Name: Laurène—Lauren in the U.S.
Age: 23 ans
Occupation: 60% professional babysitter, 40% french student and beurre-ologist
I was honored to be asked to provide you a moderately high maintenance tour of la plus belle ville du monde. While there are plenty of noteworthy sights to see here, I’ll leave those to Rick Steves. Instead, here you can find my own favorite spots, things to do and ideas of things to bring home that I’ve curated over the last nine months here that I hope pique your interest, or at least, provide a nice interlude to your trip. Seriously though, I hope you fall passionately in love with this place and all its quirks and charms because like that pain au chocolat that you should spring for, it’s worth it.
What to wear: leave the beret at home, but pack your sneakers
I’m not one for assimilation, but packing to move here had me a little nervous. This is, after all, home to the good ol’ boys. I’m talking Chanel, Dior, YSL, (insert world-renowned luxury brand) I read up on the internet last summer that everyone wears all black, which can be true, and is chic 24/7.
I’m here to say right now, “ne t’inquiète pas,” or don’t worry. French chic, I feel is more an attitude than an outfit, and so you can embrace it fully by not stressing out too much about what to wear. In fact, I’d recommend to bring as little as possible. Classic looks are hailed here, and you rarely see women done up with full faces of makeup, and coordinating accessories.
As a definite Georgia girl, this can be shocking. We are, after all, the type who will brave scorching heat with coiffed hair, planned outfits and makeup for football games. French women, I suspect, would think this is crazy. It took me sometime to get used to this “less is more,” take me as I am…because I am naturally incredible attitude, but I promise, it really is more fun, and a lot simpler. That being said, here are the basics that I’d recommend to bring on board.
- Pair of comfy, cute sneakers. They’re called baskets here if you go looking for some when you land. Luckily, ath-leisure is in style because you will definitely get your steps in here. I easily can walk 8 miles a day here running errands, or simply walking around. This is one of my favorite parts of living here, but you do want to be prepared if you plan to be on your feet all day. One of the first things I bought were a pair of Adidas Stan Smith shoes. They are probably the Parisian shoe of choice, and with good reason. These pups are so comfortable and versatile.
- Jeans, and a few classic tops that you can re-wear, or maybe you want to try a dress and tights combo? It’s up to you, no pressure. I’m sure you look great in whatever you feel comfortable wearing!
- A jacket to throw on or take off depending on the changing elements, and an umbrella. It’s likely that you will experience sun, intense rain storm, clouds and gusts of wind in one hour here. Leather, or cute vintage denim jackets are really nice, I think, and will fool people into thinking you’re from here. Throw on a scarf, and you have convinced me, too.
- Voila, that’s it! Repeat: simple is key here. Forget the curling irons, makeup palettes and outfit stress. Instead, wakeup with the attitude that you look great, slap some moisturizer on that face, add a swipe of mascara and toss your bedhead hair around and you’ve got the makings for a beautiful day here! …as long as you are wearing comfortable shoes, that is.
Now that you’re wearing that classic, au naturel attitude, it’s boulangerie time!
While most people have heard of Angelina’s for the richest hot chocolate known to man or Laduree’s for pretty, pastel-colored macarons, I think it’s best to simply march yourself down to your nearest boulangerie, or bakery, which are everywhere here in Paris and grab a few pastries of your own and a baguette or two and savor the buttery heavens that are consistentlydelicious.
My favorite: this little piece of joy, the pain au chocolate aux amandes, not to be eaten every day, unless, of course, you’re on vacation in which case, eat til your heart is contented with buttery crunch, rich chocolate and almond filling. I’m in a committed relationship with this guy here. Pair it with a little café allongé, the big coffee—still smaller than an American coffee—but bigger than the standard espresso, and you have a moment of Parisian bliss.
After, it’s time to explore and put those carbs to work…
While, again, there are so many places to explore here, I’ll highlight a few of my favorite.
