Paris, France

A flower vendor in the Ile de Cite.
photography by R.P. Washburne

WHY NOW: If you love Paris in springtime, you’ll want to marry the city in fall. October is a perfect time to visit the City of Light. The locals are relaxed after the onslaught of summer tourists, and the daytime temperature tops out in the mid-60s, ideal conditions for exploring outdoor markets and losing your way in the cobblestoned streets. Airfare is less, hotel rates are reasonable, and the long lines to ascend the Eiffel Tower have dissipated. On October 10, Paris transforms into a city that doesn’t sleep when La Nuit Blanche (which literally means “white night” but refers to a “sleepless night”), an all-night multimedia arts festival, takes place. Hundreds of cultural events (www.parisinfo.com) are organized in the city’s main hot spots for one raucous night of celebration at various museums, historic squares, parks, cultural institutions, art galleries, night clubs, boutiques, and restaurants. HOTEL HEAVEN: The high-end hotels off the Champs-Elysees are fine for folks who don’t mind dropping $1,000 a night for an average-size room. But for those looking for a lot more bang for their euro (and who isn’t these days), the intimate Hotel L’Empire (www.lempire-paris.com) is the perfect spot. The restored 18th-century building with 42 contemporary guest rooms is nestled on a quiet street between two fabulous Paris attractions, the Louvre Museum and St. Honore Street, one of the most stylish thoroughfares in the world thanks to the presence of many major fashion houses. The rooms are huge by Paris standards and provide plenty of space for all your shopping bags. ISLAND TIME: Rain or shine, Paris on foot is a must-do and the best way to explore the two islands—Ile de Cite and Ile Saint Louis—that are a five-minute walk from Hotel L’Empire. Cross the Seine River at the Pont au Change to Ile de Cite, where Paris began about 300A.D. Here you can tour the Sainte Chapelle, the Conciergerie prison, and the great cathedral of Notre-Dame. Just across the square is an exuberant flower market, held daily and augmented by a bird market on Sundays. FINE DINE: If the saying “God is in the details” is true, then the Holy Spirit lives in the dining room of the world-famous Alain Ducasse (www.alainducasse.com) in the stunning Hotel Plaza Athénée. The décor is magical: 10,000 Swarovski crystals hang from the ceiling like stars gleaming in a soft, creamy sky. The gentle glow of the room comes from floor lamps placed beside each table, set with Riedel stemware, Christofle and Beard flatware, and Jaune de Chrome china. For the ultimate show, order the Plaisirs de Table, a five-course feast of traditional French cuisine enhanced with modern flavors. The service, 55 staff to 50 diners, is over-the-top. Each dish, covered in a silver dome, is presented ceremoniously. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime fantasy every serious foodie should, literally, go for broke to experience. And do—before, after, or both—have a Rose Royale in the bar of the Hotel Plaza Athénée. It’s the spot in Paris for people watching.

photography by R.P. Washburne

MUST DO
Cross the Pont St. Louis just behind Notre-Dame Cathedral and wander the cushy neighborhoods of Ile Saint Louis. This small island, an oasis from the bustle of the city, is packed with quality markets, bakeries, fromageries, and cafes. Stop for a lovely Alsatian dinner at quaint Brasserie de Ile St-Louis (55 quai de Bourbon) at the foot of the bridge before treating yourself to homemade ice cream at famous Berthillon (29-31 rue Saint Louis en Ile), just around the corner.

Resources

HOW TO GET THERE
American Airlines (www.aa.com) flies daily nonstop to Charles de Gaulle International Airport. To find the best deals among all airlines, visit www.kayak.com.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel L’Empire
48 rue de L’arbre Sec
www.lempire-paris.com
WHAT TO DO
La Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night) October 10
www.parisinfo.com
WHAT TO SEE
Ile de Cite,  Ile Saint Louis, Louvre Museum, St. Honore Street, Sainte Chapelle, Notre-Dame, Conciergerie prison
WHERE TO EAT
Alain Ducasse, Hotel Plaza Athénée, www.alainducasse.com
Brasserie de Ile St-Louis, 55 quai de Bourbon
Berthillon, 29-31 rue Saint Louis en Ile

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