Local Paris Experiences & Places

Paris, France  is a wonderful city to visit in every season. If you don’t mind the crowds and heat, then sure, go in summer. However, for people using a wheelchair, summer if often a bit stressful when in a crowded place, 

As a local, I now understand why Parisians flee their city in summer. Hence why many boutique shops are closed for up to 8 weeks.  It is a city not geared for air-conditioning. Very few places are in fact air conditioned. With climate change the way it is, Paris is oppressive in the midst of summer. I am from Australia, so I am used to hot weather. I am simply not used to no air conditioner!

Spring and autumn, nature is shedding or growing, it gets dark quicker (perfect for those sunset photos), and of course hotels and airfares are cheaper.

Winter is an incredible experience in Paris, as long as you rug up and stay warm. Experience Christmas Markets, Vin Chaud, (mulled wine) stunning pink sunsets and less crowds. Experience French Onion Soup,  Boeuf bourguignon and crusty baguettes, French winter staples.

Sainte-Chapelle

This is such an exquisitely beautiful place to see, it will literally take your breath away! Upon entering, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. Just wait…. because on the top level of this small church, there is a 360-degree display of the most incredible stained-glass windows in Europe. You will be immersed in colour and the play of light on the windows. It is located opposite Notre Dame.

Located inside the major police precinct, there is a wheelchair accessible entrance to the side. There are one or two small low steps, and the rest is level. There are plenty of staff there to give you a helping hand. To get to the top, you need to be escorted into a small elevator in the building next door. Just go to the accessible entrance and the staff will show you.

As with many places in Paris, there is free disabled access.

Musée D’Orsay

There are three great reasons to choose to visit Musée D’Orsay. Stunning architecture, the best collection of French Impressionist art, and a superb reasonably prices selection of cafés and restaurants.

This exquisite gallery/ museum used to be an old railway station. The French kept the beauty of its original architecture and have created an easily accessible place to visit. Tourists often head straight to The Louvre. If you are tight for time and are into art, I recommend prioritising Musée D’Orsay over The Louvre. Tips for the best experience:

  • Head there first thing in the morning as it opens. Look for the free entry, (accessible queue is non-existent, and you save some time too). 
  • Head straight to the elevators and start at the top floor. Firstly, the best part is their Impressionist art, and it is at the top, Secondly, the masses start at the bottom. You will enjoy it more with less crowds. Do things differently!
  • The restaurants and cafés are surprisingly quite reasonable, and the food is good. Best of all, the décor and stunning view.
Fragrances of Paris

When it comes to the art of perfumes, France ranks as exceptional, and considered to have produced best popular French perfume in the world, mostly thanks to many of the greatest names in the perfume industry. Chanel, Christian Dior, Hermes. However recently there has been a seismic shift.

In Europe and Paris, (the European epicentre of Fragrance), mass perfume brands are very much falling out of favour while artisan perfumers are becoming more popular. It’s rather like the growth of craft Beers around the world, where global brands no longer capture the essence of our individuality and style. Explore artisanal fragrances such as Serge Lutens and Les Salons du Palais Royal. Read more here.

One of my friends, Florence (of French a la Carte) arranges tours on topics such as fragrance, fashion and gastronomy. And you get to learn the French phrases related to each topic at the same time. 

Street Art

I have become an avid fan of street art since moving to Paris. Real graffiti artists (for the most part) steer clear of buildings of beauty and obtain permission to do a feature piece. Creativity is achieved while minimising impact to pretty buildings. The best place to head to is in the 4th Arrondissiment, near Rue Des Roisers (the Old Jewish Quarter). Here is a map location for you, where these photos were taken. Remember, the art changes frequently, and I have found blogs are not always up to date.

If you prefer a group tour that is small and intimate from a local’s perspective, check out Airbnb experiences, where there are at least 6 great options for street art tours. A useful tip to make the best of your Street Art experience: look up!! Many street corners have quirky art that passers-by do not notice.

The River Seine

During Barbies’ seven weeks in Paris, France the most memorable and most frequently visited section of Paris was the River Seine. I recommend you visit during the day as well as the evening, and especially during sunrise and sunset. The sandstone buildings of old Paris give off a gentle light and the reason why you’re guaranteed to get a great photo or two, especially if you visit between November and April.

You get to experience the diversity and quirkiness that Paris offers too. Couples stopping for a glass of wine, friends having a picnic, and even dance lessons on a Friday night. No two visits are ever the same. I’ve seen a man take his pig and his dog for a walk. Skateboarding professionals doing a spur of the moment demonstration, an artist with her easel painting the sunset, and a group of university students (from The Sorbonne nearby) strumming their guitars. For freshly shucked oysters and a cocktail go here.

Whilst several paths along the river are cobblestone, there are a few miles of path that is flat bitumen, and not bumpy when cruising with a wheelchair. It used to be one of the main roads along the river. The Mayor of Paris has turned Paris into a cycle and walking city, and this road is now closed off to vehicles.The best place to start is near Pont Sully and then head west towards the Louvre and Jardins Des Tuileries. Along the way, you will see several accessible ramps exiting the river and on to the streets of Paris.

You’ll cruise among cyclists, walkers and electric scooters. Best and safest way is to cruise in the middle of this wide road. It will save you having to dodge people and they will see you clearly, allowing you to focus on the architecture and beauty that is Paris central. Apart from the closed road I mentioned above, be prepared for broken concrete footpaths and cobblestones. Barbie commented “ooh I’m getting a massage” when navigating these bumpy areas! Paris isn’t perfect, but these paths along the Seine are filled with activity and architectural history.

Sightseeing on The Seine by Boat

Spend a few hours cruising the River Seine by boat. Yes, it is a touristy activity, however worth a mention when mentioning the beauty that is The River Seine.

The DIY option is best through Bateau Parisians. They have a wheelchair ramp for getting on and off, and a designated accessible table. It’s important to note that the toilets on the boat have stairs. Best to pop to the loo at Le Bistro Parisian which is the pick-up point to their tours. Remember to book in advance, as they only allow two wheelchair users at a time for your safety.

Paris Protests

You’ve probably seen in the news cars burning and shops looted. The press coverage made it seem like Paris was a war zone in late 2018. Here’s the thing you need to know. The French love their demonstrations! It is their expression of Democracy in action. For the most part, these demonstrations are peaceful, and actually quite fun to watch. From a protest about the price of a baguette, to the march for climate change awareness, they are quite festive.

However, the recent “Gilet Jaunes” (yellow vest) protests were quite startling so see. There is a movement of “Anarchists” in Europe who latched on to what was originally a peaceful demonstration. Most do not even live in France and hop over the border for violence as a form of entertainment. Each Saturday in November and December 2018, shops boarded up, Fortunately, (as at January 2019) it has settled down now. The yellow vest protesters won many concessions from the French government and the trouble makers have moved on.

 

Kerry Williams Kerry Williams (2 Posts)

Kerry Williams is an Australian who has lived in the heart of Paris for 2 years. Recently, she brought her mum Barbie (a wheelchair user who has MS) over for a trip to Paris. Kerry shares with you her experiences from a wheelchair users’ perspective. Including: accessible public transport, lesser known things to do and see, and the quirky yet entertaining River Seine.


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