How to visit Paris without leaving home

When Humphrey Bogart declared “We’ll always have Paris” in the classic film Casablanca, he perhaps hadn’t considered the possibility that the City of Light, along with swathes of Europe, might one day go into lockdown in response to a global health pandemic.

For now, the French capital is off-limits to tourists, with the fabled gargoyles of its beleaguered Notre-Dame standing sentinel over hushed avenues.

But Paris has plenty to offer visitors, even from afar. Thanks to its cultural, culinary and artistic legacy – and Google – it is possible to add a dash of joie de vivre to your own quarantine experience.

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Here’s how to enjoy a virtual trip to Paris, while we wait for the time to stroll its cobbled streets once again.

What to do

See the landmarks

First things first: the Eiffel Tower. Paris’s “Iron Lady” turned 131 this March, so now is a good time to brush up on the history of the landmark monument with the help of the Google Arts & Culture exhibition The Eiffel Tower in 1900, which explores the formidable technical engineering of the age.

Over on YouTube, Wanderlust Travel Videos can take you on a virtual tour of the modern-day structure, featuring two glass-walled elevator rides up to the 276m-high viewing deck. Filmed on a crisp spring day in 2019, the high-definition footage offers spectacular views of the Parisian skyline.

Another must-see is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre, which can be explored via a guided panoramic visit. It offers 360 degree views, both inside and outside the building, serving as a virtual vantage point over the city. Click on the interactive map to place additional landmarks.

Marvel at the splendour of Sainte-Chapelle’s renowned 13th-century stained glass windows, which stand 15 metres tall and recount the stories of the Old and New Testaments. This interactive tour, set to relaxing piano music, allows you to scrutinise the majestic space at leisure.

Fill up on art

Take a bite-size art history lesson at the Centre Pompidou, where a #PompidouVIP podcast series offers insight into some of the major works displayed in the museum’s permanent collection. Each episode  which takes the form of a conversation between a journalist and a guide – examines seminal pieces by artists including Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo, and Joan Miro.

Meanwhile, Musée Rodin has undertaken the task of telling the life story of its namesake creative, the sculptor Auguste Rodin, in his own words. Each day, the museum uploads a photograph of the artist, alongside a quote, to Instagram.

“I failed the entrance exam for the École des Beaux-Arts three times, so I couldn’t apply for the prestigious Prix de Rome scholarship with all its opportunities for artists,” reads one entry. “I was penniless, with everything to prove.”

Local flavours

The best way to visit Paris is undoubtedly through your stomach. Luckily, in the interest of solidarity, Paris’s chefs have ensured that the city (and its virtual tourists) continue to eat well during lockdown. You’ll need patience – and possibly a helping hand from Google Translate – to recreate the magic, but your taste buds will thank you for the effort.

Éric Fréchon, the chef who helms the three-star Michelin kitchen at the luxury Hôtel Le Bristol, has published his recipes for the old favourites croque monsieur and omelette aux chips (yes, that’s a omelette with crisps) on Instagram. Each recipe serves four people, but we won’t tell if you don’t.

Au Pied de Cochon, a traditional brasserie established in 1947 in the 11th arrondissement, has also shared the recipe for its signature soupe à l’oignon (onion soup).

If you fancy trying your hand at making a baguette from scratch, then head to the artisan-boulanger Éric Kayser’s Maison Kayser Academy YouTube channel, which features subtitled videos guiding home chefs through the process (there are also recipes for desserts like chocolate fondant and strawberry tart).

For an authentic Parisian cooking experience that comes with mouthwatering footage of the city’s markets, binge on the BBC TV series The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo, or snap up Khoo’s book, The Little Paris Kitchen: Classic French recipes with a fresh and fun approach.

Before you know it, it will be Happy Hour, and time to pull a tiny table over to an open window and indulge in the glorious French tradition of the apéro en terrasse.

Knock up a St-Germain Spritz by following these instructions, or pretend you’re heading to Candelaria, one of Paris’s hippest cocktail bars, by rustling up its signature Guêpe Verte concoction – a combination of lively tequila and soothing cucumber.

