After living in Paris France almost five years ago, I recently returned to visit my beloved City of Light. Here's what's new in Paris from food and fashion to health and security.
"Paris is always a good idea." Audrey Hepburn had it right. That's why I chose to live there almost five years ago. After returning to Los Angeles from my time abroad, I was home for less than one year when I found myself back in Paris for nearly two months. It started as a three-week trip, but one macaron led to another, and a very generous friend allowed me, or made me, stay even longer. You could imagine the arm twisting there.
This same friend was visiting me in LA earlier this year when she broke the news that she'd be leaving Paris. I felt fortunate to make a handful of good amis while living in Paris, but she was the last one left in the City. The ex-Pat life often includes much moving. So once again, she made me come for one final visit before her departure. Who was I turn down a free place to stay in the City of Light?
It has been five years since I lived there and four since I last visited, so I was curious to see what was new in Paris. My Paris Top 10 List that I created when I left is still pretty accurate, but a lot has happened in the past few years from food and fashion trends to more serious issues of terrorism. Would the city feel the same or different?
What's New in Paris?
Sadly Paris has had its share of terror attacks over the last few years. From Charlie Hebdo to the suicide bombers at the Stade de France and a more recent stabbing at Notre Dame, Paris has been under fire. Tourism took a hit in 2016 with 1.5 million fewer people visiting the City of Light. Officials claim they've bounced back this year and anticipate seeing an uptick in tourism.
There's definitely more security in Paris now. Armed guards not only roam the areas around large tourist attractions, but you'll also see them walking down random streets.
Some bigger sites have always had security and bag checks before entering, but now it's everywhere. You'll be asked to open your bag going into a department store or open air event. It's usually pretty fast and swift and people don't seem to mind the extra level of security. I know I didn't.
Despite the security issues Paris has been facing, there's an increasing number of places for Parisians to enjoy being outside. After the attacks, many spoke about not wanting the terrorists to win by cowering indoors and living in fear. People made a point to go outside and continue to live their life. There are now even more places across Paris to relax outside.
Of course, there's never been a shortage of parks and open spaces, but more restaurants and bars have been popping up along the Seine for seasonal fun. Les Berges opened several years ago along the left bank, underneath the Musee d'Orsay. It's closed to traffic and has multiple restaurants for snacks, dinner, and drinks. You can sip a Spritz while watching the sunset on a docked boat, or if you prefer a little stability with your apero, grab a beach chair or table on dry land and enjoy a full meal.
Pop-up restaurants along the Seine are everywhere. Maison Maison just sprang up on the right bank near the Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts.
Just up the street from LaDemesure is the seasonal pop-up, Ground Control. Each year it sprouts up in different locations around Paris. This year it's taken over a huge terrace near Gare du Lyon. Old buses serve as food trucks and drinks are sold out of roll-up shipping dock windows. There's a garden, beach chairs, foosball, garden, music, and activities all night long.
Most of the outdoor spaces close at the end of September so time is short to soak in the rest of summer.
Those Parisians still love to get their smoke on. Sadly with all of the wonderful outdoor spaces, there's still a lot of smoke. They just haven't gotten the health memo, or rather, refuse to do anything about it. I forgot how bothersome the smoke can be. It still is. That's not new.
What is news is that I did see several e-cigarette stores around Paris. There was no one in them, but they exist. I did see a few people vaping, so it's happening, but slowly. I wish this trend would catch on faster than high waisted pants. A girl can dream.
Speaking of fashion trends, the Parisians continue to be casually chic. They always look put together with seemingly simple outfits that would take me weeks to assemble.
The most notable trend I noticed while in Paris this year was the tennis shoe. Shocking, right? Only boorish Americans wear tennis shoes, right? Of course their shoe is just so without huge treds, looking like you're going to walk for 18 hours.
This chaussure isn't just for the kids and their weekend wear. I saw business women wearing them with nice dresses during the day at lunches with their amours. I'm not a huge fan, but I did feel it gave me a little more breathing room with some of my travel walking shoes I wore with skirts.
