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Getting Paris Right the First Time

We've asked journalist, podcaster, and Paris dweller Oliver Gee to share his advice on how to pull of the perfect first trip to Paris.Grant Lemons

Editor’s Note: Memories of a first trip to Paris never fade. The indelible experience of discovering one of the world’s most beautiful cities unfailingly leaves its mark. No matter what you do, once you’ve seen Paris it will never leave you. Having said that, there are ways to approach your first time to Paris that will assure you get the most out of the experience and guarantee a maximum of memories you’ll hold dear for years after your first steps on Paris’ cobblestone streets. We’ve asked journalist, podcaster, and Paris dweller Oliver Gee to share his advice on how to pull off the perfect first trip to Paris. Happy reading.

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Coffee with a French Twist at Cuillier Café

Coffee with a French Twist at Cuillier Cafe in Paris

While anyone who’s been to a New York, Copenhagen, or Sydney coffee shop is likely to have heard the virtues of Chemex extolled, many French people are just discovering that there’s a whole world beyond Italian roast, and that it’s now accessible in major French cities. Cuillier, which just opened its third location in Paris, has made it its mission to get people here as excited and concerned about coffee as everything else they eat and drink.

Coffee with a French Twist at Cuillier Cafe in Paris

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LIZA Lebanese Restaurant: From Beirut to Paris with Liza Asseily

LIZA Lebanese Restaurant and Bakery: Sandwiches and Traditional Cuisine in Paris and Beirut

Liza Asseily

I recently made my way from the Palais Brogniart in Bourse to the lively Lebanese restaurant LIZA on rue de la Banque, which lines the AFP headquarters. Opened 10 years ago, it was Liza and her husband Ziad Asseily’s first-ever venture. The Beirut-born socialite, who bounces between Paris and Beirut, has since opened a magnificent restaurant in a former palace in Beirut and an outpost at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris.

LIZA Lebanese Restaurant and Bakery:  Sandwiches and Traditional Cuisine in Paris and Beirut

Liza Asseily

“The Paris restaurant is my baby but I love all my projects – even the bakery. In fact, you’d laugh at me if I told you I’d been dreaming of having one of the sandwiches from the bakery for the last couple of months while I was in Beirut. I miss Paris when I’m in Beirut and I miss Beirut when I’m in Paris,” says a bubbly Liza, her big brown eyes sparkling. Liza came to the city with her parents during the Lebanon war and has since called both Beirut and Paris home. “I love to be outside of my comfort zone – I think that this fearlessness to start something new is engrained in us Lebanese due to the war. We just go for it.”

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Christmas in the City of Lights: Seeking Out Paris’ Holiday Cheer

Mic Mac

When I popped home to the UK in November, London was already in full festive swing with Christmas trees, festive songs and neon lights galore. Sent back with a Cadbury’s chocolate advent calendar adorned with an oversized Santa, I was ready to start the Christmas season with a bang.

Making Magique

Yet once back home across the pond, I realized Paris hadn’t joined in on the fun yet. I was ready to start in on my advent calendar and temperatures were plunging, but where were all those tell tale signs that our favorite mid-winter festival was fast approaching?

This set me thinking. What exactly is a Parisian Christmas? What happens in the cold windy days leading up to the big event? I set out on a mission to discover the seasonal delights that France’s most romantic city had to offer.

Little Brown Pen

Shopping

Although the Christmas shopping frenzy begins relatively late in Paris (thankfully, shops only step into gear at the end of November), once it gets going, it really gets going. Stores go all out with light shows and designer-crafted window displays – always tasteful, bien sur. First stop? Paris’s iconic department stores. Whilst London has toy-filled Hamleys and elegant Harrods, Paris showcases its trademark sophistication with Les Galleries Lafayette and the neighbouring Printemps, where Karl Lagerfeld’s touch marks this year’s displays: think Chanel-clad rock ‘n’ roll dolls strumming their electric guitars and 20m Christmas trees. Continue Reading »

Posted in Events, Shopping, Travel | 5 Comments »

Paris in the Winter: The City of Light Shines

Above: Christmas window at Galleries Lafayette, Paris (JournaldesVitrines); Below: Christmas windows Galeries Lafayette (JournaldesVitrines); Eiffel Tower (Colodio)

Whoever said “all that glitters is not gold” can’t have visited Paris in December. I mean, why would anyone recoil at the prospect of ordinary, everyday sights being transformed into such delicious, enchanting illusions? From a damp black pavement glowing red, then amber, then green to the Eiffel Tower fizzing in a blaze of sparks, Paris in winter is pure magic.

