Thursday, October 29, 2009

An Eco Saturday in Paris

Book in at the Hotel de la Porte Dorée, a family run hotel with some green amenities, on avenue Daumesnil in the 12th arrondissement, on the east side of the city, steps away from the Port Dorée metro and bus stops, making the city sites easily accessible. Make sure you are equipped with a map of Paris and the metro and/or bus lines.

The Organic Market Brancusi (Marche Biologique Brancusi) is held Saturday mornings from 9:00 am to 3:00pm. To get there take the purple #8 Metro line from Port Dorée towards Richelieu for two stops to Daumesnil. Switch to the green #6 line towards Charles de Gaulle Etoile. Take that twelve stops to the Edgar Quinet stop and walk down rue de Gaite or through the Montparnasse Cemetery to du Maine Avenue. Rue R.J. Zay off of du Maine will bring you to Place Constantin where you will find the Marche Biologique Brancusi. The teal #13 metro stop, Gaite is closer, but not worth the switching coming from Port Dorée.

For bikers, there is a Paris Vélib bike station at 1 Place Edouard Renard a couple of blocks from the Hotel. Bike to the Market and there is a Vélib station at 90 Ave. du Maine, one to two blocks from the market, near the Gaité Metro stop. For more Vélib information, visit their website for locating stations all over Paris.

Once you have explored the market and eaten some delicious food, you can walk to Park George Brassens, or rent a Vélib bike (there are two Vélib stations along the park – one is Station # 15046, 42 rue des Morillons), where book lovers will particularly enjoy the secondhand and antique book market held in an old horse market pavilion in the Parc on rue des Morillons in the 15th arrondissement of Paris (Métro: Convention). The Parc has vineyards, beehives, 510 rose bushes, walking paths, and more. The book market, held on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 6pm, has over 200 participating booksellers, 68 of which rotate through each weekend.

After the Parc and book market you can bike or Metro to the St. Germain neighborhood, a lively area full of fun stores and eats, making your way towards any number of sites – Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay – to name a few. If you are planning on one of the museums, you are better off planning in advance for those and purchasing your tickets Online to avoid the crowded entry lines.
You can eat lunch at the first all-organic bar and restaurant in Paris, Phyto Bar, serving terrific organic food. They offer an array of fresh squeezed juices—the grapefruit-kiwi is an especially refreshing combination. The seaweed “caviar,” made with a variety of greens from the sea, is highly recommended. Next door, you will find La Nature a Paris Boutique, their sister store, a tiny, jam-packed health food shop. (Phyto Bar Restaurant and Bar, 47 Boulevard Saint-Germain; Tel: 01 44 07 3699.) The Phtyo Bar Restaurant is about five blocks along rue Monge from the Seine River and the bridge across to the Notre Dame Cathedral. In nice weather there will be book, souvenir and art vendors along the Seine.

If you need a rest after your walking, biking and sightseeing, you can bus, bike or metro back to the Hotel.

Once you are refreshed, the evening offers a number possibilities. One of my favorite Paris excursions is to listen to the nuns sing vespers at the Sacre Couer Basilica – the magic and beauty of their voices can be enjoyed by all. They begin at 6pm and sing for about thirty minutes.

From the hotel you can get to Sacre Couer a few ways. By bus take the #46 from Porte Dorée to the final stop of Gare du Nord (a large train station). From there you could walk all the way, or walk to the Funicular that goes up the hill to the basilica. If you want to go by Metro, you want to be on the #2 blue line. Take the #8 purple line from Porte Dorée two stops to Daumesnil, change to the #6 green line to Nation. At Nation get onto the #2 blue line and take that to Anvers. Here you will be quite close to the funicular, which you can either take, or simply walk up the steep steps.

If you want to stay closer to “home” in the evening, try a delightful experience at the Grand Mosque, serving tea and more. For a truly delicious experience you can wind down with a Hammam steam bath and massage at the Mosque. The Tea room is open seven days a week from 9:00am until 11:30pm, so you can enjoy this almost anytime of day. Check the website for specifics about the Hammam since they have different days for men and women. The Hammam is open until 9:00pm. To reach the mosque by metro from the hotel either get onto the purple #8 line at Porte Dorée for two stops to the Green #6 at Daumesnil (or walk to the Daumesnil stop). Take the Green #6 six stops to Place d’Italie and switch to the orange #5 for two stops to Saint Marcel. Walk two blocks up rue Geoffrey St-Hilaire toward the Jardin des Plantes (worth a stroll and visit on its own), and the Grand Mosque. The Tea room and Hammam entrances are on rue Geoffrey.

Lastly, if you are in Paris during July and August, there are outdoor film screenings in La Villette Park showing at 9:00pm most nights. But, if you decide to enjoy a Hammam Steam bath on Saturday evening, you can go to the movies Sunday night instead.

Traveling Naturally Saturday in Paris:
• Organic Brancusi Market
• Used and antique book fair in Parc George Bressans
• St Germain neighborhood\Notre Dame Cathedral (with possible visits to the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay)
• Lunch at PhytoBar Organic Restaurant
• Return to Hotel for Rest
Evening Options:
• Sacre Couer Basilica Vespers 6pm
• Tea and/or Hammam Bath and Massage at the Grand Mosque
• La Villette Park outdoor movie screenings in July and August only, at 9:00pm most nights (

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