Parisian Paradise

Combining culture and couture, the French capital city is an ideal luxe destination

Paris oozes luxury, and it seems to do so effortlessly. French men and women at one of the city’s many outdoor cafés always look chic and confident in their skin. It’s this attitude that creates the high-class aura you feel among the city’s winding unpaved streets and its denizens. When you combine its haute couture presence with its historic monuments, art and even cemeteries, Paris has you convinced that if you live in this city, you’re living the life.

Mornings are off to a slow pace in the French capital. The boulangeries always are the first to open at the break of day, luring you in with the scent of fresh, hearty bread. If you find yourself in Paris’ seventh arrondissement (city subdivision), try Pain d’épis, where young baker Thierry Dubois offers his wide variety of specialty breads, all made from his one-of-a-kind mixed-flour dough called “Royale.”

Once your morning breakfast has settled, you can start shopping – an activity you cannot skip when visiting a city that houses every major European fashion designer. Moving about the first and eighth arrondissements, you’ll be able to hit the heart of Paris’ best Right Bank shopping strip. The areas include the rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, where the big designer houses are. At one end of the first arrondissement is the Palais Royal, one of the best shopping secrets in Paris, where an arcade (historically considered the first type of shopping space we now call “malls”) of boutiques borders each side of the garden of the former palace. The l’avenue Montaigne is Paris’s most glamorous shopping street, covering two whole blocks with the most à la mode shops covering everything from Jimmy Choo to Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

Many of the petites boutiques often are closed for “lunch” during the day, and for the French, that typically means two hours (or more, if the conversation and wine are just too good to drop for work). So join all the small stores in their afternoon break and enjoy a meal as the French do at a neighborhood zinc café. A subset of cafés and bistros, zincs act as a place where locals come for their daily meals and conversation-zincs are a state of mind and a true art de vivre. Get your taste of the local hangout while still enjoying fine dining at Le Pure Café in the eleventh arrondissement, where lighting was designed by a contemporary designer, and a menu of such delectable items as grilled cuttlefish with sesame seeds, a rhubarb compote, or spiced bulgur awaits. Complete the meal with an order of red table wine, and two hours later, you’re refreshed, rosy in the cheeks (like a real local) and ready to stroll through more streets.

Afternoons are always great for leisurely meanderings and to take things as they come. One way to take in Paris’ cultural attractions in one afternoon is to start at the Palais des Tuileries and its garden of 63 acres that still closely mirrors the original design laid out in 1664. From the garden you can also catch views of l’Arc de Triomphe and l’Obélisque monuments. And since you’re so close, you might as well stop into the Louvre and see a section that you’ve yet to really discover such as “Egyptian Antiquities” or “Sculptures.” Choosing one or two sections is best because with the entire museum housing 35,000 works, it can seem overwhelming and quite intense as a whole. Or if you’re more into contemporary and modern art, spend some time at the Centre de Pompidou. The museum’s jarring contemporary and controversial design by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers is reason enough to at least stop by, or you can travel to the top floor for a spectacular view overlooking Paris.

The evening meal is an important part of the French day. The French look at dinner as a time to regroup, relax and talk about the day’s happenings and insights. A true fine-dining experience takes place at Jules Verne, located on the second platform of the Eiffel Tower. Famed Frenchman Alain Ducasse recently took the helm, so a reservation (sometimes far in advance) is definitely needed, but the wait is worth it when you’re sitting down to a sunset view of the city with a glass of wine in your hand.

If you still find yourself able to stand on your feet after dinner, head into the nightlife at Divan du Monde, a stylish, elegant nightclub and music venue which, back before its name change in the 19th century, was frequented by poet Charles Baudelaire and painter Toulouse-Lautrec.

After a long day spent shopping, walking and eating, all you want to do is rest your head on some high thread-count sheets. And for this, The Ritz is your best bet for high-end hospitality. Located in an 1898 palace on the Place Vendôme, The Ritz was Coco Chanel’s home for 37 years. Last year it experienced a major renovation, and now you can practice your swing on the new chipping green in the garden. With bathrooms stocked with Chanel amenities and an organic room service menu, it’s no wonder the hotel has earned its title of “The Mother of All Grand Luxury Hotels.”

If you’re looking for some true relaxation, you should try the hotel Le Bristol, which boasts an Anne Semonin center where you can indulge in phyto aromatic facials and body treatments during your stay with them.

After one day in Paris, you begin to realize that luxury comes in all shapes and sizes. Luxury can be spent on vintage Old World wines and the most extravagant sleeping arrangements, but to understand true Parisian luxury and to live an indulgent Parisian lifestyle means to revel in the small details of life. Paris shows you how to take life a little slower, so you have time to stop and smell the nearest park’s flowers – or even, if your heart so desires, the scent of newly purchased Chanel patent leather flats.

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