Little Red Door, another great cocktail spot, has just released the book Don’t Judge A Door By Its Colour, which explores the concept of flavour, and could provide useful inspiration. To get your hands on a copy, email [email protected]

Setting the scene

Recreate the uniquely Parisian experience of being serenaded by an accordion at improbable moments by listening to Jérémy Dutheil’s melodies – his music can be found on his YouTube channel, which features nostalgic French classics such as “Champs Elysée”, as well as feel-good tunes like “sunny side of the street”.

For romance and sentimentality, anything by Edith Piaf or Charles Aznavour should do the trick. Alternatively, for a more current vibe, head to Apple Music, where the celebrity nightspot Hôtel Costes has uploaded its April 2020 soundtrack for chilling at home.

Literature’s love affair with Paris means that bookworms are also spoiled for choice when it comes to navigating its streets remotely.

Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is an obvious starting point; the tragic love story between a gypsy and a hunchback plays out against the backdrop of the illustrious Gothic cathedral, which is arguably the protagonist of the novel. Ernest Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast takes the reader on a spin through a 1920s version of Paris, populated with literary greats such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Ezra Pound; while Anthony Doerr’s brilliant WWII novel All the Light We Cannot See conjures up evocative visions of the historical Latin Quarter.

For Francophiles, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 film Amélie has long been a gateway into the dreamland of French cinema, thanks to its whimsical shots of Montmartre, kitsch styling and jaunty Yann Tiersen soundtrack. It tells the story of Amélie Poulain, a quirky waitress manipulating destiny to spread joy, and will leave you utterly charmed.

Striking female characters and colourful Parisian scenes also take the lead in La Vie en Rose, a biography of the singer Edith Piaf; and Colette, which tells the tale of the avant-garde writer of the same name.

However, there is perhaps no better introduction to the teeming contradictions of life in the French capital than the multi-directorial effort Paris Je T’aime, a medley of 18 short films, each telling a story set in one of Paris’s arrondissements. With a star-studded cast including Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gérard Depardieu and other cinema greats, it’s an easy and bittersweet introduction to the capital’s neighbourhoods.

Bring it home

Forget plastic Eiffel Tower keyrings: the trademark Parisian souvenir has become an ink-stamped paperback from Shakespeare & Co, the Left Bank bookshop with a cult following and a storied history involving some of the world’s most famous writers. Support the store by placing an online order (which will be fulfilled post-lockdown), choosing from its extensive array of indie works and classic tomes.

Chic concept store Merci is the ideal destination for curated fashion and design objects with an intellectual touch, and it is still doing business online. The boutique’s website stocks everything from coffee table books to bed linen, but it’s new T-shirt Merci 1000 is gaining attention. The shirt features a poem thanking health professionals for their work through the Covid-19 crisis, with sales proceeds being directed to the Paris Hospital Trust.

Jewellery designer Annelise Michelson’s high-end pieces with a bohemian twist are a popular choice with celebrities, and her eponymous brand remains open online, shipping from its Parisian workshop. Her sculptural designs, which are crafted from bronze, silver or vermeil and gilded with gold, make for the perfect statement gift.

Anything else?

Paris’s tourist office has been encouraging residents to share their snapshots of the city during lockdown, publishing images on social media using the hashtags #parisfrommywindow and #ParisJeTaime. The tourism board re-posts a selection of snaps daily to its @parisjetaime Instagram account, and the gallery makes for a dreamy combination of slate grey rooftops, Haussmann buildings, sunny interiors and gorgeous sunsets.

Now is also the time to dust off your rusty French in preparation for your next trip to the most romantic of cities. Start with learning a lovely French phrase – there are thousands of them. A fitting one right now might be “après la pluie, le beau temps”, which means “after the rain, good weather”, and is essentially a poetic way of saying “things will get better”. Paris, on t’aime.

