Alors, I have now lived in London for more than 6 years, and I still get asked a lot about Paris. I was brought up in Paris, and lived there for 20 years or so.
As a Parisienne expatriated in Britain, I am not up to date with everything that is going on in Paris as much as before, (as mainly I stay at mum’s house and have not so much of a crazy social life more of a family time… no complains here from me anyway). However I do have my favourite Parisian spots full of childhood memories and few other places too.
As I come to Paris on holiday mainly, I really enjoy exploring the city again and going back to places I share strong bonds with.
The first place I recommend is BERTHILLON, an amazing ice cream maker on the l’ile Saint Louis. It was near my school and in hot summer days my friends and I used to make the trip. (It was very close to my local library as well and every time I also used to beg my mom for one too.)
You can easily spot it, as it is the place that has the longest queue, (the queue is worth it, thrust me!) They do sell the ice cream all over the island too. I unquestionably advice to try the sorbet as well, the fruity ones are delicious!
It’s better to have a cone and you can stroll away on the beautiful ile (island) and admire Notre Dame.
The other place, I have fond memories is Angelina. It’s a teahouse, where they sell the absolute best hot chocolate ever! And obviously they have classic French patisserie too. When you do come out, it’s with your yearly dose of sweetness. It is in front of the jardin des Tuileries and obviously near le Louvres.
You can have a stare at The Mona Lisa, go for a spot of shopping (or honestly window shopping) at Colette and come to have some hot chocolate at Angelina. Perfect afternoon. (and maybe go for some more culture to the museum of the Orangerie mentioned later below).
Another special spot is the beautiful Beaubourg museum; you can see the astonishing permanent collection, go up on the 80’s escalators and have a drink (a quite expansive drink) at Georges that has one of the finest panoramic views of Paris.
You can get in at the bottom of the building with the lifts, but I think the best way up is to get through the museum itself. You go all the way up the escalators and usually accompanied with few videos or photos.
It’s best to go to Georges when the weather is nice obviously; if it is raining the terrace (as it is open, meaning no roof) is usually closed.
A special place to taste typical French food is the wonderful restaurant Chartier, a magnificently conserved authentic French brasserie. The prices there are really good too. Their menu changes a bit everyday, as they make the prices and the menus from what they get at the market. The setting is very special and it is a unique place really to get honest food for a really decent price. The staff tends to be very friendly too which is always nice in Paris. The entrance of the restaurant is in a courtyard and you will need to queue, as it is always busy. But you generally never wait too long. And the good thing is they are open 7 days a week too.
Ok now for some (more) Culture, there is the striking Museum d’Orsay by the river Seine, with its stunning 19th century painting and sculptures. It used to be a train station and it got reconverted as a beautiful museum. I definitely recommend it if that’s your cup of tea. Go see the permanent collection; they have countless artworks from Monet, Manet, Degas, Bonnard, Caillebotte, Cezanne, Delacroix, Gauguin, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and of course Van Gogh. For me it is an afternoon made in heavens, as these painters are my all time favourite and could spend all day admiring the paintings.
As it is a legendary museum full of some very famous paintings, you can expect the queue to be long. However go toward the end of the morning, you might catch a smaller queue. I think you can also buy your ticket online too, they close on Mondays only and the museum closes at 5:30pm.
If this seems like too much of an adventure into the unknown, then I suggest you to go to the Musee de l’Orangerie, a much smaller museum in the jardin des tuileries, (the garden after the Louvres).
It hosts the gorgeous Nympheas from Claude Monet. The main thing to see really is the round room with Les Nympheas, an endless painting of those floating flowers. Downstairs there is a small collection from other painters of the time. They open everyday except Tuesday, and the last entrance is 4pm. It’s worth the trip after been filled with Angelina hot chocolate and some window-shopping at Colette.
If you do decide to be the real tourist and go for a walk on the Champs Elysee, I would recommend two maybe three places.
First, indulge yourself in filling up your beauty cabinet with a trip down to Sephora. It’s open everyday from 10am until midnight (yes even on a Sunday) and I am telling you boys; the girls are going to go wild. You have rows and rows of perfumes and all kind of make up thing you can think of and you end up with a certain urge to buy presents for everyone too.
The second place, I would certainly suggest is la boutique Gerlain. This is where the classic French perfumer has its first boutique and it shines elegance and stylishness. The building is stunning, and you can l also go upstairs to see the rooms with all the perfumes.
It is indeed closed on Sundays but if it is open it is worth a peak. The store is right next to Sephora so no excuses here (there is also a very luxurious spa in the maison Guerlain too, and if you can afford it, it is a grandiose place to have a spa treatment).
Finally the last place to go on the avenue is Laduree of course. A notoriously known teahouse for any Parisian, they are famously renowned for their gorgeous macaron. You can get any colour and flavour. No need seat down, you can get a beautiful green little box of macarons to go. They have several teahouses across the city and you can always check their website to see if you are near one too. They serve other patisseries and savouries too.
To finish off this post, another celebrated brasserie in Saint Germain, that is Lipps. It even appeared in an episode of Nigella Lawson, and apparently Kate Moss even celebrated her birthday there (well I did have birthday diner there too for my 21st). It is an iconic Parisian place to go. The menus have classic French dishes and it resides in the heart of the cool and trendy Saint Germain (it is opposite Les Deux Magots and Café Flore crazy well renowned as the hang out place of Picasso, Sartre and tout le tralala…). After a little stroll on the boulevard Saint Germain, and a browse in the famous bookshop La Hune (a very well- known hang out of Monsieur Lagarfeld), you can enjoy a nice meal for good price at Lipps.
Well that’s all folks, now it made me want to go back to Paris for a long weekend and redo all these things I advised you on doing.
If you do go to Paris, enjoy and be a flaneur (stroller) for a day or two…