Oh, how fortunate are those who attend Roland Garros; in fact, all those who attend the Slams should consider themselves lucky. Not only do they get to watch the cream of the tennis crop, they get to be in some of the most exciting cities in the world where there are abundant opportunities to have plenty of fun outside of the tournament grounds. And, of course, La Ville Lumière (the City of Light) in the springtime does not disappoint.
If you decide to take a break from the tennis action and are looking for a few fun things to do in and around Paris, here are some of my recommendations:
- For a truly unique dining experience, eat at Le Refuge des Fondus in Montmartre (17, rue des 3 Frères 75018 PARIS). This is about as far from traditional dining as I’ve experienced in Western culture. While eating your choice of meat or cheese fondue and sipping on your choice of red or white wine from a baby bottle (that’s right – I did say baby bottle), you may well just get to know your fellow restaurant patrons as the seating is picnic table-style, and folks are often crammed in elbow-to-elbow (don’t let this deter you; couldn’t we all stand to make more friends?). And, if you enjoyed yourself (who wouldn’t in a place like this?), you may well just get to leave your mark if you can find space to write on the densely-graffitied walls. Although it’s been several years since I’ve had the pleasure of eating there (I was paying in Francs!), I do recall that it served up one of the better dining bargains in the city. And these days, with the Euro seeming to pounce on our weak little dollar, Le Refuge Des Fondus is one place where your dollar may be ever-so-slightly stretched.
- To burn off those fondue-induced calories, go on a bike tour of Giverny. If you’re ready for a little vacation from your vacation (I find that Paris can be a bit exhausting), Giverny provides an easy escape to the countryside for a day where you can visit Monet’s home and painting sanctuary. If watching the players at Roland Garros inspires you to get in shape, a bike tour is a wonderful way to see the village with the gorgeous gardens that inspired many of Monet’s most famous masterpieces. Check out Fat Tire Bike Tours at www.fattirebiketoursparis.com.
- Now that you’ve seen the gardens, go see the paintings they inspired at the Musée d’Orsay. This is my favorite museum in Paris. Who would have thought an old train station could be transformed into such a beautiful museum? It’s not nearly as overwhelming as the Louvre, yet it’s big enough for one to spend just enough time in there – and still manage to see everything – without feeling “museum-ed out.” If you like Impressionism, this is the place for you.
- After walking around the Musee d’Orsay for a few hours, you’re certain to have built up an appetite…once again (after all, this is Paris). The perfect remedy to satisfy your hunger is a stop at Le Paradis du Fruit. I go for the desserts; they are big, beautiful, and…some are actually somewhat healthy. (Seeing as you’re there for the French Open, you probably don’t want to return to the matches feeling overly gluttonous.) I was introduced to this delectable place sixteen years ago, and each time I’ve returned to Paris, I’ve made it a mission to return to the Fruit Paradise. I’ve made a few successful pilgrimages throughout the years as long as I’ve been accompanied by a Parisian. However, there were also times when I walked several miles along the Seine in search of Paradise but wasn’t so lucky. In 1992, I didn’t have the luxury of finding Paradise on the internet, but these days, I can find Paradise with the greatest of ease and drool at its sumptuous offerings. I am pleased to report that there are now seventeen locations throughout Paris; I’ll let you decide where you’ll find your (Fruit) Paradise. www.leparadisdufruit.fr
- One place I consider to be a little bit of paradise in the middle of the city is La Sainte-Chappelle on the Ile de la Cité. There are few buildings in the world I have seen with as much color as the Upper Chapel of La Sainte-Chappelle. The upper part of the walls are practically formed by the towering stained glass windows. When I visited the Upper Chapel several years ago, I couldn’t help but feel like I was standing in an enormous kaleidescope; I could have stayed there for hours, staring at the multitude of colors and light surrounding me. Whether you’re a churchgoer or not, this is a truly awe-inspiring place.
While this is only a smattering of things to do around Paris, these are some of my favorites that I’ve discovered throughout the sixteen years since my first visit. And it’s just enough to do, both on- and off-the beaten track, without taking too much time away from the tennis. When you’re ready to take a break from sightseeing, Roland Garros awaits!