Being back in Paris was one of the high points of this year. This trip had originally been planned for March 2020. Enough said. The weather in Paris fluctuates wildly in November. And while we were greeted with grey and rainy weather, it did not detract from the sheer excitement of being there.
We were staying in the 7th, where during our evening walks we would smell the smoke from fireplaces in the hotels particulaires that line the neighborhood. Paris has changed since 2019; confronting the same kind of changes I have noticed in New York. Favorite stores and restaurants were missing, but a plethora of new businesses have emerged; and they were all brimming with customers. Funnily enough, apps for grocery delivery services have come to Paris, too.
Normally I am in Paris a few times a year. I had never really been a planner-aheader when traveling, but the virus has changed that. I was amazed to see how many gallery and museum exhibits there were to choose from. Everything is by timed entry, so I reserved tickets in advance. I had never bothered making resto reservations in the past, as I had my locals and knew the patrons. But who knew what to expect? I had a short list of restos I wanted to try, so I did make reservations by phone a week or so in advance. Otherwise, the plan was to wander and enjoy the city and its delights. The six-day trip was a start, but definitely not long enough.
The only downside of the trip was the flight. American Airlines landed at around seven a.m. Our driver got stuck in traffic, and we got to the hotel after nine. Our first mission was to get our passe sanitaire, so we could get into restos and museums. A pharmacy two blocks from our hotel was on the government approved list, and within half an hour we were good to go. After a French breakfast, we headed back to the hotel and checked in. And then hit the streets of the rive gauche. A bit of shopping and then lunch at Au Sauvignon, a local wine bar with the best charcuterie, cheese, foie gras and smoked salmon plates. All paired with scrumptious house wines.
Au Sauvignon, 80, rue des Saints-Pères
After lunch we headed out to browse, stopping at the Maison Margiela for some clever inspiration.
Maison Margiela, 13 rue de Grenelle
BDC, short for Boys Don’t Cry, had opened right before the pandemic. French fashion for men had been super BCBG, but this new boutique offers clothing from Jil Sander, J.W. Anderson, Bode, Telfar, Palm Angels and more. Michael got a super warm puffer with appliquéd white birds. And if you need a camel sweater with a teddy bear appliquéd on the front, this is your place.
BDC, 62, rue des Saints-Pères
Paris has changed in other ways. We had heard about the masses of bicycles overrunning Paris, mowing down pedestrians on the Rue de Rivoli and other streets. But in November, few were to be seen. What we did see were loads of charging stations for electric vehicles all over the city. Something New York is going to need.
Dinner was at Bouillon Racine, now considered an historic monument. Bouillons were the forefathers of brasseries. The food was as good as the decor. I had a delicious hand cut steak tartare with basil and pine nuts, and Michael savored a duck confit with potatoes crisply soaked in duck fat. And an ile-flottante to cap it off. The prices are gentle, and there is an extensive wine list.
Bouillon Racine, 3, rue Racine
The next morning we were up early, and headed to the Marais. The Musée Carnavalet has just undergone a five-year renovation, and re-opened at the end of May. It is located in two combined hôtel particuliers, and a basement level has been added. It is the museum of the history of Paris, from pre-history to the present. Entry is free, but timed entry reservations are needed.
The new space was designed by Snøhetta and Chatillon, and is much lighter and more modern in feel. This space is dedicated to store signs from centuries past. They were often pictorial as the literacy rate was pretty low. With over 6,000 pieces in the collection, there is a lot to see. The rooms flow by century. Digital displays are placed all over and are child friendly. I felt that if time had allowed, two visits would have been better. There are also beautiful gardens, and a delightful restaurant.
Along with the signs are rescued storefronts, and there are rooms full of boiseries and furnishings. When it is time for the French revolution, there is a sad collection of pieces that belonged to the imprisoned Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI in their final days. Also letters by Madame de Sévigné and Robespierre, and many others.
Marcel Proust’s bedroom/writing room was lined in cork. Proust kept his childhood bed and did most of his writing while in bed. There is a dedicated exhibit to the Proust opening in December. Gertrude Stein’s writing space is on display, too. A nice way to travel through time.
