From Paris, with Love

From Paris, with Love

With exciting new experiences and longtime staples that never go out of style, Paris is once again stealing the travel spotlight. 

Words by Angela Caraway-Carlton

Photos by Gaelle Boulicaut, Vedettes de Paris, J-P. Delagarde, Madame Brasserie

It’s teetering on golden hour in Paris when my husband and I board a cruise down the Seine river with Les Vedettes de Paris. Guests rush to grab a coveted seat atop the two-story boat, but thanks to a tip from the attendant, we settle on the bottom deck where we have the entire space—and the très romantique views—all to ourselves.

Leaving from the tour company’s enviable spot at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, we raise our glasses of bubbly to toast the famous beacon, and from our boat’s perch we spy on locals sprawled along the riverbank enjoying bottles of wine and music. As we parade down the river, construction dots the skyline, signaling the city’s preparation for the 2024 Summer Olympics. The fire-devastated Notre Dame cathedral once again rises from the ashes, set to reopen this year. Like a yellow highlighter, the sun begins to cast its dreamy last rays on the ornate bridges and cultural gems, such as the Musée d'Orsay, while streaking a golden path down the middle of the river.

Arriving back at the dock, we board the nearby floating restaurant, Francette, known for its unrivaled  reach-out-and-touch-it views of the Eiffel. There, we feast on oysters, crunchy fries, and French wine, and eagerly await the moment when the tower famously begins to sparkle. When the dazzling light show finally illuminates the darkness, a DJ matches the epic moment with a fusion of energetic tunes, and we join the chic crowd to dance underneath its glow. The moment immediately becomes a core memory that encapsulates Paris’ unrivaled magic that even shows such as Emily in Paris can’t quite capture. 

During our few days in Paris, we experienced a perfect mix of its old and new charms. At longtime Le Café des Musées in the Le Marais neighborhood, we stuffed ourselves on the intimate restaurant’s prized beef bourguignon cradled by creamy mashed potatoes. We stopped for lunch at La Coupole in Montparnasse to devour its popular seafood tower coupled with Burgundy snails while people-watching. One of the most memorable meals was at newly renovated Madame Brasserie, which is nestled on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower and helmed by a 2-star Michelin chef. We could barely contain our excitement as we boarded the 1800s lift and were whisked through the tower’s steel innards to the restaurant. We strategically planned our dinner around sunset and booked a window table for a front-row seat to the Trocadéro and the Seine. It was a pinch-me moment as we watched the city bustle in tune below and dined on a three-course meal that ranged from a velvety soup to a tender chicken paired with a truffled celery mousseline. Service was excellent, and ending the night inside the tower was a treat. 

If you’ve seen Paris’ top cultural institutions, head to the under-the-radar Hôtel de la Marine, an 18th-century palace that formerly housed the French Navy as well as the king’s crown jewels and furniture. It’s now open to the public, and you’ll wander this jewel box to gawk at opulent rooms dripping in chandeliers and gold touches. Shopping is an honored pastime in Paris, and while we spent hours popping in the independent boutiques and vintage stores of the Le Marais district, we were mesmerized by the La Samaritaine department store, which recently reopened after being shuttered for 16 years. We scoured the seven floors of luxury shops and local popups, then took the escalator to admire the store’s glass ceiling and architectural wonders. Galeries Lafayette is another high fashion hit that’s newly fitted with a holistic spa and wellness center, should you wish to pamper your feet after shopping—and you can also get the best free views of the city from its rooftop terrace. If you prefer extravagant indulgence, spoil yourself at the Instagram-famous Hôtel Plaza Athénée, where its Dior Spa has a fresh new look and a light therapy suite with treatments to help with sleep and energy levels. 

There is a flurry of new hotel openings in Paris, but one of the buzziest new addresses is SO/ Paris, a luxury hotel primely situated between the Marais and Bastille neighborhoods. Though it’s housed in a municipal building from the 1960s, the hotel is a purposeful departure from many of Paris’ antique hotels; it feels youthfully fresh with interiors that look as if they’re ripped from a design magazine. We were greeted by receptionists dressed in bright couture uniforms, and I let out an elated scream when I saw our room’s drop-dead gorgeous views of the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur, and the Seine. The hotel is speckled with contemporary and immersive artwork, and during the summer, you’ll want to retreat to the indoor pool and the Codage spa. A stylish crowd makes this hotel their runway, and most are there to sip cocktails at Bonnie, the bar-nightclub on the top two floors that showcases more of those incredible views. Upon checkout, we left Paris with a fresh perspective, while clinging to its longstanding elements that make it a c'est magnifique vacation.