You know I'm going to have a lot to say about the food in Paris. In fact, I'll have a whole separate post on one of the biggest trends I was seeing in Paris - healthier eating. Yes, I went in looking for it, but there was a lot to see in terms of lighter food options and options for those with food allergies. More to come.
Otherwise, I'm still happy to report that there is no shortage of fabulous wine bars in Paris. I revisited one of my favorites, Frenchie, and oui, they still deliver great small plates with a wonderful wine selection. There was decadently rich foie gras with a magical apricot pairing and a pure, meat-y terrine that I will think about for a long time to come, given its exacting balance of fat to meat to spice - perfection!
The proliferation of wine bars also shows that Parisians don't always need or want fancy, multi-course meals. Sometimes they just want a plate or two of rillettes and cheese with a Chablis or Cote du Rhone. And what's nice is that new spots like Freddy's in the 6th, don't accept reservations. Pop by when the mood strikes, but also be prepared to wait if you arrive during prime hours.
We visited another fun wine bar fav of mine, L'Avant Comptoir. They expanded into the St. Germain Marche for a slightly larger version of the original slip of a place near Odeon. The menu still hangs from the ceiling and it's chaos and fun inside with great grub to match.
There's still a strong collection of chefs playing with flavors and spices like the team behind Balagan. The restaurant comes from the Experimental Group, responsible for bringing the cocktail culture to Paris (merci beaucoup!). Israeli chefs from big name restaurants in Jerusalem and London are cooking inventive dishes using global flavors. The dining room and bar are both sexy chic with fabulous service to match.
If you're looking for a more classic French meal without a lot of fuss, check out Le Coq Rico in Montmartre. They've been open several years and specialize in the bird. I wanted a mouth watering, succulent chicken before I left Paris. Le Coq Rico delivered with a 1/4 bird for a reasonable restaurant price of 22 euro. They also have an excellent offal plate with tasty organ meat like livers and heart.
There's never a shortage of amazing exhibits in Paris. On this trip, there was a spectacular Dior show at Les Arts Decoratifs. It was a 70th-anniversary celebration of the creation of the House of Dior. The exhibit goes until January 2018 and includes jewelry, purses, jewelry and over 300 haute couture gowns. It's extensive, eye catching and definitely worth a visit.
Musee d'Orsay is always a must-stop on any Paris visit of mine. Their impressionist collection takes my breath away every time. They were also featuring a collection of portraits by Cezanne. Cezanne painted nearly 200 portraits and this exhibit shows the evolution of his painting style. If portraits are your thing, you'll want to stop in.
Another must-stop for me in Paris is Notre Dame. I don't mean the church, though that's nice too. No, I like to climb the 422 stairs of Notre Dame's Tower for what I think are the best views of Paris. What's new is that they've created an app where you can reserve a spot in line.
It's near shocking to see something in Paris work with some efficiency. Paris is good at many things, but efficient systems is not one one of them. You used to have to wait in a ridiculously long line to go up the stairs of Notre Dame's Tower. Now, you can pick a time with their app. If you don't have your phone on you, you can use a kiosk outside of Notre Dame to grab a time to return. Paris, efficient? Ah, I won't say that yet, but I love the new system.
Eiffel Tower Sparkle
The hourly Eiffel Tower sparkle isn't brand new in that they started it back in 1999. It was originally created to bring in the new millennium and people loved it so much, they kept it. Special illuminations of the Eiffel Tower actually date back to 1889 during the Universal Exhibition. They've done different colors and light patterns over the years, and even decorated it like a Christmas tree one year.
I do have to say I love the classic elegance of the white sparkles that now occur at the top of every hour after sunset. It lasts five minutes and I smile ear to ear every time I see it.
It's nice to have some things in Paris stay the same.
If you visit Paris anytime soon, let me know what's new on your trip since I don't know when my next trip will be. A bientot!