On a recent trip to Bordeaux, Fathom contributing editor Kate Donnelly found herself with a half-day layover in Paris. So little time in one of the world's great cities might seem like torture, but she made the most of it.
PARIS – Spend less than 24 hours in beautiful, magical, romantic Paris? Why would I want to do that? Because sometimes layovers work like that. But that was just enough time for my own little blend of chic Parisian classicism, architectural awe, and edgy hipness.
I landed from New York mid-morning and made my way to New Hotel Roblin on Place de la Madeline between Opera and Champs Elysées, a newly renovated and perfectly serviceable hotel that I selected for its easy proximity (ten minutes walking, five minutes by taxi) to Saint-Lazare train station.
I make my way to lunch at the traditionally cool, red-and-white-checkered tablecloth bistro La Fontaine de Mars. Champagnes are chilling in an icy bucket on the bar. Smart-looking, well-dressed locals are filling the tables.
I order an aperitif, a word that derives from the Latin word apeire — "to open the appetite." Happily, it's a glass of floral Lillet Rose with a few cubes of ice. I instantly pick up aromatics of light and ripe oranges, grapefruit, and vanilla.
I'm with savvy, adventurous eaters, and we order escargot from Burgundy and the best, lushest, homemade duck foie gras. Cassoulet served in a Staub cast iron pot is warm and filling, a nice accompaniment to perfectly cooked salmon on a bed of spinach and lemon buerre blanc. (I'm trying to eat healthy, if only for this one meal.)
La Tour Eiffel is only a few minutes away, and I want to work off some of that lunch. Say what you will about the Tour de Eiffel, but, if only engineering-wise, there's nothing quite like it. Plus, it screams "Yes, I'm in Paris." Reminders like these are key in my world. I pretend to light a Parliament cigarette and channel my inner Jean-Paul Belmondo.
I decide to visit town from the Seine. I jump aboard the Batobus water taxi at Tour Eiffel and cruise the river to the Musee D'Orsay stop. It's a cheap, efficient way to see the city vertically. Batobuses run every 15 minutes at eight different spots.
The sun made a welcome cameo, and I hop off to walk. On the Right Bank in the first arrondissement, I take an obligatory photo of the always packed, always awe-inspiring Louvre on my way to a quiet stroll through the spectacular flower-filled walkway of Jardin des Tuileries to Place de la Concorde. This is a great place to watch the relaxed, poetic Paris. Fountains, statues, perfectly manicured lawns, and wild flowers frame that which France rightfully owns.
I stop at the iconic Fauchon to stock up on serious chocolates, teas, pâtés, Champagne, and light, airy, colorful, ganache-filled macarons. Packages are gorgeously wrapped in signature black, pink, and gold. It's not cheap, but, hey, I'm in Paris.
Evening falls. I drop by the mod Le Nuba, where the cool kids are hanging out. Nestled along the Siene in a trendy warehouse district, the kitchen churns out inventive Swedish-, Japanese-, and French-inspired food. The kitchen staff look like they could be part of a fashion shoot. There's no dress code, but I do my best to look and act cool. I'm not here to dance the night way, but rather to watch hipsters and bobos arrive, looking young and dewy and ready to party.
I call it a day. I'm leaving for Bordeaux in the morning.