Armani and Carolyn
Make the Most of Paris and French Fashion
Although I’d been to Paris in the past, I didn’t really feel like I’d ‘been’ to Paris. That’s because I spent the majority of my first trip to this fabulous city working backstage for Armani in the heart of the fashion district. Am I complaining? Absolutely not. It was an incredibly exciting and rewarding period of my career and life. As well as working for Giorgio Armani himself I was learning at the elbow of the wonderful Oribe Canales and soaking up the excitement of life backstage at the haute couture Armani Privé. When I say excitement I mean total pinch myself ‘is this really happening’ excitement, not least knowing that superstars such as Megan Fox, Jodie Foster and Sophia Loren were being their fabulous selves just the other side of the curtain.
The great thing about Paris is that you don’t have to be working alongside a genius or rubbing shoulders with superstars to have the most fantastic time. Given the chance to explore properly I waste absolutely no time whatsoever in soaking up the fashion, shopping and food on offer in a city which manages to make looking wonderfully chic and stylish seem completely effortless. When I get back home I always try to recreate the vibe that helps to make even the simplest Parisian café such a fantastic place to hang out and sample fantastic food, wine and coffee.
When I talk about Parisian style I’m not just talking about the architecture you’re surrounded by, which is sophisticated, understated and timeless, I’m talking about the people (who pretty much tick exactly the same boxes). People-watching as you explore the streets of Paris is a rare pleasure because everyone – the men just as much as the women – seems to be totally on point. What do I mean? I mean outfits which are comfortable without being frumpy, with an emphasis on shoes, handbags and fabrics chosen with the utmost care. There are silks, leather loafers and mules, and even a touch of fur which – to the vegans or vegetarians among us – is ok just as long as it’s faux fur. The Parisians have that enviable knack of looking good without looking like they’re trying too hard to look good, which is my idea of a pretty good definition of style.
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You get to soak up all of this style when you explore the shops, food and fashion of Paris. There are more than 60,000 shops in Paris, many of them independent stores selling items you’re simply not going to find anywhere else. It would be pretty much impossible to list all of the ‘essential’ shops in Paris, from high end boutiques to places where you can grab a bargain or stock up on delicious treats to take back home with you, so what I’ve done is detailed the key shopping districts across the city, safe in the knowledge that any one of these alone could satisfy your retail therapy needs no matter how long you’re staying in the city.
The Shopping Districts of Paris
The Golden Triangle
This area is located between Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Avenue Montaigne and Avenue George V. It is the epicenter of style and high-fashion, so of course it’s where you’ll find legendary fashion houses such as Chloé, Guerlain, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Armani and Yves Saint Laurent. At the same time, along the Champs Élysées itself, you’ll find more affordable brands such as Nike, Sephora and H&M, so you can combine haute couture window shopping with picking up a few bargains. If you’d like to import a little bit of the French vibe to your own home then try the French-inspired signature Oribe fragrance, which you’ll find across the hair-care range and in items like candles.
Left Bank Leisure
Head to the 6th arrondissement and the area around Saint-Germain-des-Prés, for an eclectic selection of shops, from the iconic Bon Marche department store to smaller fashion, designer and perfume retailers along Rues de Rennes. It’s not just about fashion, however, since the Grande Épicerie is a 30,000 square foot food department store where you can put together a picnic hamper for the ages – the kind of freshly produced treats made from the best ingredients that mean French women can indulge themselves with desert but still stay feeling healthy.
Bon Marche Department Store
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The Haussmann-Opéra-Saint-Lazare quarter was historically the shopping center of Paris, following the opening of the Galeries Lafayette in 1912. This trailblazer was soon joined by the likes of Printemps and Passage du Havre, and now you’ll be able to peruse chain stores, food shops and trending brands, while jewelry fans should head to the Place Vendôme.
