By Bianca Alexander
I love traveling, and there are few cities I don’t like. I enjoy the diverse intimacy of crowded New York City, the political intellectualism of D.C., and the laid-back coolness of sunny coiffed L.A. Internationally, there’s nothing like flamenco and tortillas in Sevilla, spicy veg pad thai in Bangkok and art-deco furniture shopping in artsy Ubud. But no matter how many cities I visit, only one captures my heart: Paris.
Paris, why do I love thee? Let me count the ways: the fashion, the long languorous dinners, enchanting architecture, an artistic twist on life, and best of all, the language. To me, language is an art form, and French has everything to offer the tongue: it’s sensual, challenging, and deliciously irregular – just like Paris.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to spend time in the city of lights:
Get around. Upon arrival, take a romantic walk down to the Seine and hop on one of Paris’ world-famous Bateaux Mouches river boats. Within a breezy two hours, you’ll get a historic lay of the land touring the most notable monuments of Paris, from Notre Dame and the Louvre to The Eiffel Tower. After, the best way to see Paris is by foot, giving yourself permission to get lost on its cobbled streets and ancient alleys, or on Vélib’ bikes, which are rentable by the hour across the city.
Where to eat. When I lived in Paris in college, I was a meat and dairy-eating fiend, which most people wrongly think you have to become if you visit. Au contraire, there are plenty of top great vegetarian (French: vegetarien) and vegan (vegetalien) restaurants in Paris, including the top-rated vegan and gluten-free Pousse-Pousse in the 9th arrondissement. When in doubt, ethnic restaurants like Indian Saravana Bhavan and Southeast Asian Tien Hiang, both in the 10th, have dozens of meat and dairy-free entrees that are sure to please any palate. Or, visit happycow.com to search a comprehensive list of veg restaurants around the world.
Where to shop. It doesn’t take much imagination to promenade down the Champs Elysées and shop at the ritziest boutiques in Paris for brand-name French fashion. Instead, hop on the pink line metro to Porte de Clignancourt’s Marché aux Pouces, the best flea market in town. There, you’ll find one of a kind antiques, jewelry and vintage clothing (some at discounted prices) that no French department store could possibly match. If thrifting isn’t your thing, visit bobo-chic hipsters paradise Centre Commercial near Canal St. Martin, or check out Mademoiselle Bambu in Montmartre after enjoying artwork from some of the most talented artists in the city perched near the world-famous Sacre-Coeur cathedral.
Where to stay. The best lodging experiences are with locals, so book a quaint pied-a-terre on Airbnb. This way, you can enjoy the spirit of the city without having to give up comforts like cooking your own food and having extra room to spread out (which is nice after spending hours on a plane to get there). If being a little more pampered during your vacation is more up your alley, find an eco-friendly home away from home like the rustic luxurious Hidden Hotel, just a stone’s throw from the Arc d’Triomphe.
For up to date tips on where to shop, eat and explore in Paris, visit parisinfo.com/.