The beauty of any great city is that you never “finish” it. There’s always a new corner to explore, a windy street to be discovered, a café you wonder how in the world you missed.
Before I left Paris, I made peace with the fact that there was no way I would tackle everything on my to-do list (nor, my list of must-eats). It was partly to keep me sane in the frenzied last days of packing up one life to return to another. But it was also a way of reassuring myself that I would return to Paris. I would get dressed up for a ballet at Opera Garnier. I would stumble into a subterranean jazz club. Angelina’s obscenely thick chocolat chaud would once again deliciously coat my teeth and send me off in an orbit of bliss.
Now I’m on the cusp of returning to Paris—but only for a week. As a tourist, I want to leave my schedule loose enough for spontaneous explorations (which are more magical in Paris than any other city) and let my friends guide me to everything that is new and hot since I left (Saturne? Grazie?). But certain destinations and activities are non-negotiable. With my first post-expat visit on the horizon, here is what I’m most excited about.
First, I will have a pastry every day. At the top of my gluttonous list is the sticky-sweet praluline from Pralus; La Patisserie des Reves’ vanilla pastry cream-filled puff of doughy brioche, aptly named La Folie; and a croissant filled with something obscene—be it marzipan and almond slivers or chocolate and raspberries—from Boulangerie Julien.
Only as a visitor to Paris can one eat so shamelessly. To do it as a local is beyond a faux pas—it’s, well, sort of disgusting. But when you’re a tourist, you’re forgiven. Everyone knows that Paris has the best pastries in the world (and cheese and bread and rotisserie chicken), so it’s excusable to get after it.
I can also justify my impending gluttony as I know I will be constantly on the go. I will walk along the Seine, across le Pont des Arts, through the Tuileries. I will pause in the gardens of the Palais Royal, climb the hill to Montmartre, and explore le Jardin des Plantes. And I will Velib like a mad woman. Oui, oui, I can’t wait to be reunited with the symphony that is Paris’ two- and four-wheeled traffic!
Nor can I wait to stroll my old stomping grounds, rue Montorgeuil. It will be both bittersweet and surreal to stroll the white carrés—getting pulled in by the stinky cheese smells of La Fermette and the irresistible beauty of Stohrer’s cakes. I’ll see if G. Detou has industrial-sized bags of my favorite dried apples; if not, there is A la Mère de Famille. And I’ll sit outside at Au Rocher de Cancale with un vin rouge and get my fashion cues from the young, hip Frenchies sauntering by.
For all the eating and activity, I also want to be still long enough to absorb the little moments and details that make Paris, Paris. I want to hear church bells clanging. To sit in silence on a park bench with only little brown birds as company. To absorb the mystery and magic that rises from the Seine. To witness l’heure bleu.
I want to go back to Chez l’Ami Jean for dinner, but I also want to try Les Deux Amis, Le Pantruche, and Les Fables de la Fontaine—the one Christian Constant restaurant I never got to in my two years of living in Paris. I want to visit the Raspail and Aligre markets, with pit-stops at Polaine and Le Baron Rouge. I wouldn’t mind seeing what Merci, Carven and Isabel Marant have in my size and what’s on at the Pompidou, Jeu de Paume and Grand Palais. Perhaps I’ll finally make it to the consignment shops in the 16eme and see Monet’s splendor at le Musée Marmottan while I’m over there. And—
Wait! Seven boulangeries, six restaurants, four museums, two markets, plus beaucoup de cocoa, wine, parks, people-watching, shopping and Velibing, in just one week? Again, it’s an impossible itinerary but, already, it gives me permission to plan another return to Paris. Because no matter how delicious my to-do list is, sometimes it’s the anticipation for what’s next that is most delicious of all.
- Amy’s farewell to Paris at the NYTimes
- More on Merci and other of Paris’ hottest shops
- Why Le Baron Rouge is the quintessential Paris wine bar