Paris is known for its exquisite cuisine, extraordinary shops and dizzying array of museums and cafés. But to really enjoy Europe’s most sublime city, do what the locals do: Keep it simple.
Author Sarah Horne Photography Bruno Fert / Picturetank
DAY THREE | Avail yourself of the very good brunch at Mama Shelter (and marvel at the ingenuity of their chic tubes of butter) before taking the metro to the Abbaye St. Germain des Prés (1), a jumping-off point for shopping on the Rue du Bac and the Rue de Seine.
Laden with handsome staples from Bensimon Autour du Monde (2) (where the French buy their slip-on tennis shoes and Provence-worthy resort wear) it’s time to settle the great macaron debate on the Rue Bonaparte, beginning at Ladurée, where patrons are banned from taking pictures of the mouth-watering meringue-based sandwich cookies. Buy a macaron here, then do the same at nearby Pierre Hermé, the shop owned by a former baker at Laduree who broke off on his own and thus started a macaron war. A taste test proves deliciously inconclusive, so you resist doing further resarch and go for a stroll in the Jardin du Luxembourg (3), where old gents play chess in the shadows of elegant trees.
Return to the Right Bank and walk from the Arc de Triomphe down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées to Avenue George V, where you’ll repair to the Four Seasons George V Hotel Spa (4) and feel very much like Marie Antoinette as you are guided to a room named for the French queen and undergo a 50-minute Sodashi facial (all that wine and cheese is a tad dehydrating). Afterward, plunge into the hot tub and do some laps in the pool surrounded by murals depicting the palace of Versailles.
In the afternoon, you stroll the banks of the Canal St. Martin (5) in a blissful state. The neighborhood is packed with locals doing the same—you can’t find a single soul tapping away furiously on his BlackBerry.
Since you booked dinner at Frenchie (6), a casual bistro tucked away on an alley near Les Halles, months ago, you have one of the most sought-after reservations in the city. Chef Gregory Marchand, the French-born alum of the Gramercy Tavern and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, won’t mind that you’re not dressed to the nines. At this 22-seat joint there’s a familial vibe and the food is exactly the kind of well-executed, unpretentious fare you’d hope to find in an all-but-secret alley in Paris.
Afterward, you hail a cab back to Mama Shelter, where a DJ is on the decks at the bar, and the assembled nightcrawlers sport designer stubble or Bianca Jagger– style catsuits. Before you know it, you’re up in your room, downloading a French hip-hop mix on iTunes, wondering if maybe some of that ineffable Parisian cool hasn’t rubbed off on you after all.
After losing three pounds in Paris despite eating five meals a day, SARAH HORNE is a firm believer in the French Paradox.