Paris: City of food, fashion and (right now) tourists

Paris is one of my favorite cities.  Food and fashion intermingle with so many must-sees and must-eats, you won’t know where to go first.

Right now, though, the city is flooded with tourists —  overweight Americans in athletic shoes and shorts; Japanese buying every Louis Vuitton they can find and taking photos while they shop; wealthy Arabs buying the Louis that the Japanese miss; and the Germans refusing to stand in an orderly line for anything.  But the city still has so much to offer, even though most French run to the Mediterranean.

The many fabulous stores are still open so one can go to Hermes and drool over the latest items.  It is the home of the chain and is four stories high.  The atelier – i.e. attic – is closed to visitors unless you have arranged to have a private tour.  This is where the made-to-order Birkins are put together and where the saddles are made.  It is definitely worth the time if you can get an appointment.  Luckily Hermes has kept its reputation for elegant.

Unfortunately many of the other stores in Paris have opted for the new glow-in-the-dark colors and the 1960s styles.  We have Mad Men probably to thank for that.  And other than Mary Tyler Moore or Audrey Hepburn, who looks good in those clothes? Neon flatters very few figures.  Somehow I don’t need to see a person wearing shiny lime from five blocks away.  Basic black would be much better.

The food is also still divine.  The best duck in the world is served at Tour D’Argent where each duck is numbered and they have sold well over a million already.  If you want to get a tour of the oldest wine cellar in the world, be certain to ask when you make a reservation.  You’ll go into the bowels of the earth on an ancient elevator.  The wine cellar has been there since the 1500s!  And if you really want to be amazed, ask if they can show you the complete wine list.  It is longer than the unabridged dictionary.  When you want to actually pick out a wine, ask for the shorter version.  Make your dinner reservation go as late as you can and ask for a window table so you can overlook the Seine with all the beautiful boats lit up as they go by beneath you.  (Your concierge will probably have the best luck at securing one of those tables.)

On a rainy day go to Laduree at the original Au Printemps on Boulevard Haussman.  Eat upstairs near an open window.  The few local women that are left in Paris will surround you.  You can shop and then get a beautiful salad or omelette for lunch with a glass of wine and feel completely Parisian.  Do save room for some macaroons or other homemade confections; gorgeous presentation and almost too pretty to eat. But when you do eat them, they melt in your mouth.

If you stay at the Hotel Costes on the Rue Saint Honore, sit in the elegant paneled bar, sip on champagne and enjoy watching all the “beautiful” people come and go.  This is one of the few places where you won’t see shorts, tennis shoes or hear cameras clicking.  You’ll see elegant skinny pants with silk blouses and Hermes or Dior purses.  No neon appears on these bodies.  You may see skirts that are shorter than any shorts but they will be on model legs who are with men in their 60s wearing solid gold Patek Phillipe watches.

So if you have to be in Paris in August, you can still eat like a king.  If possible, go back in September.

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