Last December, I spent one glorious week in Paris on my own, eating my way through the city’s patisseries during the day and enjoying French wine and classical music at night. Who would have known that just a few months later, we’d be banned from entering Europe?
But, as they say, Paris is a state of mind. Just because travel is off the table as we try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the best parts of a Parisian vacation from home. With the help of local writers and other Parisian hospitality experts, we’ve created an itinerary for recreating the perfect day in Paris right at home. Think of it as a mini vacation or mental health day.
8 a.m. Be your own boulangerie
Start your day off right with a typical French breakfast, which usually involves carbohydrates, something sweet, and coffee or tea. A slice of brioche and jam, pain au chocolat, or a croissant are all good options.
Ambitious bakers with extra time on their hands (moi?) can attempt recreating the gooey cinnamon buns I’ve been craving from Circus Bakery, a tiny hole-in-the-wall located just around the corner from Shakespeare and Company bookstore in the Latin Quarter. This spot-on recipe from Epicurious requires an overnight proof to give the yeast more time to process the sugar, but it is totally worth the effort. The cinnamon and cardamom made my kitchen smell like the inside of a boulangerie (aka heaven). When I took the first bite of the soft and sticky bun, I felt instantly transported to the park bench across from Notre Dame where I enjoyed the real deal last December.
9 a.m. Tune into the sounds of Paris
Now that your house smells like French pastries and coffee, add to the ambience with this playlist of the bruits de Paris (the sounds of Paris). Before confinement, the team behind the My Little Paris newsletter recorded sounds from around the city. You can pretend you’re drinking your coffee at a busy café this morning. And later in the day, other recordings on the playlist can make you feel like you’re drinking an aperitif on the banks of the Seine or wandering around the Pigalle after midnight.
9:30 a.m. Add a bit of Parisian flair to your WFH outfit
Scarves have always been a Parisian staple, so wrap yourself up in a fabulous one whether you’re going outside or not, says Sara Lieberman, an AFAR contributor and Paris resident.
The Real Real and Carre de Paris both offer a wide range of vintage Hermes scarves, often at a fraction of the retail price of a brand-new one. Tie it like a Parisian with the help of this YouTube video, which offers 25 different ways.
“While you’re at it, throw on some red lippy from Guerlain because pourquoi pas?” Lieberman adds. “No one needs to know you’re still in leggings.”
Buy Now: Guerlain Rouge G Lipstick, $33, sephora.com
10 a.m. Catch up on the local news
Brush up your French: Head to Le Monde’s website to catch up on the daily news in France. Too advanced pour vous? Tune into the One Thing in a French Day podcast instead, in which a short news item is read slowly by a French speaker.
For fun, Lieberman recommends a free subscription to the English-language version of the My Little Paris lifestyle newsletter, La Parisienne, which arrives to your inbox twice a week with content like Q+A’s with locals and tips for picking French cheeses.
12 p.m. Take a leisurely lunch
Ooh la la! Since you’re “on vacation” right now, please indulge in a leisurely two-hour lunch complete with a glass (or two) of natural French wine and a cheese board full of fromage. Even if you can’t pop down to the local fromagerie right now, Murray’s Cheese in New York is still shipping dozens of French cheese, like creamy bries and ripe roqueforts.
2 p.m. “Visit” a museum
Getting lost in the halls of an art museum is one of my favorite ways to spend the hours between lunch and dinner when I travel. Revisit familiar paintings and sculptures by Van Gogh and Degas with a virtual tour of the Musée d’Orsay. Google took its Street View cameras into the train station-turned-art museum so you can “walk” from painting to painting without having to compete with other tourists for up-close views. Google’s online exhibit of how the museum was transformed from a turn-of-the-century train station to a home for the world’s largest collection of impressionist art is also worth clicking through.
For those with more modern tastes, the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s #FLVchezvous project offers “visitors” three weekly virtual opportunities to either partake in an exhibition visit with commentary from a curator or watch concerts previously recorded at the museum. The experiences take place on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evenings, French time—check the weekly schedule at fondationlouisvuitton.fr.
3 p.m. Dig into a book at the hottest café in town, Chez Vous
OK, so Chez Vous is literally just your house in this scenario, but you can get creative. Maybe you have access to a yard during quarantine? Pour yourself an extra-large café au lait (served in a bowl) and rearrange your outdoor furniture (two chairs side by side for better people watching, mais oui) and suddenly, you’re at a sidewalk café.
Since I only have indoor seating available, I’ll be holing up in my favorite window seat with a coffee and a book that transports me to Paris. The New Paris, Lindsey Tramuta’s book about how food, fashion, and design have evolved in the City of Light over the last decade is out right now, but you can also preorder Tramuta’s latest, The New Parisienne, which continues the story and will be released on July 7, 2020.
5 p.m. Oui! It’s apéro hour!
Just before France went into lockdown in March 2020, David Lebovitz released Drinking French, a collection of iconic French drink recipes. The timing of his ninth book was strangely perfect, now that we all have to be our own bartenders at home.
“Longer days spent at home call for longer drinks,” Lebovitz says. “One of my very favorites is the Americano, which requires two bottles which I always have on hand: sweet vermouth and a red bitter apéritif (or aperitivo, in Italian), such as Campari.”
Follow his recipe by mixing 1.5 ounces (each) of sweet red vermouth with the red bitter apéritif in a tumbler, then adding about 1 ounce of sparkling water, or to taste. Add a twist of lemon or orange, and a handful of ice, and “you’ve got the perfect apéritif to start the evening in style, as if you were sitting in a Parisian café, but at home,” Lebovitz says.
6 p.m. Cook dinner like a French chef
Popular Parisian chefs like Taku Sekine, of Dersou and Cheval d’Or, and Juan Arbelaez, of Plantxa and Levain, have taken to their Instagram accounts to post simple recipes that you can recreate at home. Take a spin through their feeds or the stories saved in their highlights to find one that suits your tastes (and the ingredients in your pantry).
Arbelaez’s homey roasted chicken with vegetables recipe (pictured above) is a typical Sunday meal, but comfort food is suitable every day of the week now. Arbelaez posts his recipes in French, so either use it as a chance to practice your language skills or just copy and paste them into Google Translate.
8 p.m. A night at the cinema
Now that you’ve visited Paris with your sense of smell and taste, queue up some major visual nostalgia and rent a movie set in the City of Light via Amazon, Netflix, or iTunes. There are so many options, but I, for one, love Breathless, the French New Wave film by Jean-Luc Godard set in early 1960s Paris. It transports me not only to the grand boulevards of Paris but also to an entirely different era where I have a perfect blonde pixie cut, an endless supply of striped clothing, and a dangerous boyfriend (as opposed to the grown-out bob, endless supply of striped clothing, and two lazy cats I’m living with now).
Stay up late and watch another selection from AFAR’s favorite movies set in Paris.
10 p.m. Unwind with some Joséphine Baker and a fancy French candle
To relax before bed, Marie-France Grégoire, the chief concierge of La Réserve, one of AFAR’s favorite hotels in Paris, suggests playing tunes by Joséphine Baker (she recommends starting with the song “J’ai Deux Amours”). Now is also the time to light that fancy candle you bought as a souvenir on your last trip to Paris. Smell is one of our most powerful senses and certain scents can help spark memories of certain places. Grégoire prefers Cire Trudon’s Trianon candle. This floral scent is meant to evoke summer evenings in the country with Marie Antoinette, according to the Parisian candle company that has been around since the 17th century. Bonne nuit.
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