Hey there, Katie here, with another edition of #FauxOnTheGo! When you think of Europe, is there a city you happen to daydream of in particular? For me, it's always been Paris. The hopeless romantic in me thought I was never in the right place to treat myself to a getaway to the “City of Love,” as France generally seems to be the type of city you’d want to share with someone. Although that still might hold a little truth, I can gladly report I could have easily lived my best life with or without my better half by my side. Moral of the story: Paris is always a good idea.
Day one was all “Pinch me; I’ve made it to Paris,” day two I was mentally planning the itinerary for my next visit, and by day three wondering what it would take to get away with moving there. All in all, a five-night stay did justice, but a week or more would make an ideal trip- especially if you'd like to spend some time venturing outside of the city.
The world is as you are, and traveling is a mirror: It brings out the essence of the place that you’re trying to see. I had never been to France before this trip, and it’s safe to say the things I did notice were self fulfilling prophecies of what I had always imagined Paris to be: a woman pedaling on a bicycle while applying the perfect shade of red lipstick, an old man wearing a pastel silk scarf with a baguette tucked beneath his arm and a mini bouquet of lily of the valley in hand, a cafe owner sleepily setting up his patio while whistling- I could go on forever... France is a seemingly familiar yet foreign fairytale where each new day appears to effortlessly live happily ever after.
There are almost too many accommodations to choose from in Paris. The entire city is saturated with charming places to stay. If you decide to take the Airbnb route, look for a spot in Le Marais, Montmartre, or Le Republique- These areas have a high concentration of hip places to dine, drink, and shop. Montmartre has additional allure thanks to its winding, hilly, narrow streets which somehow alchemize the district into appearing exceptionally poetic. Once you get an initial feel for your neighborhood or the metro, you’ll be beyond set. My partner & I stayed at an Airbnb in Le Marais, simply because walking is our favorite mode of transportation. If you’d prefer to stay in a hotel, look into W Paris, Hotel Henriette, or Hotel Costes.
Holybelly - Melbourne-style cafe serving upscale diner food from all over the world, depending on which ingredients are locally available. I have to say I was stoked to see some southern comfort fare listed on the breakfast menu. Interestingly enough, the entire waitstaff does speak English, so eat here in the morning when your American tongue could use a little splash of French specialty coffee to prime itself for the day.
Le Mary Celeste - The best asparagus salad I’ve ever tasted, thanks to the fresh seasonality of ingredients. This spot is known for it’s locally sourced seafood, meat, and produce. They have an all natural wine list and cocktails are perfectly mixed to complement- not overpower- the food. One of those places where you think you’ll only stick around for an hors-d'oeuvre and cocktail before moving on to another establishment. After the first bite, your stomach will have a total change of heart, and you'll end up spending the entire evening there.
Pink Mamma - What’s the deal with restaurants that seem to have been created solely to be shared on Instagram? Seriously, Pink Mamma has even named one of their pizzas “Regina Instagram” as a nod to their recognition of this status. I wasn’t sure I would be on board with it, but it ended up being one of our most memorable meals. The menu is packed with incredible cocktails, Neapolitan-style pizza, pasta, and an abundance of vegetarian options. The food and decor combo will leave you dumbfounded. We went in for brunch and shockingly only had to wait a few minutes for a table, but I’m certain this would not be the case for dinner. If you do make a reservation, make sure it’s for a table on the rooftop.
La Maison Rose - Traditional French cafe built around 1850, located on a charming street-corner in Montmartre. It’s been family owned and operated throughout the decades with primarily female proprietors. It was also a popular watering hole for many of Montmartre’s eccentric artists: Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, and Matisse were all too familiar with the libation list. Not unlike most of Paris, it went through a cabaret phase in the mid 1900’s. Today it’s a quaint quiet space with a straightforward menu ideal for a light snack. We ordered radishes with dill and an Aperol Spritz.
Boot Cafe - A pint-sized, cash-only coffee shop settled into a nook which was once a shoe cobbler’s workshop on a sleepy side-street in Le Marais. Its original facade is the perfect shade of blue, and the font type is unapologetically photographable. (“Cordonnerie” translates to "cobbler.") There are two tables and four seats total. It’s an intimate space with unforgettable coffee and pastries. Order a shot of espresso and mosey onward.
