For those of you in need of some last minute Christmas inspiration, how about the gift of time? Specifically 24 hours in my absolute favorite city, Paris. All you need to do is arrange your transportation, print out my itinerary and surprise someone. 24 hours isn't much time so let's not waste it standing in lines. Come with me and discover the not so discovered Paris.
If arriving by plane at CDG airport, the easiest (and quickest; just 40 minutes) way to get into the city is to take the RER B city train directly from the airport. Just follow the signs marked Paris RER train. Get your ticket before you board the train from one of the white vending machines. Then settle in and don't get off until you reach the Gare du Nord in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. I like to stay in the 10th when in Paris as it has such a neighborhood vibe and not quite so many tourists as the more centrally located areas of Paris. No time to waste, drop your bags at the hotel and first stop: breakfast!
La Fontaine de Belleville, 31-33 rue Juliette Dodu. This café roasts its own coffee, makes a heavenly french toast (more appropriately named lost toast or pain perdu in French), and has been around since 1915. It opens at 8am and is a wonderful space to soak up some authentic Parisian atmosphere.
When in Paris I often find myself on the metro cause it's so easy to not get lost. But if there's an easy bus route nearby, I'd much prefer some bonus above-ground sight seeing for the cost of a ticket. From the café, walk towards the Place Colonel Fabian and hop on the number 75 bus. Get off at the Grenier Saint Lazare stop and stroll along the Rue Montorgeuil. I love this street as it is pedestrian only which makes window shopping a lot more pleasant (and safe). But you must do more than window shopping because it is on this street that you can taste the epitome of french pastry, the chocolate éclair at Patisserie Stohrer, 51 Rue Montorgueil, the oldest patisserie in Paris. The last time I was there, I was even lucky enough to meet the chef himself! This is partly due to my girlfriend causing quite the commotion after biting into a chocolate tart (I'm sure you all know the famous scene from "When Harry met Sally"). It'll be hard to tear your eyes away from the abundant artwork of pastry, but be sure to look up at the gilded ceiling painted by Paul Baudry, known for his work at the Palais Garnier Opera House.
(girlfriend causing a scene)
Time is ticking so off we go. I have one more stop for you on the Rue Montorgueil. Since you're in the fashion capital of the world, we must make time for a little shopping. I enjoy the very affordable French brand Sha Cha. They have a pop-up store right at 48 Rue Montorgueil. Last time I was there I picked up the cutest little black jumpsuit, perfect for late nights out in Paris.
(that's me on the left digging for treasure)
Supposedly there are 197 churches in Paris (although I haven't counted) so you must take the time to visit at least one during your 24 hours. For me, a church should be a peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. A short walk from Rue Montorgueil is the wealthy Rue Saint Honoré, home of the Église Saint Roch, one of the most beautiful (and often quiet) churches in Paris. The grave of the landscape gardener Le Nôtre (the gardener of Louis XIV at Versailles) is located here.
Just on the other side of the street, you will see the concept store Colette, 213 Rue Saint Honoré. If you want to know what is trendy right now, this is the spot to be. And even if you can't afford the high-fashion clothes upstairs, how could you resist a stylish snow globe containing the Eiffel Tower, an art book or a new lipstick?
Time for lunch! And lucky for you, one of the most charming little wine bars, Le Rubis, is right around the corner at 10 Rue du Marché Saint Honoré. Order a glass of your favorite wine and a cheese and charcuterie platter. And for the true French cultural experience, be sure to use the toilet before you leave. I will not say anymore than that. And if you are mad at me for sending you to this toilet, there's a dial-up telephone right there in the toilet room in case you would like to call me.
So a quick recap here, we've had some pastries, done some shopping, visited a church, had some wine and cheese. What's still missing? Well, you can't come to Paris and not visit an art museum. Although, we are close to the Louvre right now (and I encourage you to take a look at the glass Pyramid), I'm not a fan of racing through the museum to see the top three (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo). Instead, I would stroll through the Tuileries Gardens and visit the Musée de l'Orangerie (located in the gardens near the Place de la Concorde), consisting of only two floors. Perfect for our tight time schedule! Take a seat on a bench and just gaze at Monet's Water Lilies which cover the walls of the second floor.
From here, it's about a ten minute walk to the Quai du Louvre where you can hop on one of the many Batobus boats. I prefer the Batobus to the Bateaux-Mouches as it is without narration. Just let the sites go by while taking a, by now, much needed break. The one-day pass allows you to get on and off so please do that at your leisure. But I prefer to just sit back and enjoy the full 90 minutes.
Head back to your hotel, drop your packages and freshen up. We don't need to venture far this evening for an amazing dinner. Charles Compagnon, one of the best restaurateurs in Paris right now, opened 52 Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th. I had a truly memorable dinner here my last trip to Paris. Seasonal, affordable, lively, creative...and with a no reservation policy, I enjoy the flexibility. But you may have to wait. Although with a glass of wine in hand and some great Parisian people watching, I can think of worse ways to spend my time.
If you're up for it, the last thing missing from these 24 hours is some Parisian nightlife and a rooftop view of the city. You can have both at Le Perchoir, 14 Rue Crespin du Gast. I actually walked from 52 Faubourg Saint Denis but I would recommend hailing a taxi. The entrance is unmarked but the doorman (at least the one I met) is very friendly and opened for us. Open until 1am.
And with that, one must always sleep, even in Paris. Luckily, the hotel is not far. So head back to your home away from home and dream of how to spend your next 24 hours in Paris.