Paris is always the place to be in September. Getting back to Paris from Arcachon/Bordeaux was an ordeal on the TGV; the trains were running late and they were jammed. And once we got to the Gare de Montparnasse station, it was almost impossible to find the taxi line or a taxi. Leaving the hotel, I saw some notices that reminded me why I like Paris in September. The journées européennes du patrimoine, or heritage days, were the 17th and 18th of September. Sadly, my flight home was scheduled for the 15th. Chalk it up to bad planning.
The public can visit, free of charge, buildings that are normally off-limits. The Élysée Palace, for one. In years past I have gone into the Institute de France and lounged in the chairs of members of the Academie Francais, a portion of the 13th-century Paris city wall of King Philippe Auguste in the courtyard of a Crédit Municipal bank building, and the Hôtel de Sens. Some of the other backstage things on offer were visits to the Crazy Horse, the Senate of France, Hôtel de Matignon, the residence of the Prime Minister, the Gobelins Tapestry Works and the Mobilier National (where all the state furniture is kept). Should you be going to France in September, I suggest planning around those dates.
I still had a few days to wander around Paris, and shop and museum hop, so all was not lost!
There was so much traffic all around Paris. The streets were bustling and the restaurants were full. All good signs, though the traffic was a bit of an annoyance.
We walked down the rue de Grenelle on the Left Bank. A lot of new stores had opened. Aside from Then, a store featuring cashmere for men and women, there were boutiques from Scotch and Soda, Redone, Rochas and 45R. All sorts of good things.
I love the bookstores of Paris. Unlike in New York, there are so many of them. I was looking for some books on art, and a new cookbook or two. La Hune, one of the best addresses in Paris, has morphed into more of a gallery. There were many cool photography books, and a display of photographs for sale.
La Hune, 16, rue de l’Abbaye
A few short blocks away was the all-purpose L’Ecume des Pages, i.e.the Last Page in English. There is a large room full of books on art, artists, fashion and photography. There are good selections of children’s books, travel, cooking, history and biography, fiction and nonfiction. All set up for easy browsing.
L’Ecume des Pages, 174 Bd. Saint-Germain
Maison Standards does clean collections for men and women. Attractive casual looks, with the right proportions fill the store. There also new stores on the rue Bonaparte: Ba&Sh, Paule Ka, Majestic, and High. And sweets from Pierre Hermé.
Maison Standards, 68, rue Bonaparte
Nearby was Cotélac, offering fun, and not-too-expensive clothing for men and women. The designers mix fabrics and stitches for creatively updated clothing. There is a New York branch on Lexington Avenue that carries the women’s clothing.
Cotélac, 30, rue St. Sulpice
The Flore beckoned for an apéro, as the French call apéritifs. Because the weather was so nice, it was, of course, jammed. We were meeting a Parisian friend for dinner at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Le Palaquin. When we arrived she was talking to another diner, a New Yorker, who we knew as well. Everyone is travelling these days.
Café de Flore, 172 Blvd. St-Germain; Le Palaquin, 12, rue Princesse
The next morning the skies were threatening. The entire day was grey, but luckily the rain stayed away. There was less traffic than normal on the Champs-Élysées, and the Avenue Montagne beckoned.
This is one of the streets in Paris for five-star shopping. Marni’s newish designer has re-vamped it, and the label is attracting customers from the worlds of hip-hop and the arts. I took home the blue blouse in the sales-person’s hand. The prices are quite a bit gentler with the dollar at parity.
Marni, 57, Avenue Montaigne
As usual there was a line at Chanel. And a much smaller one at Saint Laurent.
Chanel, 42 and 51, Avenue Montaigne Saint Laurent, 53, Avenue Montaigne
Chloe has opened a two-story store. The ground floor is primarily footwear and handbags. Footwear as in mostly sneakers and sneaker-like shoes. The second floor is where you’ll find the clothing.
Chloe, 50, Avenue Montaigne
Paris Fashion Week was about to start. Workers were rushing to finish the Jacquemus boutique so it could open on 26 September. Simon Porte Jacquemus is a young French designer who is doing very well. Check it out when you are next in Paris.
Jacquemus, 58, Avenue Montaigne
Hermès was the next stop. I needed a new desk agenda cover, and none were available in the States. We waited for a sales person for quite a while. All the while a sales person was chatting with a good (I assume) customer, serving her Hermès coffee on an Hermès tray. After waiting and waiting, I discovered that Hermès is having supply-chain issues just like everyone else. No agendas until the end of the year. I hope the Euro stays at parity.
Hermès, 24, rue Faubourg St. Saint-Honoré
We were meeting a friend for lunch at Cova. Running a little early, we decided to walk into St.-Germain-L’Auxerrois. The church is across the street from the backside of the Louvre; and I must have walked past it hundreds of times. The complex spans five hundred years of architectural styles. At one point the church was the king’s parish church. The painters Boucher and Chardin and the great architect Le Vau are buried here. On view is an unusual 16th century triptych boasting panels showing the Annunciation, the Garden of Eden, Original Sin, with a diorama at the center, intricately carved with scenes of medieval life. It had been original to the church and was confiscated and sold after the French Revolution. It was later bought back and re-installed. It reminded me that Paris is a city of great depth and of the beauty you can find exploring the city’s many monuments.
There was a large terrasse outside Cova. Even on a gloomy day dining en plein air was magic.
Cova, 1, rue du Pont-Neuf
One of my favorite stores in Paris is Le BHV, or Bazaar de l’Hotel de Ville. It was acquired by the group that owns Galeries Lafayette, renovated and restored. It is a store dedicated to DIY decorating, home style, tablewear and more. I bought all the doorknobs, pulls and other hardware there for several apartments I have redone. Exploring the store always yields great finds.
