Long Weekend in... Paris

A weekend’s worth of great eating and drinking in the City of Light

Mr and Mrs Smith had not steered us wrong. Hotel Murano is as modern, chic, and lacquered as the images and reviews promised it would be. Even so, its best feature is arguably its location — on the bustling Boulevard du Temple just steps from idyllic Parisian cafes, great nightlife, and a charming route to the Seine.

For all its eccentricities and beauty, Paris is a consistent city with each major thoroughfare looking much like the last. Sidewalk cafes blend into each other, one tabac’s sign resembles the next, and street signs seem like they’re aiming to confuse. But that familiarity between les arronidissement is what makes the city so fun to get lost in.

Day One

Even though Paris breakfasts can be unremarkable by American standards, there are great divides between cafés that can do a simple café crème and tartine well and those who miss the mark. One of the best is Merci. You could easily stumble on this place without knowing what you’ve found — only 4 or 5 tables line the sidewalk while inside is an enormous space that acts as lunch spot, library, and über-cool concept shop.

As is required of all visitors, we marveled at the Louvre’s glass pyramid before walking into the strangest (and coolest) shop in recent memory — Deyrolle (pictured). It is an old-school taxidermy shop with a giraffe, bear, ostrich, and lion all for sale (stuffed, of course) within.

Most would agree that the Musée Rodin makes a most visually appealing pit-stop. Skip the interior and go for the ticket that lets you stroll through the gardens, which are peaceful and stunning. Walk as far from the back of the museum as you can, then turn around — magnifique! (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Hotels Paris Rive Gauche)

Taking advice from many Francophiles back home, we stopped for lunch at Robert et Louise, back near our hotel. Order the set lunch menu, sit back, and enjoy.

Stopping back at the hotel, we were shown to our room at the end of a (very) darkened hallway. Built seven years ago, you can see some wear and tear on Hotel Murano, but it is ever-loved by locals and visitors for its sleek décor, stylish ambiance, food, and drinks. Even in the late afternoon, Parisians had started filling the semi-outdoor bar in the lobby to munch on the hotel’s signature (and delicious) breadsticks and dip and sip on colorful cocktails. What must be (or should be) a point of pride for Murano’s slick bar is their impressive collection of nearly 150 different types of vodka.

Our room was large with fun, modern amenities, bright orange chairs, ample pillows, and… colored lights. At any given time, we could have had a room bathed in a soft pink or blue light if it struck our fancy, which it did. (Photo courtesy of Murano Resort)

Much like Paris staple, Hotel Costes, Murano Resort produces CDs, which features musicians who've played or recorded at the hotel. Ultimately, the colored lights, plethora of vodka, sleek Parisians throughout, constant stream of music, and the hotel’s somewhat unassuming exterior work together to create the feeling of a contemporary hidden gem in an otherwise saturated city. 

Rested and ready to go, we ventured out to Nouveau Casino for a concert. It is not what it sounds like — no gambling or high rollers in sight, just a hipster-loving music venue with cheap drinks and great acoustics. It's also conveniently smack in the center of the cool bars and lounges on the rue Oberkampf. Skipping the adjacent Café Charbon for a quieter spot, we sat at Les Anémones before having a nightcap back at the hotel.

 

Day Two

Waking refreshed and excited to explore, day two's breakfast choice was Bob’s Kitchen. An organic little café with a creative menu, it was difficult to stop at just the delicious coffee cake (the flavor of which remained a mystery), deux café crèmes, and yogurt with granola.

Within the hour, we were walking up to the Basilique du Sacré Cœur in Montmartre and then back down for lunch. Having conquered the steep steps and other tourists, we photographed the view and made a bee-line for Hotel Amour (pictured). Directly through the lobby, we found their lush courtyard and immediately ordered a bottle of rose and some bread (and that addictive, creamy French butter).

Our concierge offered to book a table for us at a classic Parisian bistro. He chose Le Villaret, which was so locals-only, our taxi driver couldn’t even find it. Everything from the smooth, full-bodied red wine to the sumptuous roast chicken and the cheese selection made this meal one of those leisurely, three-hour long affairs you remember fondly when you’re back home, eating dinner at your kitchen counter.

Full and happy, our friends were imbibing at Le China, where we joined them for drinks. A colonial Shanghai-themed bar (it’s subtle and really works), Le China was the perfect end to the night — a dimly lit bar with strong drinks, red accented décor, and great people watching.

Day Three

Breakfast at the Murano was just what we wanted. Unlike other hotels, Murano lets breakfast last until 11 a.m. Mini-pastries, strong coffee, a cup of slightly sweetened yogurt, and freshly squeezed orange juice set us straight for the day.

Walking through the Jardins des Tuileries, our lunch at Chez Francis consisted of pomme frites, a bottle of rosé, an omelette avec fromage, and a perfect vista of hurried Parisians and, just beyond them, the Eiffel Tower.

A pit stop at Ladurée for their precious macarons was the perfect sojourn before heading back near our neighborhood to see what was new at the enduring hipster haven, colette.

Much like the locals (so we felt), we popped into Nicolas to buy a bottle of Champagne and then into the market next door for a baguette and some creamy cheese. Snacks in hand, we headed to the bank of the Seine, kicked off our shoes, and indulged. Just across the extravagant Pont Alexandre III, we bought a small chocolate and vanilla cone from Glaces Risi — homemade ice cream served from the back of an old Renault since 1930.

Feeling tired, but also aware of the precious few hours we'd have the next morning before heading to the airport, we took the subway back to the Eiffel Tower.  

Sitting amongst the throngs of relaxed Parisians on the Eiffel Tower's great lawn, the Champs de Mars, we bought beers from a roving vendor and toasted to a most delicious and very French weekend.

Then came perhaps the best unplanned discovery of the trip — L’Absinthe. Before heading back to the hotel, we stood at the bar, ordered deux absinthes, and watched as they meticulously prepared our drinks by lighting a sugar cube on fire and dousing the mixture with ice cold water.

The next morning was spent gorging again on our hotel’s breakfast spread and excitedly talking about what we’d most want to do again. The jury is still out — too much of a good thing.

(All photos courtesy of Nicole Campoy-Leffler, unless otherwise noted.)

Click here to see my full review of the Murano Resort.)

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