My dearest Venus,
I know the very first overseas destination on your bucket list is Paris. So travelling to Paris for business without you was très difficile. When you are not with me I ache. Physically. Although you couldn’t travel with Mamon this time, I know in a few years time, when you are in your early teens, I will bring you to Paris and you will j’adore every single moment.
Here are my travel notes for you my darling girl, in no particular order, for your future Parisian adventures.
Do not pack much. The shopping in Paris is unrivalled and you will need plenty of room in your suitcase. The coats and bags and dresses and sweaters are exquisitely designed and crafted. What to wear 101: in Summer, a tee-shirt (Petit Bateau perhaps) much-loved jeans and white sneakers will suffice. In winter, black boots, leggings, oversized Chanel sunnies and a gorgeous knee-length black parka is chic.
If you want to get a table for dinner or a gallery ticket easily – go early. Parisians eat and play later than us Aussies.
The Foundation Louis Vuitton Building is a must see in Paris. It’s a breathtakingly bold building housing a cultural centre and museum, funded by LVMH. Catch the shuttle (nuvette) from the Champs Elysee. It only costs one euro, takes 10 minutes to get there and once you are inside, it’s a very peaceful and visually spectacular experience. I had a beautiful, delicate salad and a glass of fine for lunch underneath a Chinese artist’s sculpture of tiny fish.
Be prepared to lose yourself and find yourself in the streets of Paris. It is the city of art, culture and reflection.
Learn just a little French. Before travelling to France, I always find a French acquaintance who is willing and able to run me through a few key phrases. Phrasebooks tend to teach such ‘formal’ language. All you need is to be able to introduce yourself, ask for help and of course order a glass of champagne in French.
The Louvre is huge and daunting and amazing. Start early and give yourself time to get through. You don’t have to look at every single piece and read every description. Wander and get a feel for it. Gravitate to those pieces that catch your eye and bring you joy. Choose one of the audio guides too – it will make your visit much more informative and rewarding. When I was there I chose the 90-minute long The Da Vinci Code: Between Fiction and Fact, which has you following in the footsteps of the heroes from the infamous Dan Brown novel.
Don’t bring your Australian breakfast tastes with you of granola, eggs or square toast. Embrace petit déjeuner, the French morning meal of a sweet, chewy baguette or flaky croissant with butter and a strong coffee or French breakfast tea.
Stiletto heels do not travel well on Parisian cobblestoned streets. Wear a fine stiletto wedge black boot like my Balenciaga ones I bought in Paris (pictured), sneakers or ballet flats.
Le Jardin des Tuileries next to the Louvre is exquisite to sit in and watch the world go by. Grab un cafe and a warm crepe and sit. It’s one of those unique vantage points where the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph and the Ferris Wheel if it’s running (it usually turns in summer) are all visible.
Don’t feel you must do the tourist rounds in Paris and sightsee all day. Take your time in Paris. Just wander the streets or perch for some people watching. A glass of champagne, a coffee or a good book are all excellent people-watching disguises in the City of Lights.
The Tour Maine-Montparnasse is a fairly unattractive office skyscraper in the commercial district of central Paris, however it does offer a little-known panoramic sweep of Paris – without the queues. Don’t eat at the observation deck – it’s touristy and awful. Have a delicious steak frites with salad at the nearby Cafe Maison. PS: Department store, Galeries Lafayette sits underneath Tour Montparnasse and has some incredible bargains. Two birds, one stone.
Musée de l’Orangerie is a petite and gorgeous museum in the Jardin des Tuileries. Their collection of Monet waterlily paintings are oh-so pretty. There’s also some iconic Paul Cézanne, Renoir and Modigliani. It also doesn’t take long to stroll through – think 30 minutes. (Metro Stop: Concord)
Monoprix is like an ‘everything’ shop. A chemist, Bunnings, Kmart-type store but with fresh produce too. The underwear and PJs are exquisite fabrics and reasonably priced. Think waffle-weave PJs and cute singlets with lace trimmings.
If you want to tackle to Louvre and climb the Eiffel Tower – give them half a day each. The louvre is mammoth, overwhelming but amazing. Climbing the tower is memorable. It’s also lovely to go and wander around the tower at night and see it sparkle. It’s not a particularly safe area (think pick pockets) so stay alert.
It’s my recommendation my darling, to split your time in Paris between a hotel and an Airbnb. Stay in a hotel near the Arc de Triomphe and get all your sightseeing done, then stay in a tiny Parisian apartment and pretend to be Parisian. I stayed in Le Marais – one of my favourite parts of Paris.
Have a signature hot chocolate at Angelina. It’s creamy, rich and delicious.
Fine dine at Laperouse – a historical restaurant and bar. The upstairs dining room is a posh Parisian experience – I dined alone and it was still heaven.
Grand Palais is a must-see. I saw the Louise Vuitton Voyage exhibition there – who knows what will be showing when you are in Paris?
Make time to climb the Arc de Triomphe. The stairs are narrow and there are many, but it’s a unique view of Paris and that manic roundabout underneath.
Notre Dame is a peaceful beautiful haven. Buy and light a candle for someone who has passed. I lit a candle for cousin Shelly and sat a little while listening to the prayer mass.
PS. Part Two of my Parisian adventures coming soon – there are too many things to do for just twenty points!