The ground floor is filled with tableware and objets instead of handbags. There’s another floor or so of clothing and cosmetics, but the focus is on the home.
There is a full floor with goods for the cooking and presentation of food. These fun pieces include frog shaped pitchers and eggcups, bowls with shrimps as handles and bowls and plates covered in flowers. They do ship if you want to send your finds back home.
Le BHV Marais, 52, rue de Rivoli
As we left BHV, we headed north into the Marais. On the rue des Archives we happened upon an amazing store for cats and dogs. Virtually anything you might need for your pet is there. Our Westie now has a new sturdy leather leash.
Moustaches, 32 rue des Archives
We then cut across the rue des Francs-Bourgeois. It was a Tuesday, and the gates and gardens of the Archives Nationales were open. The Hôtel de Soubise and the Hôtel de Rohan were closed. The two hotel particuliers hold the archives. Normally, you can access the museums highlighting the national treasures. On the heritage days, and on several other organized days, the public can access the private apartments in the two buildings. The includes some magnificent salons and a dining room decorated with Chinoiserie monkeys.
Archives Nationales, 60, rue du Francs Bourgeois
Further up the street is the fun and colorful Antoine and Lili boutique. The brand is known for its saturated clothing with a boho-chic feel.
Antoine and Lili, 51 rue des Francs Bourgeois
A door had been left open on the street, possibly in preparation for the weekend heritage days. We walked in, of course. The Blancs-Manteaux church dates from the 17th century and is adorned with beautiful Rococo-style interiors. Sometimes there are even concerts held in the church.
Notre-dame-des-Blancs-Manteaux, 12 rue Blancs-Manteaux with an entrance in Francs Bourgeois
The fashion set of Paris has been buzzing about the new Dover Street Little Market, housed in the Hôtel de Coulanges, a classified building that was home to Europe House and the Parisian Cultural Affairs Department. Everyone wonders how Dover Street Market got the lease to the government space.
It is a large hotel particulier with three wings and a large shared garden. The wings on the right and center currently house several art projects. You are actually encouraged to play in the mud here. Who knows what the interiors were when the 18th century building housed the local government. Everything now is completely stripped out.
The central wing overlooks the garden. It has a large original fireplace and parquet floors with art placed around the room.
The books and clothing are in the left hand wing. According to the staff, this is a pop-up until the end of the year before it reopens as a re-done retail space. There are two floors that have about ten brands for sale, with more on the way. The clothes are cutting edge.
Art is mixed into the selling space. I am very curious as to what the finished product will look like. It was time to head across the river to dinner with a good friend who had landed in town that morning.
Dover Street Little Market, 35-37 rue des Francs Bourgeois
The next morning was sunny with changing clouds. I was relieved as a day of downpours had been forecast. Today was the museum day. We were meeting a Parisian friend at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs to see the exhibit, Shocking, The Surreal Worlds of Elsa Schiaparelli. It is a must see.
Schiaparelli designed at the same time as Chanel, and they shared many friends in the world of arts and letters. Schiap, as she was known, worked with a greater sense of humor and wit than her competitor. When she started designing, the first things she sold were these trompe-l’œil sweaters.
The exhibit is extremely well done. Schiap worked with Cocteau, Dalí, Bebè Bérard, Man Ray, Méret Oppenheim and others. Their collaborations are explained with an attention to detail. Exploring the world of surrealism is always compelling, and this show does it with style.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 107, rue de Rivoli
Stepping back into the real world of Paris, this is what the rue de Rivoli looks like most of the time — these days. Anne Hildago, the much-hated mayor of Paris, has banned cars from this important street. Taxis and bikes are allowed, but most of the time the street is empty. It is also much more dangerous to cross, as neither bikers, scooters or skateboarders bother to stop at traffic lights. Just like in New York.
Loulou is located in the Jardin de Carrousel adjacent to the Arts-Décoratifs. The placement is perfect when the weather is warm. The Italian cuisine is always spot on. We had called for reservations, and were told that none were available for the next few months. Stopping by the seating area, we found many tables available. Go figure.
LouLou, 107, rue de Rivoli
The plan was to spend the afternoon at the Louvre. That did not happen. I have never seen the museum so jammed. And the crowd, for the most part, were not exactly art-lovers. Posing for and taking selfies, interacting with their phones — and sometimes their friends — took precedence. We decided to flee.
It was a beautiful day, and the Pont de Carrousel was not crowded and offered beautiful views to the east and the west.
The views are soul-cleansing.
The Carré des Antiquaires or the Carre Rive Gauche is right on the other side of the bridge. It stretches from the rue Bonaparte to the rue de Bac, and from the Quai Voltaire to the Blvd Saint-Germain. There are about 110 different boutiques, all filled with interesting finds. The galleries above specialize in clocks, marine and science objects. It is not the Louvre, but there is much to look at.
Gabrielle Laroche is an expert who pulls together incredible furniture and objects that have stood the test of time. This Venetian bed makes a statement.
And obviously there are stores that are full of FFF, or fine French furniture. There are also stores with cutting edge modern furniture in this area, too. Browsing done, we headed back to the hotel to pack.
We wanted to dine close to home, so we booked the Bistrot de Paris. This is a neighborhood hangout, and it was one of Serge Gainsbourg’s go-to places. We had some French classics like os à moelle, or roasted bone marrow, Poulet grand mère, a pave of salmon with citrus butter, and some decadent profiteroles.
We headed back to New York the next morning, and are already missing Paris.
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.