Beyond the obvious splendors of the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Paris has a wealth of sites and experiences to offer. Some of these treasures, like the covered passage of Galerie Vivienne, are to be found hidden underneath your nose while you walk the city's charming streets; And others, like the spectacular Chateau Chantilly and its Grand Stables, are to be found just a quick 20-minute train ride away, halfway between Charles de Gaulle airport and Paris city center.
This season, the Parc Rives de Seine is the popular destination for families and sporty types or even just people looking for a nice outdoor walk along the Seine or a place to picnic by the river. A huge undertaking championed by the current Mayor of Paris, this former roadway has been transformed into a city greenscape for pedestrians and bicycles. The playground areas that dot the terrain have become instant hits with the kids and their parents. Added features are that there are (clean!) toilets along the way as well as fresh, potable water spigots. On warm spring, summer and fall evenings you will find groups of friends enjoying a bottle of wine either picnic fashion or ordering a beer at one of the many food installations here. The newest area of the Parc is on the Rive Droite side between Pont des Arts to down past Pont Louis Philippe (direction Ile St. Louis). And the more broken-in area now is from Musee d'Orsay to nearly all the way to the Eiffel Tower, Rive Gauche.
Legend has it that one of our American presidents said to his French hosts, "Why have you taken me seven times to Versailles and only once to Chantilly?" The logic of this question becomes eminently and instantly clear once you visit this picturesque village just 20 minutes from Paris. The highlights are the Chateau, once owned by Duke of Aumale, fifth son to France's last king, Louis Philippe. It houses the largest collection of antique paintings outside of the Louvre, including several original Raphaels. Just nearby is the Grand Stables, the largest equestrian center in Europe. Every June Chantilly hosts the Prix de Diane, a much-anticipated horse race and one where all the attendees show up in their finery and fancy hats. This is also a very popular destination for newlyweds for photo-opps and the Auberge du Jeu de Paume offers one of the finest 5-star establishments to be found in the Paris environs, imparting the sense that you are actually staying at the chateau. The fact that Chantilly, famous for its whipped cream and lace, is halfway between Charles de Gaulle airport and Paris is another added plus to be considered as a resting point on your departure from the city.
In Paris it pays to just wander because many Parisian gems and treasures can be found along a meandering path. The Galerie Vivienne, for example, is one of these gems. Its main entrance is tucked in just behind the Palais Royal and once you enter into this covered passage, you feel yourself instantly transported through time. It's as if the 19th c. city planners first envisioned a covered mall. Though this is certainly the classiest, most ornate covered indoor "mall" you will have ever visited. Storefronts inside here offer things from collectible art to tea and brownies. It's a wonderful excursion and appropriate for the whole family.
One last reassurance when exploring the city: It's difficult to get lost in Paris. The Seine always points you in the right direction. And there is even a boat-bus service, the BatoBus, that you can hop on and off to motor you from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame by riverway, and back again, if you so choose.