City Sightseer: Discovering Paris’ lesser lights

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Conor wowed us with his entry for the SuperBreak Travel Writer Competition 2014 winning himself £50 SuperBreak Vouchers! Telling us about his discovery of the lesser known sights of Paris, his article provides us SuperBreakers with plenty of sightseeing inspiration.

“The amount of information available on prospective destinations is staggering – they try to detail every sight and landmark you could possibly see, and guides are increasingly devoting whole sections to the lesser-known points of interest. While locals and intrepid travellers alike can bemoan this as their favourite spaces come under scrutiny, they may have discovered the place through reading about it somewhere. The concept of the hidden gem, it seems, is a double-edged sword.

So when I decided to visit Paris last year, I knew it would be difficult to find sights not yet found by the latest horde of camera-wielding tourists. However, I vowed to go on the road less travelled and find something beyond the main sights. Paris’s are familiar to even the weariest of travellers and it can be hard to see beyond the dazzling array of attractions on show; her collection of landmarks rivals any of the arrangements on display in the Musee D’Orsay.

Paris-city-break

Taking the well-known Parc Des Buttes Chaumont as my destination, I aimed to wander there slowly despite its distance from my base, the delightful Best Western Ronceray Opera. This was situated on Boulevard Montmartre, in the centre of Paris’s tourist belt (Hard Rock Café was just next door), so for the first part of the journey I had to contend with the masses of visitors on this generic tourist stretch. It eventually led to Canal Saint Martin where I stopped at one of the crowded side cafes to watch the barges go peacefully by; the canal is a picturesque and quiet alternative to the busy river Seine. After crossing it, what became noticeable was the direction of the pedestrian traffic: as I ambled eastward, most seemed to be heading the opposite way.

Indeed, the fact that in a few short minutes I had found myself in the 10th arrondisement from the 3rd should have been the first sign. I continued through the residential streets only to find a steady line of cute apartment blocks. The avenue climbed higher but nothing of note presented itself. I thought of all that Paris had to offer below – perhaps it would have been easier to be hurtled around the city from the safe confines of the Sightseeing Tour Bus.

I enjoyed a nice afternoon in the park regardless, exploring its caverns and waterfalls. I decided to give Paris’s backstreets one more try, and left the opposite way. Again I appeared to have delved into a labyrinth of apartments but I stumbled upon a small park. Its hills sloped upwards and on reaching the summit I knew this was it – stretched out before was a panorama of Paris in every direction. It was like a postcard of all the major points: the viewing point at Montmartre could even be seen, only here there was the bonus of having the majestic white walls of the Sacre Coeur included in the landscape. I left my rare gem happy in the knowledge that my adventure in Paris’s lesser-seen side counted for something.

Parc-de-Belleville

The city of light has so many sights that sparkle, and it can take numerous trips to cover them all. While it’s necessary to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and it’s vital to exclaim at the Mona Lisa, it’s important to throwaway the manual and explore; to find the places that don’t shine so bright. And at the risk of coming under the thrust of that double-edged sword, I’ll reveal the name of my urban oasis – Parc de Belleville. Go there, before the tourist buses arrive.”

Do you like to go off the beaten track on a short breaks too? Which lesser known sights and attractions have you discovered on a city break? Let is know using the comments box below. 

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