When planning a trip, there’s nothing like advice from a local or a frequent visitor. RueBaRue asked savvy globetrotters to share what they like best about the places they love. This time round, we asked Monica Suma to share with us her Paris secrets.
Why did you choose Paris?
I chose Paris, because this fall I indulged an old dream to get to know the French capital better. I thought New York is the best city in the world, but in fact, Paris, supremely elegant and chic, has me slowly falling in love. I was ecstatic to be able to discover it in depth and to celebrate, alongside Parisians, its matchless joie de vivre, unwavering still, even after the terrorist attacks of this past November.
When was the first time you visited the city?
It was Christmas Eve during my sophomore year in college when I first landed in Paris, after missing a connecting flight from New York to Romania. I was annoyed to miss Christmas Eve dinner with my entire family, but got over it quickly as soon as I toured Paris for the first time. I even had a consolation French Noel dinner instead, hosted by my aunt that happens to live in Paris. I must have been the luckiest person ever, to miss a flight in the most romantic city in the world, during the best time of the year. And guess what?! The exact same thing happened two years later!
How often do you visit?
It really depends, my history with Paris has always been a sort of stumbling into type of situation, but so far I’ve visited 6 or 7 times, much more often recently.
What is your favorite place for …
I may be the only one on the planet not crazy about French croissants and other sweat pastries, but I do prefer a salty breakfast, often hard to find in Parisian boulangeries and cafés. You can shut me up though with a crispy baguette and butter, and that’s just about everywhere! Merci.
Whether it’s canard à l'orange at Les Deux Palais in Île de la Cité, or a genuine Pho Bo at the Entre 2 Rives Vietnamese bistro in Opéra, my taste buds are rarely disappointed in Paris.
I love Le Nemours next to Palais-Royal for a pre-dinner snack and a hot drink. A quintessential Parisian bistro, I recommend sitting at the heated terrace outside looking out to Place Colette. It’s a perfect spot to watch life go by, a seamless opening scene for Angelina’s Jolie’s The Tourist. I loved the Roquefort cheese, spinach and raisin baguette sandwich served here, washed down by a close to authentic Irish coffee.
The best cocktails I had in Paris so far were at The Peninsula Paris, reopened after years of restoration. Cocktails here will easily set you back 30 euros, but given the sweeping Eiffel Tower views from L’Oiseau Blanc, located on the sixth floor, consider it a bargain!
You can remain at L’Oiseau Blanc for dinner, however I recommend you try Lili’s instead, for an exquisite meal of Cantonese delights. The dishes are impeccable in both taste and presentation, and the décor will surely impress any lady friend you might want to sway. I was also pleasantly impressed with the cordial service, not as often available amongst the French waiters in Paris.
Which part of town do you like and feel that most visitors never get to see?
One could easily spend six months in Paris and still have so much to see. But a glorious sighting I made recently, thanks to Instagram, is Rue Cremieux, lesser known to the mass crowds. An unlikely discovery in an otherwise busy arrondissement, the colorful alleyway with village-feel, aligned with pastel houses of cheerful hues, is located in the vicinity to Gare de Lyon.
If you have more than 3-4 days in Paris, I definitely recommend heading up there for a quaint neighborhood atmosphere, away from the customary Parisian hustle and bustle.
Are there any shopping secrets we should know about?
I personally love all the boutiques in Le Marais, and equally so in Saint Michelle, around Quartier Latin. But my recent shopping jaunt involved book hunting at English-language Shakespeare and Company bookstore, to steal more ideas from Hemingway’s once life in Paris.
What is your favorite touristy landmark in the city?
Quite frankly, it’s the most obvious one. I am always in awe every time I run into the Eiffel Tower, regardless how many times it’s been. Whether it’s walking by it on the quays of the Seine, or seeing it through a window or in the close proximity to a museum, the effect it has is always striking. Most recently, I was happy to witness it lit, bedecked in the French flag’s colors.
Do you have a favorite museum?
Argh, this is a tricky one. I’m a big museum buff and I’ve treated myself to many this fall, not one that I didn’t like! Musée d’Orsay for the stunning century-old railroad that houses it, Fondation Louis Vuitton for the amazing design, and Musée Rodin, just reopened after years of renovations, for the lavish sculpture garden. When it comes to contemporary art, I could spend hours at Centre Pompidou and even more so at visionary Palais de Tokyo, that doubles as a hotspot hangout place, complete with lockers, open until midnight! For natural history, Quai Branly is a stunner, a must-see. I could go on and on …
What is your favorite hotel in town?
The Peninsula Paris! It feels like you’re visiting the Great Gatsby, gilded with a staggering 40,000 individual pieces of gold leaf. It’s Parisian class at its very best, a stunning landmark of 19th-century Haussmanian heritage reborn after years of planning, design and restoration. Loved to see contemporary art pieces compliment the marble walls and its very own Rolls-Royce fleet, including a vintage Phantom II limousine from 1934.
About Monica Suma
Romanian by birth, but New Yorker at heart, Monica Suma has expertly combined travel tales with cultural whimsy into a travel & lifestyle blog, featured as a Top 20 New York City‐based travel bloggers by TripAdvisor’s Flipkey. As a travel writer on the go in Skype’s All-Skype All-Stars video challenge, Monica has proven a travel and social media influencer. Whether at home or abroad, this avid traveler is always on the hunt for whimsy.