“This is what you do on your very first day in Paris. You get yourself, not a drizzle, but some honest-to-goodness rain, and you find yourself someone really nice and drive her through the Bois de Boulogne in a taxi. The rain’s very important. That’s when Paris smells its sweetest. It’s the damp chestnut trees.” ~ Audrey Hepburn, as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina
I absolutely love that quote from Sabrina because I think it captures so many sensory cues to Paris. The dampness in the air come springtime. The sweet scent of chestnut. The promise of a smile from a stranger. The idea of an afternoon spent wandering with no where to be, but perhaps that cafe just up around the corner that you’ve never been to and possibly that old bookstore afterward. Until you’re eventually back out in the evening air, walking to wherever you’re walking back to, rain now seeping into your coat that would otherwise bother you in any other city, but you don’t call for a cab. Not here in Paris. No, you walk back, with everyone else now walking back in the rain, unbothered and smiling. Because you’re in Paris! The city of light, the city of love, the city where you wouldn’t dare miss a chance to take the long way back home.
If I’m romanticizing a bit too much, forgive me. I hadn’t been to Paris in over 10 years, and the previous trip was drastically different. I was a sophomore in college, studying abroad in Italy, doing the backpacking thing on the weekends with a ragtag team of friends. It was, hands down, a beautiful way to experience the city. After all, it is Paris. But to say I had been looking forward to this second trip around with my mom would likely be a huge understatement. And while I don’t expect this little guide of mine to be as nearly comprehensive as say others’ guides to Paris, I did want to share a slice of our time there, especially since I received so many wonderful recommendations from you guys! So, without further adieu…
For starters, let’s talk cafes…
I think it’s always very telling when locals in a certain city give recommendations and they happen to highlight a disproportionate amount of a certain type of business. For New York, I think most folks can ramble off a ton of great, boutique bars. For San Francisco and the Bay Area, folks love fro yo and niche bakeries. For Paris, it’s cafes. I think once we landed, I had accumulated at least 15 different “must-try” cafes on our to-do list, each sounding more amazing than the last. Unfortunately, my mom and I didn’t get through all of them, but here were our favorites.
Cafe Kitsuné: Hopping over to this little spot near Le Palais Royal was easy most mornings as it was a short metro (or brisk walk) away from our hotel on the Champs-Élysées. It’s small, cozy and tucked away in their beautiful courtyard and secretly made me wish I could have been born in Paris, working at that shop, writing my poetry in between customers.
Angelina: Perhaps more than a cafe, Angelina came recommended so many times, I lost count. I also lost count of how many cups of the hot chocolate we drank. Let’s just say, I had to work a bit harder during the marathon to run these bad boys off.
Holy Belly: Also, more than a cafe, Holy Belly reminded me a lot of some great American brunch spots back in San Francisco and New York. The wait was a bit crazy, but the breakfast tacos were certainly worth it.
Ob La Di: Delicious and insanely Instagrammable. Usually the main criteria we’re all looking for in a cafe, am I right?
And then sweets?
We made a few obligatory sweet tooth stops along the way. Because how can you not, when in Paris?
Ladurée: Of course, this was a no brainer. Especially considering we were staying at the Marriott on the Champs-Élysées, right down the way. And even though I indulge in the SoHo shop every once and a while, something about a Ladurée just never gets old, oui?
Pierre Herme: Because stopping off at more than one macaron spot is mandatory when in Paris. Between the two, while I think Ladurée has the instantly recognizable charm, there is something to be said about Pierre Holme’s macarons (in all honesty, I thought they were better, but I realize those are fighting words).
La Droguerie du Marais: On my first visit to Paris years ago, we stopped off at many a street vendor for many a fattening crepe (usually an entire meal by itself). This crepe spot came highly recommended from a reader’s email and I really wish I had gotten a photo of my mom’s reaction after her first bite of our Nutella and banana crepe. Absolutely priceless. We may have gone back. A few times.