- Montmartre—this place may already be on your itinerary because it houses the highest point in Paris, Sacre Cœur, a beautiful, exotic-looking church that overlooks the city. This neighborhood in the 18th arrondissementis popular with tourists because I think it feels most like the Paris in your mind, with its small, winding streets, accordion players and breathtaking views of the city that lies below itssleepy hills. The neighborhood itself is a little bobo, kind of like the french counterpart to the american hipster. You’ll find some nice shops, bars and cafes of the same variety because of this. In any case, it’s a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon.
- Highlights: The Rue des Martyrs market, and KB Cafe Shop…technically south of Montmartre—just walk down the hills and you’ll find it. (53 Ave. Trudaine, Paris 75009)…KB Cafe Shop has consistent good vibes, fresh milk from Normandie in their drinks, iced lattes (a rarity here), an incredible brunch and a great terrace. Secret: it’s also my favorite coffee shop in the city!
- After working off that pastry in the hills of Montmartre, you can start to make your descent and visit the incredible Boutique Solidaire, a thrift shop that not only helps put people to work, but always delivers with great, inexpensive finds. Load up on nice french brands like Maje here on a shoestring budget. I promise this place is a win, win.
- Feeling a little more luxe? Head to Le Bon Marché, on the border between the 6th and 7th Arrondissements (metro: Sèvres-Babylone). Housing restaurants, every notable luxury brand known to man, and none of the crowds that you’ll find at other large department stores like Printemps or the Galleries Lafayette, this place is a real gem. Also noteworthy is its next door neighbor, La Grande Épicerie, an epicurean dream housing smells of truffle, wine cellars, restaurants, patisserie, its own boulangerie and floors of decor and homeware.
I took this picture at Christmas time when I was convinced this place was oozing the most spirit of the season.
- Disclaimer: this description is really understated for how nice these two places are.
Alors, on fait quoi ce soir?
Want to get a drink and relax after this long day of shopping and sightseeing?
Bespoke is a nice place with delicious cocktails, fun ambience and good food to share over drinks. The menu changes, but the drinks are always good (around 10-15 euros) Situated in the 11ème, Bespoke is in an area is lined with bars and fun places to pop into. It’s my advice to start with one—why not Bespoke?—and then see where the evening takes you. Also try, Le Riviera(2 Villa Gaudelet) nearby—My friend stumbled into here a few weeks ago while she was showing a visitor around, and I am so happy that they did because I LOVED this place. Think incredible cool, but not too cool, comfortable ambience, great drinks, soft warm lighting and a mix of early 2000’s garage rock and hip hop that you can actually dance to. Allez, go! It’s only open until spring 2017 when it will be converted into a hotel.
- Note—the metro runs until around 2am here, after that you can take an uber or a taxi which are plentiful and not too expensive, either!
Now, go home, wash your face, and repeat!
Before you go…aka a list of goodies to bring home. Like Oprah’s favorite things, except they’re mine!
- Skincare products. Forget buying those souvenir t-shirts in Montmartre. Head to the pharmacy—look for the green cross—and pick up a few things. My favorites—Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse…a dry oil that I use as both as a daily face moisturizer and heat-protectant for my hair. It’s my one go-to after I “wash my face” with Bioderma’s Micellar Water. Read about it, here! My skin is prone to dryness and can be sensitive, but since I switched to these two products, my skin has never been better…and of course, in true french style, it’s so simple! I’m going to line my suitcase with the stuff when I go home next to give to all my friends and family. It’s that good, I promise.
- Diptyque candles (about 50 euros for the standard size)—they call them bougies here, but these things are incredible, long-lasting, fragrant and soo luxe. Pick one up at the original Diptyque boutique on Bd. Saint-Germain or while you’re at Le Bon Marché to bring Paris home with you!
- Food—when you make that trip to Le Gran Epicerie, load up on french delicacies that you can’t get back home like cheese with lait cru and foie gras if you’re not opposed.
All of that said, bon voyage, friends! Bienvenue to my Paris, et gros bisous—Lauren! (and a big thanks to the Kitty Mama for letting me share this place with you all!)
(Note from Madeleine: Lauren is a dear friend and such a gem to be around! She is known for her exuberant spirit and zest for life itself! She is the originator of my nickname of Kitty Mamma. You can find her on instagram and her blog. Once again, thank you so much to Lauren for sharing her true insider knowledge and tour of the City of Lights!)