C’est Magnifique

While on assignment, photographer Annie Deptula channels her inner Audrey Hepburn for a fashionable Parisienne itinerary.

The French use a term, rather a saying, when unable to describe an elusive quality: je ne sais quoi. I would describe my time in Paris as just that.

Landing in France, I was met by the team I’d be working with on several assignments—with five of the seven days spent in Paris. We had traveled from all corners of the globe to be there … New York, Los Angeles, Scotland, Ireland, England and Slovenia.
We were equally excited and unsure what to expect.

Departing the Charles de Gaulle Airport, we hopped in a taxi for the 35-minute ride through the streets of Paris … taking in the beauty of this nearly 2,000-year-old city en route to the apartment where we would reside for the week. A cobblestone walkway lined our path to an incredible apartment built in the early 1700s and located in the up-and-coming 10th arrondissement—an exquisitely beautiful neighborhood lined with quaint footbridges along the Canal Saint-Martin. The owner gave us a bit of a history lesson: The home was originally a palace transformed into apartments after a family of royalty vacated the grounds in the early 19th century.

After settling in a bit, we headed out to find breakfast and arrived at Holybelly—a bright and cheerful little spot in the Canal Saint-Martin district. Greeted by the exceptionally hip manager and Vancouver transplant, we were ushered to our table through a narrow entryway to the back, near the kitchen. The café boasts leather sofas, a pinball machine and a star-patterned, marble-lined floor.

The waiter enlightened us to the fact that they have the best coffee in all of Paris, sourced from Belleville Brûlerie—a popular roaster not far from the restaurant that’s become a local must. “Quite a bold statement,” I thought to myself, having heard this claim many times before from waiters and baristas alike.

Just then they brought an international array of coffees in various preparations: espressos, long blacks, flat whites, cappuccinos and the “real deal”—their house special. As I sipped my “real deal,” I thought how glad I was that I didn’t vocalize my thoughts … for in this moment, I just might have been “eating my words.”

This quite possibly could be one of the best cups of coffee in Paris. I smiled a Cheshire cat grin and looked over the menu, anticipating what I hoped would be the best breakfast in Paris. Once again, the waiter assured us that this would be the case. I said nothing.

There were several house specials to choose from, and after a bit of back-and-forth indecisiveness between several dishes that had my attention, I settled on a patron favorite—frequently referred to as the “legend”—scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes and a generous portion of their signature bourbon butter and maple syrup. The only way you’ll find this favorite is calling for it by name, “The Champ,” which is not always on the menu—a speakeasy-type situation to gain access to what might be the best breakfast around, so I’ve been told.

As the waiter said, “If you know, then you know!” Glad we did, and yes, it is quite possibly the best breakfast I’ve had to date. So far, so good. 1-0 Paris.

One gem that’s a must-see for anyone with an appreciation of fashion is the all-things-fashion-and-lifestyle emporium in the 1st arrondissement of Paris–a launchpad for up-and-coming designers and a top selection destination for industry insiders: the world-famous Colette. An eclectic and booming three-story wonderland of elaborate trends of today, Colette features sneakers, tees, postcards, pens, gadgets and even tuxedos and evening gowns—all lining the shelves and windows in an 8,000-square-foot space complete with a bookstore and water bar.

The boutique was founded by Colette Roussaux and her daughter Sarah Andelman in 1997 and famously never had a marketing plan. It was one of the first stores to cater to an aesthetic lifestyle, as opposed to a specific product category—becoming a model for a new kind of retail that has quickly caught on and hasn’t quit yet. If your line or product was carried by Colette or if you had a book signing here, you were recognized by not only the fashion world but the international fashion consumer as being on your way to the top … unless of course you were already there. A rite of passage, some would say.

Karl Lagerfeld once said, “It’s the only shop where I go because they have things no one else has. They have invented a formula that you can’t copy easily because there is
only one Colette, and she and Sarah are 200% involved.”

After 20 years of incredible success in the fashion mecca, Colette will close its doors for good in December 2017. If you are in Paris this next month or two, this is a high-priority go-to for anyone with a love of fashion.

