This trip was sponsored and organized by France Passion Magazine and the NYC office of Atout France, made possible by help from their partners. My thanks to Air France for the upgrade to Business Class on our NYC to Paris flight. As always, all opinions are my own and I was given no direction on what to write or share with you. All images were taken on my iPhone 4S and edited with VSCOcam or Faded.
The truth about Paris is that I’ve always been a beggar on its streets. I know FrancePassion, it’s the tears I cry when I can’t do everything I want to in Paris but I am still overwhelmingly grateful just to BE IN France!
Every visit, I’ve been broke but happy, resigned to merely surviving on baguettes and croissants. I walked till my feet felt as if they would fall off, I spilt tears at the beauty of La Tour Eiffel as it sparkled at night but I was always on the outside, looking in at the luxurious, glamorous side of my favorite city.
Until now. This month, when I visited Paris again, it was my first sponsored experience in the city. Three other ladies, and myself, descended upon the streets with one goal: experience luxury, then share it on Twitter and Instagram. A contest took place during that time, whereby one winner would receive almost the very same trip we embarked on.
It turns out, I am forever the outsider and yet I still loved it as I always do. In fact, I’m the woman who doesn’t know which fork to use or where to even start shopping but I still tear up when La Tour Eiffel sparkles and I’m still just as in awe of every architecturally magnificent building as I was on my first day in Paris so many years ago now. I was called simple, and that might be the case. Simply in love with Paris, that’s me.
We began, by checking into Hotel Le Six in the sixth arrondissement. It is colorful and carefully appointed to maximize the small space it takes up. After a long flight, the L’Occitane bath products were the first thing to catch my eye and I longed to relax in my room’s soaking tub.
We drove through the sparkling streets of Paris, lit by fresh precipitation and holiday lights, to L’Hotel du Collectionneur. The recently renovated Art Deco hotel has a temporary bar on its winter patio where we sipped champagne and indulged in decadent éclairs by pastry creator Christophe Adam, under a clear bubble that made our voices echo quietly and mysteriously amongst the faux fur and crystal candelabras.
And then it was time for a Voulez-Vouz Diner evening in Montmartre with a wonderful artist who welcomed us into her home, where the conversation stretched to fill the space between her paintings, jewelry and collection of beautiful oddities. She walked us through the near-empty streets of a neighborhood I’ve never known to be quiet and we stood in awe, in the shadow of Sacré Cœur while a sleepy Paris stretched out before us and smoke curled from the occasional chimney.
The next morning, we made our way to Gare de l’Est where by train we traveled to Champagne. Of course, the champagne flowed like water. From the limestone cellars of Taittinger, whose depths the Romans first excavated in the 4th century, to the brick-reinforced passageways of Moët & Chandon and then to C Comme wine bar on a narrow street we sipped bubbly, marveled at historical narratives including such famous figures as Napoleon while lusting after bottles we could never hope to afford. I loved the carvings on the ancient cellar walls and the surprising way I was seduced by a bubbly liquid that I had arrived in France with no prior preference for.
For lunch we found ourselves at the quirky Café du Palais where more art than might normally be sensible covers the walls and where the house specialty is seafood, which I can’t eat. No matter, my light pasta that was drenched in cheese and crispy prosciutto still makes my mouth water to recall. I was the one who lucked out. It was all enjoyed with even more champagne, a decadent pause before more sightseeing.
Our knowledgeable guide showed us the best view of Reims Cathedral, which is, surprisingly, the library that is situated across the square from its main entrance — before taking us inside to spill all its secrets. I found myself drawn to the Chagall windows, which didn’t disappoint, and to the jewel-like colors in all of the other stained glass. It’s not as elaborate as Sainte-Chapelle but it filled my heart with joy nonetheless.
A beautiful sunset with colors pulled straight from an artist’s canvas greeted us before we, almost reluctantly, returned to Paris.
The next morning we checked out of Hotel le Six and made our way to the Philippe Starck-designed Le Royal Monceau. Mike Tyson lounged in the bar, Celine Dion was staying upstairs and I could not tear my eyes away from the incredibly thoughtful way every inch of the hotel was designed. I took enough photographs to do an entire post on just this element of the hotel but it was brunch that we arrived to partake in and partake we did. More bubbly filled our glasses and Pierre Hermé pastries overflowed from my plate, most notably the Ispahan croissant with fresh raspberries inside, attaching a permanent smile to my face.
The appeal of a nap crossed my mind when we checked into the Hotel Napoleon and I saw my inviting bed yet we had an appointment to shop at Mauboussin’s flagship store on Place Vendôme so dutifully I marveled over jewels, art deco watches and…drank more champagne.
