PARIS - Paris is a collection of neighborhoods and, on certain streets, life goes on as if the neighborhood were a country village instead of part of a big city.
Anyone familiar with Rick Steves' guidebooks knows about rue Cler in the seventh district. A few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, it's a pedestrian street lined with food shops, cafes and hotels and an outdoor market that takes place mornings and afternoon.
Rue Cler has become so popular with Americans, some people call it rue Rick Steves and, as it often happens, many of the shops and restaurants now cater more to tourists than to locals.
So where's the next rue Cler? Right Bank or Left, there are market streets (
) all over Paris. The stalls are permanent, as opposed to "roving markets," where vendors show up on particular days.
If you're on the Right Bank near Montmartre, especially on a Sunday, walk or take the Metro to the bottom half of rue des Martyrs. Start at the church of Notre Dame de Lorette, just northeast of Galeries Lafayette department store and below the Basilica of Sacré Coeur.
This part of the street is closed to cars on Sundays between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., when families gather to shop and chat with neighbors. The smell of ripened cheeses is mixed with the scent of fresh oranges and roasting chestnuts coming from the open-air food shops. I didn't see many other tourists when I walked there last winter, but I did spot a woman holding a dog and three baguettes stop to sing along with a trio called the Nag 'Airs. The song was a Corsican folk song that everyone seemed to know.
The activity winds down around lunchtime, so plan your visit to snag a table at British-owned Rose Bakery or the Lebanese-owned Bar Commerce for one of the foot-long falafel sandwiches cooked on a sidewalk grill.
If you're staying in the Left Bank neighborhood of St-Germain-des-Prés in the sixth district, ride the Metro to Denfert-Rochereau, near the Paris Catacombs, and spend some time strolling the pedestrian-only rue Daguerre in the delightfully local 14th district.
You'll feel as though you've stumbled into a lively French village. This street is perfect for browsing old books and postcards or picking up picnic supplies. The best times for the market are morning and late afternoons, when the fish, fruit and cheese sellers hawk their wares.
Check out the Monoprix on the corner for good prices on French mustards and other gourmet items, then blow a few precious euros at Jeff de Bruges, which specializes in Belgian chocolates. Look across the street and notice the three golden horse heads outlined in red neon above the awning of the butcher shop.
The covered terrace of the Peret Brasserie, with its candles and wicker armchairs, is the place for people-watching and coffee or a glass of wine as the market winds down in the early evening.
1. Browse the food
halls at the
, but spend your euros at
, where the shelves are stocked with mustards, chocolates, cheeses, and other gourmet items at local prices. Many locations around Paris.
2. Visit the Louvre
on the first Sunday of the month, when it's free. Go to the
on Thursdays after 6 p.m., when adult admission drops from 8 euros ($12.50) to 5.5 euros ($8.60).
3. Use the Metro
and buses instead of taxis to get around. Buy a
, a packet of 10 tickets, for 11 euros ($17.20) instead of individual tickets at about $2.30 each. Info at
4. Visit Pere Lachaise
Cemetery, resting place of notables such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Afterward, stop for mint tea and a pastry at one of the Algerian pastry shops along the
5. Take in a free reading
by an English-speaking author at the
Village Voice Bookshop
, 486 rue Princesse. Check
Air France, Delta and US Airways fly nonstop to Paris from Philadelphia International Airport. The lowest recent roundtrip fare was about $1,018.