea bream with ratatouille to potatoes stuffed with pig's trotter... With a book • Les Editeurs Time was, Saint-Germain-des-Prés had some serious lit cred. All the big publishing houses were based here before rents soared and they were forced out to the suburbs, and in the early 20th century the tracks made here by Gertrude Stein, Hemingway and others are legendary – and it also attracted slews of local bohemian artists, writers and musicians. Today, the neighbourhood is still littered with bookshops – many of them second hand E
10 boutiques to leaf through Le Monte-en-l'air Only in Paris, with its world famous literary past, could you call a bookshop a ‘triptych’. But that’s exactly what Guillaume Dumora’s shop is – a hybrid, triple-purpose space with a “curiosity shop” for atypical and disturbing novels, a “gallery” where different paintings and photos are hung every 3 weeks, and the main “librairie”, where you’ll find everything from graphic novels to classic literature and modern poetry... Le Coupe-Papier 'You can count the bookshops dedicated to theatre in Paris on one amputated hand', the shop owner remarks wryly. The Coupe-Papier bookshop is one of the few surviving ones. Tucked away in the rue de l’Odéon opposite the illustrious theatre of the same name, this specialist in the stage arts is the haunt of students and amateur actors taking acting courses in the vicinity, as well as a site of pilgrimage for professionals... Violette & Co Encompassing more than 80m2 of floorspace, Violette and Co doesn’t sell books for the sheer pleasure of reading, but for a more militant purpose: all the works on offer promote causes to do with women and homosexuality. There are books about rape (including 'Rape as a weapon of war' by Vanessa Fargnoli), on homophobia ('Letter to a straight friend’ by Paula Dumont), on adoption, religion, gender relations and even deportation... Gibert Joseph Formed back in 1929, this string of bookshops is normally packed out with students. Further up bd St-Michel (nos.30, 32 &
Explore the famous writer's Left Bank haunts You don't have to have read 'A Moveable Feast' or 'The Sun Also Rises' to get a feel for what life was like when Hemingway and his Lost Generation of expat friends (Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Henry Miller, F Scott Fitzgerald and composer extraordinaire Cole Porter) 'occupied' post WWI Paris. The markets Papa Hem frequented, the cafés he drank, wrote and argued in, and the bookshops he haunted are all largely still around. Even his old apartments at 39 rue Descartes (5e) and 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine (5e) can be admired (from the outside) thanks to commemorative plaques on the walls. Follow these suggestions and you can soak up the '20s spirit, à la Hemingway, in one lazy afternoon's stroll. Marché Mouffetard This 'wonderful, narrow crowded market street' (rue Mouffetard), as Hemingway described it in 'A Moveable Feast', still sports bright and bustling stalls of fruit and veg in its lower stretches (its upper extremities largely harbour student bars and touristy shops), making it one of the city’s loveliest street markets. Many grocers – also hawking charcuterie, patés, seafood, cheeses and sticky patisseries – only select organic and fair-trade goods, so calories aside, you’re in for a guilt-free food shopping trip. On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings, Mouffetard’s stalls run into the Marché Monge (on place Monge), renowned for yet more excellent food, especially fresh bread. Hotel d'Angleterre In December 1921 Ernest He
The world's largest museum is also its most visited, with an incredible 8.8 million visitors in 2011. It is a city within the city, a vast, multi-level maze of galleries, passageways, staircases and escalators. Some 35,000 works of art and artefacts are on show, split into eight departments and housed in three wings: Denon, Sully and Richelieu. You'll find treasures from the Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks and Romans as well as Middle Eastern and Islamic art, and European decorative arts from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century. Needless to say the whole area is geared to tourists, so follow this guide to escape the backpacks and flashing cameras in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements. Click here for more information on the Louvre... Around the Louvre... Museum: Musée des Arts Décoratifs Set in the Louvre's West wing, yet seperate from the Louvre museum, this is one of the world's major collections of design and the decorative arts (along with the Musée de la Mode et du Textile and Musée de la Publicité), and is much quieter than its big brother next door. The major focus here is French furniture and tableware. From extravagant carpets to delicate crystal and porcelain, there is much to admire. Clever spotlighting and black settings show the exquisite treasures - including châtelaines made for medieval royalty and Maison Falize enamel work - to their best advantage. Other galleries are categorised by theme: glass, wallpaper, drawings and toys. There are cases devoted to Chinese