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How to visit Paris in style… once the current crisis has passed – A Luxury Travel Blog

For most people at the moment, travel is the last thing on their mind, understandably. For others (like me), it’s something they live and breathe. Indeed, this current climate has only made me more determined to save this industry and keep inspiring people across the globe to reach for new experiences and explore. I hope that this article will inspire you to keep dreaming, stay positive and look forward to the future!

Paris is widely considered to be the capital of fashion. The French have been known for their ability to start style trends (whether fashion or culinary) ever since the epoch of Louis XIV at the court of Versailles.

No matter your reasons for visiting Paris, whether it be with family, on business, or a solo trip – you’ll probably want to do so in style. Style in the sense here means more than just clothes, it is also about attitude and an overall way of being. Achieving that French je ne sais quoi can seem a bit intimidating for visitors to the City of Light- but it is actually more achievable than you might presume. We’ve broken down all the ways you can visit Paris in style- from the outfits you pack in your suitcase, to where you decide to stay, how you pass your time in the city and perhaps one of the most important – where you dine.

What to pack

First comes first, you’ll want to be quite methodical when it comes to choosing what to pack in your suitcase. Whilst in Paris, if you want to blend in with the locals, you’ll want to dress appropriately. In Paris, you will never witness the natives wearing athleisure wear unless they are actually working out. There are a few cardinal rules to follow. The French, and Europeans in general, tend to dress up more so than what Americans may be accustomed to.  First, despite how comfortable yoga pants are, most Parisians will only actually wear them inside the yoga studio (they’ll usually change their clothes at the studio). And even in the heat of summer, you can forget the French wearing flipflop sandals. These are only considered appropriate for the beach- for the practical reason that if you’re walking the streets of the city your feet are bound to get really dirty in flip flops.

Because you’ll want to make sure you’re appropriately dressed and your outfit doesn’t scream tourist, you’ll want to follow these French fashion tips. Start with the basics- jeans are your best friend. They are casual but can be dressed up with blazers, sweaters, a fashionable top and worn with boots or high heels. For the rest of your Parisian wardrobe opt for items of clothing that are mostly neutral colors – black, navy, tan and white. You can therefore mix and match several outfits and won’t have to worry about bringing an oversized suitcase to the airport. To these basics, add accentuating touches using brightly colored scarves and jewelry (both of which are easy to pack!).

For your shoes, as you likely will be spending a lot of time on foot exploring the city or wandering the galleries of its world famous museums, you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible. But this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. The French are crazy about baskets (sneakers), so choose trendy pairs that not only feel good on your feet but catch the eye, too.

As for beauty, the French seem to have deceivingly simple beauty routines. It is true that French women wear less makeup than their American counterparts, but what is valued here in France is a more detailed attention to skin and hair care. Preserving what nature gave you by using top quality skin and hair care products seems to be the rule the French follow. This rule does not just apply to women, Parisian men are known to be very conscious of their skin and hair care, as well.

If you’re taking excellent care of your skin, no need to cover up with lots of makeup. Take the best care of yourself possible and you’ll be already starting with a beautiful canvas, to which all you need to add is bright red lip stick.

To give your Parisian vacation a bit of style – think about choosing a hotel or private apartment that really speaks to the type of experience you would like to have while visiting France.  Whether it be one of the iconic five star luxury Parisian hotels (The Four Seasons George V, Plaza Athenee, The Ritz Paris, Le Meurice)…or a hip boutique style hotel like Hotel Particulier in Montmartre, where you’re staying stages the important backdrop for your trip and will set the tone for your experience and over all mood. If you opt for staying in a private apartment, you’ll really have the opportunity to live like a Parisian. Consider looking for a private apartment rental in stylish neighborhoods like the Marais or St Germain-des-Pres.

Beat jet lag

Flights arriving to Paris from the US and Canada depart in the evenings and land in the morning, usually quite early.  The key to having a great arrival to France without being in bit of travel fog is to ensuring you get great rest on the plane ride over the Atlantic. It is certainly worth it to travel by first class if it is within your budget, or to upgrade to seats with more leg room. That way, when you arrive in Paris you’ll be feeling refreshed.

