Looking for love in all the wrong places? Here's an idea: head to The City of Light for some inspiration. It always sounds cliché to say "I love Paris." Instead, let's parle it en français: J'adore!
The City of Light
I just spoke with a friend yesterday about her recent trip to Paris. She began the conversation, "I know it is so cliché, but I just love this city." Ain't that the truth? I feel the same way. Who can resist the winding Seine or the delights of Berthillon? No one, that's who. So for the first of many Around the Globe with Edee Carey Travel Tips we'll start with a universally adored place: Paris. Below are tips from my own experiences. Keep in mind: everyone has their own unique travel experience. Paris is the perfect place for a lot of exploring. Thus, I keep my tips to a minimum. If you would like more information please drop me a line. And remember- in a city with so much to offer don't squander your opportunity on cheesy tourist traps like restaurants serving up Americanized fettucine Alfredo or caricatures..unless that really is your thing then go for it. It's your trip after all!
Where To Stay? Top Picks!
* Top Pick: My favorite of all is Bourg Tibourg, a very cozy and elegant townhouse. The rooms are smaller but the friendly service, upholstered surroundings, and trendy area make up for that. This would be my top recommendation!
Stay: The Westin Paris- Vendôme is also a fabulous choice. A bit of old world glamour but not as stuffy as The Ritz, with a twist of modern necessities. We stayed in a gorgeous room with a view from Rue de Rivoli my first trip (pictured above). Another alternative is the hip Hôtel Costes, located in the same neighborhood. It's chic with an outstanding bar, comfortable rooms, and delectable desserts. You must appeler le service d'étage if the jet-lag kicks in or if you just didn't get enough out. Trust me, you won't regret it.
Brasserie de I'sle Saint-Louis is the spot we dine at our first night on a trip to the City of Light. Serving up traditional fare amidst a cozy ambiance of candlelight and plaid patterned table cloths you cannot go wrong with any choice. This family-run brasserie takes you back to the Paris of the 1930's. Located right in front of Notre Dame, on the tip of I'sle St. Louis, the scenic stroll to the restaurant alone welcomes you along with their staff. A timeless classic, you will be returning many trips to come. Pro-tip: Have the tomato salad, Steak frites, followed by their decadent chocolate mousse. They also serve wine from the bottle and will put a cork in it if you feel you've over-committed.
Brasserie Bofinger is a must if it's your first time in the city. Known as Paris's most "beautiful brasserie" the menu covers a wide-range of French delicacies and the seafood trays are simply divine start to an indulgent dinner (5-7 Rue de la Bastille). This enchanting brasserie may be my top highlight in exploring the city! A natural choice for the worldly palette, whether for a light Saturday lunch, a drink and a bite after work, a full-course dinner or just an onion soup following a movie or theater visit. For a more casual experience, try the more low-key sister restaurant: Le Petit Bofinger (6 Rue Bastille). Now, isn't that cute?
Did you know that before Pierre Hermé set up shop in fashion that he was a renowned pastry chef? For the most cherished of macarons,perhaps the best in the city, try out Pierre Hermé. You will not regret it! I don't, that's for sure!
Pro-tip when you go check out Sacre Couer (see below): Ditch all the tourist trap restaurants and go for Chez Marie, a real hole-in-the wall restaurant if there ever was one (27 Rue Gabrielle). It's located directly oppposite of Montmarte's famous staircase. Literally, a stone's throw away from Sacre Couer. Romantic low ceilings, with red checkered tablecloths and a pre-fix three course meal it is the perfect place to grab lunch after climbing all the stairs in Montmarte. One of the most perfected choclate mousses I've ever had the pleasure of tasting! Another quality restaurant nearby is La Table d'Eugene, which offers a more international cuisine and boasts a more sophisticated ambiance (18 Rue Eugène Sue). All of the dishes are artfully presented and the wine pairings are top-notch. I'd recommend for an evening meal out while exploring the streets of Montmarte.
Ladurée - If you want that "American in Paris" vibe then you simply mustt go here, despite it being a chain & somewhat touristy. Lunch or dinner isn't a complete must buy you would be denying yourself by not sampling one, or a few, of their sweet treats. I recommend the macaroons: raspberry, pistachio, salted caramel, orange blossom, & chocolate- all in that order. Take some tea as well for a refined experience!
L'Ambassade d'Auvergne - This place is divine. Low ceilings, a Bavarian decor, and delicious food. I recommend the three course fix of the day. The goat cheese toast with balsamic arugula was excellent and I followed it with a tasty veal steak. Topping it off with- you guessed it- chocolate mousse. They serve it from a huge bowl and lap it onto your plate with a ladle! There are nice wine pairings here and the champagne is crisp, light, and bubbly.
LouLou - Nix the tourist traps of the Latin Quarter and head a few blocks over to LouLous Friendly diner for a remarkable breakfast. Their avocado toast with poached eggs and incredible French toast can be followed by a lazy stroll along the Seine. The joint gets busy around 10:00 or so, FYI. Oh, and this is not your replica "diner" of sorts but more a French brassiere breakfast- style!
Poulette - With a gorgeous interior & cozy ambiance this is the place for a decadent lunch! It opened in the late 19th century and is now an insider favourite. Try the duck or steak frites.
Au Pied de Cochon - In the heart of the city lays this oasis of divine. It is Paris, compacted into a riot of curving lampshades piled with baubles like over-filled fruit bowls; of panels painted with dated floral designs which were out of date when first unveiled and seafood stands which are a mosh pit of still twitching lobsters. The ceilings are low. The banquettes are red. The waiters have seen it all before.
