It feels like decades ago. Strolling through Montmartre, over-looking the Seine in the rain, sipping a glass of Sancerre on a quaint little bistro in Le Marais. I’m beginning to crave it, like one craves food and water – aren’t you, too? The current circumstances have put a hold on that, so in this post, I’m reminiscing on an Autumnal weekend in Paris that took place exactly one year ago. Let’s go back in time. Just for a little while.
Ah, Paris. We’ll always have Paris. Or will we? What I’ve just described above is the perfect (to me) afternoon in the city of lights. In the beginning of November 2019, I boarded a plane to Paris to participate in a hotel opening, but little did I know that I should’ve appreciated my freedom to fly, roam and explore much more than I did.
As I’m writing this, new restrictions have been enforced in most parts of the world (also here in Germany, where I currently am). They leave people in despair and anxiety, cause what’s next? Will this madness ever stop? The word ‘Corona’ is already so deeply integrated in our consciousness. Today, we’re wearing masks, using hand sanitizer like never before, keeping distance to each other – and trying to explain ‘the new normal’ to children, who looks disoriented and confused. You can’t blame them. I’m not a fan of this “new world”. In fact, I’m nostalgically flipping through my travel photos and memoirs from the past decade. They shed light in an otherwise mad world – or mad it seems. Especially for a freedom-loving world traveler like me.
So should we just give up hope? Absolutely not! Brighter days are coming, rest assured. But right now, looking back to cherish beautiful memories can be like therapy. It is for me, and that’s why I’m taking you with me back to Paris on that rainy afternoon in November one year ago. We can all use a little Paris right now.
A sanctuary in the middle of Paris
In the 8th arrondissement and just 5 minutes walk from Champs d’Elysées, lies a narrow, winding street by the name of Rue Chateaubriand. Away from the crowds yet still in the heart of Paris, the street offers several small hotels for those longing for a good night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast to wake up to. Lord Byron is one of them. A 4-star, fully renovated boutique hotel with 54 rooms and a tree-filled outdoor patio that’ll take your breath away. A little sanctuary in the middle of Paris. You can read my review of the hotel here.
Lord Byron constitutes everything I connect with a boutique hotel; it’s small, cosy, intimate – and with a strong eye for interior design and details. The wonderful owner, Catherine Dupasquier, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing during my visit last year, is a keen art collector. When I asked her what sets Lord Byron apart from other Parisian boutique hotels, she said;
“I believe in a warm and homely atmosphere with a friendly staff who makes you feel at home right away. Anything is possible and all requests from our guests are taken into consideration. I think that characterizes us quite well.”
An afternoon at Musée Rodin
A 35-minute walk across the Seine from Lord Byron and you’ll reach the famous Rodin Museum. A Paris institution, the museum showcases the works of sculptor Auguste Rodin and opened its doors in 1919.
This place is especially wonderful in the warmer months of the year when you can stroll through the garden where many of the sculptures are displayed. Behind the museum, there’s a small lake and a restaurant.
If you’re not particularly a fan of sculptures, you can indulge in the 7.000 drawings and large collection of photography instead.
Rodin himself was an avid art collector, and in the last years of his life, he enthusiastically collected art from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome – many of these pieces can be viewed at the museum as well.
Lunch with a view at Maison Blanche
I decided not to have lunch at Musée Rodin but instead meet with the group of journalist I was traveling with at the Michelin restaurant Maison Blanche. Nestling on one of Paris’ most prestigious streets, Avenue Montaigne, Maison Blanche (literally meaning ‘the white house’), has welcomed foodie’s and jet setter’s for nearly 30 years.
The food is exquisite here, yes – but one of the remarkable things about this restaurant is also its roof terrace with a-list views over Paris. As I was here in November, it was cold, foggy and rainy, but I still managed to get clear views to the Eiffel Tower. You know those dreamy Paris photos you can find on Pinterest? This is the ultimate place to catch that “chic rooftop vibe scenery”, in my opinion.
The gastronomy of Maison Blanche is led by award-winning Michelin chef Bruno Franck, and the restaurant itself is divided into two floors. Aim for the upper floor, the “Mezzanine”, if you can.
A macaron a day keeps the doctor away
No stay in Paris without indulging in a few macarons, right? The best place to do so is at Ladurée – the French luxury bakery founded in 1862.
Many bakeries and confectioners are replicating them, but I must admit that the original macarons from Ladurée is nothing short of amazing!
After lunch, I took a stroll down Champs-Elysées, ending up at the historical Ladurée location with mahogany panels and art deco ornaments. This was pre-Corona, so dozens of people (mainly tourists) were lining up in front of the shop. I patiently waited my turn and carefully selected three different flavors for my to-go box: lemon, pistachio and raspberry. If you have a sweet tooth, rest assured that the famous Ladurée macarons will save your day.
A glass of Sancerre in the rain
Have you ever seen “Midnight in Paris”? The iconic Woody Allen movie depicting Paris from its most magical sides? Not only is it my favorite movie, it also tells a truth; Paris is just magical in the rain. I have no idea why – perhaps it’s the city’s melancholic side coming to its right? Or perhaps it’s the cosiness of the thousand light reflecting in the drops?
The best thing you can do when it rains is to find a quaint little bistro or bar, order a glass of Sancerre and watch people go by. It’s a very satisfying feeling, even if (or perhaps especially if) you’re alone. Let time stop for a while and enjoy life. This is Paris in its essence.
When was the last time you visited Paris? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share with the readers? Leave a comment below.