Yesterday, we arrived in the 1st arrondissement. We visited three museums, walked among the Tuileries, had dinner, and sampled wine.
First thing is almost certainly first: wherever you’re staying, get yourself together, head to the lobby, and exit the building. This may seem obvious at first glance, but from the comfortable confines of your chambre, the room service menu may call to you, and the waft of fresh coffee from the lobby may beckon your travel-wearied bones towards a complimentary continental breakfast. This, you’ll understand, is the wrong continent for that sort of nonsense.
Amble amiably around the quartier—walking the streets of Paris is one of the most pleasant, entertaining things you can do, and it costs next to nothing. Saunter, stroll, loaf, mosey; become, in short, a flâneur, an urban explorer, someone who experiences a place by walking its streets. You may pass through the pedestrian-only streets of Les Halles, stumble across the Palais-Royal and La Comédie-Francaise, find yourself walking along the banks of the Seine, or wondering what the name of this or that church is (it’s probably the Église Réformée de l’Oratoire du Louvre or Basilica de Notre-Dame des Victoires; in case of the latter: you’ve wandered slightly into the 2nd arrondissement).
But what about breakfast? Coffee? The French have permanently demeaned breakfast in their language by calling it petit déjeuner (small lunch), and anyway, you’re bound to come across one of these red dots as you traipse down the sidewalks of the 1st:
Just next to that chickenpock above the Tuileries labeled “Angelina,” you’ll find the Librarie Galignani, a family-owned bookstore that opened in 1801 and has been in its place on Rue de Rivoli since 1856. The family’s publishing history dates back much further, to 1520s Venice, and the Galignanis purport to be the first-ever English bookstore on the European continent, a claim that’s hard to verify given the poor quality of Yelp reviews in the 1800s. If you’re strictly an anglophone, head to the back of the store to peruse the shop’s selection of books in English. Otherwise, the rest of the store offers on the order of fifty-thousand books of varying age and rarity in French. Its environs are surprisingly contemporary—the bookshelves are the only heralds of a bygone era, and even they only date back to the 1930s—but if it’s an older vintage of bookstore you’re looking for, we’ll swing by once we get to the 6th arrondissement.
If you want a historical perspective on the accoutrements de la vie française, the northwestern limb of the Louvre (more musically known as the Pavillon de Marsan) houses the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, with exhibitions of furniture, objets d’arts, toys, tapestries, religious artwork and edifices, and so on. The collection ranges from the 13th century forward, including some stunning examples of Art Déco and Art Nouveau style, combined with the palatial architecture of its setting.
Now to carve out some time for shopping. Luckily, we’re steps away from the Carrousel du Louvre (with the Apple Store, you’ll remember), so if anyone needs to pick up some artisanal products from La Maison du Chocolat, Mariage Frères, La Tarte Tropézienne, or Maille, this would be the perfect time. Ditto shoppers looking for a little Lacoste, L’Occitane, Lancel, and other, less alliterative brands. It’s worth stopping by the Comédie-Française to see what’s on offer tonight, too, whether it’s Molière’s Le Misanthrope or an adaptation of a Greil Marcus treatise.
Just down the street, behind the Palais-Royal’s majestic face, are the Galeries du Palais-Royal, the three grand walkways that seclude the palace’s gardens from the street, the Galeries de Valois, de Richelieu, and Beaujolais. Those interested in Didier Ludot, Epice, Delvaux, Pierre Hardy, Bacqueville, and every other sort of boutique you could manage to fit in the repurposed extremities of a royal palace will be happy here. Anyone bored to tears by shopping can find relaxation and repose in the massive garden or enjoy a coffee and pastry at Café Kitsuné.
Drop off your purchases, plus vit, let’s enjoy some dinner. Over on the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré is L’Absinthe, serving contemporary cuisine to a usually packed house that skews far more local than it does tourist. The “Hot Duck” is a favorite here, and if it’s on the menu, lobster ravioli is a good bet. The mains and desserts are up to you—it’s impossible to go wrong. Afterwards, on the north side of the church square, is Trés Honoré and, more importantly, their bar, with live entertainment and a 1920s vibe that evokes the best of the Lost Generation. The place keeps it going until 2am, which, in Paris, is as good a bedtime as any.