If you do find yourself very tired during your first day in Paris because of the time change, try your best not to give in to the tiredness and avoid sleeping.  If you can make it through that first day and get to bed at a relatively normal time, you’ll usually wake up at a regular time in the morning on your second day and be ready to take on the city.

For your arrival to Paris, whether by plane or by train, navigating the RER train and the metro with large suitcases can be quite a hassle. You may consider hiring a private car service that will meet you at the airport or train station and bring you to your hotel or apartment rather than having to wait in line for a taxi. Alternatively, there are also shuttle buses that run directly from the airports to landmarks in central Paris like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Gare de Lyon and Opera. These buses are quite comfortable and have Wifi onboard.

Now that you’ve arrived in Paris and are settled in your hotel, how will you spend the rest of your visit to the City of Lights in style?

Private museums and custom tours

Depending on what your interests are, Paris has something for everyone. If you happen to be a  museum aficionado, you might consider reserving a high quality private tour for you and your party. These are especially convenient when visiting such monuments as the Louvre Museum and the Chateau of Versailles. When visiting in a group, you’ll typically have a special entry and avoid long waits in line. Depending on the  agency you choose, most private tour guides will typically meet you at your Parisian accomodations and then travel with you in a chauffeured car or van to the site you will be visiting.

Even if you’ve been to a museum before, touring with your own private guide is the best way to experience French monuments. You’ll be able to ask questions and learn so much more than you would otherwise get from an audio guide.

In addition to museums and historical sites, many agencies also offer customizable itineraries for your visit, so you can pick and choose what you’re going to see and do in Paris based on your particular interests.  Plus, private guides will always have local insider knowledge about the best restaurants and spots to try in Paris during your visit.

Fine dining

Paris has no shortage of fine dining. The French capital boasts over 100 Michelin starred establishments within the city. From traditional French cuisine, to contemporary and fusion – there is choice that will suit everyone’s taste.

The following Parisian restaurants all have three Michelin stars and are certainly worth the visit while you’re in Paris.  In addition to award-winning gastronomic fare, these restaurants each possess exquisite style and luxurious ambiance:

Arpege – chef Alain Passard’s restaurant has been open for over 30 years and features organic vegetable inspired dishes that come straight from the restaurant’s own vegetable gardens.

Guy Savoy – located in an 18th century neoclassical building and former home to the Paris Mint, Guy Savoy is famous for its classic cuisine with contemporary twists.

L’Ambroisie – within the elegant Place des Vosges in the Marais, L’Ambroisie has had three Michelin stars for 30 years and proposes traditional French dishes.

Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen – The Pavillon Ledoyen is located in the gardens of the  Champs-Elysees in and has been the home to the prestigious restaurant since 1792. Chef Yannick Alleno is known world-wide for his audacious modern cuisine.

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée – the iconic restaurant features a natural Haute-Cuisine menu of fruit and vegetables that have been hand picked in the morning and then make their way onto your plate that evening.

Épicure – located in the elegant Le Bristol Hotel, Epicure is known for unforgettable French cuisine.

Le Cinq held within the Four Seasons Hotel George V is the sophisticated Le Cinq restaurant, proposing refined French cuisine made with modern techniques.

Pierre Gagnaire – this posh restaurant located not far from the Champs-Elysees is known for having the most inventive menu in Paris.

Le Pré Catelan – nestled within the Bois de Boulogne in the western part of Paris, Le Pre Catelan has been around since 1875 offering haute cuisine in a bucolic setting.

While it isn’t hard to find extraordinary gastronomy in Paris in stylish settings, don’t forget that in addition to fine dining another great option is to visit one of the city’s many open air markets.  Experience the joy of choosing fresh vegetables, poultry and meat, and then finding the perfect cheese and wine. As you walk down the cobblestone streets, baguette in hand, you’ll really begin to feel like you’ve adopted the Parisian style.

Maria Pasca is the Communications & Marketing Director at My Private Paris. My Private Paris is an award-winning boutique travel agency that fully tailors high-end tours and experiences in Paris with the finest local guides.

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