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Paris Revisited

Most people think there's only one Paris. They're wrong. There are many within the city limits. So on my most recent visit, I set out to rediscover them all.

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While springtime in Paris sounds romantic, I remember from the years I spent here as a kid that it's often cold and rainy. That’s exactly how my four weeks here started out. So when it’s sunny, you bolt outside. I headed for Montmartre and managed to have lunch in an outdoor café called Le Relais de la Butte.

Paris may have one of the world's best public transportation systems, but the best way to experience the city is to walk and walk and walk. That's exactly what I did. A Sunday trek took me from the Rue Mouffetard to the Jardin des Plantes (an amazing garden complete with museums and a zoo) to Le Train Bleu, a stunning old-world restaurant in the Garde de Lyon train station for a well-deserved glass of wine.

If you want to see anything in Paris in the spring, sometimes you just have to brave the wet gloom. My soggy day's adventure included hearing a wonderful jazz duo by the Pompidou Center (they play at Le Cavalier Bleu on Tuesday nights - no cover charge).

I also explored the Marais (Paris' old Jewish section) and got pretty weepy in the Square du Temple - Elie Wiesel (see above) over the memorial to the 11,000 Jewish children deported from France during WWII and killed in Auschwitz.

It's hard to feel somber for long in Paris, especially when the sun shines on blue skies. So the next morning I jumped out of the house at the crack of 10:30 a.m. (early for me these days) and started walking toward Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower, through Parc Monceau and past my old school. I even went to the front door of the apartment we lived in. Talk about a trip down memory lane! After a bite of lunch al fresco, I headed down to the river and walked along the left bank of the Seine, stumbling on a park (Promenade des Berges de la Seine) with walking paths, rope hammocks, lovely sitting areas and cafes.

As the sun continued to shine throughout the week, I wasn't the only one out. Lunch on the Rue de Buci is definitely the way to celebrate a sunny Paris afternoon. 

In pure French tradition, I followed up my meal with a stroll. Today, my feet took me to the Luxembourg Gardens, where sailing a toy boat is a favorite kid pastime. My brother Jeff Gross didn't have to rent one. He had his own, which now lives in on top of the kitchen cupboard in his Paris apartment.

I've always loved the Marche aux Fleurs (the flower market), so that's a must.

Of course, you can't go to Paris and not stop at the Place des Vosges, where Victor Hugo lived. When I was little, nasty women in severe blue skirts patrolled the parks and would yell at us to get off the grass. Times have changed.

The Musee D'Orsay is also a must-see. So what better place to meet a friend for lunch who just happens to be in Paris? Great food including a stunningly good cold English pea soup with creme fraiche, a bottle of chilled Pouilly-Fume and one of the best collections of Impressionist paintings around. Perfect.

I said "au revoir" to Paris with an 11 pm Bateaux Mouches cruise. I've never gone at night before, so seeing the monuments and the Eiffel Tower lit up was a first. I also never realized that when it gets warm the banks of the Seine are lined with young people hanging out with bottles of wine or beer and picnics. Just beyond the tip of the Ile de la Cite, the site of Notre Dame, or maybe it's the Ile Saint Louis, huge crowds of people dance to salsa music in one spot, to a Brazilian band in the neighboring alcove and to polka music in a third. If I hadn't been on my way to Vienna in a few hours, I would have been there that evening.