Spring is a time when Paris resembles all of its most flattering cliches. The city is suddenly awash with cherry and apple blossoms, acting as umbrellas to the streets below them. The air lingers with uncertainty, because both sunshine and showers are definitely expected to feature throughout the day. Tourism is at its hilt and even blase natives start to really see the city again, perhaps inspired by the infectious enthusiasm. If you’re looking for a taste of the Paris you’ve seen portrayed in technicolor musicals, then visiting in spring is for you. But if you REALLY want to avoid the traditional tourist spots and want to enjoy life like a truly well-versed Parisian, then AvenueStory has compiled a list of 6 of the most un-cliché events and unusual suggestions for you to consider during your stay.
Sip a cocktail in a secret Parisian hideaway
One ultimate Parisian escape. On top of a secret stairway in the heart of Montmartre, nestled in the very private garden of a boutique hotel, Le Très Particulier is a refreshing summer hideaway ideal for girlie evenings and low-key celeb encounters. Its lush garden previously belonged to the Hermes family, and reservations are mandatory.
Just beyond the black iron gate and intimate salon sits a small bar that opens onto a flagstone courtyard, where café tables, wrought iron chairs and tapestried settees are scattered amid the greenery to create an enchanting secret garden. Cocktails such as the Green Demon, Captain Hook and Sorcière are expertly crafted by David, the New York cocktail artist.The villa also offers 5 beautiful suites, all designed by contemporary artists. Overall this relaxed, exclusive venue is perfect for romantic dates and mellow evening soirées. Young VIPs and fashionistas gather to talk about their latest film deals, eavesdrop on the other guests, or simply enjoy a cocktail as occasional piano music floats out from the bar.
Furnish your home like a movie set
If you fancy a change from Ikea, you will find inside the greyish walls of this secret suburban warehouse, pieces beyond your wildest dreams. Photographers, stylists and filmmakers go there to create an authentic movie set in a 2000-square-meter loft. ”Long” poufs by Pascal Bauer for Totema, “Aspen” sofas by Jean-Marie Massaud for Cassina, tables by Magistretti and Marc Newson, Plexiglas chairs adorned with a geisha image and designed by Phillippe Starck… The list changes as new items come in. Walking into the XXO warehouse is like stepping into another time zone.
Founded in 1998 by three design dealers, XXO, short for ”Xtra Xtra Original”, organises exceptional sales twice a year and these are opportunities to bag a bargain or hunt out unique pieces, from vintage furniture, period pieces, second-hand furniture, end-of-lines products or new stock. This is a favourite destination for design addicts and collectors hunting for bargain treasures. If you happen to be one of them and would like to furnish your home like a movie set, then be quick, and be chic!
Rent a private pool for an hour
L’Hôtel. What a simple name! Located on rue des Beaux-Arts in the 6th arrondissement and a walking distance to the Musée d’Orsay and Louvre, it has won plaudits as one of the Left Bank’s most charming boutique hotels. Did you know that Oscar Wilde died in one of its bedrooms? But its impeccable reputation has endured the tests of time and it is now a secret haven for the famous likes of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. Guests can sample Michelin starred chef Julien Monbabut’s outstanding menu of light and classic French cuisine, but the ultimate draw is its exposed stone grotto, which holds a countercurrent pool and steam room. What’s even better is you can privatize the facility all to yourself for up to an hour. Enjoy a relaxing swim for yourself or a romantic plunge with a very special someone. We can’t think of a better way to enjoy luxury and privacy at the same time! Order the cocktail de la maison (champagne, violet and lime) and enjoy the moment.
Go where Parisians REALLY shop
Fashion has only one address and it’s Paris. But the next time you’re thinking about investing in this city’s greatest asset, take a diversion from your usual shopping routine and go on a spree in the unconventional spots instead. The best Parisian outlets do not just reside on the Champs Elysées. The Sandro outlet in the 4th arrondissement for instance is one of those discreet outlets that offers high-end couture without burning holes in your wallet.
Eat live noodles
Most would assume that, when visiting Paris, our choice of food would mostly be French. But if you also want to sample some of the ethnic cuisines that the capital has to offer, then try and eat some giant live noodles. On the busy Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, in the 9th arrondissement and close the the Notre-Dame cathedral, is a little Asian restaurant called Les Pates Vivantes, meaning “Live Pasta”.
You will not miss it. Its the place where you will see a Chinese woman drawing your attention by spinning giant noodles from their window. Take a closer look, and watch in awe as the chefs inside roll up their sleeves and start stretching, rolling and spinning what turns out to be fresh pasta. You will have to hold on tight to your chopsticks in order to capture those noodles, for they are so long and fresh that they give the impression of dancing in your plate as if they were alive! Only the freshest ingredients are used, and the tender beef, mustard leaves and crispy soy will not go unnoticed to the trained palate.
Explore one of Paris’s best kept secrets: Joséphine. Newly opened at the beginning of 2013, this discreet little den opens on a chic wine bar, distinguished wines and rare whiskies. Its décor is inspired by the sensual Joséphine Baker and avant-garde American tattoo artists of the 1940s. One of the first things you will notice are the stunning wooden shelves displaying bottles of wine and Japanese whiskies.
The big old-fashioned bar is manned by a couple of smiling, relaxed and helpful bar staff, and the front room gives onto a more intimate rear area with comfortable banquettes, a small dance floor and a second bar. Owner Ludo will proudly point you to his glass dance floor above the cellar and of his smoking room hidden behind a mirror. You can expect the DJ to get your groove on with a variety of spinning tracks that range from rocksteady, reggae ska and ’60s rock. A glass floor reveals the wine cellar beneath, and there’s even a smoking room.
Treat yourself to an endless choice of (responsible) drinking, with whiskies and rums from all over the world, and good French wines available by the glass. Snacks include tuna rillettes with sea mustard, suprême de langoustine, plates of Serrano ham and Manchego cheese and house fries, usually priced between 5 to 18 euros.
If you happen to be in town tonight, then go ahead and unveil one of Paris’s best kept secrets.
Irina Raileanu is the owner and Director at Avenue Story.