But this light show is nothing new.  The French capital has been flickering on and off for centuries.  Its history stretches all the way back to the 1600s when a public decree ordered for lights to burn in the windows of all houses that faced onto the streets of Paris.  Ta-da, and so the City of Light was born…

La Grande Roue at the Place de la Concorde, ParisLa Grande Roue at the Place de la Concorde, Paris (Feuillu)

These days, over 100 streets are lit up from late November to late January to accompany Paris’ permanently illuminated monuments. Fancy basking in the city’s reflected glory? Follow my lead and wrap up warm for a bracing evening stroll along the Champs-Elysées.  The mile-long route from place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe glistens under a canopy of bright white fairy lights.  Everywhere you look, there’s a sprinkling of fairy dust and Christmas cheer.  Only the proverbial Scrooge would turn down a helping of roasted chestnuts or a spin on the twinkly Tuileries Ferris Wheel.

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Posted in Events, Parisian Living | 8 Comments »

How to Shop Like a Parisian: Personal Stylists to Make You Fab

Paris fashion personal stylistsPhotos: Liuwencheng, Charlyn W, One & Only Paris Photography

In Paris, the fashion trend of the moment is having your own personal shopper. From the city’s grands magasins to independent fashion advisers, there’s no shortage of creative alternatives to traditional shopping.

Many Paris shops are offering personal shopping services to their clients, including the big department stores, who offer individual sessions by appointment with a stylist. At Galeries Lafayette, for instance, a fashion adviser guides shoppers to the most fashionable brands after a private interview, showing the newest items and helps while their clients try on clothes. Printemps also offers the services of a private stylist by appointment, who will accompany shoppers throughout the store, guiding them in their choices. A personal room is made available to try on the clothes at leisure.

Independent personal shoppers, a concept that originated in the United States, are also on the rise in Paris. Continue Reading »

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Ready, Set… Shop! Les Soldes Run Through February 10

Soldes-Top-tripleGarance Doré, www.garancedore.fr, www. frenchgardening.com

It’s that magical time of year… when shopping wishes come true and full-blown retail miracles can happen. Suddenly, the items we’ve been coveting throughout the fall and early winter are suddenly affordable… or at least, more affordable. That’s right: France’s biannual sales (“les soldes”) are here, and just about everything—from clothes and handbags to electronics and home furnishings—are repeatedly marked down until they are so cheap that we are practically forced to buy them. Typically, the première démarque sees prices cut by 20-50%, with the deuxième démarque resulting in prices up to 70% off. It’s like a city-wide “Everything must go!” policy… and by everything, we mean literally everything. This government mandated clear-out happens twice a year, and for avid shoppers, there is absolutely no better time to be in Paris (with your credit card at the ready).

SoldesLittle Brown Pen, fr.modefix.com

But les soldes are not for the faint of heart. If you’re headed for the big department stores (Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché), prepare to brave crowds of strategic shoppers who are ready to fight tooth-and-nail to snag the best merchandise before it’s gone. Towards the end of the day during les soldes, these large stores tend to look more like ransacked warehouses than elegant shopping emporiums—with sweaters strewn about, piles of shoes stacked in corners, and wild-eyed shoppers sprinting from rack to rack to score overlooked gems before stores close their doors for the night. Smaller boutiques have a slightly less chaotic feel, but the end goal is the same: find the best stuff at the lowest prices…right now.

But the reward is well worth the struggle. I made the most unexpectedly exhilarating purchase of my life during last year’s soldes. I don’t even know how I ended up in the Chloé section of Printemps (fate I suppose), but there I was… and suddenly, I saw the coat, hanging towards the back of the section like a shining beacon of elegance—awesome in the truest sense of the word. Suddenly I was looking at it, then touching it, then trying it on… at that point, I think I blacked out. A few minutes later, I was out on the street, hyperventilating with shock (or was it poverty?), having made the most major purchase of my life. In my defense, it was 50% off, and to this day, I get giddy every time I put it on. It reminds me of Paris, which inevitably makes me happy. And that’s what les soldes are all about: impulse… and no regrets.

Plus, we all know the economy needs stimulating. So have an espresso, take a deep breath… and jump in. (This year’s soldes last through February 10).

Written by Tory Hoen for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

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