The Only Way To Do Paris
I think I’ve put off writing this blog post because I wanted it to be perfect and make perfect sense, but my brain has been fried since this trip. Not because it was a big party (well maybe? - haha) but because this holiday was prior to the finalization and completion of the cookbook. Since then, I haven’t done much in-depth writing. But here goes… My Paris Guide. The one and only way I have always wanted to do Paris.
If you have read the novel The Paris Wife or Zelda or any Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, or other Jazz Age artist biographies, you are probably seasoned in knowledge on the Jazz Age of Paris in the 1920s. If you haven’t, just think The Great Gatsby – but real life and in Paris. Seriously though, look it up and read about it. It will amaze you. No one enjoyed life or parties as much as these people. During their time in Paris, these artists literally stomped around the streets of Paris like they owned it – eating and drinking, and eating and drinking, and eating and drinking some more. If you Google “Hemingway and friends in Paris,” there are more images than you’d think – all of them lingering around food and drink on a bistro patio or at a grand dinner table. You can also do this with Jim Morrison and see the same but in the name of morality we will stick to the Jazz Age - ha! I do recommend a Doors soundtrack for the trip – more on that later.
I have read Hemingway and Fitzgerald biographies and books for as long as I can remember, so the “Jazz Age Paris” with a fun group of friends is always the Paris I have dreamed of experiencing. Everyone who knows me well knows one thing, I love lingering over food and drink and have no problem eating the same meal for hours on end. This is not just a Jazz Age thing, it’s a Paris thing – and it’s my favorite thing about the city. Don’t expect quick meals when you go there. And if you try rushing through meals, I think you’re missing the point. I tell people about Paris: 80% of why you go to Paris, should be for the food, coffee, champagne, and wine – the rest is beautiful and worth seeing, but the focus of this city should be your dining experiences.
Of course, I DO think the first time you go to Paris you should partake in all the touristy things, but I highly recommend setting aside at least a day or two for “living like a Parisian.” That’s what this guide is about – it’s a non-touristy guide of how to do Paris with friends, low and slow with a lot of partying in between. I was with a really unruly group of friends this last go-round, but Tres and I have done Paris by ourselves in a similar way, so this guide can be used no matter who you’re traveling with – as long as your focus is food and drink.
Spend an afternoon and night in Montparnasse
If someone said to me, I have 24 hours in Paris, what should I do? This would be it coming from me. The first time Tres and I went to Paris – just the two of us – I researched all the places Hemingway and Fitzgerald frequented and created a little “Jazz Age Bar Hop” excursion. The crossroads area of Montparnasse is where you want to be for that. There are 4 great Jazz Age bars on each corner of the crossroads and the others are just an easy stroll away. Plan on a drink and sharing one traditional Parisian food item at each stop. Our favorites are: Le Select, Le Dome, Café de la Rotonde, and Closerie Des Lilas. Not Jazz Age related, but also in that area is a beer bar we are obsessed with called Le Falstaff. The first time we went here, there was a band playing everything from Oasis to Nirvana so we immediately fell in love with it. It’s now on the list to stop at every time we ever go to Paris in life. The scene is late night, live music, fun people, great beers – it’s a party in there!
Linger outside of cafes with a view – particularly when it’s raining
“Paris is most beautiful in the rain.” If you have seen Midnight in Paris, you have heard this before. If you haven’t, that movie is everything and you should go watch it right now – or at least before your trip to Paris! I do think I am the girl version of Owen Wilson’s character in the movie – a nostalgist completely dissatisfied with the present, obsessed with Paris, and loves the rain. Really though, whether you like rain or not, seeing Paris in the rain is a dream. Seeing it in the rain while eating a delicious lunch, bottles of wine coming one after the other, with Notre-Dame as your scenery is actual Heaven. We experienced this at Le Petit Chatelet. I can’t put into words this experience. We got there as it opened, so our group of 8 was able to all sit together outside. Notre-Dame is literally right in your face at this place, so we enjoyed our view for the entire 3-hour lunch we savored as we talked and cry-laughed over multiple bottles of wine. When the rain started coming down at the end of the lunch, we all literally gasped and couldn’t stop talking about how lucky we were that this experience – the meal, the view, the rain, all of it – was happening to us at that moment. Go here!!! Go early so you can get a table outside with the view. And cross your fingers that the escargot and cream in puff pastry is still on the menu. I absolutely died eating that. When you’re done with lunch, hop next door to Shakespeare and Company – probably the most famous bookstore in the world that was a gathering place for writers in the 1920’s and was featured in Hemingway’s novel A Moveable Feast. Fun fact: both these highlighted destinations are featured in Midnight in Paris.
* Pics don’t do it justice but the video on my Instagram stories does! @andreas_cooktales
Have a cozy dinner with live jazz music
Maybe my favorite meal of the last trip to Paris, Porte-Pot is known for their great food and extra cozy atmosphere. It’s not easy to find, but worth the random streets and alleyways you go down to get there. I genuinely thought our rainy outdoor 3-hour lunch couldn’t be beat, but this dinner tied it – maybe beat it because the food was just exquisite and the live jazz made me feel like Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald were at the table next to us. I don’t know if they have live jazz every night but cross your fingers that they do – it made the experience extra special. We cut up and laughed over the fabulous food for hours, ordering more and more off the chalkboard as each dish came out, and you guessed it – we drank more wine! Locals sat at the bar alone as if this was the spot they came for dinner every night, and a couple of them even had their own bottle of wine, drinking the whole thing in its entirety. I remember walking out of there thinking, I may never have a moment like this again in my life. This was a dinner to top all dinners.