That evening featured my favorite meal of our trip, at Michelin-starred 114 Faubourg in the richly-appointed Le Bristol hotel. Just the starter for our meal, an artichoke soup, was enough to explain the Michelin star to me. Yet our host from the hotel, Victoire Drummond, really made the night one to remember forever. She helped fill our evening with good stories, tummy-aching laughter and so many smiles my jaw hurt. The nightcap to end all nightcaps, included meeting some of my travel idols who happened to also be in Paris and who actually were guests of Le Bristol. (If I am a really really good girl, maybe I can be a guest there someday and not merely a guest at the restaurant!!)
Barely able to function from the richness of a day spent eating and drinking, I felt almost exhausted by the thought of a prolonged private tour of Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen with Riad Kneife the next morning and yet the hours we had with him flew by so quickly, I had to hide my profound disappointment when it was over. An insight such as his, into the hidden gems of the market, probably cannot be found in any other means or with any other person. Riad is funny, humble, vivacious and well connected to the best purveyors of goods in Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. We ended our shopping with lunch at Ma Cocotte, also designed by Philippe Starck, where we learned that he not only designed the restaurant for his friend who owns it but it was he who came up with the idea to open a restaurant in the space to begin with. I kept my eyes open for his face after learning he enjoys dining frequently at the restaurant he helped to give life to, but in the end struck out. Lunch, however, did not disappoint. A classic roast chicken with the creamiest mashed potatoes I’ve ever had in my life left me nearly speechless. I wondered in that moment how I could make my dream of living in Paris a reality…
An exclusive tour of La Conciergerie and its newest art installation followed and I found my eyes drawn to the soaring heights, my thoughts to how it must have felt for Marie Antoinette to spend the last days of her life imprisoned in the halls my footsteps echoed in.
After a quick check in and “costume change,” we found ourselves descending the dimly lit stairs of Buddha Bar into an underground Asian space with soaring ceiling and a giant Buddha overlooking our every move. Our moves included boozy beverages in birdcages, plates of rich sushi, and platter after platter with indulgent combinations of vegetables, meat and rice. I thought of playing the princess and asking someone to carry me home but as Buddha Bar Hotel was merely around the corner, I thought it wiser to sober up as I crossed a quiet street where carol music piped from speakers high above, imbuing the air with a festive feeling even as my eyelids wanted to close for the night. My room, the most luxurious of any I’ve slept in in Paris, welcomed me into its lush folds and I smiled at the orchid next to my bed as I drifted off into sweet sweet dreams.
Being forced to check out of Buddha Bar Hotel was a letdown but our next stop, Galeries Lafayette was far from it. The specialty shopping lounge, La Suite, greeted us with one of the best views of Paris I’ve ever experienced and we continued that view from the terrace with a light lunch at Jean-Paul Hévin’s pop up café. The chestnut hot chocolate was definitely luxurious but the view was what stunned me most. We took a quick peek at their holiday windows and gazed up at the 1912 Neo-byzantine glass dome before some shopping at their well-stocked stationary department, which put a smile on my face.
Our last hotel greeted us that afternoon, the Art Deco Le Jardin du Marais, before we made our way to Quai Branly for a completely private tour of their newest exhibit and their permanent collection. It is a museum unlike any other I’ve been to. From the intricate but modern exterior to the unusual theme of the interior artifacts — it was quite an experience, capped by a very stimulating discussion with the President of the museum, Stephane Martin. I could have talked with him for hours. Still, a reservation at their rooftop restaurant, Les Ombres was calling and I had already discovered that La Tour Eiffel was so close it seemed possible to reach out and touch it. I couldn’t wait to see the way it would glitter at night, the perfect backdrop to our evening meal.
Somewhere in that prolonged, magical moment at Les Ombres, I thought of Jamie Beck and all her brilliant images from Paris. I fall for the city even more every time she visits because she captures it in that way which cannot be ignored. That way which is all seduction and promises. The way that calls to my heart.
An evening stroll nearer the tower completed our last full day in the City of Light and I felt my heart constrict at the thought of leaving.
Before we had to board our plane, we learned more about the Marais during an adventure with Discover Walks Paris that I enjoyed most especially because of our charming and very knowledgeable hosts. Then we enjoyed lunch at Merci where we also shopped until my heart finished constricting into tight knots of sadness and happiness dueling for supremacy.
It was while waiting in the airport that I had this final thought. The fact is: I am still a beggar. Now I will be begging to experience the luxurious side of Paris every time I step foot off a plane at CDG or disembark from a train at Gare du Nord. It’s no matter because I began my love affair content with a diet of only baguettes and croissants so I know I will always love all of its facets. But it is funny that this trip had no effect on my previously established status.
Paris and I have a long story still ahead of us. Of that, I am sure.