July 2004 -- The last time I was in Paris was six years ago, when a London-based friend and I decided to take a 24-hour whirlwind day trip to the City of Light. The memory is a vivid blur of a sleepless overnight coach trip, a daybreak stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries, a café stop for breakfast, recklessly dodging cars near the Arc de Triomphe, napping in the shadow of the Tour Eiffel, a quick lunch at Quick, criss-crossing the city, and nearly passing out from exhaustion at Père-Lachaise. All in all, an enjoyable lark that I could never hope to repeat, now that my body is less forgiving of too little sleep and too much drink.
When the opportunity arose to spend a couple of weeks conducting a research project at the American Library in Paris, 10 rue du Général Camou, 7e (tel. 01-53-59-12-60; www.americanlibraryinparis.com), I leapt at the chance to savor the city like a local, to enjoy it like a lingering but brief summer romance instead of a drunken one-night stand. And, of course, to collect some information for Frommer's; the hazard of being a travel editor is that you never take a trip without working, at least a little. For the benefit of Frommers.com readers, here are one editor's thoroughly opinionated finds in Paris.
If you want a luxurious but cozy place to stay near the Jardin des Tuileries, the Louvre, and Place Vendôme shopping, Sofitel's Hôtel Le Faubourg Paris, 15 rue Boissy d'Anglas, 8e (tel. 800/SOFITEL or 01-44-94-14-00; www.sofitel.com), is the spot. Opened in 1999, the hotel is decorated in a mix of contemporary and classic styles, with feng shui touches. The rooms range in configurations, but all are comfortable, quiet, and a good size, including the short-stay, one-person Classic rooms, which are small without being the least bit claustrophobic. If there's a specific feature you want -- a balcony, a view, high ceilings -- be sure to ask when booking your room. All rooms include Sofitel's cloud-like MyBed and thoughtful touches like bottles of Evian, Lenôtre chocolates, a card of recommended jogging routes in the nearby gardens, and Roger & Gallet toiletries (suites and the apartment kick it up a notch with Hermès toiletries). The hotel is frequented primarily by business travelers, including fashionistas in town for the biannual shows, but celebrity guests like David Bowie and Plácido Domingo seem to appreciate Le Faubourg's low-key high-quality accommodations and the relaxed, personalized service.
If you think you might make it to Paris by September 6, you can take advantage of Sofitel's "Summer Getaway" package at Le Faubourg and its five other Paris hotels. The package includes complimentary breakfast, and guests enrolled in a loyalty program with Sofitel or one of its or airline partners (American, Delta, Air France, and Alitalia) will accrue points. The published rate of a one-person Superior room in Le Faubourg starts at €420 per night, with breakfast costing an additional €23 (including VAT); the summer special shaves that rate down to €280 (pre-VAT), including breakfast.
Living Like a Local
I didn't want (and couldn't afford) to spend two weeks in a hotel; I wanted something more private and that would enhance my fantasy of being a resident. I also wanted to be smack in the center of everything, even if it meant tolerating noise and summertime hordes. I found exactly what I needed with the help of Lodgis (tel. 01-70-39-11-11; www.lodgis.com): A tiny studio with a kitchenette, bathroom, and TV in the Latin Quarter's tourist-clogged, notoriously rowdy rue de la Hûchette for €275 a week. The Lodgis staff was helpful and efficient, and the website's photographs of my studio were true to reality: small, clean, and basic. And the location made it worth every cent. Lodgis has a large inventory -- all with photographs on its website -- so you're just as likely to find something to suit your own idiosyncratic requirements.
A Cure for Homesickness
When the charm of spending €15 on a continental breakfast wears off, or when your longing for a hamburger becomes so powerful that McDonald's is actually tempting, get thee to Breakfast in America, 17 rue des Ecoles, 5e (tel. 01-43-54-50-28; www.breakfast-in-america.com). Connecticut-born filmmaker Craig Carlson opened this diner in 2003 after years of craving American-style big breakfasts in Paris. The food here is even better than what you get in the roadside spots back home. American travelers and expats in need of a fix are often outnumbered by Parisians who've discovered the joys of a bone-sticking breakfast; they pack out the place for fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon, omelets, and a €2 "bottomless mug o' joe." Breakfast is served all day every day, but the menu also includes burgers, nachos, chicken wings, and sandwiches.
The €5.50 ménu étudiant at Far Niente, 25 rue de St-Dominique, 7e (tel. 01-43-55-81-56), saved my bank account without making me feel like I was depriving myself of anything. The sesame panini with jambon cru and tomatoes was hot, tasty, and filling; the deal includes a drink, and for a euro or two more, you can also get a house-made dessert. I think it's the best quick and inexpensive meal near the Eiffel Tower.
Another of my on-the-go favorites is Paul (www.paul.fr). The delicious little quiches -- I'm partial to the spinach and salmon quiche -- cost only about €4 and are perfect when you're burnt out on baguette sandwiches and crepes. If you've got more time and a bigger appetite, you can sit down for a meal; a sidewalk table at the 77 rue de Seine location in the 6e (tel. 01-55-42-02-23) is my personal favorite.
Don't be fooled by the relaxed, branché style of the sommelier at La Dernière Goutte (literally, "the last drop") 6 rue de Bourbon-le-Ch?au, 6e (tel. 01-43-29-11-62) -- he's serious about fine French estate-bottled wines and liquors that you won't find in the United States. There's something here in every price range, and they'll let you sample the wares (in fact, a sample of a 15-year-old Calvados I was considering helped seal the deal). They'll also kindly box your bottles up for easier carrying when you travel home.
A little shop in the Village St-Paul antiques district, Le Passe-Partout, 21 rue St-Paul, 4e (tel. 01-42-72-94-94), has acquired a big reputation for its antique corkscrews, but there are all sorts of gadgets and rarities to peruse, whether you're a collector or you're searching for a precious gift. Don't shy away if you're on a budget -- I scored a turn-of-the-20th-century French nutcracker (still in excellent working condition) for €20.