Smile: In just a few weeks, it’s Paris Fashion Week, so everyone will need to keep their couture carousing up through the start of October. September 23 may seem like a ways away, but not when you’re trying to make restaurant reservations in the city of light. We called on one of our good friends – actress, travel writer, and founder of Rouge NY, Stephanie March – to regale tales of her birthday trip to Paris (which we followed, slightly obsessively, on Instagram). In doing so, she gave us a very effective guide (scroll to the bottom for it) for all your eating slash shopping slash seeing slash drinking needs while you’re there. Whether you’re going for PFW 2014, or just taking a Paris trip for no specific reason at all (our favorite reason to go to Paris) you potato heads are going to like this…
For my birthday this year, two of my dearest friends, Becca and Liz, surprised me by taking me to Paris. They bought the tickets, booked the rooms, made reservations; they did everything but pack for me. It was one of the most thoughtful and delightful surprises I have ever had. The long and short of it is, I spent eight days in Paris, and blew the lid off my birthday. Every now and then, particularly on her birthday, a girl should star in the movie version of her very own life.
Paris with Becca and Liz turned into Paris as seen through the eyes of twenty-six-year-old trust fund kids. It did not get honest to goodness dark outside until 11pm, which means dinner was consumed later, drinks after that, and bedtime around 4am. We stayed in a terrific apartment in the Marais with a courtyard that begged, begged I tell you, for wine, cigs, and gossip well into the wee hours. Our neighbors included a kindly woman who was always watering her plants (and us) and a very amorous couple who enjoyed somewhat vocal lovemaking at 2am sharp. We worshipped them.
Essentially our days played out like this: Get up and beg someone to get you coffee. Get coffee. Get another coffee. Dress and hit the streets. Plan one cultural jaunt, one shopping destination, and one food destination. Let the entropy of the day take over from there. Return to the apartment around 5pm, shower, rest, change, try on outfits for each other, put on heels, and cram into a taxi for our evening on the town. Return around 2am, gossip, and eat cheese. Bedtime at 4am. Rinse. Repeat. One night started with dinner at Ralph’s followed by karaoke at Café Louise, and concluded at Titty Twister at 3am after nearly coming to blows with a very pushy group of models. I will dine off that memory for the rest of my life. You know what’s fun? Being young enough at a nightclub to still enjoy it and old enough to buy your own drinks. #LadyBoss
The girls depart and I am left to my own devices. What to do, what to do? Perhaps I will do a bit less drinking and carrying-on and try to visit another museum. My goals: To see the Pompidou permanent collection and to buy the perfect white blouse at Celine. I bid goodbye to our digs on Rue de Braque and check into the Hotel Shangri-La. I was quite sad to leave our chic, walkable locale, but I was looking forward to room service and the incredible swimming pool. The second I arrived at the hotel, I sent out an enormous bag of laundry, took a dip in the pool, and booked a massage. For two days I did the following: Wake up to a pot of hot chocolate and coffee, visit a museum, shop, return to hotel, order room service, and finish my book. It was heavenly.
It was hard to leave – literally difficult – because I had to buy and pack another suitcase, but well worth it. I have gifts galore, a perfect white blouse from Celine, and the memories of the rollicking, frolicking week I spent in this beauteous city. I sense the beginning of a new birthday tradition.
Hotel Amour: Fun champagne brunch.
Ralph’s: The Frenchies love this place and the garden seating is fabulous.
Le Hibou: This is where the Frenchies come to watch the tourists stand in line to get into
Caviar Kaspia: Old school, old world, Russian caviar bar. Amazing.
Septime: Most popular, easiest for lunch, and lovely.
L’Arpege: In my top ten, for life.
Mini Palais: Sit on the terrace and have a steak frites.
Bistrot Paul Bert: Chic and delicious, just blocks from Septime and every bit as wonderful.
The gummy candy stand on Boulevard Saint Germain, just behind Le Comptoir: This sounds weird, but it was truly hilarious and amazing. If one needs to buy candy necklaces or giant gummy alligators for the kids back home, this is the place to do it.
Café Louise (for the karaoke room downstairs)
The Louvre: “Winged Victory” is heart-stoppingly beautiful and merits the price of admission alone. I like to visit museums frequently, but I don’t believe in staying more than an hour. Go often and don’t stay too long. That’s the trick to enjoying the experience.
Musée d’Orsay: A nice way to kill an hour, although frankly, the interior is looking dated. The materials used are a bit heavy for such a soaring, light-filled space. That being said, a glance at the real “Starry Night” is worth the trip.
Jardin des Tuileries: A daytime stroll is a must, but do not underestimate the joy of a midnight ride in the summer amusement park. We rode The Rainbow and laughed for five solid minutes.
Pompidou Center: A fantastic permanent collection and the best view of Paris, bar none, from the sixth level.
Jacquemart-André: This former private home houses a terrific collection and the house is a show-stopper. It’s Paris’ version of the Frick.
Sainte-Chapelle: My favorite church in France, maybe [all of] Europe.
Musée des Archives Nationales: A charming spot in the Marais with knockout rococo interiors and a lovely courtyard to rest your feet. The café across the Rue des Archives called La Terasse des Archives is a delightful spot for a champagne pick-me-up.
And pretty much every little boutique in the Marais…
*Photos courtesy of Stephanie March. Header photo via Vogue US.