Who doesn’t love Paris? My relationship with Paris began as a young girl when my father took me and a school friend for a few days visit while on business. After that trip Paris was my city of choice. Going to stay at the Plaza Athénée when with my mother or visiting my dad at his preferred George V when I was a university student in Paris.
My university days were as oxymoron experiences as could possibly be. I was booked in a horrible hotel on the left bank, I knew nobody and I was a typical rebellious teenager, dressed in torn jeans and smelling of Patchouli.
That didn’t last. I soon decamped to the Plaza Athenee, met a glamorous Parisian and bought a bright red Alfa Romeo spyder.
I embraced everything that Paris had to offer. My love affair with fashion design food began and its been an enduring passion. I have come to understand and appreciate the workmanship that goes into Haute couture. The Petit Mains who embroider tirelessly to create one off pieces. The passion and enjoyment for sourcing good ingredients is the norm for most Parisians.
Over the years my visits to Paris have been varied and in many ways more adventurous. I have stayed in different areas and smaller boutique hotels as well as the Grand Hotels Bristol, Crillion, The Ritz. All were wonderful. I love the Place de Vosges and I like the Pavilion de la Reine hotel. Though I found the rooms small and staff not consistently friendly. I love L’hotel because of the private pool and spa in the cave and their service is great.
Paris is a city that invites you to discover it. There are so many varied neighbourhoods each very individual with its own character. I love the street food markets. They are a delight to the eye and often the stomach. There is always in any given arrondoissment a Boulangerie, bakery, patisserie, bistro, café restaurants and many bespoke shops. Its rare except in the most touristic areas that you will see the chain coffee shops or fast foods.
I do like to try the Michelin star restaurant but I have just as much sometimes more enjoyed the local bistro. Just before I caught the Eurostar back to London I walked into La Terrasse St –Jacques on the Boulevard Port Royal and had a wonderful steak frites and Oceanic Salad .I have rarely eaten badly in Paris but you can though its rare. I don’t get upset if a place doesn’t work out. I just don’t go again. I love omelettes and frites with green salad and most cafes will do it brilliantly I don’t know how they get the vinaigrette so right. No matter how much I try it at home it just is not the same. It’s the same with the French green beans. I have no idea what they do to them but they always taste yum.
There are things you instinctively associate with a place Fashion and food. To me Paris is croissants foie gras snails and marrons or chestnut cakes and puddings. I rarely eat bread but when I am here I just buy a baguette , put absolutely nothing on it and walk.
I will never ever forget buying my first designer outfit from Yves St Laurent. He was at his height then and the gypsy theme was the rage. Mu sheer off the shoulder black chiffon and top and silk patterned flouncy skirt worn with a big waist corset belt trimmed in black is etched deeply in my mind. My introduction to Sonia Rykiel knitwear with her inside outs stitching were a long time love affair.
Paris has changed since my student days and I don’t really have a favourite area or a favourite hotel. I tend to choose where I stay subject to what I am going to do. If I am going to shop seriously I tend to stay in the 16eme. If I am going to chill I like the left bank. Right now I am enamoured with Jardin Luxembourg area. I just love all the restaurants cafés bespoke chocalatiers and markets. Late at night I might pop in to les Editeurs and have a glass of wine with Foie grad or drop by to le Hibou off the St Germain for something light. Paris just has so so much to offer that each trip I tend to explore and for that trip I become a regular!
When you first come to Paris I do think its well worth taking proper guided tours plus a river cruise on the Seine. Also its really a must to go to the famous cafés, Café de Flore, Deux Magots, Fouquets on the Champs Elysee are just a few that come immediately to mind. Its outrageous prices but its nice t think you are drinking where Balzac, Hemmingway et all passed their time After that just walk about as you will find so many unexpected areas.
Over the years I have noted a change in the infamous Parisian attitude. To me the French seemed to have mellowed. Maybe it’s the multi culture which is now more evident than when I was a student . I don’t know but they seem so much more approachable.