Fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn once said: “Paris is always a good idea”. I couldn’t agree more, Paris, like New York is a city I never tire of as there are always new things to discover.
Paris is chic personified, the city and fashion go together like strawberries and cream. It is the home of Chanel and Dior as well as the birth place of Karl Lagerfeld, John-Paul Gaultier, not to mention some fabulous accessory brands, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Cartier. The allure of French fashion for me began as a teenager when I discovered Kookai, a label founded in Paris in 1983. Unfortunately Kookai no longer exists in England so you can imagine my joy on my recent visit to Paris on seeing the store. Naturally I had to go in and purchase.
In September I spent a very enjoyable long weekend in Paris with two of my closest friends from school. We started the trip as we meant to go on with prosecco on the Eurostar while reminiscing about French lessons at school and visits to La Serronerie, the house near Normandy that the school owned. I always adored the French language, despite it not coming naturally to me and so studied it right through to A Level. I actually surprised myself on this trip at how much came back to me. When travelling it’s important to be comfortable so I wore a black pleated midi skirt from Asos with a t-shirt embroidered with the Paris skyline from Topshop.
I first visited Paris aged about 13 with my Mum (see picture below) when her best friend lived on the outskirts and it was love at first sight. I have returned many times since then, as well as introducing others to its wonderful charm.
Anyone who reads my blog will know that Sex and the City is an obsession for me and therefore first on my list for this trip was to explore the sights of those 2004 epic finale episodes, guided by the website Set in Paris. It made perfect sense that Carrie Bradshaw should visit the French capital as fictionally, she is one of the biggest fashionistas and as she puts it so eloquently, is “a person looking for love”. My outfit for this occasion was carefully planned, a black cord pinafore dress over a mustard long-sleeved top, both from New Look, set off with a beautiful Victoria Beckham for Target silk scarf and Carrie Bradshaw herself would have been proud of the amount of ground I covered in my patent Oasis heels.
In these finale episodes, we first see Carrie in Paris as she arrives at Hotel Plaza Athenee and the hotel is even grander in the flesh than it looked on the screen. The weather was wet, just as it was for most of Carrie’s trip but the hotel is simply striking in any weather with its beautiful balconies, adorned with red flowers and the Eiffel Tower just a stones throw away.
The hotel is on the most fashionable street in Paris, Avenue Montaigne which is home to all the haute culture brands. Indeed the Dior store where Carrie slips over is on this street.
When Carrie finds herself alone in Paris again, vowing to “do French things and be very parisien” she visits Cador patisserie, where she shares cake with a large dog. Cador is unfortunately no longer and instead there is Cojean – an organic cafe.
Kong, the restaurant where Carrie meets Aleksandr Petrovsky’s ex-wife and gets an insight into what he is really like is still there although we didn’t go inside.
There is no better people to explore a city like Paris with than your girlfriends and that is what Carrie is missing in Paris. This hits home for her when she spies four girls having lunch in l’Avenue.
The last time we see Carrie and Aleksandr happy is when they are strolling through place du dauphine after Carrie has bumped into her French fan base.
When Aleksandr feels nervous about the opening of his light exhibition, Carrie ditches her dinner with her fans to attend the museum with him.
Carrie goes to Paris with a new man for a new life but returns with an ‘old’ man to her old life which is quite ironic but of course gave many fans the ending they craved of Carrie and Big finally getting it together for good. We see Carrie hear the long awaiting declaration from Big on pont des arts “Carrie you’re the one”.
So that was my Sex and the City tour of Paris but of course we did plenty of the sights too. We stayed in Montmartre which is one of my favourite parts of Paris. Known as the art district, it has a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere than other areas of Paris. The main square (place du tertre) has a carnival atmosphere with artists painting and sketching and selling their work.
Overlooking the main square, on the highest point of the city, is the beautiful white stone basilica of Sacre-Coeur. This gives visitors a great view over the whole of Paris. The building is awe-inspiring whether seen by night or day. If the steps up are too much of a challenge, there is a small funicular that takes you to the top for a small fee. The inside is just as beautiful with its stunning painted ceilings and carvings.
Having done the cultural bit, the shops in this area are well worth exploring, particularly the macaron stores. A quirky find is the shop Belle du Jour which specialises in traditional, vintage perfume bottles.
On a couple of evenings we enjoyed dinner at L’ete en Pente Douce where delicious food can be enjoyed on the pavement terrace soaking up the Montmartre ambiance. On the walk back to the hotel, we were tempted into a small creperie for a sweet treat on more than one occasion!
On one of the days while there, the rain became torrential and so we opted to duck out of the showers in some of the wonderful shops along the Champs-Elysees. We walked the full length of the street to where it meets the Arc de Triomphe. My friend had a fantastic make-over by the Urban Decay stand in Sephora and we queued for macarons in Laduree. Laduree is a beautiful and regal store where you can eat in or simply buy some of the luxury sweet treats which the brand has been making since 1862.
I had never seen the famous painting, the Mona Lisa and so we paid to go in Louvre museum simply to see it. The Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world and the glass pyramid in the main courtyard of the museum is a work of art in itself. The Mona Lisa however was somewhat of a disappointment. It is much much smaller than one imagines and you have to fight your way through throngs of people in order to get a look at it behind glass.
On this day I wore a checked pleat mini skirt from Oasis with a Boohoo slogan t-shirt and a long grey cardigan from Oasis. I finished the outfit with my red patent bow pumps which I bought in Milan.
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We visited at night when it is spectacularly lit and went right to the top, which while blustery and cold was worth it for the views and the champagne at the champagne bar. When we came down, I indulged the child in me and had a ride on the traditional Victorian carousel. It was a magical evening.
Our final day came round all too soon and we decided to begin with a boat trip along the Seine. On this day I wore a Breton t-shirt dress from New Look, clinched in at the waist with a red belt, also from New Look which nicely tied in the red mac from Marks and Spencer. We visited Notre Dame with its impressive stained glass windows and finished up with lunch at a cafe on the left bank which is linked to the Shakespeare and Company book store. The book store sells English language books and is part shop and part library. Many writers write here amongst the books, in exchange for helping in the shop. It really is an Aladdin’s cave and a bohemian heaven, somewhere I would love to sit and write myself. It totally inspired me and I’d love to come back.
Paris should be on every fashionistas bucket list and is a perfect break for friends or couples. I will certainly be returning to one of the greatest fashion capitals of the world. As Honore de Balzac, a French novelist and playwright said “Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant”.