If you want to sample the legendary bohemian, artistic side of Parisian life then head to the Marais district. Along streets such as Rue des Archives, Place des Vosges, Rue des Rosiers and Rue des Francs-Bourgeois you’ll find the most cutting edge brands, such as Bensimon, Muji, Cos, Maje and Sandro, as well as up-market food and drink in Pâtisserie Michalak and Pierre Hermé.
Charm and Quirk
The Martyrs district in Pigalle sits at the foot of Montmartre Hill. It boasts traditional charm in the shape of sloping streets and quirky retail such as vintage clothing from Zac & Sam, Chezelle and Chiffon & Basile, as well as independent cafes and shops selling fine food.
The Palais Royale and it’s gardens in the first arondissement has always been a popular place to meet, mingle and people-watch. The surrounding arcades are packed with artisan shops, making the area between the Louvre, the Opéra and Rue Saint-Honoré one of the best districts to visit if you’re interested in upmarket excellence. Sample perfume from Annick Goutal or Frédéric Malle, chocolate by Michel Cluizel and trinkets from Lalique to experience uniquely Parisian retail therapy.
Other areas you definitely need to include on your itinerary include the Rue de Passy in the 16th arrondissement, home to fashion ranging from classic High Street brands like Gap to one-off designer outlets, the delicious food markets around Rue Legendre Les Batignolles in the 17th arrondissement and the quirky, off-beat selections of the Monmartre and Sacré-Cœur district.
Strolling around wonderful places like these isn’t just the best way to see Paris, it also means you’re sampling the French way of life. Those French women I mentioned who can indulge in delicious sweet treats keep themselves fit and healthy by walking or biking everywhere, something which, in Paris, is an absolute pleasure. Striding through the nearest parc, visiting the local market or enjoying the life of a ‘Flâneur’ – the French phrase for someone who strolls simply for the pleasure of strolling – you begin to understand why those svelte and chic French women might not have to spend two hours a day at the gym.
Food and Drink in Paris
I mentioned food and drink a few times during my musings on shopping in Paris, but if all this talk of fashion and retail leaves you with an appetite for proper sit down dining then you simply couldn’t be anywhere better than Paris. I mean that literally; according to figures published by the World Cities Culture Forum – which makes a point of collecting information of this kind.
There were no fewer than 37,915 restaurants in Paris
at the last count. That compares with 14,745 in London,
13,721 in Rome and, a little closer to home,
26,697 in New York and 4,045 in San Francisco.
In other words, you’ll be spoilt for choice, offered everything from Michelin starred fine dining to the hippest fusion street food.
A big part of the fun lies in making your own discoveries, of course, strolling from one charmingly cosy bistro to the next, but what I’ve done is chosen a mix five of the hippest places to eat at the moment and five timelessly classic gourmet destinations, most of which – it almost goes without saying – need to be booked well in advance. And if I recommend dishes in these places, rest assured it’s got nothing to do with the calorie count, vitamin content or fiber quotient, and everything to do with enjoying delicious dining. I’m a vegan, so when I mention the meat dishes being served rest assured I’m relying on the recommendations of my carnivorous friends, and acknowledging the fact that French food – as well as utilizing top quality fruit and vegetables – is often built on meat, poultry and seafood.
La Poule Au Pot
La Poule Au Pot
Photographs courtesy of La Poule Au Pot - La Poule Au Pot
Where: 9 rue Vauvilliers, 75001 Paris
What: Classic French dishes like onion soup refined to new heights and served up family-style. Big hitting chef Jean-François Piège and his wife Elodie own several restaurants in the area, and totally revamped the existing La Poule Au Pot to deliver retro-vibes with more than a hint of up to date cool.
Marsan par Hélène Darroze
Marsan par Hélène Darroze
Photographs courtesy of Marsan par Hélène Darroze - Marsan par Hélène Darroze
Where: 4 Rue d'Assas, 75006 Paris
What: Chef Hélène Darroze – proud holder of three Michelin stars at The Connaught Hotel in London – prides herself on offering up the flavors of her original home in the south west of France. For the ultimate indulgence, book the tasting menu at the chef’s table and sample treats such as ultra-light goat’s cheese pastries and a starter combining sea urchin with caviar and cauliflower.
