Ooh la la, vive la France, c’est la vie – plus any other linguistic cliché you care to cull from the French dictionary – it’s Bastille Day across the Channel! While Parisians line the Champs-Elysées to watch the traditional 14 Juillet parade, we prefer to celebrate by reminding you of some of our favourite things about the French capital (not including our new France guidebook, and political ardour notwithstanding).
In no particular order, our pick of Some of the Best Things in Paris*
• Innovation – the French flair for the unusual and quirky is perfectly portrayed by the offbeat decor at Hotel Particulier Montmartre (right). Other good places to investigate Parisian quirk and ensure the revolutionary spirit is alive and well include the Pompidou Centre (check out the shop for modern homewares), L’Institut du Monde Arabe (for incroyable architecture), the Marais (for its independent boutiques and bars), and cult style-store Colette (for avant garde up-and-coming consumer goods).
• Boulevards – the city’s grand neoclassical avenues typify Parisian pomp and theatricality. Admire Paris’ unique layout from atop the 200-year-old Arc de Triomphe (left), the epicentre of bravura city-planner Baron Haussmann’s star of boulevards; it’s worth clambering up its many interal stairs to peer down the Champs-Elysées and enjoy pleasingly photogenic views down to the Place de la Concorde and up to La Défense.
• Millefeuilles, madeleines, and other pâtisserie pleasures – Paris’ most resplendent bakeries include Gérard Mulot and Pierre Hermé in Saint-Germain (many a fashionista has mistaken the mid-morning lines of ladies snaking onto the pavement for a sample-sale queue); Fauchon on Place de la Madeleine (if you can’t work out the house speciality here, then, frankly, you’re a lost cause); and Stohrer (topical tidbit: Paris’ oldest pâtisserie was opened by Louis XV’s pastry chef). Bed down at Hôtel Récamier (right) and you’re also within drooling distance of Saint-Germain chocolatier Pierre Marcolini on Rue de Seine (+33 (0)1 44 07 39 07).
• Brasseries – ok, ok, it’s another foodie thing, but you can’t visit Saint-Germain without stopping at one of Paris’ venerable triumvirate of café-brasseries: Café de Flore (+33 (0)1 45 48 55 26) and Brasserie Lipp (+33 (0)1 45 48 53 91) on Boulevard Saint-Germain; and Les Deux Magots (+33 (0)1 45 48 55 25) on Place Saint-Germain des Prés.
• Couture – surely the natural home of all things frou-frou, frilly and feminine, French fashion leads the way with its cutting-edge haute couture, courtesy of Christian Dior, Givenchy and, of course, Chanel. Visit the flagship store at 31, rue Cambon (+33 (0)1 42 86 28 00) to get your hit of that signature black-and-white packaging. If a bouclé two-piece is beyond your budget, envelop yourself in monochromatic chic at Hotel Keppler in the 16th instead (pick a Superior Suite and you’ll get an eyeful of Eiffel as well…)
• Teatime – who can resist those candy-coloured pastel pastilles in their lavender-hued Ladurée boxes? Make a pilgrimage to sample the macaroons at that most famous of tearooms on the Champs-Elysées (+33 (0)1 40 75 08 75); or savour less touristy teatime treats at impeccable Mariages Frères, 260 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré (+33 (0)1 46 22 18 54); Anglophile Tea Caddy in the Latin Quarter (+33 (0)1 43 54 15 56); or fabulously expensive Maison des Trois Thés on rue Saint Médard (+33 (0)1 43 36 93 84). Kill two elegant birds with one stone at chic Champs-Elysées stay Hôtel Daniel (left), where overnighting Smith members can get a free Mariages Frères tea for two AND Ladurée macaroons when they flash their membership cards. More member offers…
*Note: this is not an exhaustive list, so please no scandalised comments about how many marvellous things we’ve overlooked: for more of our favourite things in Paris, visit the Mr & Mrs Smith Paris destination guide or check out the fantabulous new France hotel guide by Mr & Mrs Smith, out now.