Paris, known by many as the city of light and by many more as the city of love. The name alone evokes images of warm croissants, bustling sidewalk cafés, and the Eiffel Tower. There is something about this picturesque place, filled with the world’s best museums, jaw-dropping fashion, and historical landmarks. One can visit a hundred times and still find there is more to discover. Whether you’re looking for love, gastronomy, or culture, Paris is sure to open its arms for a holiday you will never forget.
My first visit to Paris read like a trip straight from a guidebook. As a young girl I visited the city with my family and it was a first for all of us. A walk through Notre Dame, a long wait to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, followed by a dinner cruise down the Seine river. The meal was served in what felt like a floating catering hall. This initial trip set the bar quite low and so I have been fortunate to fall in love with the city more and more on every return visit.
My next trip was after college graduation with four girlfriends. We stayed with a family friend near the Eiffel Tower and treated the city as though it was our own. We ate at local restaurants, drank French wine, danced the night away, and felt like we were finally savoring all the joie de vivre this world has to offer. I was hooked.
A few years later, I was turning 21 and could not think of anywhere else I’d rather spend the joyous occasion. My boyfriend (now husband) and I left Georgetown University for a long weekend in Paris. My parents kindly put us up at Hotel de Crillon (now under the management of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts and undergoing a massive renovation). Right at the base of the Champs-Élysées and a stone’s throw from the couture-laden Rue St. Honore and the Louvre, this was the ideal location for a birthday weekend of anniversaire in Paris. We walked through the Louvre dressed in our best before dinner and dined at the George V three-Michelin-star Le Cinq. We strolled through Saint Germain, admiring buildings that were centuries old, discovered the world’s best chocolate and I decided that someday, I wanted to live in this glorious land of elegance and light.
Wining and Dining
While I have yet to live there, I do travel to Paris at least a couple times a year. Each trip I discover something new and remarkable. It’s hard to have a bad meal in Paris, as the corner café is likely to serve the most divine baguette you’ve ever imagined. But for those looking to really dig in and experience the best the city has to offer, read on.
Neige d’été opened its doors in 2014 by Japanese chef Hideki Nishi, who formerly worked at George V. Nishi meticulously focuses on the French terroir down to every vegetable, creating a menu that is modern French with classic flavors. The dining room is minimalist but warm, with soft hues in whites and grays and two bright roses on each table. The restaurant offers a lunch set and a dinner set. Unlike many chefs today, Nishi focuses on simplicity rather than molecular gastronomy. A paper thin taglioni was topped with a local white fish and a divine butter sauce. Steak was the ideal texture and flavor, unlike anything I have had in the states. Service is impeccable. Request to sit in the room with a view of the kitchen. I have had the pleasure of dining here twice and each time it was the best meal of the year. neigedete.fr
George V has been home to Le Cinq for many years, but recently added a more casual dining destination, Le George. Interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon shaped the elegant space with floor-to-ceiling windows, fresh flowers, and exquisite Mediterranean cuisine. The food is unique and bursting with flavor. To start, the onion tart tatin is extraordinary, with an oven-roasted onion served atop a puff pastry and a spoon full of parmesan sorbet. A seared tuna with shaved black truffles is delightful and skewers of prawns with a citrus mustard sauce are the perfect, buttery texture. Move on to a pasta or risotto and finish with a grilled fish for the table. Cheese creme brulee with mandarin sorbet is a must for dessert. legeorge.com
For a light lunch during an afternoon of shopping, look no further than Colette – arguably one of the hippest stores in Paris, if not the world. From luxury accessories to the latest fashions from high end designers for men and women, this store has it all. It’s a wonderful place to pick up a gift for your friends at home and the ideal shop for discovering new brands that are on trend. The restaurant, Water Bar, is located on the lower level. Their water menu is several pages long, hence the name, and the simple, but excellent menu features light café food and delectable desserts. colette.fr
Apicius is the most grand restaurant in all of Paris. Housed in a private mansion in the middle of the city, stepping onto the property takes you back to a time of splendor and sophistication. Chef JP Vigato is as chic as he is talented and is devoted to sourcing the best products for his craft. Using techniques inherited from his grandmother, Vigato creates classic French entrees like lobster from Brittany with white truffles or foie gras, which he serves in several different styles, depending on the season.
