Paris is like New York in that one can do wonderful things with little money, or one can splash out in a magnificent way. My idiosyncratic guide falls into the latter: a voluptuous immersion in French luxury, in the midst of New York city.
1. Begin by transforming yourself into a flaneur, a detached, observant stroller of the city streets (there is no equivalent word in English). Walking through the Jardin de Luxembourg, you’ll find the French strolling, pausing to kiss, sharing a bottle of wine and talking for hours at the little café in the middle of the park. I’d like you to follow suit.
Stroll through Central Park until you are in the center, level with 69th street. Start your French afternoon with a Belgian lunch at Le Pain Quotidien. LPQ’s wooden tables, organic meals, and delicious cheese plates have won over the hearts of working New Yorkers in the last few years, for good reason. Have a glass of wine and an excellent salad: gossip, laugh, and just watch everyone around you.
2. Then walk back through the Park and exit at 5th Avenue. Your next stop is a splash, and you need a reservation, but it’s worth every penny. My favorite French skin company, Caudalie, has opened a Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa at The Plaza. Caudalie fashions their products from grapes and grape-seeds: they smell wonderful, and they’ll make your skin soft as butter. I recommend starting with the crushed Cabernet scrub and then getting a massage. You will drift out the door happy, buffered against the world’s miseries.
3. Take your newly beautified self to a store that’s not obviously French—Bergdorf Goodman, housed in the great Vanderbilt mansion next to the Plaza. In fact, Herman Bergdorf was an immigrant from Alsace, and to this day BG offers a fabulous, curated collection of famous and little-known French designers. I’m not suggesting a full-on shopping expedition: you don’t want to lose that honey glow from your spa treatment. Instead, stop off at the designer shoes on the 2nd floor. BG even has a shoe app! Take a special look at the collection of Lanvin shoes, which are exquisite—and, even more important, incredibly comfortable. One day I went to lunch at Le Bernardin in high Lanvin wedges, then ran to my university and taught a 3-hour night class, all without a complaint from my feet.
4. I’ll leave dinner to you. Le Bernardin is an obvious possibility…but I’d also suggest a humbler French cousin, La Mirabelle, at 102 W 86th Street/Columbus. La Mirabelle is a lovely little restaurant, not too cher,and serving excellent food at quiet tables, with the occasional singing waitress. It has a passionate following among upper west side New Yorkers, so be sure to make a reservation.
For more on Eloisa, click here.