STORY AND PHOTOS BY EVAN UPCHURCH
After living in Paris for more than four years, I had stopped seeing it as the City of Love and had begun seeing it as ‘Paris, the city where I live’ (not to mention the monotony of daily life).
That is, until my boyfriend, in from Mexico City, visited me for three weeks. As I tried to show him the best Paris has to offer, I was reminded why Paris truly is the city to be in love, and why I fell in love with Paris in the first place.
Whether you’re coupled up or wandering solo, I can personally recommend these activities to feel the love in Paris.
It’s no secret that Paris has countless options for delicious, unforgettable dining experiences. Here are two restaurants where you can’t go wrong.
For a laid-back and intimate vibe, make a reservation at Les Papilles (“taste buds” in French). Located in the Latin Quarter only minutes away from Luxembourg Gardens, this restaurant prides itself on serving sophisticated cuisine with no pretensions. The chef prepares one market-fresh menu for dinner, with hearty dishes such as squash soup and slow-cooked lamb, and changes daily. (The restaurant is also open for lunch.)Don’t miss out on their selection of French wines, such as Petrus, Beaujolais, and Languedoc. I like it on the weekend when the restaurant is completely full, adding to the convivial, cozy ambiance.
If you want something a bit more celebration-worthy, book a table at La Scène, the one-Michelin-starred restaurant at Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection hotel. Inspired by southern French cuisine, chef Stéphanie Le Quellec, a past winner of France’s ‘Top Chef,’ succeeds at making gourmet cuisine approachable. She uses exceptional products – even the bread and butter is memorable – and one of the highlights of the experience is to see her at work with her team in the open kitchen, separated from the dining area by merely a marble counter. Feeling curious? Entrust your evening to the chef and choose the ‘Yeux Fermés’ (Closed Eyes) menu. Also, ask the sommeliers for your wine pairings – you won’t regret it, and might even discover a new favorite wine.
Insider tip: Book a wine tasting in the hotel’s cellar before dinner with the director of La Scène and head sommelier, Cédric Maupoint. After passing through the hotel’s ”back of the house” to get to the wine cellar, you will taste two to three exceptional wines accompanied by gourmet snacks, such as foie gras and charcuterie (ax. $140 per person, only available on Tuesday evenings).
Impressionism, to me, is whimsical and romantic. From Renoir to Monet, the great painters of the nineteenth-century movement transport viewers to plein air dream-like settings. Two of my favorite collections await at Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie, which sit across the Seine from each other, about a 15-minute walk apart.
Take a stroll in the Tuileries Garden and find the Musée de l’Orangerie, located at the garden’s edge near the Place de la Concorde. The small museum houses two powerfulpermanent collections: Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and the Jean Walter & Paul Guillaume collection. Water Lilies, considered to be the museum’s highlight, consists of eight compositions displayed in two all-white oval rooms with natural light spilling in from the roof.
Next, walk over to the Left Bank to the Musée d’Orsay, an impressive and grandiose setting. A former train station built for the Universal Exposition of 1900, the building can be considered the museum’s first masterpiece and is home to the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist chefs-d’oeuvre, which seduces with enchanting color palettes and brushstrokes.
Insider tip: For both museums, book a private guide through your advisor to get a more in-depth experience. If you prefer to go it alone, buy the audio guide at the museum; you don’t have to use it for each painting, but for the paintings that captivate you the most, it’s a helpful tool to understand the context.
Paris, like any big city, can start to feel crowded and stressful, but a stroll or a picnic in a park allows you to reconnect with nature without leaving the city limits. Parisian parks and gardens vary in style and size, but most are well-maintained.
Parc Monceau, in the eighth arrondissement, is surrounded by lavish private residences and exudes elegance and quaint charm, from its landscape design to the fashionable locals walking its paths. You’ll find a pond surrounded by fake Roman ruins, statutes of great French figures such as Guy de Maupassant and Frederic Chopin, shaded walkways, and sloping lawns ideal for picnics and lounging.
A lesser-known option is the Coulée Verte René-Dumont, also called Promenade Plantée. The starting point of this repurposed former commuter railway(like a ‘Parisian High Line’) is located behind the Opera Bastille. You don’t have to walk its entire three-mile length, but get lost amidst fragrant rose bushes, colorful flower patches, towering bamboo, and stunning Parisian buildings on a sunny day.
Insider tip: If you plan on picnicing, take advantage of Paris’ wonderful specialty shops for cheese, wine, baguette, charcuterie, and pastries. Check out my article about Paris neighborhoods for suggestions or ask your concierge for more.