Same here... not such good pics, but the video on my Instastory shows how fabulous it was! @andreas_cooktales
Stay in an AirBNB in a local neighborhood
Nothing will make you feel like you live in Paris more than staying in an apartment in Paris. Plus, with a group of friends, it’s just too fun for words. Each night, we did a little bar hop around our neighborhood (all locals), came back to the apartment, opened up a bottle of wine and listened to The Doors. Tres made a Doors playlist and it was the late-night background noise in our AirBNB. I remember us all having the exact conversation, “there’s nothing more Paris than a late-night listening to The Doors and thinking about what Jim Morrison used to do here.” It just felt oh so Paris – authentic and celebratory.
Have the Eiffel Tower punch you in the stomach the first time you see it
This structure will no doubt take your breath away when you lay eyes on it the first time, but our friend who lived in Paris for a short time showed us a view that literally made us all gasp. I didn’t gasp the first time I saw it, but this time it literally punched me and I lost my breath. We all complained as he dragged us onto the underground, insisting we get off at this certain stop to see it. We all complained – until we got there. I don’t think I have ever actually lost my breath before rounding a corner in a city. His way was completely out of the way, but completely worth it. I couldn’t remember what underground stop we got off of, so I texted him and got the scoop for y’all! Take the underground and get off on Trocadero – that’s the name of the street. Once you get off, ask someone what direction to walk in to get to the Eiffel Tower. You will round that corner and feel like you’ve been punched in the gut – in a really good way! I never want to see the Eiffel Tower any other way again. Another tip: you’ll want to see it in both the day and the night to get the full experience. I prefer walking around it in the day time, slowly taking it all in. At night, I like to find outdoor seats at a café with a view to watch the light show with a glass of bubbly.
Walk around Notre Dame late-night
There’s not much to elaborate on here, just do it and you’ll be amazed. Such a detailed, beautiful design, it’s so serene at night and easier to appreciate when there’s no one else around. During the day, the entire area surrounding Notre Dame is a complete circus with swarms of people. Walking around the city late at night, you “feel” Paris more, and this is one of the most beautiful structures to see lit up in the evening.
Eat a fabulous Parisian lunch with locals before going to The Louvre
I don’t know about y’all, but I can’t enjoy anything on holiday without eating a fabulous meal first. The Louvre is gigantic and you can definitely spend an entire day (or even 2) there – depending on how deep your love of art may be. My love of food is greater, so I have always had a grand lunch planned before we even think about walking in there. My two favorite places near The Lourve: Le Comptior – where our group of rowdies started drinking wine at 10am and camped out a good 2 hours before hitting up the museum. The food here is authentically French and delicious. And Le Fumoir – a cozy place with a beautiful cocktail bar and amazing food. The Louvre has a fabulous little café connected to the outside of it – when you’re done art gawking, have a glass of wine on the patio.
Walk the Champs-Elysees
I recommend leaving the Louvre and taking the straight shot down the Champs-Elysees through the parks and all the way to the shopping district until you get to the Arche de Triomphe. You’ll see so much of the city this way and you can always stop for a coffee or bite along the way. Once you’ve seen the most beautiful, famous Arche de Triomphe, stop at Laduree for a sweet bite, a fancy coffee drink, and a glass of champs. Probably the most touristy thing I would ever mention doing in Paris, but it’s a staple, it’s so froufrou Paris, and it’s pretty worth it.
Stomp up and down a street lined with cafes and bars
I recommend throughout your trip, being on the lookout for a really hip street with lots of cool eating and drinking joints and saving it for your last night in Paris to take complete advantage of all the amazing food before you leave. You never know where a night like this will take you. I’ll tell my story - your story will be different, but if you’re open minded and find multiple stops, you’ll have the best night in Paris. We had an early morning flight home (after having about 3-4 hours of sleep a night) so we found a couple of lively streets near our AirBNB apartment and just decided to have bites of food and drinks at each. At the first stop, we ordered off a chalkboard with zero English, so that was an adventure, but we also discovered one of the best wines ever – if you see Brouilly on any wine list, order it! There may be several options, just tell the server you want their best Brouilly on the list. I’ve shared a picture of the one we couldn’t get enough of. Our second stop was Au Port Salut, and because they were about to close, they just gave us the entire upstairs room to ourselves where we ate, drank, and danced to the fun music they had playing. The funny videos can be found on my Instagram stories. Finally, we decided we should really get home and go to bed, but nevertheless, we saw another really fun hole in the wall bar. When we walked in, there was fake snow everywhere – on the bar, on the ground, on the tables – and everyone was dressed in medieval gear. It was a Game of Thrones party!!! Our night could not have taken a worse turn to get ZERO sleep before having to get up at 5am for a flight but we charged on and had an absolute ball with the locals. It was so worth it.
Have a drink at Bar Hemingway
To finish off this rec list, there must be another ode to Hemingway. This cozy, lavish bar in the Ritz Hotel is so worth a stop. The drinks are luxurious, the atmosphere is snug, and it’s great for people watching. I can’t recommend this enough.
One more VERY important rec: Champagne Country
The driving distance from Paris to Champagne Country is way too close to not tie into your trip (1 hour and 30 minutes). So rent a car, enjoy the scenic drive, and spend a couple of days champagne tasting. There’s literally nowhere in the world that makes champagne, so you’ll never be able to do this anywhere else. It was the highlight of my first trip to Paris. Tip: You’ll want to stay in Epernay or Reims but do champagne houses in both towns. Reservations are a must – it’s not a wine hop like Napa – so plan ahead.