Musée Carnavalet, 23 rue Sévigné
Lunch was at Ma Bourgogne, located on the Place des Voges. There is a nice terrasse under the arcades of the Place, but it was a bit damp so we ate inside. As the name indicates, the food is from Burgundy. Salads, escargots, steaks, fish and more. The building probably dates to the 17th century.
Ma Bourgogne, 19 Place des Vosges
There are plenty of stores and galleries in the Marais. Almost too many. Autour du Monde and Bensimon had been two separate stores. Autour du Monde sold home goods with a lot of taste and attitude. Bensimon sold very exclusive surplus clothing. They are now combined, with locations all over Paris. It is a must-stop shop.
Home, Autour du Monde, Bensimon Concept Store, 8, rue des Francs-Bourgeois
Arty Dandy is full of clothing, amusing sneakers, accessories and home decor. The candles are a funny touch. Connards and connasses are the French words referring to stupid cows (female) and their male counterparts. The French certainly do have a sense of humor.
Arty Dandy, 46, rue de Turenne
There are many international and local galleries in the Marias. We dropped into Perrotin, located in a very large space, with several exhibits. Emily Mae Smith‘s Harvesters is a humorous look at an imaginary world, and Barry McGee‘s Fuzz Gathering has a different take. Both are worth a look.
Perrotin, 76, rue de Turenne
Nearby is another shopping destination. The Frankie Shop has a well known small boutique on the LES. The shop here is much larger with a much bigger selection, and includes some home goods. Half the customers in the contemporary priced store seemed to be Americans with of a taste for the now.
The Frankie Shop, 14, rue Sainte-Claude
The next stop was the Palais-Royal. Visually it is a tranquilizer for the soul. Galleries and shops line the arcades. Some people even get to live here; Colette and Cocteau were once among them.
The Rick Owens boutique was on the itinerary. It is full of a good selection of his clothing, furniture and decor. His replica gets a change of clothing now and then. While I was trying things on I noticed that I had torn my Margiela puffer. We headed over to the Margiela store on the rue Richelieu. They were kind enough to take me to their tailor who works nearby.
Rick Owens, 130-133, Galerie de Valois
Diamant Couture is a treasure if you are a shopper in Paris. Situated close to the Palais Royale, they do tailoring for all the best brands and stores in the city. They fixed my jacket in five minutes, without charge. While I was there, a Parisienne came to pick up her treasured vintage Levis that had been saved and tweaked to perfection. Merci, Maison Margiela.
Diamant Couture, 15, rue Molière
Joséphine Chez Dumonet is on the rue de Cherche-Midi just near the Boulevard Montparnasse. I had been wanting to eat there for years, but it was always full. Reserving ahead was the trick. When we arrived at the tiny resto for our 9:30 reservation, the maitre d’ was beside himself. His online reservation system had hiccuped that day, and had given anyone reserving that night a table. He kindly asked if we would mind waiting at the (very tiny) bar.
We were given glasses of Champagne and a terrine starter was brought to the bar — gratis. About 45 minutes later we were at table. Known for boeuf bourguignon, steak tartare and soufflé, the food did not disappoint. We opted for a cheese course instead of dessert, and were shocked when the bill came. None of the wine we drank was on the bill. I doubt that would ever happen in New York. I have the gentleman’s name and number for the next visit.
Joséphine Chez Dumonet, 114, rue du Cherche-Midi
We wandered around the rive gauche some more the next morning. There were so many new stores. One of them is an A.P.C. outlet store. 50% off everything or more. Who doesn’t love a bargain? They have another outlet in Montmartre, but this store was much more convenient.
A.P.C. Outlet, 40, rue Jacob
It was still grey that day. We were heading to the 8th to meet a friend for lunch. We decided to walk across the Seine to catch the Metro. The Pont des Arts had long been famously covered with locks. Couples would happily attach engraved locks to the bridge and toss the keys into the river. Unhappily, the locks weighed too much for the bridge to bear and so the new railings are lined with Plexiglass. To the middle left with the flags is the newly renovated and recently re-opened Samaritaine.
After lunch we did some shopping and looked at more galleries on the Avenue Montaigne. Then we headed to a small shop that only does sur-measure. Daniel Lévy has been making custom made shirts for over thirty years. They are perfect, made in the best fabrics, as are the softly constructed jackets.
