Every summer we decamp to Paris for a few weeks and I’m hoping this year we’ll do the same. As always we will rent a flat in a houssmannian building, a place with high cellings and parquet floors where my Parisian fantasy will play out.
You may wonder why on Earth would I want to spend summer in a big city given that I’m a Londoner. Well, Paris is just the beginning of our summer adventure. From there we will journey on to other parts of France. Last year it was Bordeaux, the year before the rugged coast of Brittany and the year before that- St Tropez. But I’m a child of a big city and I’m the happiest when I sit, glass of wine in hand, at a pavement bar at twilight. Between myriard of lights, at the edge of day and night, this is where I feel I belong.
Paris is a very special place for me. In “my” Paris we wander the streets aimlessly, drink Negroni at the pavement bars, discover little shops and chose where to have dinner in the evening. We go to Cafe de Flore, read “Movable feast” and stroll down Siene embankment. In other words- we live all the Paris cliches you may think of. The reality is far far away.
I have my favourite neighbourhoods in Paris. It’s their unique soul that makes me return every year.
Quirky, colourfull but at the same wealthy and elegant, with it’s narrow streets has a feel of an Old Town. Situated in a triangle between Pompidou Centre, Place de Bastille and Place de Republique it houses an array of shops, cafes and art galleries. Shops in the vicinity of Place de Republique are known for costume jewellery at crazily low prices. Some of course are a complete tat but there are a few where you can find real beauties on budget. There are also shops where you can buy handfuls of cultured pearls or turquoise which you can later turn into a jewellery of your dreams.
Once in Le Marais you cannot miss Place des Vosges. With it’s breathtaking architecture its an old Paris at it’s best. Last year we got caught by an almighty strom and spent a pleasant hour in a bar under the arches on the square. Looking at the majestic houses with floor to cellings windows I wondered about those lucky people who live there. I imagined a bare faced beauty, her hair tousled, dressed only in her man’s white shirt, padding barefoot on the parquet floor…Parisian cliches…
Le Marais also houses more expensive shops like Repetto, Michael Kors, Maje or Zadig et Voltaire. I loved the incredible choice in Repetto store, an array of rose colour ballet shoes, from dusky to off white. Made from buttery leather, they make you want to dance.
Montmartre is an embodiment of my Parisian fanstasy. Yes, you can say it’s full of cliches but this place has a sould that draws you in and you find yourself going back just to experience that magical atmosphere. I love Montmartre at night- with it’s narrow streets and enchanted bars and restaurants, it’s Paris from Woody Allen movies. You cannot not fall in love. There’s a Italian restaurant near the top of the hill called La Petaudiere which drew us in because of the piano music coming from the open doors. My steak was disappointing (but then again I’m totally spoiled by great food in London) but I’m told pizza was fantastic. But it was the atmosphere, the decor, the piano music (you can ask the pianist to play something for you) and the way we were treated (like a royalty) that made our evening a memorable one.
There’s a place we go to which I can find but for the life of me I cannot remember the name of it. It’s situated in one of the quiet streets of Montmartre, a family run little restaurant with a few tables inside and a few out of the pavement. We go there for good food and even better wine, enjoying balmy nights and soft lights of Montmartre. There are other places like this one once you wander a little off a beaten track.
If you’re there at night, it’s worth walking to Pigalle metro station so you can see Moulin Rouge at night. Its fasade illuminated red it’s a sight you’ll remember for a long time.
But Montmartre is great during the day, too. We had lunch at Les Deux Moulins, cafe made famous by Amelie movie (you’d think the cafe would be a trourist trap but the food was actually very good), went to Dali museum and challenged the famous steps to the top of the hill. Wandering down cobbled streets I saw shops selling clothes and leather goods. I don’t know if they were any good but the handbags were fashionable and made of good quality, soft leather.
This is where we always rent an appartment and I must say it’s one of my favourite places in Paris. Located on the Left Bank in the heart of Paris, 7th arrondissement houses Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides with it’s golden dome and famous museums such Rodin and d’Orsay. But what I really love about it are grand haussmannian buildings, relaxed and village like atmosphere which whisperes of wealth and sophistication. The mix of shops, restaurants and open markets make me want to stay in the area forever…
Paris je t’aime…