Culture / Travel

A Modern Woman’s Guide to Paris: The Cutting-Edge Restaurants, Museums and Champagne Fantasies You Need to Experience Right Now

BY // 08.25.16

She’ll always have Paris … PaperCity editor at large Max Trowbridge goes modern in Paris. Here, she recounts her colorful adventures.

Friday, July 1
I’ve visited Paris many times, so on this trip I decided to view the city through a non-traditional lens. Therefore, I planned an itinerary with a modernist focus. After checking into the Hotel de Sers, in the Champs-Elysées, I wandered past the Arc de Triomphe and to the fashionable French bakery Ladurée for afternoon tea and double-decker macarons.

Dinner was at the Michelin-starred Ze Kitchen Galerie. Here, chef William Ledeuil brilliantly mixes Asian influences and traditional French cuisine. With a view into his kitchen, I watched as each dish of my six-course menu was prepared — from foam-sprayed trout to a divine coffee ice cream.

Saturday, July 2
With an early morning start, I was off to a private tour of Châteaux de Versailles. Contemporary installations from artist Olafur Eliasson (on view through October 30) were an exciting juxtaposition to the grandeur of the palace — a play on light and shadow, mirrored reflections, and the tranquility and strength of water.

A walk through the opulent Hall of Mirrors ended with Eliasson’s breathtaking Your Sense of Unity, a reflective work of circular LED lights positioned inside a mirror. At the end of a stroll through the formal gardens, past the Latona fountain and toward the Grand Canal, Eliasson’s Waterfall, with its massive crane sculpture and powerful jets of gushing water, made for a grand finale.

Olafur Eliasson's "Your Sense of Unity" inside Versailles
Olafur Eliasson’s “Your Sense of Unity” is situated inside Versailles.

Sunday, July 3
With views of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, the brasserie-style Monsieur Bleu at the Palais de Tokyo was the perfect early-lunch spot to spend a cold, rainy day. The restaurant, designed by French architect Joseph Dirand, has a glamorous Art Deco design with brass lighting, fluted wall panels, Eero Saarinen armchairs, and Yves Klein artwork. Très chic. At the Palais de Tokyo, I visited French artist Marguerite Humeau’s first major solo exhibition, “FOXP2.” The new work explores notions of fantasy by way of white mythical forms that resemble pachyderms.

Introducing Pêche

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Next up was the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris for a retrospective of the great French painter Albert Marquet — a lifelong friend of Henri Matisse who was known for his Post-Impressionist, Fauvist style. At the Petit Palais, the voyeuristic exhibition “In The Studio: The Artist Photographed from Ingres to Jeff Koons” mesmerized with its snapshots of artists — Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Claude Monet — working in their private studios, nearly all creating art amidst chaos.

That evening, I dined like a local at Le Sens Unique, a tiny bistro tucked away on a side street in the Champs-Elysées.

Monday, July 4
Apropos for America’s Independence Day, I visited the stunning Fondation Louis Vuitton designed by Frank Gehry. Normally a façade of transparent glass, the Fondation’s exterior was temporarily swathed in kaleidoscopic filters — a result of conceptual artist Daniel Buren’s site-specific installation, The Observatory of Light.

Also on view was the show “A Choice of Chinese Works,” featuring 12 artists including Ai Weiwei, Yan Pei-Ming, Xu Zhen, and Cao Fei. A large sculpture by Zhang Huan was intriguing: a steel head in the style of Buddha as a self-portrait with incense burning inside. More Americana came during dinner, at Ralph Lauren’s restaurant Ralph’s in Paris’ Latin Quarter.

Daniel Buren’s "The Observatory of Light" at the Fondation Louis Vuitton
Daniel Buren’s “The Observatory of Light” at the Fondation Louis Vuitton

Tuesday, July 5
My day trip to the Champagne region began with a quick visit to Reims Cathedral. Then it was on to the bubbles. First stop was Maison Veuve Clicquot and a tour of its famous — and freezing — caves, then onward to Hautvillers, home of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers. This is allegedly the place where monk Dom Pierre Pérignon discovered the second fermentation that creates those fabulous little bubbles.

I stopped for a light bite at the charming Au 36, aptly situated on Rue Dom Pérignon, where I indulged in another Champagne tasting and regional samplings of cheeses and meats. My final stop was Moët & Chandon, where we learned how three little grapes — Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay — make delicious Champagne. Back in the city, the Haute Couture Week frenzy was in full swing. I had reservations for dinner at Hôtel Costes — always an exuberant scene and packed with beautiful people.

The coup de grâce came after dinner at Place Vendôme, where I traipsed through an unexpected field of wheat (Gad Weil’s installation Bles Vendômes) en route to the newly reopened Ritz hotel for cocktails at Bar Hemingway and the Ritz Bar. There, the fashion scene continued: Models strutted in and out, and as I left, an unmistakable head of red hair passed by. It was Grace Coddington.

Wednesday, July 6
My final day in town was quintessentially Parisian. I ventured to the Marais district to attend Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall/Winter 2016 haute couture show. The fashion world’s favorite enfant terrible found inspiration in nature, with forest hues woven throughout the collection, from a three-dimensional skirt in Scottish argyle plaid to an emerald dress embroidered with Swarovski crystals.

Wearing a velvet jacquard tree-print frock and matching cape coat, model Anna Cleveland (daughter of supermodel Pat Cleveland) made a theatrical runway appearance before the finale. For dinner, I went to Market, where Jean-George Vongerichten concocts divine French-Asian fare.

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