The city like you’ve never seen be­fore

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - by Nishat Fa­tima, pho­tos by Sameer Saran brunch­let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ Fol­low @HTBrunch on Twit­ter

THE FIRST time I came to Paris, I did as all tourists do. I saw the Mona Lisa. I went to the Moulin Rouge. I spent a lot of time in Shake­speare and Com­pany. I walked along the Seine from the Musee d’Or­say to Notre Dame (par­tic­u­larly to Maoz falafel). I climbed the steps (two at a time, to help me tone my glutes) to the Sacre Coeur, and wan­dered around the Place du Tertre. I even went to the Champs-Élysées at Christ­mas time. Thank god I was a poor stu­dent or I would have re­turned with ‘I love Paris’ T-shirts and Eif­fel tower aprons. I still wist­fully re­mem­ber a com­pact mir­ror with Monet’s lilies.

More than a decade on, I’m back in Paris as a stu­dent. But I’ve been here more than six months, much of it spent ex­plor­ing and wan­der­ing its streets. Paris and I have de­vel­oped a close ac­quain­tance. Have I re­peated any of the things I did from my first visit and have I rec­om­mended them to vis­i­tors? No – ex­cept the walk along the Seine.

Don’t take a selfie in front of IM Pei’s glass pyra­mid…

I went to the Lou­vre ev­ery month when I first vis­ited. Each time, I emerged over­whelmed and dis­sat­is­fied. There was too much to cover, and the Mona Lisa was much smaller and much fur­ther away than I ex­pected. There were also too many peo­ple. I loved the court­yard, I was happy to take pic­tures at the glass pyra­mids, but the very thought of go­ing in again is in­tim­i­dat­ing. But how can you go to Paris and not visit the Lou­vre?

...Visit the Cen­tre Ge­orges Pom­pi­dou in­stead

The Cen­tre Ge­orges Pom­pi­dou is also the Na­tional Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art. Think Matisse, Pi­casso, Mon­drian, Warhol, Kandin­sky. It’s mod­ern art but not so mod­ern as to be in­ac­ces­si­ble. And it’s housed in a build­ing that be­fits the col­lec­tion. De­signed by Renzo Pi­ano and Richard Rogers, it’s all pipes and glass. Spend some time star­ing at it. Or, well, In­sta­gram­ming it. Then there’s the es­ca­la­tor ride in­side a glass tun­nel to take you to the gal­leries. Plus, it has one of the best views of the city – one from which you can see both the Eif­fel Tower and Sacré-Coeur. Even bet­ter, you can go through it in a cou­ple of hours and when you come out, you’re in the heart of the shopping area.

Don’t have tea at Ladurée…

Tea is not a Parisian thing. Ladurée and mac­arons and swee­tas-su­gar tea rooms will lure you but do not get taken in. Yes, the dé­cor is lovely but Pierre Hermé has bet­ter mac­arons. Hot cho­co­late is equally good at An­gelina’s and at Carette, but the best is at Caféothèque and Jeff de Bruges.

Ask for the in­tense hot cho­co­late. You’re wel­come.

…Get Sun­day brunch at Le Fu­moir in­stead

Brunch is a Parisian thing. That’s what you do on Sun­day, 11am on­wards. This doesn’t mean that you ex­pect the never-end­ing-ness of the Amer­i­can or In­dian brunch. No, no. Choice and por­tions are Parisian, but there’s an ex­cite­ment that’s in­fec­tious. It’s the chance to do as Parisians do. And there are a plethora of places to choose from. Two of my favourites are Le Fu­moir, in front of the Lou­vre, and rem­i­nis­cent of a plan­ta­tion house, and the oh-so-pretty La Cham­bre aux Oiseaux lo­cated near the ro­man­tic (also hip­ster cen­tral) Canal Saint-Martin. Al­ways book ahead.

Don’t celebrity watch…

Yes, you could spot Kim Kardashian, Ken­dall Jen­ner or Gigi Ha­did at a ta­ble near you (or as they leave). Yes, you’re across the street from the Dior flag­ship at Av­enue Mon­taigne. And yes, Jean-Louis Costes knows all about leg­endary restau­rants. And yet… you might feel some­thing miss­ing. What if no celebrity ap­pears that day? And all you saw were bored Arab shoppers and Rus­sian richies? Would the (fairly good) food and the at­trac­tive wait staff be enough?

…Rub el­bows with Parisians in­stead

I give you an op­tion. Celebrity chef Yves Camde­borde’s sliver of a ta­pas bar just off Boule­vard Sain­tGer­main, an area in­dis­putably more alive than Av­enue Mon­taigne. L’Avant Comp­toir is next to Camde­borde’s pop­u­lar bistro Le Comp­toir de Saint-Ger­main. It’s packed noon to mid­night so wedge your­self into what­ever space you can find. And it’s stand­ing room only. Out­stand­ing food. The crowd leaves you no choice but to talk to the peo­ple around you. The staff is friendly and the wines are ex­cel­lent. It’s like go­ing to a fun, fun party. Rub el­bows with Parisians. This is the place.

Don’t get stuck in mem­o­ries of Mont­martre

You saw it in Amélie. You saw it in Moulin Rouge. You saw it in Mid­night in Paris. If you like vin­tage movies, you also saw it in An Amer­i­can in Paris. Mont­martre was home to the im­pres­sion­ists in their gar­rets, to au­thors and to bo­hemi­ans. It was the hub of artis­tic life till the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury: ab­sinthe, dance halls. There were vine­yards. And steep, wind­ing streets. The last two haven’t changed but Mont­martre is more seedy than artis­tic, and more mid­dle class than bo­hemian. You can’t skip the Sacré-Coeur, it’s pretty. Sun­set is nice. You can book into Moulin Rouge. But un­less a lo­cal takes you around, it’s just another item on your list.

…Live the Marais in­stead

Far more alive is the Marais – ev­ery day, in­clud­ing Sun­day, when all of Paris sleeps. It’s got nar­row lit­tle streets lined with bou­tiques. It’s full of restau­rants and cafés, food mar­kets and take­away falafel. It’s home to some of the city’s old­est build­ings. There are vin­tage stores and out­let shops. Mu­se­ums in­clud­ing the Pi­casso mu­seum, the quirky Musée de la Chasse et de la Natur (mu­seum of hunt­ing and na­ture) and my favourite, Mai­son Européenne de la Pho­togra­phie. It’s got its fair share of tourists but no Eif­fel tower sou­venirs. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence. You’ll come back for more.

Don’t stop at the depart­ment stores…

The con­ve­nience of depart­ment stores is un­de­ni­able: every­thing un­der one roof. Or in the case of Ga­leries Lafayette: every­thing un­der a beau­ti­ful stained glass dome – and a rooftop with an en­vi­able view of Paris. Plus an art gallery, just in case you want to get the com­plete Paris ex­pe­ri­ence with­out step­ping out. But like a casino, time holds no mean­ing as you go from stall to stall and floor to floor. At the end of the day, this isn’t very dif­fer­ent from be­ing at Har­rods or Saks.

…Go to Paris’s most fash­ion­able street in­stead

Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is a street with ev­ery lux­ury brand: from Moy­nat, where de­signer Ramesh Nair is mak­ing some su­per de­sir­able bags, to con­cept store Colette, to Chanel, Lanvin and Roger Vivier. Lest you worry about the prices, it’s also pep­pered with high street brands. When you get tired you can stop for a drink at the bar at Costes. You can lunch at the Four Sea­sons. You can street style watch. Or you can duck into the gar­dens of the Palais Royale and get some (mild sum­mer) sun. It’s al­ways a good idea in Paris.








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