On your last night, why not try L'Opera Restaurant (1, Place Jacques Rouché, Palais Garnier). The escargot there is mind-blowingly good, y'all. A quick walk away from The Ritz, which is where you should go for an after-dinner drink (see below), this traditional Parisian restaurant will keep you asking for more down to the last bite. Impeccable service, fantastic three courses--what more could you ask for? My personal favorite is the risotto followed by veal.
Bar Hemingway, The Ritz
Hemingway drank here during the roaring 1920's with other expatriates such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. Then again, it wasn't the Bar Hemingway at that point. A drink here is more captivating than ever with its wood paneling and memorabilia filled walls. It's a compact and snug bar, perfect for intimate conversation. My personal favorite: the champagne cocktail, garnished with a fresh lily.
La Résistance- This was a happy accident as one place we had wanted to dine in the neighborhood was closed and then the second option was closed. We found ourselves wandering rue Saint Croix at about ten o'clock, ready to head across town when we landed here. Now, the food was solid for a Parisian bar. But the drinks! They are made by what the hip crowd likes to call "mixologists." My pick: the Boulevardier, a mixture of whisky and martini rouge with a splash of campari.
Buddha Bar- If you are looking for a hoppin' place this would be the one. With its entresol of a bar, small niches, and golden brilliance lighting up the place it's no wonder this bar invites a swanky bunch. Drink of choice here: gin and tonic.
la Tartine - Have you ever seen the Shirley McClaine classic "Irma La Douce? If you want a re-creation of that brasserie then here is your place. A very neighborhood friendly brasseried boasting your choice from behind the wrap around bar. Hit it up after Paulette or L'Ambassade d'Auvergne!
Montmarte- I recommend the second option to this particular link. Enough said!
I love You Wall - Hidden in a backyard near a school is the "I love you wall" started by an artist who was interested in the etymology of the phrase. He made the wall through word of mouth and visiting embassies for correct translations (this was pre-Google translate). Go here for inspiration.
Promenade Plantée- Take a break from the city streets and go above ground to the Highline (much like the one in NYC minus tourist stalls). Take your morning jog or a leisurely stroll along the cemented path surrounded by greenery. It's a very short tour and one to remember.
Luxembourg Gardens - This is a classic Paris sight and what a sight it is. Lush green gardens with seasonal floral accompaniments. Have an ice cream or waffle and take it all in.
Piscine Molitor- Lucien Pollet built this iconic pool in 1929, which resembles an ocean liner in opulent Art Deco style and was known for hosting the darlings of Hemingway's Paris to swim. Interestingly enough, the first bikini was presented here and in the 90's it suffered an identity crises as it became a place for graffiti artists to display their latest creations. Re-opening as a hotel in 2014, it was given a complete makeover and a life-changing color booster, while preserving its glossy Art Deco style. Take a dive after checking-in!
Catacombs- Yeah, it is creepy and it is way below ground but if I, a registered claustophob, can do it then so can you! Honestly, during my first trip to Paris this was one of my favorite experiences. It may be a bit touristy but along with the Eiffel Tower it is a must. Plus, it is incredibly cool! Did you know, the Catacombs were used by both resistance fighters and Nazis during WWII? Did you also know that current party-goers throw raves down there? So, BYOB and hop to it!
Edee's Favorite Museum: Musee d'Orsay
Maison Guerlaint The world's largest fragrance house, it is the absolute in Parisian beauté: four stories of smooth, shiny marble floors comprise the Guerlain institute and day spa, where all treatments are personalized. Best yet is a library of scents displayed extravagantly as you climb the steps. Try a trademark scent or create your own- there is bound to be an essence which fits each individual here!
Berthillon Ice Cream
Have I mentioned Montmarte?
Louvre, Versailles, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, Eiffel Tower, Petit Palais, and my favorite- Musee d'Orsay!
Off the Beaten Path:
59 Rivoli - Here is an artist's squat on the Rue de Rivoli. The outside facade is a spectacle itself but it is open to the public weekdays beginning at 1:00 p.m. Take your cigarettes!
Deyrolle Taxidermy Shop - While you're in town don't miss out on seeing gigantic stuffed rats on display at the institution that is Deyrolle! Fascinating cases of preserved animals- some common and others more unfamiliar take shape.
Au Marche de la Butte - Are you an "Amélie" fan? I am! And what would be a trip to Paris without one visit to a non-staged scene. Go to the sweet grocer Au Marche de la Butte for a treat and sparkling drink. Perhaps even a postcard to commemorate the experience! (This is, of course, in Montmartre!)
Tricky, as we all have our own tastes and fancies. For more upscale and serious shopping hit up Le BHV Marais in Marais. Nearby is the hip store Fleux, which offers affordable decor, gifts, and novelty items which isn't the junk you see at all the tourist stalls. In Montmartre, get your headscarf fix by popping into Indira, with African and European influences. It's affordable with gorgeous prints to adorn that pretty little head of yours! If you're an ex-pat living in Paris for awhile there is always Thanksgiving Grocery to cheer you up with an array of American products if you get homesick.
Shakespeare & Company: Just google it. Very nice if you are seeking a book in English or want to catch a poetry reading. Go find a work then grab a coffee next door in their Café as you flip through your new reading treasure.
Un Regarde Moderne - This beat bookshop will have you coming back for more after each visit. Browse through well known novelists to local neighborhood artists who have crafted picture books.
Librarie du Passage- A magical bookshop located amongst stalls a winding old Tommy shopping mall on 48 Passage Jouffrouy. Don't miss it!