Back on the streets with some very fashionable new finds in tow, my team and I made the 12-mile journey southwest of Paris to the Palace of Versailles—a gilded, magnificent compound divided into four sections: the king’s apartments, the famous and glorious Hall of Mirrors, the Grand Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s estates and gardens. The property dates back to the 1600s.

After nearly 40 years of development, the doors finally opened on May 6, 1682, with 17 luscious acres of meticulously designed plans overseen by Louis XIV, the Sun King. Known as one of the marvels of the world, the famous chateau housed not only the king but also 20,000 of his courtiers.

Prepare to spend close to an entire day exploring this exquisite, enchanting property. I was told it would be an “attack on your senses.” It was.

Back on the train to the city, we navigated a path directly to where every fashionista dreams of shopping while in Paris: Triangle d’Or. Considered by Parisians to be a style mecca, you can find the neighborhood in the 8th arrondissement directly across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. The area is formed by Avenue Montaigne, Avenue George V and Rue François 1er.

The grands couturiers (major designers) of Paris are mostly clustered around the famous Avenue Montaigne—the heart of Paris’ haute couture shops and the finest fashion houses in the world, including Chanel, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Prada, Valentino, Bulgari and Gucci. Just around the corner on Avenue George V you’ll see the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gianfranco Ferré, Givenchy and Kenzo. Along Rue Francois 1er, the shopping continues with couture greats Rochas, Courrèges and Balmain on this beautiful Parisian street.

Champs-Élysées features Zara and Sephora’s flagship store—a find for every woman and man with a hunger for true French fashion. If it’s home décor and gourmet food shops that you fancy, look no further than Boulevard Saint-Germain. Beginning at the Seine River in the 7th
arrondissement, this gorgeous street is lined with trees and beautiful Parisian buildings—a true dreamlike atmosphere.

For a genuine Paris shopping experience, take Boulevard Saint Germain into the 6th arrondissement and indulge in the literary cafés—Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore and Brasserie Lipp—former haunts of the literary great Ernest Hemingway. High-end shopping can be found around Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Many of fashion’s top names reside here, as does a captivating blend of luxury shopping fused with the artistic and literary roots of the neighborhood—a high priority for anyone with an appreciation of art, fashion and literature.

Several hours and countless transactions later, we vacated the fashion capital and headed to another hot spot. With the sun beginning to set, we knew just the place to have a visually intoxicating Parisian nighttime experience: the Eiffel Tower.

Gustave Eiffel’s wrought iron tower is undoubtedly Paris’ most famous structure. Completed in 1889, the tower stands at 324 meters and is the tallest structure in the capital. Nearly 7 million people visit this attraction each year.

The visit would not be complete without crêpes compliments of La Crêperie—a tiny mom ‘n’ pop stand directly outside the tower; it also serves delightful Champagne. I may or may not have consumed three crêpes while taking in the beauty of the tower. Naturally, one must indulge while watching the sparkling lights illuminate the Paris sky. I think of the famous Audrey Hepburn quote from Sabrina: “Paris is always a good idea.” I could not disagree. |||

 

 

CAFÉ CULTURE

When walking around Paris on any given day, you’ll most likely find the cafés filled with locals and tourists alike sitting outside, drinking their “café crème,” as Parisians call it. The perfectly placed tables and chairs are usually facing the street or the square, so you can easily observe what’s happening while people-watching. And what’s more Parisian than spending an afternoon en terrasse, soaking up the day?

 

STREET ART

Independent outdoor booksellers, or bouquinistes, along the Seine offer nearly 300,000 collectables that include new and used books, magazines and works of art. The iconic green metal exteriors have been portrayed in numerous famous paintings and notably from the Impressionist period. These outdoor booksellers remain one of the city’s most treasured legacies—a great find for those one-of-a-kind gifts. I was thrilled to snag several original Babar the elephant prints—a childhood favorite of mine—as well as a few vintage Vogue magazines and various postcards printed in the 1930s.

 

WALK THE WALK

I’m quick to discover that Paris is perfect for endless walks, with all of its small streets, little passages and hidden gardens. The French have a special word for these free-spirited walks that allow you to absorb the beauty and energy of the city: la flânerie—meaning to wander the streets. One can relish in the beauty of the winding rues, avenues and boulevards while learning about Paris at the same time. I feel this is the only way to see it Paris—literally getting lost in all its charm.

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