There are many fabrics to chose from as well as collar, cuff and monogram choices. Michelle Boor, a friend living in France, does Micky — sur-measure shirts created to make women look better with Daniel’s help. Shirts for men and women are ordered by appointment only at the shop. I am eagerly waiting mine.
Daniel Levy, 3 rue du Cirque, email@example.com for an appointment or 33 (0)6 70 52 68 39
The next stop was the much talked about Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection. The Bourse had been used for years for fashion and trade shows. Mr. Pinault renovated it beautifully. Most people who had seen the show prefer the building to the art in there right now. But the Urs Fischer burning sculpture, Untitled, in the rotunda representing the Abduction of the Sabine Women in wax is a real attention getter. Classical when it was unveiled, most of it has now burned. Limbs litter the floor. The sculpture, and the now headless statue of the artist Rudolph Stingel, will burn until the end of the exhibition.
Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection, 2, rue Viarmes
This small, very dear, fruit and vegetable store dressed its windows with a charming family of dogs who tilted and turned their heads all day and all night.
La Poule au Pot was a 1980’s late evening hot spot at the edge of Les Halles, frequented by many a celebrity and pop star. The now vintage 1950’s restaurant was not meant for fine dining. Chef Jean-François Piège restored the ’50’s glamour of the storied bistro, but kept the regular’s metal name plates as a form of decoration. The food is delectable cuisine bourgeoise. The tastiest os à moelle, hashis parmentier, and other goodies are on the menu. It’s not as raucous as it used to be, but the food is a whole lot better.
La Poule au Pot, 9, rue Vauvillers
Saturday we headed to L’Hôtel de la Marine, covered with a post this spring on NYSD. It is indeed a beautiful addition to Paris. The views from the balcony are unbeatable, even on a cloudswept day. And don’t miss the restaurants Mimosa, from the same Jean-François Piège, and Cafe Laperouse.
The Al Thani collection opened mid-November with a small selection of outstanding pieces from the collection. Among them are a Han Dynasty seater gold bear and a small bust of the Emperor Hadrian, whose beard was added in the 13th century by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The mantle was added in Venice in the Renaissance. Don’t miss it.
L’ Hôtel de la Marine, 2, Place de la Concorde
Around the corner there was another shopping spree to be had. Leclaireur has expanded, and is full of chic designer clothing, accessories and lots of fun pieces for the home. Fornasetti is a specialty.
Leclaireur, 10, rue Boissy d’Anglas
Hermès is just up the street. It was jam-packed with locals and tourists, especially from Japan. I had wanted to pick up a a treat, some jewelry perhaps, but it was just too crowded both up and downstairs. I guess that is a good problem for them to have.
Hermès, 24, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
Michael had also been looking for some shirt options. Prada was just down the street. The men’s store had gone full-blown streetwear. There was not a men’s shirt to be had, unless you wanted one dotted with rhinestones. There was a nice selection of gifts, though. Sporting items are on the left; soccer balls, yoga mats, basketballs and more. And at right; dog-centric totes, coats, leashes and collars.
Prada, 6, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
It took 16 years to renovate the iconic Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf. The fin-de-siecle department is now open and a big draw. The river facing part of the building is a Cheval Blanc hotel, with decor that is a bit chilly and over-perfumed. The whole store used to have river views, but now they are only available from the dining spaces on the top floor, with views of the iconic peacock art-nouveau fresco.
There are many floors of luxury shopping available. I found it all a bit claustrophobic, and prefer the tons of other shopping options in the city. It is nice to have it back; and in much better shape.
Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf, 9, rue de la Monnaie
We met friends for lunch at Cova. Right across the street from Samaritaine, the Milanese institution was purchased by LMVH. Serving breakfast, lunch, and apéros, the space has the feel of the original. The food is delicious, and if you need a panettone, get it here. Samples are handed out during lunch. Dine on the ground floor or upstairs. It’s a sweet and savory treat.