Photograph courtesy of Le Cadoret - Le Cadoret
Where: 1 Rue Pradier, 75019 Paris
What: A classic French bistro run by chef Léa Fleuriot and her brother Louis-Marie. Nothing too avant-garde, just traditional bistro food elevated to the highest standards and offered for prices which emphasize value. Throw in craft beer, an interesting wine list and a range of subtly-flavored retro-desserts and what more could you ask for?
Photograph courtesy of Double Dragon - Double Dragon
Where: 52 Rue Saint Maur, 75011 Paris
What: A chilled atmosphere and affordable food which more than nods toward the spice and flavor of East Asia. As well as classics such as spicy Korean fried chicken you can sample more adventurous dishes such as red spinach curry with egg yolk and fusion spectaculars like Morteau sausage served with crispy rice.
Le Saint Sebastien
Le Saint Sebastien
Photograph courtesy of Le Saint Sebastien - Le Saint Sebastien
Where: 42 rue Saint Sebastien, 75011 Paris
What: Don’t let the retro looking exterior fool you, inside La Saint Sebastien you’ll find Chef Rob Mendoza serving up imaginative treats such as squid served with watercress and sorrel purée, and the wine list is so good that it attracts many wine industry insiders to the average lunch sitting.
Photograph courtesy of Le Servan - Le Servan
Where: 32 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011 Paris
What: Owners Tatiana and Katia Levha opened Le Servan in 2014, serving small plates which combine classic French ingredients with the flavors of South East Asia. The menu is ever changing, but expect plenty of fresh seafood and combinations like pan-fried scallops with spinach, bone marrow and smoked vinegar.
Salon de Thé de la Grande Mosquée de Paris
Where: 2bis Place du Puits de l'Ermite, 75005 Paris
What: Opposite the National Museum of Natural History you’ll find this gem hidden away in the courtyard of the Grand Mosque. Friendly waiting staff (by no means a given in Paris…) serve up delicious Middle Eastern dishes such as couscous and tagines, but equally appealing is the serene and laid-back ambience.
Photograph courtesy of Bouillon Pigallen - Bouillon Pigalle
Where: 22 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris
What: At the time of writing Bouillon Pigalle was offering a three course meal with drinks for less than €25, and anyone who has tried to find affordable but delicious food in Paris will know how rare this is. The downside is they don’t take bookings, so expect to queue round the block amidst hip young locals determined to enjoy classic dishes like farmhouse terrine with pickles and toast and steak frites.
Where: 35 rue Rambuteau, 75004 Paris
What: Maison Pralus is named after La Praluline, an indulgently buttery brioche, complete with a crisp topping and pink praline chips folded throughout. It’s as indulgent and delicious as it sounds, as are the ‘bean to bar’ chocolate treats designed for serious cocoa connoisseurs.
Where: 8 rue de la Main d'Or 75011 Paris
What: It looks like a classic French bistro but don’t be fooled. The sharing plates which comprise the menu at Buffet combine the flavors of the Far East with techniques borrowed from Levantine cuisine, resulting in treats such as sweet potatoes topped with a sprinkling of crumbled feta and crispy mushroom chips.
If you’re tempted by the shopping, fashion food and drink that’s waiting for you in Paris then take a few tips from someone who’s been there and fallen in love with the place. The first tip is travel light, packing items you can build up in layers like stunning cashmere wraps with faux fur, jeans and faux leather jeans or leggings with flats or over the knee boots. You’ll look the part but – even more importantly – you’ll be able to explore Paris with the emphasis on fun and comfort. Visit Rhelm before you pack and take a look at our travel jewelry kits and shower steamers to refresh you in the morning or relax you before bed. With Rhelm on your side you’ll be able to enjoy the very best of Paris and feel at least a little bit like a real Parisian while you’re there.