No day in Paris, or indeed France, should begin without a delicious croissant and good strong coffee. Considered by some to make the best croissant in the whole city, the perfectly golden crescents at Fabrice Le Bourdat’s Blé Sucre are light, buttery and devilishly moreish – you’ll need a second just to make sure you weren’t dreaming about how good the first one was. Take your treasured paper bag to a picnic table at the nearby Square Armand Trousseau and enjoy your breakfast al fresco before stopping in at one of the many cafes nearby for your espresso fix.
Stroll up Rue de Fauborg St Antoine to Bastille Metro and hop on Line 1 to the Tuileries. Take a walk along the pale gravel pathways and watch the children playing with their boats in the ornamental lake before heading up to the Rue St Honoré, one of the oldest streets in Paris, for an hour of browsing some of the city’s most exclusive boutiques. From the fanciful windows at Christian Louboutin to the fashion-forward collaborations at Collette, this stretch of sidewalk offers more chicness per metre than any other place in the city. Make sure to take a detour through the magnificent Place Vendome, home of the Ritz, the French Ministry of Justice and some of the city’s most exclusive jewelry stores including Van Cleef and Arpels and Piaget.
It’s a well known fact that shopping, not least window shopping, is a tiring pastime – by now you’ll no doubt be in need of refreshment. So step inside Mariage Frères, at the Carrousel du Louvre, where you’ll be transported to a different, altogether more refined era, as dapper waiters in long white aprons move noiselessly around the tables serving up the finest teas. Founded in 1854, by Henri and Edouard Mariage, this Paris institution also offers delicious salads, market-fresh tartares and seriously tempting desserts.
After lunch, it’s time to jump back on the metro to Gare d’Austerlitz, to while away your afternoon at the Jardin des Plantes – the city’s sprawling botanical garden, built in the 1700s. Take a book and find a sunny spot, where you can read, or pretend to as you engage in that most Parisian of pursuits, people-watching. When it’s time to stretch your legs again, take a wander around the recently restored 19th-century tropical greenhouses – the structures themselves are quite spectacular and the heady scents of the flowers will transport you to warmer climes.
On your way back to the metro, stop in at the Grand Mosque just opposite the gates of the botanical gardens. It still functions as a place of worship, but also offers a restaurant, delightful outdoor tea room, souk-style shop and even a hammam (women only). The Moroccan-style sweet mint tea and moreish baklava are reason enough to drop by.
From there it’s a short hop on the metro to Cite for a sunset stroll among the beautiful buildings of Île de la Cite and along the Seine – including the imposing and iconic Notre Dame cathedral. From the cathedral, stroll across the Pont de l’Archeveque to the Quartier Latin, the city’s famed bohemian and university district. Dinner tonight is at Christophe, a bistro in the traditional Paris style, run by the young and energetic Christophe Philippe. With ingredients sourced from local suppliers across the country, and excellent wines to boot, the southern-born Christophe brings a touch of sunshine to classic bistro favorites such as confit de canard and creme brûlée.
Round off your evening with a nightcap in an outdoor cafe in the winding streets surrounding the nearby St Etienne du Mont church. If the scene looks familiar, it is: the church steps are the spot where the aspiring writer Gil (played by Owen Wilson) meets Ernest Hemingway for a trip back in time in Midnight in Paris. And now? It’s time to head home to your chic pied à terre to dream about the city of lights.
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