1. A few of the best restaurants are Pierre Gagnaire, Taillevent, Le Cinq, and perhaps Guy Savoy. Most critics might put Gagnaire as number one.
2. Michelin "two-forkers" are quite good, but you must book to get in. In general you can’t get a seat in a decent Parisian restaurant unless you either book or show up at opening. If you are wandering around looking for good food at 8:30 p.m., or for that matter 1 p.m., you are unlikely to do well.
3. In The Louvre, spend an hour in the Poussin room and also obsess over Watteau’s Voyage to Cythera.
4. In Musee d’Orsay, gaze at Courbet’s Origin of the World (sorry, I can’t link to the image on a family blog but do Google it) and Puis de Chavannes, in addition to the usual delights.
5. Go see the medieval tapestries at Musee Cluny.
6. Spend a few hours walking the main roads of the Left Bank. Start at Invalides and take the major arteries through to the Islamic Center. Walk, walk, walk.
7. Watch The Triplets of Belleville and spend hours walking through the (rapidly gentrifying) working-class neighborhoods of the Right Bank. The Metro is splendid but it robs you from seeing the greatest walking city on earth (Buenos Aires is number two). Don’t take it. Walk, walk, walk.
8. Go into a good cheese shop and spend $40. Focus on the weirder cheeses. Buy the non-pasteurized delights. Sit down with a baguette and some fruit as well, finishing the meal with small squares of outrageously priced dark chocolate. Throw in a sausage for good measure. Keep the cheese leftovers in your room at night and eat them for breakfast the next day. And the day after that. See how many days they will keep, you will be surprised.
9. Rue de Bussi and thereabouts has a convenient collection of cheese, fruit and bread shops, and it is in an excellent part of the Left Bank.
10. Internet Cafes are hard to come by. You must rely on the dumpy area near Centre de Pompidou. I find Paris to be the hardest city to blog from.
11. See a "world music" concert from Algeria, Madagascar, or the Congo. Or try contemporary music at IRCAM.
12. Here is my previous post My Favorite Things French. Douse yourself in Godard films before going. Start with Breathless, Band of Strangers, and My Life to Live.
13. If you want to read recent French social science (if you can call it that), try Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern, Jean Baudrillard, Alain Badiou’s Metapolitics, and Gilles Deleuze’s Anti-Oedipus. Don’t get too upset if these books only make intermittent sense. At least they are alive. For a recent hit novel, try Houllebecq’s The Elementary Particles.
Comments are open, and I encourage all of you but especially John Nye and Barkley Rosser — both Paris experts — to make a few suggestions for my friend.