Paris is more than the monuments. It’s a mentality—a Parisian way of living—that makes the city come alive. Combine that with the Haussmann buildings and Louis XIV relics as a backdrop, and the result is magical. But can a place with such lore, history, and beauty live up to its almost mythical reputation?
For me, Paris not only lives up to this reputation, but also exceeds it. I’m over-the-moon about living in the city. In fact, I often find myself smiling for no apparent reason, which, by the way, confuses the hell out of most Parisians. Upon meeting, French people often ask why I’d willingly leave the United States for a new life in Paris. It’s a complex question that has quite a simple answer: Paris feels like home.
The mental transition from tourist to resident hasn’t been quite so smooth. Maintaining discipline isn’t easy here. There are so many things to discover about Paris, yet I still have plenty of work to do. I’m fortunate that the line between pleasure and profession often blurs, like in June when Atout France and Paris Tourism asked if they could help me design my perfect day in Paris. Can you imagine?
As my mind turned with the possibilities, I realized that my ideal day as a resident looked much different than one as a visitor. It wasn’t about including as many stops as possible. My perfect day was a leisurely one, comprised of things that I’d been intending to do. There were no museums or monuments on my agenda, just a simple Saturday custom-made for me.
Paris is a late waking city, especially on the weekends. My reward for getting up with the sun is that Paris is basically empty. My favorite place to watch the sun rise is in Montmartre at Sacré-Cœur. As the highest natural point of Paris, the basilica’s steps are normally packed with visitors and rogue beer vendors, but not at sunrise. The vast view of the city is only made more magnificent by the ever-changing hues of the sky and the sound of silence. My flat is just a few metro stops from the basilica, making the early-morning alarm more tolerable.
One of the first lessons I learned about France is that eating is a pleasurable event, one that should be savored. Meals consist of multi-courses eaten at a leisurely pace, except when it comes to breakfast. Petit déjeuner literally translates to ‘little lunch’ and normally consists of espresso, orange juice, and a croissant or tartine, which is fresh baked bread served with butter and jams. Gone are my breakfast tacos from Texas. I’ve adapted to this French tradition and even have a regular café. Here, I have my table and the waiters know my order: café crème and croissant.
The city is filled with some of the world’s finest hotels. In France, the truly exceptional ones are given the Palace distinction. I’m often asked which is my favorite hotel in Paris That’s not a question I can answer, because it changes with my mood. However, I have a special connection to Four Seasons George V. It was the first hotel I stayed at in the city, and whether it’s being befriended by Lionel Richie in Le Bar or watching Michael Jordan puff on a cigar in the courtyard, I tend to have the most surreal experiences at George V. But beyond these types of encounters, I love popping into the lobby to marvel at the latest flower creations by Jeff Leatham. For my perfect day in Paris, the itinerary would be incomplete without the Four Seasons. And since I have a small obsession with luxury hotel spas, it only made sense to visit theirs.
Arriving early is key to fully experiencing the Four Seasons’ spa. The elevator ride down reduces my stress level a few notches, and the white, fluffy robe and ambient lighting lowers it even more. With a Skinjay Ritual body scrub booked, I take advantage of the Hammam, sauna, and swimming pool, which is one of the most beautiful in the city.
With my skin supple and feeling fully refreshed, I sample a few sweet and savory snacks from the hotel’s kitchen before I go. I could stay all day, but, as the French like to say, it’s not possible.
I abhor crowds, so it’s probably rather shocking that I would choose to go to Galeries Lafayette on a Saturday. This mega department store near the Opera is filled to the brim with everything that you could want and plenty of things you didn’t know you needed. It’s also packed with people, especially on the weekends. As much as I like to wander through the levels of luxury, it’s Galeries Lafayette Maison and the promise of lunch that gets me to brave the crowds of Boulevard Haussmann.
This multi-story building is dedicated to food. With sweets from L’Éclair de Génie, Alain Ducasse, and Pierre Hermé, I’m tempted to start with dessert. Instead, the Japanese, Mediterranean, and Indian restaurants lure me away, giving me a much-needed break from French food. The market located in the basement is a treasure trove for picking up fixings for a gourmet picnic. I love to look around and discover new foods, as well as pick up a few familiar items. Much to my amusement, there is a small section of American food. Pop-Tarts, anyone?
The first time I visited Paris, I wanted to find a perfume that would forever remind me of the city. With one spray, I was instantly taken back to the City of Light. I did find that fragrance, and I love it to this day. However, I’ve always wanted to create my own signature scent. With a Google search, I found Le Studio des Parfums in the Marais. Expert perfumer and nose, Sophie, helped determine my perfume personality and preferences with a series of questions. Perfect for summer, my perfume is a mix of fruit and florals. What’s really cool is that I can reorder the scent at any time, since the recipe is on file.
As the inventor of the dinner show, the Lido has been a fixture on the Champs-Élysées since 1946. In October of 2014, I was honored to attend one of the last performances of “Bonheur,” a show that ran for over a decade. In the winter, the Lido closed for about four months to make way for a newly designed theater and show created by Franco Dragone, who’s also created for Cirque du Soleil and Celine Dion. I’d been intending to revisit the Lido for quite some time, and this day was the perfect opportunity to do so.
Dinner seating begins at 7:00 for the 9:00 show. For over 30 years, chef Philippe Lacroix has been at the helm of the Lido. Different three-course menus at various price points are available, and I choose the one that includes Champagne and wine. With amazing precision, the wait staff serves, clears, and pours as if choreographed by Dragone himself. With over 190,000 covers per year, I’d say they’ve got the system down. The food is pleasing, as is the atmosphere, which is much different than my usual Saturday nights in Paris.
At precisely 9:00 pm, “Paris Merveilles” begins. With fantastical costumes and ever-changing sets, this new show stimulates my imagination. Singing, dancing by the famous Bluebell Girls and Lido Boys, ice skaters, a sword swallower, and acrobats all meld together to create a beautiful tribute to the city I love most. My expectations are blown, and I hate to see the show end. And judging by the applause and buzz from the crowd, I’m not alone.
There’s not much time to sit and savor the moment, because several thousand others are lining up outside to see the 11:00 performance. For a second, I contemplate hiding in the restroom just so I can watch “Paris Merveilles” once more.
My perfect day in Paris has concluded, and I make the short walk to Charles de Gaulle – Étoile. The metro is somewhat quiet, and I take the time to reflect upon my experiences while waiting for the train. I look around at all the tourists with their ‘Paris glow’ and I smile. While they only have a few days in this magnificent city, I get to live here. After all, every day that I awake in my tiny flat in the 8th arrondissement is another opportunity to have one more perfect day in Paris.
I was a guest of Atout France and the Paris tourism office. In no way was I swayed to write a positive review based on the post-spa glow, the unlimited eclairs, or the free-flowing glasses of Champagne. As always, opinions are mine.
Thank you to Arnaud Moreau, who took the featured photo. Find more of Arnaud’s work on his Facebook page, Art’No Shoot.