Paris Memories and Gems
As Audrey Hepburn once famously said: “Paris is always a good idea.”
As I was waiting at St Pancras for my 7am train to Paris on a frigid late November morning, shivering a little more with each passing minute and trying to warm myself up with steaming Americano, I was still contemplating that a visit to Paris on the verge of bitter winter was an excellent idea. Especially since the French capital will be devoid of tourists at this time of the year: imagine having the hill of Montmartre practically all to yourself on a sunny, albeit a little chilly morning… And that’s exactly what I got!
Having four days at my disposal (instead of a usual fleeting weekend) I decided to explore some of my old-time favourite attractions: the Eiffel Tower proudly overlooking its surrounding city, Montmartre still oozing its old school bohemian charm, the Louvre with its overwhelming maze of its seminal artworks from all over the world, the Arc de Triomphe with several grand avenues emanating from it like rays of a blazing star, and Centre Pompidou with its exhilarating collection of contemporary art.
In addition, here are my five newly-discovered attractions that I would highly recommend to anyone on their forthcoming trip to Paris…
Fondation Louis Vuitton, an arresting building rising above the treetops in Bois de Boulogne has been created to be an extraordinary space for contemporary art and culture sponsored by the luxury group LVHM. An exceptional edifice, capturing the creativity and daring of present-day architecture, it has possibly become my new favourite building in the world. The shape of the buildings reminiscent of sails imbues Foundation Louis Vuitton with a sense of movement, lightness and transparency; the building seamlessly integrating into its wooded surroundings: large expanses of glass thought allow for picturesque views of surrounding gardens and greenery. The roof top is absolutely to die for…
Have a sundowner on top of Centre George Pompidou
One of the unforgettable moments of my last visit was slowly sipping a glass of spicy red wine on top of Centre Pompidou (at Restaurant Georges) whilst watching the crimson disk of the sun slowly submerging in the sea of Parisian roofs. The sun was shyly radiating that much needed warmth on a cold November afternoon, and we were bathing in it like a pair of lazy cats under the Parisian skies.
Musee de Quai Branly is home to an enthralling and nicely curated anthropological collection of the art and artefacts of indigenous cultures from around the world – clothes, jewellery, masks, total poles, carvings, and metal works of every kind, just to name just a few – all elegantly displayed in a sleek modern building on the banks of the Seine, a stone throw’s away from the Eiffel Tower. As an avid traveller to many faraway exotic places this was a must-visit museum for me, as I am always fascinated by objects from the indigenous cultures I have had the opportunity to come across throughout my life… The collection of Musee de Quai Branly of well over 3,000 pieces is divided into geographical areas: Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
Climb to the top of Arc de Triomphe
Most of us have seen Arc de Triomphe, the world’s largest triumphal arch and a product of late 18th-century romantic neoclassicism, but how many of us have actually climbed to the top to be presented with astounding 360 degree views of Paris?! From the top, you get a bird’s eye view of an impressive star-shaped configuration of 12 radiating avenues and stunning vistas of Paris cityscape.
A leisurely afternoon at Musée Picasso
Pablo Picasso made his first trip to Paris in 1900 at the tender age of 19. From then on, he spent a considerable amount of his time in the then art capital of Europe. So if you are an art lover and a fan of Picasso, then spending at least a couple of hours browsing the extensive collection of his works is a must-do: the collection in the Musée Picasso in the heart of Marais includes more than 5,000 works and tens of thousands of archive pieces spanning the astounding diversity of Picasso’s oeuvre. The museum has recently reopened following an important renovation, which has allowed the directors to greatly increase the exhibition size.
And now for some of the amazing places to eat and drink we stumbled across…
Camille – hands down my favourite restaurant of this visit! A charming bistro in the heart of the Marais serving delicious french fare, which comes in very generous portions, accompanied by excellent french wines and pleasant service.
Cafe Pouchkine – a Paris outpost of my favourite restaurant in Moscow in Saint-Germain serving Russian food fine dining style, dishes keeping all their hearty home-style flavours. Finish your meal with one of their exquisite cakes, often too beautiful to eat (and incredibly Instagram-friendly!) .
Fragments Coffee – a charing and cosy coffee shop in le Marais, whilst its unembelisshing brick walls might remind you of come place in New York, serving top-notch coffee ( decent coffee is surprisingly difficult to come by in Paris), as well as serving very generous Australian style breakfasts combining seasonally fresh ingredients (think avocado toast with poached eggs).
Da Vito/Moonshiner – Moonshiner, a clandestine drinking spot, or a speakeasy if you will with a prohibition-era ambience, hidden behind a “secret” freezer door in an unassuming pizzeria. The pizza was one of the best I have ever had – perfect thinness and texture inlaid with fresh buffalo mozzarella – and the cocktails at Moonshiner were spot on as digestives afterwards.
Derriere/Andy Wahoo – Derriere is an apartment -style restaurant, a “home away from home” so to speak – I felt like were being fed and entertained at a dear friend’s house, the decor and furniture an eclectic mix of styles…Located just behind the 404 and Andy Wahoo – hence the restaurant’s name – this restaurant serves delicious European fare, focusing on fresh and seasonal ingredients… It was definitely the best venue we visited in terms of ambience, especially on a Friday night.
Andy Wahoo is another favourites of mine: a kitsch bar with a Moroccan-inspired interior aglow with candlelight and staffed with incredibly talented bartenders. Definitely a spot for an inventive cocktail if you are after something sophisticated and a little bit fancy.
Le Bar A Huitres – there are four outposts of le Bar a Huitres throughout Paris. At least one is a must-visit if you are an oyster lover like me!
Where to stay…
Hotel Bourg-Tibourg – fabulous little hotel discreetly hidden in le Marais among many galleries and boutiques, a stone throw’s away from Cathedrale Notre Dame and the Louvre. The rooms are quaint and fastidiously decorated – a truly delightful peace of Parisian life! Hotel Bourg-Tibourg is where I stay every single time I decide on a Paris getaway.
And, as always, a beautiful photo diary to finish…