Pasticceria Cova, 1, rue du Pont-Neuf
We walked back to the rive gauche with our friends. Christmas trees are not a huge thing in Paris. Flower shops will have a small, perfect, selection of smaller trees and decorations, but if you want a real tree it has to be ordered. We had dinner that night in one of my favorite Italian restos. The food was delicious, but it was super crowded and no one asked for our passe-sanitiare. Every museum and restaurant is obliged to log in your code for entry. And everyone else did.
Sunday was a slow and lovely day. Our good friends Lyssa Horne and Marc Arnall were hosting a Thanksgiving lunch for a wide group of friends, French, American, English and more. Marc is a talented chef and our turkey was boned and rolled with a duck confit stuffing and foie gras. Miam miam. After lunch we strolled around their Montmartre neighborhood, passing many landmarks. The Moulin de La Galette boasts the only remaining windmill in town. It is a neighborhood that needs to be discovered.
We had tickets to the World of Banksy Expo near the 9th. Assembled in a warehouse-like space, it was fun, irreverent, and full of lively people.
World of Banksy Expo, 44, rue du Faubourg Montmartre
The lights were on in front of Café de Flor and Les Deux Magots. And a bustling Christmas Market was teeming next to the church.
We had a dinner booked Sunday dinner at the Lipp as so many restos are closed on Sundays. We like the tables at the back and had some conversations with some of our neighbors, who were from India and Bordeaux. The food was as good as ever.
A real Paris moment happened on the way out of the restaurant when we ran into Pierre and Connie Crosby, with their son Pierre (who is a contributor to NYSD), who were sitting at the banquette on the right. You can see their heads at the end table. We had no idea they were in town. Pierre Jr. and Connie were finishing up as they were on the same early flight we would take back, but Pierre Sr. joined us for a lovely catch up and nightcap at the Flore. Everyone was so glad to be back in town.
The next morning, and our last day, was sunny and crisp. Paris is full of small and important private museums. The Musée Jacquemart-André was the private home of major collectors Edouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart. If you have never been there, it is a must-visit as the collection is impressive. The couple amassed one of the finest collections of Italian art in France. After Edouard’s death, Nélie travelled in the Orient to add more precious works to the collection. This was their home, and it is preserved as such. It is now owned by the Institut de France.
There is currently an impressive show of the works of Botticelli. The works of the painter are scarce in part because he was influenced by Savonarola, the monk who replaced the Medicis as the ruler of Florence in the late 15th century. Savonarola encouraged the burning of works of art to bring back a “sense of purity.” Sadly, Botticelli fell under his spell and many of his works were destroyed. The exhibit is wide-ranging and beautiful.
The Musée Jacquemart-André, 158, Boulevard Haussmann
Back on the other side of the river, we stopped at another favorite local, Le Pré aux Clercs. The bistro offers a well priced menu, with a big assortment of duck and steak specialties. This bistro always welcomes and hits the spot. The Christmas decorations add to the Parisian ambience.
Le Pré aux Clercs, 30, rue Bonaparte
There was a bit more shopping to do. There are men’s and women’s boutiques on the the Seine. I wish that we had a Dries van Noten boutique here in New York. The store and the merchandise are elegant, and with a street edge these days.
Dries van Noten, 7, Quai Malaquais
A stroll up the Rue du Bac was next. Our flight back to New York was horrendously early; getting up at 5 a.m. for a flight is not my idea of a good time. The destination was La Grande Épicerie de Paris, with its huge selection of food for take-away, and other delectables. We then stopped into a favorite shop that carries very reasonably priced and chic decor for the home, clothing, books, and more.
Le Grand Compoir de Paris, 116, rue du Bac
It was great to see that Biba was still buzzing. Many of the smaller, lower priced French boutiques did not survive the lockdowns. Biba is a neighborhood favorite, family owned since 1974, and offers on-trend looks for women.
Biba la Boutique, 18, Rue de Sèvres
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Carré Rive Gauche. The area between the Boulevard Saint-German and the river is a multi-block area run by an association of galleries, antiquaires and dealers. Window shopping here offers a museum-like experience. You can also discover Serge Gainsbourg’s much graffitied house at 5, bis rue Verneuil, untouched since his death. Purchased years ago by his daughter, Charlotte, it is set to open as a museum to the entertainer. Ashtrays and glasses included.
Now, that’s a good reason to come back.
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.