A moveable feast indeed…
I’d by lying if I didn’t admit to daydreaming a bit about Hemingway’s Paris while we were roaming around — cafe rendezvous with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, splitting bottles of wine with Gertrude Stein, wandering city streets late at night with James Joyce. It made stopping into restaurants that much more of an experience, thinking “what would Hemingway think of our little dinner party of two tonight? Would he want to join us?”
Les Papilles: Truly the pièce de résistance meal of the trip. Without a doubt. It’s an intimate, traditional French restaurant, tucked away in the Latin Quarter — with a menu that changes every day. No variations. No options. Your server runs through your four courses, encourages you to pick a bottle of wine from their floor to ceiling wall of options, and then you sit back and relax. Butternut squash soup. Lamb ribs. Poached pear panna cotta. My mouth is literally watering at the moment.
Brasserie La Lorraine: This stop actually happened rather serendipitously the evening after our marathon. I headed out with a few of my fellow runners, all of us slightly limping at this point, for a hearty steak dinner, preferably near our hotels off the Champs Elyses. And we were not disappointed by the filets served at Brasserie La Lorraine. I think what was even more memorable for me was the incredible people watching you can do here at this restaurant. I love watching couples, young and old, meander in and then coming up with their stories — how they met, how long they’ve been together, who’s seeing a mistress and who’s lying about her age. I do this often in New York, but it’s such incredible fun in Paris!
Ellsworth: So I typically try to avoid restaurants in other countries that specialize in American cuisine — because it almost defeats the purpose, right? But Ellsworth, known for their spin on American comfort food, came highly recommended numerous times, just for the fried chicken alone, so I finally caved. It’s small so I definitely encourage you to make a reservation, but my main thing to say about this place is this: if you happen to be caught walking back in the rain, I hope you offer your umbrella to a cute stranger and invite them here for an impromtu date (I realize that would require you to have some sort of previous reservation, but let’s not get caught up on details here). I loved this little restaurant — classic Parisian charm that makes you want to lean in a bit closer at your already small table.
Where we stayed and what we got up to…
Paris Marriott Champs-Élysées Hotel: Of course, where to stay in Paris? Each neighborhood has it’s own unique charm and flair that deciding almost becomes like picking a favorite child. Or in my case, a favorite corgi. As you may recall, I headed down to Mexico with the Marriott team for their JW opening in Cabo back in January. After chatting with their team about my upcoming marathon in Paris (several of their team members are big runners as well), I was ecstatic to hear they wanted to partner together for my Parisian stay, specifically for their Champs-Élysées hotel. Not only were we so conveniently located to the Metro making it easy to hop around town, but the marathon start line was literally at our doorstep on the Champs-Élysées (always a plus when you have an early start time). The property itself is stunning — our room in particular boasting the most darling of balconies overlooking the bustling avenue down below. But I have to say, most of this pales in comparison to the staff, all of whom was incredibly kind, thoughtful and incredibly patient with me and my unfortunately sad knowledge of French. Each night we had a lovely treat waiting for us on our bed (yep, more macarons) — it really did feel like we were returning home each evening, after a day of exploring, eating, getting lost and getting found again.
As far as what we did? This is where I’ll happily admit, I was a tourist all over again. The Eiffel made me smile, the Louvre made me swoon and the Tuileries Gardens made me sit and sigh. And it’s exactly what my mom and I had planned to do. A revisiting of familiar places that make you look at them again with new eyes. Or as Sabrina so aptly puts it:
“Oh, but Paris isn’t for changing planes. It’s for changing your outlook, for throwing open the windows and for letting in…letting in la vie en rose.”
A huge merci is in order to the Marriott team for hosting me and my mom during our lovely stay in Paris. We both hope to be back very soon. And who knows, maybe I’ll try the marathon again, next year! (Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post — I’ll be sharing my marathon experience then!)
OUTFIT DETAILS: Katie Ermilio striped dress (similar style here) // Sarah Lai floral dress // Self-Portrait lace dress
Photos of me by Brandie Raasch
This post was in collaboration with the Marriott. As always, all opinions and styling are my own. Thank you for supporting all This Time Tomorrow collaborations!