It’s a chilly winter Sunday in Paris, but that wouldn’t stop me from spending a fantastic day out and about in the City of Light.
First up is Mass at Saint Sulpice, which has one of the largest pipe organs in Europe. No, I’m not particularly religious, but the church itself is gorgeous and the music is fantastic. After Mass, I enjoy a quick tour of the church to ponder over the Rose Line — the bronze marker laid into the floor that traces the Paris Meridian through the house of worship. (This plays a key role in novel and film “The Da Vinci Code.”)
Next up is a quick trip by the Metro to the Rue Montorgueil for brunch at the wonderful Stuart Friendly, a small LGBT bistro and bar that dubs itself “hetero friendly.” It’s practically an institution among gay men in the city. Although a bit pricey (around $25), you get smoked salmon, made-to-order eggs, croissants, other baked treats (like pain au chocolat), salad, coffee, orange juice, and yogurt. Sunday brunches are the rare exception to the Parisian breakfast rule of just croissants (or buttered baguette) and coffee.
Since most of the food shops on the Rue Montorgueil and the culinary supply stores nearby are closed on Sunday, I decide to meander through the Les Halles district and cross over into the Marais — one of the few neighborhoods where most businesses are open on Sundays. (The rest of Paris is almost entirely closed down for the day, many also on Mondays).
Although I love the area around the Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, which is pretty much the heart of LGBT Paris, today I’m going to do a bit of window shopping (what the French call Faire du leche-vitrines, which creepily translates to “window licking”) on the elegant Rue de Francs-Bourgeois, a six-block stretch from Rue des Archives to the Place de Vosgues that is home to dozens of tiny shops and boutiques. Some of my favorites: Spontini (men’s clothing), Oliviers & Co. (olive oils and vinegars), Fragonard (men’s and women’s perfumes and cologne), Muji (a Japanese clothing and housewares shop), Home Autour du Monde (fun home decorations), and Diptyque (akin to a Bath and Bodyworks).
After grabbing a snack and a can of soda from a souvenir shop near the Place des Vosges, I wander into the square itself, snag a park bench and enjoy watching the Parisians (and a few tourists) enjoying the green space (even in winter) with picnics, just lounging about on the lawn or playing with their children. The symmetrical square, built by King Henri IV from 1605 to 1612, was the first planned square in France and the residences surrounding it briefly served as home to French royalty, members of the royal court and other wealthy nobles.
With evening setting in, I decide to make one last stop before I return home — a visit to the Maison de Victor Hugo that’s on the southern edge of the Place des Vosges. This small museum marks the home where the celebrated French author lived from 1832 to 1848. It was here that Hugo penned Les Miserables. Many of the objects on display in the museum are the originals used by Hugo, including his writing desk and pens, and the views from his second-floor apartment of the square outside are delightful.
With the last of the day’s sunlight fading away, it’s time to head home for a quiet evening at my rented apartment, a quick dinner and perhaps some reading or a DVD before hitting the sack to rest up for another busy day in the glorious City of Light.