Editor’s note: Jessie Kanelos Weiner is a Paris based artist whose illustrations provide a playful perspective on la vie Parisienne. From a discrete corner café scene to the ubiquitous Parisian pigeon, Jessie documents the sights and details that are often overlooked in the city – but that make Paris a special and beloved place. For the occasion of the release of her latest book, Paris in Stride, Jessie shared some of her favorite spots in Paris to visit to get her creative juices flowing. I hope they will inspire you as well!
These days, I can find inspiration anywhere my phone is not. But there are a few specific places in Paris where I flock to when I need a healthy distraction and my creative mojo needs a reboot.
The Bois de Vincennes is practically my backyard. It is one of two forests along with the Bois de Boulogne, that bookend the East and West ends of Paris. In the summer months, I take an hour walk just about every evening to unwind and ease the day’s eyestrain.
My favorite spot is the Allée Royale just behind the Château de Vincennes. It is a huge grassy field lined with a canopy of trees and a gorgeous perspective on the château. On a sunny day, it’s reminiscent of a Seurat painting with Parisians in various states of relaxation; reclining, picnicking, and the occasional quirky competitive kite flying.
I can’t walk by the art supply destination Boutique Sennelier on the Seine without going in. It’s like stepping into a vintage Paris, specifically the go-to spot for masters past and present like Picasso, Cezanne and Lagerfeld. But since I’m a heavy user of supplies, I prefer to shop at Le Géant des Beaux Arts, a French art supply chain superstore with reasonable prices and regular sales which otherwise only happen twice a year in France. That’s where I stock up on my essentials: Winsor & Newton professional watercolors, Ecoline color inks, Raphaël brushes and Clairefontaine hot pressed paper.
This neighborhood has such a timeless charm that makes it one of my favorite destinations when I have time to meander through Palais Royal, Passage Vivienne, and all the charmingly calm surrounding backstreets. If I’m not getting Japanese noodles on Rue Saint-Anne, I’ll meet a friend for lunch at LaLa. David Lanher, superstar chef behind Racines, opened this vegetable-forward cantine in the middle of the concept store Maison Sarah Lavoine. It’s super light fashion food at its best focusing on local and seasonal ingredients and drawing in the stylish clientele of the many fashion houses in the neighborhood. Be sure to reserve at lunchtime.
Since being an illustrator is often an isolating job, going to my local market is a welcome social moment to jump-start the day before I’m off to my studio. There are dozens of excellent outdoor markets in Paris, but I stay very loyal to my local one on Rue Fontenay in Vincennes. Not only does it mean I don’t have to schlep my granny caddy (a Parisian must!) all across the city, but it is also how I catch up on neighborhood gossip and support my local food producers 2-3 times a week. I always buy my seasonal fruits and vegetables at local producer Les Jardins du Grand Clos.
“I go there when I want someone to be nice to me,” is how I explained Boneshaker to a friend of mine who had never been. Paris is a beautiful city, but still is a difficult place to live and figure out when the comforts of home are far, far away- and the cold, anaemic beignets from my local boulangerie just don’t do the trick. If I am in the neighborhood, I always stop by Boneshaker for a still-warm donut of the day (hello chocolate stout donut with toasted marshmallow!), a filter coffee and a chat with the owners Amanda and Louis. The donuts are as authentic as the American/Irish hospitality.
I’m usually hesitant to check out the latest buzz restaurant because I often find the hype to not warrant the long lines and copy-and-paste decor. But Echo Deli has a trademarked California cool about it that is a welcome break from the cold and grey Parisian winter months. And it has chilaquiles, a proven hangover cure that sadly didn’t exist in Paris during my ‘20s.