Paris Fashion Week is here so we got our resident French girl, Astrid Mallet, to share a few pointers on getting the most out of the city whilst there.
Here are a few recommendations worth noting down (whether you’re attending the shows or not) if you live for good coffee, great food and culture.
As a born and bred Parisian I can’t help but be intrigued by the constant articles I see on the fascination with the French “joie de vivre” ahead of PFW. You know, the articles that tell us how to dress, where to eat and drink, where to shop, even how to “act French”. But, want to know the best bit of advice I can offer? Throw away your dreams of going full-blown Carrie Bradshaw decked out in Dior, running in heels with a bag of delicacies from Ladurée because that’s just not how it goes.
The truth is, a real Parisian steps away from the well-documented clichés. So put down the croissants, baguettes, Breton stripes, and (I beg you) the berets and allow me to guide you and your inner Amélie Poulain.
Where to shop something stylish (and affordable)
Obviously in Paris the options are endless in terms of fashion, but there’s no point in going to high-street stores you can go to in London. Instead, check out what we call a “dépôt-vente” store. I highly recommend La Cloakroom, which offers a selection of fairly priced luxury brands such as Kenzo and Balenciaga.
Best place for coffee?
Head to rue Montorgueil or rue de Bretagne in the 3e. These has forever been my favourite streets in Paris as there are endless cafés to try for amazing coffee and pastries. And yes, after having lived 20+ years in Paris, I have tried them all, because that’s what we French do; we just sit at cafés. Otherwise, head to the 11e to Café Louis Philippe. Funnily enough I discovered this café when watching Gossip Girl years ago but fell in love with its cosy atmosphere and (dare I say it) friendly service.
Rue Montorgueil – Métro 3 Sentier / rue de Bretagne – Métro 3/8 Arts et Métiers / Café Louis Philippe – 66 Quai de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris
Best tourist haunts in your opinion?
Here’s the truth – the monuments and museums in Paris are beautiful and well worth visiting, but you won’t get to enjoy them properly with the constant floods of tourists. My advice is to simply walk around the city to appreciate its incredible culture; the Marais or St Germain des Près with the Haussmanien buildings where you can see perfume shops that have been around since the 1800s, or a boulangerie that has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s here that you’ll hear stories a travel guide will never tell you.
But, if you are looking for the best view of Paris, go up to the Sacré-Coeur where you’ll have a breathtaking look on the city as well as being surrounded by street painters and various different artists; very Midnight in Paris-esque. Sacré-Coeur – Metro 12 Abbesses.
Best deli to buy up all the cheese (and wine)?
When staying in Paris, you need to have what we call an ‘apéro’. This is essentially an evening of wine and cheese with friends (you can’t get more French than that). Any store in Paris is bound to have delicious cheese and exquisite wine to be honest, but if you feel like you want to go all out I would recommend Aux Bons Fromages. It has such a wide range of cheese from the mild Pont L’Évêque made in Basse-Normandie to the very strong Aisy Cendré made in Bourgogne. Quick tip on the cheese front: leave it out of the fridge for the best taste and eat with a baguette, not a cracker. As for the wine to accompany all of the above; if you’re a white wine lover I recommend a Sancerre, for those who prefer red – go for a Château Grand-Puy.
Aux Bons Fromages – 64 rue de la Pompe, 75116 Paris
Best French phrase to nail to appear like a local?
I am the first person to admit that the French are not always the most pleasant and, contrary to the English, our favourite sport is not queuing, but complaining. “Non, mais c’est pas possible” is a fan favourite.
In terms of faux pas, I can’t say this enough but please do not wear a beret; that’s like if I were to walk around London with a Palace Guard’s hat on. Finally, whenever you’re at a local café or restaurant, never assume the waiter knows how to speak English; do try to say something in French, even a simple “Bonjour!” and the waiter will automatically know you’re not from around and start to speak to you in English. But, if you start straight off the bat in English, they are likely (bizarrely) to get offended. They see it as you not making an effort and assuming everyone speaks English. Let’s not make the French complain more than necessary now.
For real foodies?
La Grande Cascade for typical refined French food – Bois de Boulogne, Carrefour de Longchamp, 75016 Paris
Piano Vache; an underground jazz bar full of character – 8 rue Laplace, 75005 Paris
La Gare; an old train station transformed into a restaurant with the most delicious brunch menu – 19 Chaussée de la Muette, 75016 Paris
Closerie des Lilas for an Instagram lover’s restaurant fix (check out the terrace) – 171 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris