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Black Book Travel Guide: Paris
With my last visit to Paris nearly two decades ago, I was giddier than a tween at a Justin Bieber concert about the prospect of visiting the City of Lights once again. But how to create an efficient three-day itinerary when there are so many wonderful options to partake in? Well, it seemed only appropriate to let my love of fashion and shopping lead the way for this travel guide. If you’ve been looking for a select few chic shops, sights and bites in Paris for a quickie jaunt overseas? Les violà.
Paris travel guide: Where to shop
A better question when it comes to Paris might be where not to shop—as there is no shortage of superb boutiques in which to do some damage with your credit card. Repetto ballet flats! Pretty tops from Vanessa Bruno! Sophisticated pieces from Carven! And the list goes on. But the biggies that are musts for the first-timer to Paris include the Hermès flagship store in the Rive Gauche. Built in a former swimming pool space, the shop is decorated with fantastical swooping wood structures that are so breathtaking, you may even forget to peruse the luxury design house’s exquisite leather goods.
And Colette, too, must not be ignored. This contemporary concept shop on rue Saint-Honoré is where all the cool kids are at. One section is devoted to music, complete with listening stations, and there are also books, magazines, jewelry, bath and body products and apparel in this hot shop where it’s fun just to poke around even if you can’t afford any of the luxe goods.
Finally, even if you shun malls here in North America, you may have to rethink your view on them once you visit Galeries Lafayette. The gorgeous intricate stained glass ceiling is mesmerizing, but not so much that you’ll overlook the wares from Isabel Marant, and shoe horders, you’ll want to hightail it down to the expansive shoe floor, where you’ll find everything from Balenciaga and Ash to Pura Lopez and Carven. (And remember, that in Paris, the price tag already includes the taxes).
Find out where to eat and what to do in Paris on the next page…
Paris travel guide: Where to eat
Bon restaurant lives up to its name (for those of you who’ve forgotten your elementary school French, the word translates to good). The Philippe Starck-designed restaurant is worth the visit just to check out the six distinct spaces in Bon. The vinotheque when you enter is white with ornate touches and cheeky Fornasetti chairs. For an intimate vibe, ask for a table in the library, where the bookshelf-printed screens and hardwood floor-patterned carpet create a comfy space to enjoy your Thai-infused meal choices, such as les larmes du tigre (a flavourful steak dish) and tom yam Chilean seabass.
For a bustling, see-and-be-seen type of dinner out, ask your hotel concierge to book you a table at Restaurant La Societé. In the sixth arrondissment, this dimly lit restaurant with a chilled out vibe (thanks to the DJ’s set list of lounge-y music), gets filled up quickly with stylish Parisians enjoying upscale (yes, the menu is on the pricy side) dishes of foie gras appetizers and lamb.
Visiting Paris without sampling macarons would be a travesty. There are devotees who swear by Ladurée but don’t overlook the wares at Pierre Hermé. Actually, why choose? Do a taste test of each to determine your personal favourite.
Paris travel guide: What to do
Once you’ve made your essential visit to the Eiffel Tower, do not miss out on visiting Palais de Tokyo. This refreshing museum was expanded last year to 22,000 square feet making it the largest site dedicated to contemporary creativity in all of Europe. Part of its programming focuses on fashion, and I was lucky enough to be in Paris during its Chloé exhibit. From the interactive digital display introducing you to the design house’s history to the covet-worthy clothing in unique vignettes, it was one of the best fashion exhibitions I’ve seen.
After visiting Palais de Tokyo, walk over to the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent. The foundation’s focus is to maintain the Yves Saint Laurent house’s history, which includes conserving thousands of haute couture garments and accessories. At the foundation itself, they hold a couple of exhibitions a year in a petite gallery space featuring paintings, photography, decorative arts or fashion. You can get your YSL fix, though, at the gift shop where you’ll find postcards, books and scarves commemorating the designer.
Part of Les Arts Décoratifs, every fashion lover must make the pilgrimage Musée de la Mode et du Textile. Here, you’ll find textiles dating back to the 7th century and works from Schiaparelli and Vionnet. Prepare yourself for a lengthy visit (in fact, you may not have time for the other two components of the museum).