Not to sound like a total cheeseball but, still, nearly every day that I am here, I walk (or Velib) around this city and think, My God, could this be any prettier? It could be something as modest and quotidian as a streetlamp or the sun hitting a limestone façade on the Ile Saint Louis. But the magical thing about Paris is that there is not only great beauty with every turn, but also historic significance. Everywhere, there are landmarks, monuments and historic points. Here are five of my favorites.
Pont Alexandre III: Crossing over from the Right to Left Bank during the day, with Les Invalides and the champs opening before you. Or, walking from the Left to the Right at night, the domes of the Grand Palais glowing and the French flag snapping in the wind. And any time, the massive gold cherubs and horses atop the four posts—it makes me giddy.
Place Vendome: I am not quite sure what it is about this giant square. Yes, it’s pretty and symmetrical with a giant (phallic) column in the center. Yes, there’s the Ritz and Mikimoto and all the other gazillion dollar jewelry stores. But there’s something about the air there. It’s hushed, yet charged. It always makes me smile as if I had a secret to myself.
Stohrer: Lucky me. One of the city’s most historical and delicious patisseries is three blocks from my apartment. It’s not just the sublime chocolate tarts or pain aux raisins or chocolate éclairs, though those are all worth a visit in and of themselves. It’s also the exquisite interior—the murals painted and designed by Paul Baudry—and the fact that, nearly 300 years after it was founded by King Louis XV’s pastry chef, the house still makes all its pastries and cakes in the back kitchen.
Garnier Opera House: Speaking of Paul Baudry, he also designed the foyer of the magnificent opera house. Words cannot even explain the intricate but grand beauty of this place. You must go!
Square des Missions Etrangéres: I have a personal connection to this little square. I’ve eaten many a Pierre Hermé treats here, in the shade of a chestnut tree, on one of those perfect little park benches. I love that it’s in the center of the hoighty-toighty Rue du Bac neighborhood. Yet it feels private and discreet, green and calming. Total magic.