After spending many years perfecting her French, teacher extraordinaire Carrie Anne James left her native California and took her French-teaching business French is Beautiful to Paris. Her warm smile makes her approachable as we discovered during an afternoon with Carrie Anne, who lets us in on her perfect day in Paris.

Carrie Anne James by Diana Liu at the American Center

Carpe Diem! Early Mornings and Tarte aux Pommes

My perfect day in Paris starts at dawn – Parisian sunrises are some of the most stunning I’ve seen, rivaling even the sun coming up over desert mountains in the States. The violet hues over Paris’s rooftops and the whispered calm make for a moving, powerful start to the day. I write at my kitchen table over a cup of Italian coffee made in my porcelain pour-over before I (leisurely) get ready to Ella Fitzgerald. My first destination is my local Poilâne (a top-notch collection of French bakeries) for une tarte aux pommes (apple tart). 

Au Petit Fer à Cheval by Ali Postma/Lagaleriefemme / Café de Flore by Carrie Anne James

Afternoon People-Watching at Cultural Hotspots

Walking around the fountains of the Place des Vosges, writing and/or reading at la Bibliothèque Mazarine (the oldest public library in France), people-watching at Café de Flore (perhaps while enjoying a coupe de champagne or a Club Sandwich ‘Rykiel’)…

Carrie Anne James by Diana Liu at the American Center / Rodin Museum

My perfect day includes an evening stroll around the Place des Vosges, un café au comptoir (a coffee had at the counter) at Au Petit Fer à Cheval, a visit to the gardens of the Rodin Museum (my favorite of his sculptures is Le Réveil) and lunch at Marcel in the 7th nearby (they have the best salads, which is something that this Californienne craves consistently in Paris). And I do this on foot, crossing la Seine via l’Île Saint-Louis.

Carrie Anne James

I love walking in Paris, it clears and feeds my mind, it keeps me connected to wonderment and is the best way to ensure that I never, ever take living in Paris for granted. It takes me about 45 minutes to walk to my courses at the Sorbonne, but what a magical route it is from the Marais, especially in the early morning. Strolling is the activity through which Paris reveals her magic.

Evening Mingle and a Glass of Wine at the Counter

La Belle Hortense

If I’m leaning into a solo vibe, I’ll enjoy a glass of wine au comptoir (at the counter) of La Belle Hortense, one of the most special places in all of Paris for introspective, Francophile book-lovers. Part librairie (bookstore), part wine bar, part café, it is also (discreetly) a restaurant.

Owned by the same group as the nearby Les Philosophes (and Au Petit Fer à Cheval), you can order dinner at the counter and your bartender will put your order in at one of their sister-establishments and walk it across the street for you when it is ready (get there on the early side to catch the last piece of tarte tatin). I love to sit at the counter after picking up a new book there.

I read and I listen to David Bowie’s last album, which somehow seems to play in the background every time I am there (which is perfect). If I am meeting a friend, my new favorite spot is on the terrace at Le Sancerre – a classic neighborhood brasserie overlooking my local park and mairie (town hall).

Le Sancerre

Time seems to stop when I am at either of these bonnes adresses (great spots). Also, I will have likely paid Vintage Paris or Vintage Désir in the Marais a pre-apéro visit to see if my perfect day comes with a vintage clothing score. Like my Saint James marinière, which I scored in the Marais years before moving to Paris.

End-of-Day: Curling Up With a Book

My favorite way to wind down at the end of the day is with music. I’ll put one of my favorite 70s albums when I get home from dinner with friends or after a walk around the Place des Vosges after a full day of creating and recording French lessons.

Place de Vosges by Beanitwoman

If I’ve stayed in for the night, I’ll likely enjoy a glass of wine overlooking the sunset after reading a few pages from one of my favorite French femme de lettres (I’m currently reading Laura, Voyage dans le cristal by George Sand).

La Belle Hortense / Carrie Anne James by Diana Liu at the American Center

A beautiful glass of red, the voice of Stevie Nicks or Van Morrison and Parisian rooftops stretching out under orange clouds … perfection doesn’t exist, but that combination reaches towards it well. The very last thing that I do is create a quiet moment to say merci for another day of living my dream and for all of the inspiring souls that are a part of it.

Carrie Anne’s Perfect Paris Itinerary

La Belle Hortense – 31 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 Paris

La Bibliothèque Mazarine – 23 Quai de Conti, 75006 Paris

Café de Flore – 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris

Marcel – 15 rue de Babylone, 75007 Paris

Le Musée Rodin – 77 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris

Au petit fer à cheval – 30 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 Paris

Poilâne – 38 Rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris

Le Sancerre – 87 Rue des Archives, 75003 Paris

Vintage Désir – 32 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris

Vintage Paris – 97 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris

Carrie Anne can be found on Instagram and you can find more information on her French is Beautiful courses online.

Special thanks to the American Center of Paris for hosting this shoot.

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Written by Diana Liu for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.


Diana Liu

Diana Liu is a Paris-based writer and photographer who is currently completing her Master in media and creative industries at Sciences Po. She co-founded ChopChicks in Paris, a blog and community dining experience that brings people together to discover the wealth of Asian restaurants and Asian culture in Paris. She’s written about food, fashion, art & culture, and French politics for Inspirelle, ChopChicks, Wheretoget Magazine, and other publications. See more of her photography on her Instagram @sheandhercat, and discover Paris’ best Asian restaurants and join her for dinner at ChopChicks in Paris.

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