Wild & The Moon - Organic, cold-pressed juices and nut milk. You’ll definitely want to stop here a few times, especially in the morning after a late night out. (So, daily?) It’s a modern plant-based pharmacy packed with potions that taste too delicious and seem to disappear far too swiftly. There are multiple locations bedecked throughout the city, and the one in Le Marais is always bustling with folks dining in for lunch or meeting with clients over moleskins and laptops. NYC: Keep a lookout! They’re in the works of opening their first location in the USA this summer.
Candelaria - A teeny taco joint that seats around a dozen people. Of course, they serve frozen margs and imported cerveza to drive home the essence of its Mexican theme. Should you be bold and pretend you know exactly where you’re going, push through the false wall in the back to the left of the grill station. True Life: speakeasies make me anxious. I’m invested in the concept, but often they come across as a little too bustling or grandiose for me to allow my body to settle down and enjoy the experience. That was not the case at Candelaria. We lucked out and snagged a seat at the bar where we were hypnotized by the motions of our bartender... or maybe it was the Mezcal. The staff is genuinely interested in helping each other develop their craft to its fullest potential. The passion for perfection here is contagious.
Le Syndicat - While camaraderie between bartenders all over the world is largely universal, it is something special to walk into a new town and feel the love between the staff from different libation establishments. Le Syndicat’s entire menu is a cheeky play off of other cocktail bars throughout the city. It would be a great place to explore first, so you can write down all of the places they pay tribute to and later use this list as a map of the cocktail scene of the city.
Little Red Door - No sign here, just look for the little red door. This bar takes its whimsical atmosphere playfully serious, and it is perhaps one of the most philosophically enchanting places of them all. The menu is a large children’s book with each page depicting an image of a universal value. The pages pop up with hidden ingredient lists to help you make your decision. Or, you could ignore the ingredients and order the universal value you feel pulled toward, which is ultimately the most rewarding way select your beverage. This cocktail fantasyland dives deep into our internal landscapes to explore the relationship we have with flavors and how they affect our senses and emotions.
Merci - Need coffee or brunch along with a large side of shopping? Head on over to Merci! This store feels like an entire marketplace- they host a huge selection of, well, everything. I’m still daydreaming about the summery camp display featuring tents made of French linen in every color imaginable. It’s a fashion and home store including clever kitchen-ware, furniture for every room, jewelry, accessories, etc. Though unmistakably, the linen is a highlight.
PomPon Bazar - A bohemian boutique full of home furnishings: rugs, baskets, vases, cushions, and stools. They specialize in carpets and fabrics made of all natural fibers. Many shades of white-cream with pops of bold colors to accentuate patterns topped with tassels. A bit of a tease, this shop will make you want to hop on a three-hour flight heading south to Marrakech.
Thanx God I’m a VIP - This unisex vintage shop specializes in high fashion French designers like Chloe, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Hermes, and Chanel, while also carrying an abundance of luxury brands from around the world. You’ll appreciate the layout and organization of the boutique done by size, color, and shape. Give yourself extra time to sift through these exceptionally curated racks. You can also check out their website for timeless inspiration as it’s updated weekly with new arrivals.
Shakespeare and Company - An independently owned English bookstore opened in 1951 by American George Whitman along the Left Bank, Shakespeare & Co swiftly became the center of literary expat life. Think Ginsburg, Miller, Burroughs, etc. The space is also a commune, and it’s estimated around 30,000 artists and writers have stayed here. Whitman described his shop as a “social utopia masquerading as a bookstore.” Guests are required to read a book a day, help with upkeep, and leave behind a one-page autobiography. Today the shop is run by Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia, who is dedicated to keeping its story alive.
