Place: Paris, France. Love of my life. Flower of my soul. Cream in my coffee. I’m slightly obsessed with Paris. (I know… original, aren’t I?)
What to Pack: It depends on which time of year you are going; summers are hot, winters are chilly. As for style there is one key factor no matter which arrondissement you are in, minimalism. Parisian women seem to have taken Coco Chanel to heart when she said, “simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” After entering a Sephora in Paris for the first time and noticing that they had less than half the make-up selection of the American stores and more than twice the perfume selection (along with an area, in the center of the store, where you could customize a perfume), I asked one of the saleswomen why this was the case. She explained that in America, women care about make-up and how that plays into fashion. In Paris, they care very little for (and sell relatively small amounts) of make-up, but Parisian women look at perfume as an absolute must.
Moral of the story: keep it simple. And bring perfume.
(Click on the picture below for more details.)
What to Do: Stay at Hotel Le Six. Get a metro map and use it (the public transportation in Paris is wonderful). Also use Rick Steves’ Paris Guidebook. He writes the best guide books, in my opinion. There is so much to do that it would be ridiculous for me to tell you any tips other than where to stay (a fantastic, relatively affordable hotel in the heart of what used to be the literary district and is walking distance from so many places related to the Lost Generation), and to make sure you visit Shakespeare and Company. (Oh, and if you have time – Versailles is a favorite of mine… and only an easy 30 minute train ride from Paris.)
- Paris 2012 by Rick Steves :: You thought I was kidding above, but I wasn’t. He packs a lot of good information into this book. Mostly it’s the stuff you want to know about before you go see certain sites. And then, once you’ve seen the sites and are just exploring the city for fun – he gives great tips on where to go so you can avoid the touristy areas and get an idea of what it’s like to live in a certain city. I read his books (when they’re available) before I go on any trip.
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway :: Read this before you go, not while you are there. You’ll get so much more out of the trip because you will have been able to mark down streets and areas that you’d like to look at before you get there. He mentions, in detail, places that people used to live and cafes they all used to frequent.
- Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran :: Not only is this a great story that will keep you entertained, it’s packed with real information about what happened in Paris leading up to (and during) the French Revolution. I read this before my last trip to Paris and was really surprised by how much greater my understanding of the city was. Knowing a city’s history makes traveling more fun (in my opinion), especially when the history has defined the culture and the area. This is a fictional book, so, of course, not everything is truth, but it is obvious that Moran did her research and looking into the facts as you read along is part of the fun for francophiles.
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery :: This novel takes place in Paris, and is one of my favorites regardless. I absolutely devoured this story and I thought the reader (I listened to it on audio) was amazing. Thoughtful, sharp, and cleanly written; it’s a wonderful novel to either read before, during, or after a trip to Paris.
Have you read these titles? What are your absolute must-reads about Paris?