Whether one has five hours, five days, five weeks or five months in Paris, there is never enough time to see and do everything. Paris is a city with endless gems to explore; the trouble is that with each turn there are more beautiful views, more unique shops and cultural attractions, and sadly, not more than enough time.
Several years back, I had a few hours layover at Charles de Gaulle and yearned for a Cafe de Flore coffee. So we packed up a taxi with mountains of luggage, drove to Boulevard Saint-Germain, had the taxi wait and just sat for a coffee and croissant and then drove back, in typical Parisian traffic, to the airport and took off. Crazy? Yes, but worth it!
I usually end up in Paris a few times a year and while I truly love the city in all seasons, I do have to say that spending Thanksgiving in Paris is parfait! I have spent about ten Thanksgivings in Paris and most Americans ask why another ‘Turkey Day’ in Paris? Well for one, Parisians and expats alike love the excuse for a big festive Thanksgiving feast and there are always plenty of dinner invitations and options to get my fill of turkey and all the fixings.
This past Thanksgiving, I checked into Le Bristol Paris for the first time and was smitten from the minute I arrived. I’ve been a devotee of the Ritz Paris forever and still can not wait for the doors to reopen, but now have some difficult hotel decisions looming for the future. I used my Leaders Club Unlimited membership to arrange for a complimentary transfer from the airport to my hotel. This is my only loyalty card that includes complimentary private car transfers! We were greeted at baggage claim by our driver and whisked to a private spot through a door next to baggage claim and within minutes we were off to Le Bristol. Upon arrival at the hotel, we were quickly escorted to the perfect Parisian garrett room with views galore and three balconies (including one in the bathroom). I later found out that the room was used in the movie Midnight in Paris, although it has since been renovated and is a perfect oasis of grays and blues with an enormous bathroom and enough closets for any of my fashionista friends to set up camp for weeks.
The staff of the hotel is what impressed me most. Each employee interaction was charming and helpful, and most importantly their demeanor was genuine. Just like one of my other favorite hotels, the equally sublime Hotel Du Cap, Le Bristol is a crown jewel in the Oetker Collection of masterpiece hotels and it has become one of my favorite Leading Hotels of the World. Le Bristol has a super sleek and brand new La Prairie spa which I loved–try the traditional Russian Baniya treatment!
Also, make certain to bring a bathing suit and swim in the famous swimming pool; made entirely of teak, the shape of the pool is reminiscent of the bow of a sailboat–don’t miss the tromp-l’oeil of Hotel du Cap in the background overlooking the pool!
Chef Eric Frechon’s Epicure is Le Bristol’s magnificent Michelin three-star gastronomic restaurant. The dining room is always packed and its large windows open on to the largest garden of the Parisian luxury hotels.
There are so many options for everything from sightseeing, to museums, to shopping, to dining, to galleries, to spas and the list goes on – without some framework, the trip may become daunting. I have listed all of my favorite restaurants and brief descriptions for each below. Also, research the museums and exhibitions prior to arriving in Paris and then simply ask the concierge to get tickets to the exhibitions you wish to visit – this is a must, otherwise the lines to get tickets will take longer then the viewing of the exhibition. As for shopping, turn left or right…there are incredible stores galore. Pick your starting spot and then build your shopping excursion by neighborhood. Lastly, if this is your first trip to Paris, do see all the major sites. I know it is a lot to take in, but it is awe inspiring and worth any blisters or aching feet. Any concierge can make a concise list of the must-see spots and help plan your excision–don’t be shy about asking, this is what they do and a good concierge will know the hidden gems.
Remember, when planning lunch or dinner, always make a reservation!
A la prochaine fois!
Cafe de Flore | Go anytime – day or night, breakfast or lunch, coffee, snack or late night drink. Great mix of Parisians and fashion people and just about everyone else. Perfect people watching. http://www.cafe-de-flore.com
Cafe Marly | A Costes brothers indoor/outdoor cafe at the Louvre – fun for lunch, snacks, etc. Stunning views of the glass pyramid and always a comfortable place to take a break. http://www.maisonthierrycostes.com/cafe-marly/accueil
L’Avenue | A Costes brothers indoor/outdoor cafe best for lunch. Very fashionable and fun. Directly across from Dior on Avenue Montaigne (major shopping street with the best luxury shopping) and down the street from one of the most picturesque views of the Eiffel Tower. During nice weather, the outdoor seating is great. There is also a cozy upstairs dinning room. http://www.avenue-restaurant.com
l’Esplanade | Located on the corner of Rue Rabert and to the left of Les Invalides. A chic spot with comfy chairs and delicious food and super cozy. I love the nems (Vietnamese spring rolls!!!). http://www.zagat.com/r/cafe-de-lesplanade-le-paris-france?full_content=true
Spring | A tiny hidden gem that recently received unbelievable praise from critics. American chef Daniel Rose creates unique dishes and the pairings in each dish are creative and noteworthy. Very small and lunch reservations are easier to get than dinner. http://www.springparis.fr
Georges | Atop the Pompidou Museum. Supper modern, lofty with great views and delicious food. http://www.centrepompidou.fr/en
Stresa | A small, clubby Italian spot which is popular with the celebrities/fashion crowd. http://www.lestresa.com
L’Ami Louis | A famous institution known best for its incredible foie gras and yummy roasted chicken. Very rustic and authentic.
Bar Mathis | A small, clubby spot for locals and insiders. It is tiny and always packed.
Ralph’s | In the Ralph Lauren store. It is incredibly popular with Parisians for lunch or dinner–amazing for a big festive Thanksgiving feast–with all the trimmings. There is a lovely courtyard with tables for outdoor dining during the warmer months. http://ralphlaurenstgermain.com
Thiou | Great Thai restaurant on the Quai D’Orsay. http://www.thiou.fr
La Societe | An uber hot and chic Costes brothers owned restaurant off Boulevard St Germain, just a few doors down from Cafe de Flore. The room is sexy and dark and the food is delicious–love! http://www.restaurantlasociete.com
Brasserie Lipp | A beloved Parisian institution, just across from Cafe de Flore. Gets older Parisian society, celebs and tourists.
Ferdi | A trendy spot known for its burgers.
Kong | Very modern and ‘in’ rooftop restaurant with great views and a cool crowd. http://www.kong.fr
Le Voltaire | Another Parisian institution good for lunch or dinner. Fashionable restaurant on the Left Bank, that’s been around for ages (lots of designers, fashion people, etc.).
Anahi | Popular Argentine hot spot with a huge following from the fashion world–located in Le Marais district.