Today, author Laura Florand is making all of our francophile dreams come true. It’s fitting (non?) on this 125th Anniversary of the Eiffel Tower. Even if you can’t jet off to Paris this week, you can explore it through Laura’s list of favorites.
AND to celebrate Paris and love and chocolate, I’m giving away a chocolate Eiffel Tower and a copy of a book from Laura’s Chocolate series (your choice) to TWO lucky winners this week. To enter: leave a comment on this post telling me which of Laura’s favorites are on your fantasy travel itinerary. (Contest closed and winners notified.)
Laura Florand’s Parisian Favorites
Thanks so much for having me on, Megan! It’s so much fun to share some favorite spots in Paris. I hope it encourages a trip or two! Or some new explorations while there.
Favorite Dessert: Mmm…that is a tough one. This is what I do for a living, after all, research with top pastry chefs and chocolatiers in Paris. (Well, and then I write about that. But first research!) For a semi-casual afternoon? Visit Jacques Genin and have one of his éclairs (often voted best in Paris) or his mille-feuilles à la minute (made only when ordered), in his beautiful salon de chocolat, which was the inspiration for the setting of The Chocolate Touch. If you have time to wallow in luxury, try anything of Laurent Jeannin’s at Le Bristol’s Épicure, a Michelin three-star restaurant in a luxury hotel. I researched The Chocolate Rose, The Chocolate Heart, and The Chocolate Temptation there, and one of his famous desserts inspired Luc’s gift to Summer in The Chocolate Heart. Make sure to try some macarons, too—Pierre Hermé and Ladurée are classics, and Ladurée’s nineteenth century salon de thé on Rue Royale (Place de la Madeleine) will make you feel you should have six yards of fabric in your skirt and be riding in a carriage.
Favorite Fountain: I love all the fountains, from the old green drinking fountains to the huge, dramatic Hôtel de Ville. The fountains everywhere are one of the great joys of Paris. Actually, this is not a fountain, but it’s a body of water so maybe it can count. I recommend walking along the Canal St. Martin from République up toward Montmartre a bit. This is a lovely quiet walk, and in the evening there are often people spilled out of the bars just along the water, drinking and talking. AND, chocolatier Jacques Genin (#1) is right off République, so you can combine two beautiful experiences into one late afternoon/evening.
Favorite Museum: There are so many, but I’m going to have to go with the Louvre. I know this is unoriginal, but it is truly one of the most incredible collections of art in the world. I go to a lot of museums and really made a point when living in Paris and before that in Madrid to try to explore a new one at least twice a month. But still…the Louvre. When I lived in Paris full-time, I had a pass to the Louvre and would go in there a couple of times a week, just to sit in the Cour Marly or visit the Victoire de Samothrace and refresh. Those two spots are worth hours all by themselves. I do not recommend trying to do it all in one visit, because you will be fatigued and unable to focus and appreciate, but if you are in Paris for any length of time, get a pass, so you can stop in frequently.
Favorite Park: I spent half my time in Paris in parks, so I don’t know if I can narrow this down. But if you go get some of my favorite ice cream (#5), there is a little secret unknown park just around the corner from it, the Square de la Rue Ortolan. It’s nothing exceptional at all. The pleasure is just in how secret and quiet it is, there just out of sight of the world, right when you need time to pause and enjoy your ice-cream and the person you’re sharing it with. I love the park behind Notre-Dame for the same reason. (On the other side of the buses, at the very tip of the island.) Nothing special in terms of what is there or how it’s designed, just a quiet space to breathe. Also, while the Île de la Cité does have a park, one of the most beautiful things to do in Paris is to sit on the quays just below the park, with your back resting against the park’s walls, and enjoy watching the boats pass and the beautiful views down the Seine.
Favorite ice cream: Gelati d’Alberto on Rue Mouffetard. I have tried all the others everyone says are the best, many times, and I tried all the ones in Rome people said were the best, too, and he remains my favorite. He serves his ice-cream sliced into the cone in such a way that it looks like a flower (some people get huge flowers!), and all his flavors are delicious, but I love the most his sorbets. You don’t get one flavor, but two or three together, such as mango and yogurt and banana. Or peach or pear if you’re lucky enough to find those in season, because he won’t make them otherwise. Perfect.
Favorite cafe (and dish?): I don’t think I have one. I used to! It was actually a salon de thé, on the Île Saint-Louis, rather than a café, and it was the inspiration for the setting of The Chocolate Kiss as well as it’s chocolate. But it is gone, now, or rather was sold to new owners and has completely changed, and I still haven’t found another one that is as magical to me. But definitely, stop in cafés while there and just take time to watch the passersby. Don’t go to Starbucks!
Favorite clothing store: This says a lot about me: DPAM and the other children’s clothing stores. Because I never shop for myself, but I love, love, love the children’s clothes you can find in Paris, so not only do I get far too many things for my daughter but for everyone else’s kids, too. One big hint for parents, though: despite my Parisian husband’s delight in being able to buy gray and black outfits for his small girl-child, outfits that do indeed look extremely French and sophisticated, a three-year-old with alternatives in the form of Gymboree pink and lace will never wear them.
Favorite place to hear music: Well, this isn’t a place, it’s a time. The Fête de la Musique, June 21. Music fills the streets everywhere, both organized and random, and it’s so much fun to wander those streets until late at night with a friend. (Don’t wander them alone. It can get a little crazy as the hour grows late.)
Favorite bookstore: Gibert Jeune. It is so big, and you can find all kinds of things. Note that when in Paris, I am not looking for English-language books, though. For those, try Shakespeare & Co or WH Smith.
And of course, best place for a kiss: Oh, there are a lot of great places for kisses in Paris. The esplanade of the Trocadéro at night, as the lights sparkle on the Eiffel Tower. The quays of the Île de la Cité. The bridges over the Canal St. Martin up above République. Any little garden. If you read the Chocolate books, I promise I give plenty of ideas!
P.S. If you would like some glimpses of the behind the scenes research with Jacques Genin and Laurent Jeannin (yes, lat names are pronounced the same), I have some links to various Pinterest boards I made of my visits on my website.