To Paris, with love xoxo (PART I)
by Helen Bayley
The other day a friend of mine asked me if I knew of any places for her to visit whilst she was in Paris. After sitting down to write a relatively comprehensive list of must-sees/dos, it occurred to me, that perhaps some of you might like to know them as well!
There is quite a bit to get through, so I have split it up into Parts. This being the first of three (hopefully!).
Now let me tell you that I am by no means an authority on all things Paris! However, as an outsider looking in, after our trip to Paris last June, I did stumble across some real beauties that are most definitely worth a look-see. Some of you may know all of them, some may know some of them, and some none!
After travelling to Paris many times before (I used to work in London) as a starry-eyed tourist, and visiting the many mandatory tourist spots - The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, etc... my trip last June was the first time I had travelled to Paris with my designer hat on. I wanted to look at Paris in a completely different way. To look past the obvious surface beauty of the city and get into the nitty gritty. I was a lady on a mission. I was going to soak up as much underground culture, art and design as I could fit into the 10 days that we were there. For the first time, none of my regular go-to tourist spots were on my itinerary (not that I don't think these are worth seeing! They totally are!).
Before we left, I had spent many weeks researching, and talking to friends about places to visit. Sitting on the plane on the way over, I realised just how many places I had written down, and it was CRAZY! So many places to visit in such little time! I started to panic! I definitely needed a plan. I decided that the obvious way to approach this, was to group all of the places into arrondissements (our equivalent of suburbs) and try to get through 1 arrondissement a day.
Until last year I was strictly a Left Bank girl - sampling all that St Germain had to offer. This time we decided to stay in Le Marais on the Right Bank. Both places are great for different reasons. Le Marais definitely had a youthful, cool, independent vibe about it, and we absolutely LOVED IT!!
We had rented an apartment for 10 days and were going to try to soak up as much of the local Parisian life as we could! Upon arriving at our apartment, I could not believe our luck! We were literally right above the Helmut Lang store!
* Heaven! Living above Helmut Lang for 10 days!
The view from upstairs was pretty amazing too:
*The beautiful grey rooftops of Paris never get boring.
*My husband came home one day with the most beautiful bunch of peonies. I don't know if it is the fact that everything seems more magical in Paris, but the peonies over there seem to be on another level of gorgeousness! The florist had added some sprigs of fresh mint to them which was so lovely to smell throughout the apartment. I totally recommend doing this at home to add greenery to a bunch of flowers and to have that lovely smell of fresh mint wafting through the air.
Local coffee shop and bakery
First mission: to find a seriously good coffee shop that would service my caffeine addiction! Luckily I found what I was looking for just around the corner! Boot Cafe is a super cute tiny hole in the wall coffee shop in Le Marais. What it lacks in space it well and truly makes up for in seriously good coffee. Believe it or not, it is hard to find a nice cup of coffee/a flat white in Paris, so this was a lovely surprise!
The staff are lovely and there were always beautiful fresh pastries to try.
* Boot Cafe shop front
* Boot Cafe
And if these pastries don't float your boat, literally just down the road is Rose Bakery (30 Rue Debelleyme). Freshly baked cakes, patisseries and beautiful healthy salads. This place was so lovely and definately worth a visit.
*Rose Bakery shop front
* Rose Bakery
4th Arrondissement (75004)
Marche Aux Fleur et Aux Oiseaux is one of the largest flower markets in Paris. Obviously this was a must see for me. And it definitely didn't disappoint. The flowers were ridiculously beautiful. It was hard not to buy ridiculous amounts of flowers, and I wished so much I was at home so I could fill my house with all of this beauty!
3rd Arrondissement (75003)
Merci Department/Concept Store (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais) is one of kind. I am surprised by how many people don't know about this place. It houses cutting edge design, from clothing to furniture to gardening accessories. Unbelievably, all profits made go to charity. It has a glorious garden area with several cafes and bookstore.
*Merci Department Store
*Merci Department Store (bottom floor)
Derriere (69 Rue des Gravilliers) is a cafe/bar/club. Hands down THE coolest place I have been to. So quirky, it was right down my alley! Well known for their epic weekend brunch, you pay a set amount, and are welcome to help yourself to a plentiful buffet of fresh fruit, pastries, hot food and more. We went on a Sunday and the place was full. We spent hours sitting in the gorgeous courtyard, sipping on coffee and watching all of the locals being locals.
*The rather inauspicious entrance to Derriere. A favourite of the locals, there is no signage on the street, and it really is tucked away down this alleyway.
*Fresh fruit and pastries at the buffet (and how good is that lime green bench)
After brunch, we ventured inside to take a proper look at things. Downstairs was home to a ping pong table amongst other quirky oddities.
Upstairs things really got interesting! The best way to describe the interior really is to show you!
A seemingly beautiful old antique cupboard:
opens up like something out of a fairytale, allowing you to walk straight through it into the "cigar/smoking room"!
*Hubby Chris demonstrating!
What was inside was just as magical:
*Breakfast in bed. Yes please!
*Bathroom of my dreams
This place was definitely a highlight of the trip. We were told that at night, the place turns into a bar/club, which I think would be so much fun.
You will find the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature at 62 rue des Archives. It is a private museum of hunting and nature. And boy is it quirky and visually stunning! In essence, it aims to celebrate the relationships between humans and the natural environment through the traditions and practices of hunting. It is hugely thought-provoking and at times I couldn't work out whether it was all just a big joke put together by someone with a bit of a dark sense of humour! Nevertheless, we spent nearly half a day in here! There is a relatively large amount of taxidermy going on in this museum, so if this isn't your thing, then this won't be the place for you.
It is housed in a stunning old private mansion which is intoxicatingly beautiful in itself. From talking moose heads to tinned elephant (I know, it was terribly unsettling and I hoped it was just a form of thought-provoking imagery) the Museum of Hunting and Nature is definitely out there, but I think definitely worth a visit.
Midway through our tour, a gorgeous little man walked up to me and asked me whether I had seen the resident mouse that lived in the mansion? I answered no, and next minute, he was pulling aside this great big satin curtain to point him out! On the ground and painted onto the wall!!!
Until next time
Next time on "To Paris, with love", I can't wait to share with you 2 of my fave bookstores, my absolute favourite all time ceramic shop, a place to find all the Vintage VOGUE magazines you could possibly want to get your hands on with all of their incredibly beautiful covers, and the largest antique market in the world!