The sexiest restaurant in Paris would have to be Costes. Dark lighting, red velvet, and the smell of woods, rum, and bitter orange fill the air by way of their own branded candles burning day and night in the lobby. Their covered outdoor courtyard is always packed and usually with models and actors. They are known for fabulous music that their DJs are constantly making into albums. It’s fabulous for lunch and dinner. The menu reads a bit like a science fiction novel with items like “le tigre” but certain dishes are very good, particularly the lobster pasta, langoustines and the tom yam chili sea bass. Crackers cheesecake for dessert is a winner, as are the fraises de bois with chantilly cream. hotelcostes.com
There are not many places that I return to on every trip to Paris, but Le Comptoir is one of them. This bistro, located in Saint-Germain, books months in advance for dinner and takes no reservations for lunch. Lunch is the way to go as there is no set menu. There is a line down the block by 12:30pm but if you arrive around noon you’ll be one of the first seated. I love sitting outside and watching Parisians go about their daily life, as I enjoy incredible products from all over France. The tuna entree is sublime with the freshest veggies for a garnish and their vacherin dessert is light with meringue and fruits of the seasons.
It seems like Paris is home to a stream of never-ending affairs. The fall welcomes three significant events, starting with fashion week the end of September. Although the first ever fashion week was held in New York City, fashion week has evolved from salon shows that used to occur in Paris couture salons. Early October welcomes the Mondial de L’automobile or Paris Motor show. With over 1.2 million visitors and 260 brands from 18 countries, it is the world’s leading motor show in terms of visitors and media coverage (mondial-automobile.com). FIAC, the International Contemporary Art Fair, will run from October 20-23 in the Grand Palais. The fair brings together modern and contemporary art galleries from 26 countries.
The Foundation Louis Vuitton is also worth exploring. Opened in October 2014, the center and art museum was designed by Frank Gehry as a part of LVMH’s support of art and culture. The project cost an estimated $143M and houses 11 galleries. Icons of Modern Art, the Shchukin Collection is running from mid-October to mid-February 2017.
Chocolate lovers will be overjoyed to learn that the Salon du Chocolat is the weekend of October 28 at the Porte de Versailles. Five hundred participants will gather to show, taste, and discover. The activities include awards for the best chocolates in the world, a fashion show and more.
Where to Rest Your Head
After all the arts and dining you’ll want a lovely place to recuperate. While there is no shortage of luxury hotels in Paris, there are a few that really set a new standard for comfort.
Mandarin Oriental opened its first France address in an art deco structure that boasts the best address in Paris. Located on the famous Rue Saint Honoré, the hotel is steps from Place Vendôme and just a short walk from the Louvre and Jardin de Tuileries. Surrounded by the best shopping in the city, the location leaves nothing to be desired. Ninety-eight rooms and 40 suites are some of the most spacious in Paris, offering luxurious amenities such as Diptyque bath products, and state-of-the-art technologies in an environment that is modern but welcoming. Sybille de Margerie has given the spaces a couture feel that is classically Parisian. Suites all offer a private balcony or terrace and many come with private dining areas and kitchenettes, perfect for a family or a traveler looking for a bit more solitude. The hotel is home to two-Michelin-star Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx and Camélia. The latter offers outdoor dining, ideal for a break between shopping, with outstanding desserts. Do not miss the Saint Honoré tart. The spa is a destination all on its own with a gorgeous indoor swimming pool and a fitness centre with top of the line equipment. mandarinoriental.com
Hotel George V is famed for their lobby flower displays, whose beauty rivals art. The old world luxury with lovingly restored tapestries and finishes reminds you of a bygone era. The hotel’s 244 guest rooms and suites are decorated in the classic Louis XIV style and many rooms offer commanding views of the city. The hotel is housed in a 1928 landmark building that is one block from the Champs-Élysées. The hotel is home to four different restaurants, making it easy to never leave. La Galerie is the ideal place for a pre-dinner cocktail, breakfast, or the best hot chocolate you will ever taste. Live music plays daily starting at 3pm. fourseasons.com
I have yet to live in Paris, but I feel fortunate that I’ve come to have my favorite places. I love walking the streets of Saint Germain after a day of shopping at Le Bon Marché, Paris’s oldest department store. I adore popping into Chocolat Chapon and buying a box of their delicate pralines. I revel in having a glass of champagne at the bar at Le Meurice before dinner while listening to live music. I love that no matter how many times I’ve been, I fall in love with Paris again, again, and again.