I came. I saw. I shopped... Actually, I didn't shop as much as originally planned, but with each delectable little cappuccino being 5 euros a pop, my budget for caffeine alone probably equalled the cost of one YSL shoe. However, when meandering around Paris on foot for days on end, caffeine is much more critical than one YSL shoe- no matter how lovely.
Before taking this trip, I thought that a week might be too brief a period of time to get into the rhythm of Paris. However, through fortunate circumstance, I was able to use my six days and six nights to carve out an extraordinary personal experience of the city. I was helped hugely by the fact that a friend let me to stay at his apartment in the 11th arr. This allowed me to get some sense of what it is like to live in central Paris- the ancient spiral staircases, the water pipes, the neighbours, the sounds of contruction work in the morning- and walk along quiet residential streets not frequented by tourists on my way back to his place.
Shopping for groceries to bring home to the mini-me of minifridges was wonderful- not only because there was every conceivable flavour of rich yogurt at the local Monoprix (hazelnut, prune and apricot, oh my!), and fresh baguettes (mmmm)... and an enticing range of stinky cheeses (mmmm with bells on)... but also because I didn't have to rely on the overpriced café food (although, on my first day I had what was quite possibly the most incredible "La Parisienne" salad ever at a bistro near the Bastille).
So, via notes scribbled onto napkins, I have compiled a short list of places and things I enjoyed most during my week in Paris. The list is hardly extensive, but I think much of the magic lies in discovering beloved spots for yourself- I can't wait to return soon and continue exploring this beautiful city.
9th floor of Printemps...
You can get a sense of the atmosphere on Thurday evenings here (when it is open for a weekly cocktail party through the summer) from style photographs taken by Yvan the facehunter (1, 2). What is perhaps impossible to capture on still film is the sense of extraordinary openness.... glass walls barely seem to enclose the terrace which sits on the very top of Printemps department store in the 9th arr. Standing at any one point along the chrome rails, with wind whipping around, you are met with a 360° view of Paris which includes its most famous landmarks. Sunlight washes over the maze of ancient streets and buildings, creating a landscape of soft pastels which changes dramatically as darkness falls, and the lights that Paris is famous for come to life. Suddenly, everything is glowing against the black night. Pools of light in every hue imaginable illuminate walls and roofs- even the cafés are so well lit that their brightness spills onto the sidewalk. The Eiffel Tower, miniscule in the distance, has a little sparkle seizure for five minutes every hour, and in between these episodes, a shaft of light beams from it's top, circling around Paris like a beacon, signalling to me that a magical night is just beginning.
The architecture is lovely, and so are the people. This being a cocktail party, many have shown up in style, and I'm in fashion heaven before even getting off of the escalator. I'm most impressed by the use of layering- it is chilly outside and the ladies have come prepared with knitwear and scarves. Shoes are fantastic- there are boots of all heights, a few colourful, retro style heels, and a veritable army of black flats (Moss feet). Most wear skirts or dresses rather than pants, and have a soft, oversized bag slung over one shoulder.
Free(!) martini in hand, I step out onto the terrace- my first impression is of the aforementioned breathtaking view- the next is of a short man dressed like Charlie Chaplin (sans hat) taking my arm and announcing loudly that a Russian princess has entered the building. I blush and try to sidle away, but he keeps hold and asks my name. I tell him, and he kisses my hand before letting go. Hokay! A few moments later, I discover that he is the party's host.
As at La Perle, I expected cold shoulders, and am surprised and grateful that while circling the terrace with my drink, people touch my shoulder and invite me to join them. The language barrier isn't too prohibitive- they use broken English and I use broken French. Topics up for discussion consist mostly of fashion, Chirac and Paris, so this isn't much of a problem!
Around 10 pm I end up in conversation with a Brazilian model. The Charlie Chaplin character comes over again and says that we should have children together- I roll my eyes, but Mr. Sexy Brazil seems to take the statement literally and kisses me goodnight as he leaves. Most of the attendees are trickling out onto boulevard Haussmann at this point, and after watching the facehunter take photos of a femme in a quiet corner of the terrace, I go out as well, down through the floors of Printemps and into the dark caverns of the metro.
Place des Vosges...
I spent a lot of time walking around this ancient square, particularly the uneven cobblestone streets, and listening to the live orchestra in Louis the XIII's park. Surrounded on all four sides by 17th century buildings, manicured hedges and elaborate fountains, it is difficult to remember that this is the 21st century. In my mind, the young couples sprawled out in their skinny jeans and huge sunglasses are replaced with courtiers strolling the lawns in silk gowns and tall wigs. Besides being a heaven for history buffs, there are also cafés and designer boutiques galore...'et vous' is particularly fab.
Mon Dieu! An edible paradise. Do you remember that scene in 'Beauty and the Beast' where Belle walks into a palatial wooden library where thousands of books on every topic imaginable are organized perfectly on floor-to-ceiling shelves? Well, that is Fauchon, but the books are replaced with chocolate and marzipan, wine and preserves.
The Pompidou Centre...
Very funky looking building that has great art and a view- perfect for stylewatching too.
Put some bread, cheese and wine in a tote bag and settle on the bank of this beautiful river for a picnic. I loved watching the sun glittering on the water.
I don't even like macaroons (the N. American version), but after hearing so many femmes raving about these French cookies, I knew I had to try one. It was a life altering experience. The deep dark chocolate and pale green pistachio are my faves, but they come in numerous flavours and are available all over Paris.
Finally, and best of all: stylewatching. The French deserve their reputation for being among Europe's best dressed. I think I've said quite enough about this already!
NY Fashion Week is just 7 days away!