9-12 January 2008
Paris is the city of love because every time I visit I fall in love with it all over again. I think I could happily live there for the rest of my life.
I am vowing to go to the Paris sales twice a year every year that I'm living in London. The sale period is determined by statute so the reductions are extensive - plus you get the cache of saying 'This old thing? Oh I bought it in Paris'. Besides the grand department stores of Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marche, try these places.
Rue de Grenelle Market. I liked browsing in local markets to see what the residents buy and eat. This true neighbourhood market (it sits under the unglamorous overhead metro bridge) sells delicious bread and pastries, cheese and fresh fruit and flowers at reasonable prices.
Pylones. A very cool shop selling all sorts of brightly coloured housewares and nifty nick-nacks, including my stainless steel cheese knife shaped like a mouse with a long tail.
L'Eclaireur. A seriously funky store (there's a separate mens and womens store) selling desirable things. I enjoyed looking at all the clothes and shoes even if they were completely unattainable for my budget.
L'espace Librarie du Senat. The dull-looking parliament bookshop is a hidden treasure of beautiful and reasonably priced leather goods. I don't think they'd ever been as busy as the day we descended on it and bought up on their rainbow collection of wallets, passport holders, notepads and bags. Shh don't tell anyone else.
Le Prince Jardinier. A fancy gardening shop for those who employ gardeners. I wanted to take the wicker egg-chair home but contented myself with a silver champagne bucket which now holds toiletries in my bathroom.
Si Tu Veux. An adorable toy store in the elegant Galerie Vivienne where I bought a little picnic set complete with teapots, cups, saucers and plates.
Poilane. Possibly the most famous bakery in Paris. The service from the white-aproned girls is similing and friendly and the pastries are gorgeous.
Printemps. Department store restaurants in Paris are not your usual 'take a tray and select a soggy sandwich' affairs. The restaurant in Printemps is worth visiting for two things: the large pots of hot chocolate and the glass table tops - because they reflect the beautiful Art Deco stained glass dome without you having to crane your neck to admire it.
Dalloyau. It's difficult to pick a boulangerie/patisserie out from the myriads in Paris, but I can vouch for their macaroons.
Le Loir dans la Theiere. The driving rain convinced us that anywhere indoors would be a good idea and we were lucky that we stumbled on this buzzy brasserie which appears to be a student haunt. The menu is limited - soups, sandwiches, tarts, omelettes, and reasonably priced. Be warned: the cakes are gigantic and could easily feed 3-4 people. I'm afraid for once the lemon meringue pie defeated me.
Le Petit Pontoise. A crowded little brasserie serving no-nonsense French food in noisy surroundings full of locals. Tres bon.
Le Grand Colbert. I'd never heard of this restaurant given that it was featured in the Jack Nicholson film 'As Good As It Gets' where apparently he eats the famous chicken dish. Even without that knowledge, the elegant Parisian brass and banquette interior convinced me that indulging in a 3 course lunch (34 euro) would be worth it. The chicken really is delicious (and enormous - you could easily share it), the fries were perfect and for dessert I had possibly the best crumble I have ever had in my life - and I've eaten a lot of crumble. I will have to make a pilgrimage to Le Grand Colbert every time I visit Paris, it was just so wondrous.
If you don't fancy shopping, Paris is the home of world-class museum and galleries. As I had visited most of them previously, I chose to be selective with my sites touristiques.
Musee Rodin. A complete collection of Rodin's work donated by him to the state, including his most famous sculptures of The Kiss, the Walking Man, and Balzac. The palatial setting and manicured gardens perfectly set off the soft sensuous of his scupltures.Free walking tour. I highly recommend this 2 hour walking tour of Montmatre, especially if you're fan of the movie Amelie. They take you to a few of the locations (the cafe where she worked, her local grocery store) as well as the old apartments of Van Gogh and Picasso, the cabaret (Le Lapin Agile) where Picasso used to draw and paint to pay for his food and Paris' last remaining windmill. The best bit - a less used back route along a winding cobblestone path up to glowing Sacre Coeur.
Select Hotel. A tastefully decorated and friendly hotel (discovered by Cathy, thank you!) right in the heart of funky St Germain. The beds are super-comfortable, the breakfast croissants are worth waking up for and the windows open out onto the twinkling fountains and typically Parisian facades of Place Sorbonne.
Eurostar, naturally. There's only one way to get to Paris elegantly and that's by high speed train. I loved the lack of queues, the comfortable seats and the fact that I had 15 minutes to check-in and board and still managed to make my train (albeit puffing and red-faced with a rakish coiffure).
Rue de Grenelle Market: between the Motte-Piquet and Dupleix Metro
Pylones: 98 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris (and other locations)
T: +33 1 42 84 37 37
Le Grande Epicerie Paris: Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche
T: +33 1 4439 80 00
L'Eclaireur. 12 rue Malher, 75004 Paris
T:+33 1 44 54 22 11
L'espace Librarie du Senat: 20 rue de Vaugirard, 75291 Paris
T:+33 1 42 34 21 21
Le Prince Jardinier: Jardin du Palais Royal, 117-121 Arcade Valois, 37 ruede Valois, 75001 Paris
T:+33 1 42 60 37 13
Si Tu Veux: Galerie Vivienne, 75002 Paris
Poilane: 49 Boulevard Grenelle, 75015 Paris
T : +33 1 45 79 11 49
Printemps: 64 Boulevard Haussman, 75009 Paris
T: +33 1 42 82 50 00
Delicabar c/o Le Bon Marche: 26-38 Rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris
T: +33 1 42 22 10 12
Dalloyau Raspail (and other locations): 63 rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris
T: +33 1 45 49 95 30
Le Loir dans la Theiere: 3 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris
T: +33 1 42 72 90 61
Le Petit Pontoise: 9 rue de Pontoise, 75005 Paris
T: +33 1 43 29 25 20
Le Grand Colbert: 2-4 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris
T: +33 1 42 86 87 88
Musee Rodin: 77 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris
T: +31 1 44 18 61 10
Free Walking Tour: meet at Blanche metro 6pm.
Select Hotel: 1 place Sorbonne
T: +33 1 46 34 14 80