Power Trip: Paris
This is Power Trip, a recurring series on hard-to-find but always sophisticated experiences in our favorite cities around the globe.
Paris is never better than in August: the weather is bang-perfect (average high: 77°F), and the locals are away on les grandes vacances (their long summer vacation) until September — meaning the city is deserted: a rare, good thing.
Herein: everything you need to plan a superlative trip to the world’s most beautiful (and most deservedly non-humble) city.
HOTEL: Plaza Athénée
There’s plenty of credible competition for the title of best hotel in Paris, so ultimately, sentiment wins. And our hearts belong to the guest rooms with the red awnings and geraniums at 25 Avenue Montaigne, the recent beneficiary of a €200 million renovation.
Luxe: Le Bristol, a celebrity favorite with a world-class pool.
Historical: Pavillon de la Reine, steps away from the 17th-century Place des Vosges. It’s a cross between a palace and a five-star country inn.
Cool: Hotel Providence, a design-forward choice between République and buzzy Canal Saint-Martin.
EATING: Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée
Good manners would encourage us to name a restaurant other than one at our no. 1 hotel, but the Plaza Athénée really does offer the superlative stay in the city, and Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée really is the opulent French dining experience to beat all others; from the shimmering, highly textured décor to the most unlikely miracle: an unfussy, welcoming staff.
Crêpes: Breizh Café. Order: The Vendangeur — a galette with blue cheese, honey, pine nuts and salad — followed by the Carrément Gingembre: a dessert crêpe with ginger ice cream, cream and caramel sauce.
Cafe: The Saint Régis. Order: The burrata salad followed by the salmon in a beurre blanc sauce — followed by the moelleux chocolat.
Modern bistro: Botanique. Order: the fried Brussels sprouts, seasonal salad and the cod with vegetables
BARS: Le Comptoir Générale
The drinks are strong and sweet, the crowd young and ready to dance at this ambitiously post-colonial Africa lounge. Reserve ahead with a group if you don’t want to stand all night — and get there early unless you’re OK with a line to get in.
Cocktails: Little Red Door, our choice of Paris’s crop of craft cocktail bars.
Wine + cheese: La Vache dans les Vignes. If you dream of pairing wines with cheese, this is your heaven.
Oysters: Le Baron Rouge. Best experienced after perusing the Sunday market at Place d’Aligre.
LOCAL STYLE TIP:
“A scarf is perhaps a cliché but it is also an essential, given our changeable weather, which returns in late summer. Also, every French person is a hypochondriac who believes that cool air against his skin will cause immediate illness — but it’s OK as our medical care is free and I can arrange for the doctor to come to my house for nothing.” —Guillaume Thomas
Le Havre (Normandy): Bombed to bits during World War II, Le Havre was built up from scratch in the 1950s, which meant it was a playground for mid-century architects — mostly notably Auguste Perret, whose church (Eglise Saint-Joseph) and apartments are both worth the trip.
Saint-Malo (Brittany): If your plus-one read All the Light We Cannot See, she will absolutely want to visit this meticulously restored Breton town on the sea. (There’s a sandy beach if you have good weather.) Don’t miss the Bordier restaurant, a temple to butter — there’s even a tasting with their exotic flavors (yuzu, Madagascar vanilla, seaweed, etc.).
Amboise (Loire Valley): A lovely, Loire-side town that makes an excellent jumping-off point for the region’s many chateaux — including one in town, the Château d’Amboise, home to French kings and Leonardo da Vinci alike.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Elle (2017): A cat watching its owner suffer a violent attack is just the start of this surreal, mind-trippy meditation on power and sexuality, starring forever-foxy Isabelle Huppert.
Before Sunset (2004): A heartbreaking, heartrending study of love in the mid-point between the post-collegiate meet-cute and babies.
Paris je t’aime (2006): Just be sure to watch Alexander Payne’s contribution to this omnibus film, featuring Margo Martindale’s French language-learner on her first trip to France.
An American in Paris (1951): A meeting of two distinct cultures at their finest: American enthusiasm and French sophistication — all to the music of a certifiably Yankee genius, George Gershwin (which means we win).
La Haine (1995): A corrosive look at life in the banlieues.
Antoine et Colette (1962): Cinema’s crowning take on young love in precisely 32 minutes, from François Truffaut.
L’armée des ombres (1969): An even-handed look at the French Résistance and the bitter end met by many résistants.
WHAT TO READ ON THE METRO: “Nothing American, nothing English, nothing anglophone, no newspapers, no magazines. Ideally Proust, with the corners of many pages turned over from having been read previously.” — Emilie Mann
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