Travel Memories & Honoring Cultures: Paris

With chefs Yannick Alléno and Martino Ruggieri at Yannick’s 3 Michelin-starred Alléno Paris

Paris… adored by millions but a struggle for me since my first visit in 1999. With high girlhood, romantic dreamer expectations, I FELT the idea of Paris in my bones.

Daily pics from my Plaza Athenee balcony

But in my first weeks there, this was no Années Folles, or artistic 1920s heyday I dreamed of. Beautiful, yes. But it felt cold, caustic, arrogant and unflinching. Certainly cynical. Not being there during the Lost Generation and Josephine Baker-era decadence, maybe my Parisian day had passed.

Over the last two decades and multiple visits, I’ve gotten to know the city on its own (evolving) terms. Paris is elegant and aloof. Cautiously romantic. Shimmering and ancient. Decadent yet restrained. Multi-faceted and increasingly diverse (something Americans like me who grew up in LA, NYC and SF feel very at home with). Certainly, it is a place I love to eat and wander.

Last fall, with a dreamy suite at the Plaza Athenee in view of the Eiffel Tower, every time I stepped on that balcony, I felt that “flash” I did as a girl seeing the Tower for the first time (hence this daily series of photos taken from said balcony. I could not help myself). There was that magic — maybe not glowing and warm as I feel encompassed by across Italy — but cool and encroaching, ready to surprise every now and again, like falling in love with the last person you expected to.

Favorite Memories:
—Sipping pastis at some nondescript sidewalk cafe with Alain Ducasse & a dining industry friend
—Sitting in the Place des Vosges outside of Victor Hugo’s apartment journaling reflectively
—The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower & other memories with friends walking along the Seine as it sparkled
—Listening to Astrid Gilberto while journaling from a friend’s Paris apartment as I gazed across its rooftops in my 2nd visit
—As always, Paris’ restaurants and patisseries

Table from chef Bruno Verjus

Favorite Restaurants: Bruno Verjus’ Table, Clamato, Alleno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen, Restaurant Alain Ducasse Paris

Favorite Bars: Le Syndicat, Mabel, Cravan, Little Red Door 

Favorite Films: An American in Paris & Amelie (cliche though they may be); Before Sunrise series, The 400 Blows

Favorite Musicians: Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, France Gall, Yves Montand

Champs Elysees

Thankfully, the food is as stunning as the dining room at Restaurant Alain Ducasse