Bleu de Cocagne - If you’re a Chambray or Indigo gal you’re in trouble/luck. These folks hand dye French linen with pigment from the Woad flower, or Isatis tinctorial if you’re into botanical names. Its finished look is similar to Indigo, but more coneflower in hue rather than deep navy. In fact, Woad was the classic dye of France (having been introduced to Europe by the Egyptians) until Indigo from India and industrial dyeing techniques became mainstream around the 1700’s. Each Bleu de Cocagne garment is delicately dipped in Woad baths up to eight times to achieve their desired tone. When shopping I tend to purchase with purpose, and the only clothing I bought on this trip came from here. I couldn’t be happier with it.
Walk along the banks and over the bridges of the Seine. Stare up at the window of Julia Child’s first apartment abroad while imagining the aromas that must’ve wafted down onto the street below. Pay homage to the windmill on the Moulin Rouge. Get lost in the cobblestone of Montmartre. Climb the 300 stairs of The Sacred-Coeur cathedral for a stunning view of the city’s skyline. Grab a drink at Cafe des Deux Moulins- Remember that diner Amelie worked at? It exists. Shop in the Marais. Drool on pastry and chocolate cases and eat all the canelés. Picnic beneath the Eiffel Tower around dusk and stay after dark for the light show. (Every hour on the hour it sparkles like a bottle of champagne for five minutes.) Walk around The Louvre and through the nearby Jardin des Tuileries. The Arc de Triomphe also has an observation deck with a stellar view. If you’re looking for a museum that will leave you feeling refreshed without robbing you of an entire day, visit Atelier Brancusi.
CHAMPAGNE / EPERNAY - Book a tour (online, in advance) with a world-renowned Champagne house! Take the train in from Paris from Gare de l'Est and get off at Epernay. Once you make it into town, waltz down L'Avenue de Champagne to explore the neighborhood. We made a reservation with Moet/Chandon and were thoroughly impressed with the size and prestige of their chateau, not to mention the 16 miles of underground bottles we were able to catch a small glimpse of. We also stopped at Boizel & Paul-Etienne Saint Germain, and honestly preferred some of the smaller wineries vintages to Moet. It was an interesting juxtaposition to see a traditional establishment like Moet compared to the younger chalets. Large Champagne houses offer overnight accommodations, but we decided to make it a one day trip and found it to work perfectly with our agenda.
VERSAILLES - GO TO VERSAILLES. It is an invitation for any imagination to run wild. We lucked out by booking an Airbnb Experience that might very well be the best tour scenario you could ever hope to come across. Our group of 10 met at a cafe and were lead to a nearby train station (Union strikes made the transit schedule unreliable) where we headed into the town of Versailles. We each received a vintage-style bicycle. We stopped through the outdoor marketplace where we had a mini wine and cheese tasting (at 10:30 am! France, I love you.) and were given time to procure picnic provisions. Next, we rode to the chateau where we were lead in through a side entrance (bypassing the three-hour long line for tickets) and walked through the primary gardens of the palace. Then, we hopped back on our bikes to visit Marie Antoinette's hamlet. After that, we headed to the canals which overlooked the chateau where we laid out our picnic lunch with market fare, AKA more wine. (Okay, there was also bread and fruit and cheese and more canelés.) Lastly, we stumbled into the royal residence for a guided tour. The dynamic between our two hosts, Stu and Niki, was pure magic. Stu used to be a history teacher in England before moving back to Versailles. (France is v serious about its heritage: You have to go through five years of training and pass a test to get a license to be able to speak inside of Versailles.) This experience is by far the best way to explore the market, vast gardens, canals, and palace of Versailles.
A note about bathrooms: Always use them when you have access to them, even if they’re not pristine. Don’t wait to find an immaculate one, as you might not ever find it unless you’re at a restaurant or in a hotel lobby. Always have spare change on hand, as most public toilets charge a fee.
Euros. Get Some. Always carry them. Small change is preferable to larger bills.
Plan on walking around eight miles a day. Comfy shoes are an absolute must. The only way to go wrong would be to take an Uber everywhere- I can’t tell you how many hidden gems I stumbled upon simply because I chose to stroll.
And now I fully understand why the term "francophile" exists. And although I feel like I've barely scraped the city's surface, the experience was transformative enough for this American girl to forget she's not Parisian.