Before moving to Paris in 2005, I would visit as often as I could, usually once every other year. I was living in New York and would hop a cheap flight (so I could save my money for shopping!) and spend five to seven days at a clip. After seeing all the tourist attractions after my first visits, I felt unencumbered and free to explore the city, with no obligation to visit one more monument.
The biggest thrill was discovering new cultural events, museum exhibitions, restaurants, and hotels. Certain memories still remain clear in my mind to this day: the jolt I first felt when first viewing the striking glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei challenging the classic architecture of the Louvre; the joy of seeing hundreds of Impressionist paintings all under one roof at the Musée d’Orsay, the beautifully transformed La Belle Époque train station; dining at the cool and chic Georges restaurant atop the Pompidou museum; my first drinks at Hôtel Costes and Buddha-Bar, rubbing elbows with the fashion crowd; and being on the cutting edge when I shopped at the concept store Colette.
Even though I’ve lived in Paris for 11 years and have access to new things all the time, the thrill isn’t gone. I still seek out the latest and greatest, and I’m still surprised and delighted with the bounty of creative talent throughout the city.
Despite recent difficult circumstances, Paris marches on with a spate of new cultural venues, luxury hotels, and restaurants, maintaining its position as one of the top cultural destination in the world.
In the cultural arena, there have been two major developments that have made headlines. In 2014, the art, fashion, and architecture worlds were abuzz with the opening of the highly anticipated Fondation Louis Vuitton (8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, Tel: +33-1-4069-9600. www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr).
Bernard Arnault, CEO of the LVMH Group, and the richest man in France, with an estimated personal fortune of 60 billion euros, spent 13 years pursuing his dream of opening a private museum in Paris. He commissioned superstar Architect Frank Gehry to design the museum, for sure wanting to give it the wow factor.
This modern-day masterpiece has stirred up its share of controversy since opening day, with critics and the public either lauding its boldness or criticizing its audacity.
Located in the outskirts of Paris in the Bois de Boulogne, the mammoth structure nicknamed “the iceberg” consists of 12 architectural sails which contain 3,600 glass panels. Once you get past the dazzling exterior, the inside features 11 galleries with works from Arnault’s extensive personal collection of contemporary art.
Recently the museum has encouraged artists to interact with the design of the museum and the first installation “Observatory of Light” by French Artist Daniel Buren that is currently running. Buren has covered some the existing glass panels with vivid colors of red, blue, green, and yellow, giving the building a whole new dimension.
Meanwhile, the Philharmonie de Paris (Cité, 221 Avenue Jean Jaurès, Tel: +33 14484-4484. www.philharmoniedeparis.fr) finally made its debut in 2015. Frenchman Jean Nouvel, another superstar architect, designed the complex containing concert halls, exhibition spaces, rehearsal rooms, educational services, restaurants, and bars. Standing 37 metres high on the edge of the city in the Parc de a Villette, the dramatic exterior is one part shimmering aluminum swirls topped by 340,000 bird-shaped panels of matted aluminum in four shades ranging from light gray to black.
The main concert hall, the Grand Salle, has 2,400 seats with cascading balconies surrounding the stage, and it’s designed so that the farthest spectator is no more than 32 metres from the stage as opposed to 40 to 50 metres in other halls.
The rooftop will eventually have a picnic area to accommodate 700 people with amazing views of the city.
In an effort to attract a younger audience, the Philharmonie is expanding its offerings beyond classical music to feature world music and dance performances.
When it comes to dining, the Paris restaurant scene is as vibrant and exciting as ever before. A crop of new, foreign-born chefs trained in Paris are reinventing French cooking while retaining its fundamental roots.
When American Chef Daniel Rose opened his hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Spring in 2006, little did he know he would cause a food revolution. His new concept of serving a single menu of five to six mini-courses, which are unknown to the diner before they arrive, took off like wildfire. Chefs all over town started to follow his lead, with restaurants imitating his concept, creating a new food wave.
Rose eventually moved his operations to a larger multi-level space near the Louvre, and it still consistently remains one of the highestrated restaurants in the city. When Rose announced the opening of his second restaurant La Bourse et La Vie (12 rue Vivienne, Tel. +33-1-4260-0883) many people wondered how he could top Spring and whether he would reinvent the wheel one more time.
The unpredictable Rose did a 180-degree turn and opened a traditional bistro offering the best possible versions of classic French dishes with a new level of refinement. Still keeping it small and intimate, the 30-seat bistro is located near La Bourse, the stock exchange, a nearly desolate area at night. Oysters Rockefeller, leeks with vinaigrette, pot-au-feu, steak frites with pepper sauce, chocolate mousse, and crème caramel are just a few of the crowd pleasing, favorite French dishes served.
On the heels of La Bourse et la Vie, this year Rose opened a new, more casual restaurant Chez La Vieille with 16 counter seats and tables. In case you can’t make to Paris, you can enjoy Daniel Rose’s newest outpost in New York, Le Coucou.
Passionate foodies Hugo Hivernat, Sophie Coribert, and Rebecca Asthalter are champions of rising chefs in Paris. First they started a magazine, Itineraires d’une Cuisine Contemporaine, which highlights chefs and their cooking methods and inspirations. Last year, they took their love of chefs to the next level by opening Fulgurances (10 rue Alexandre Dumas, Tel. +33-1-4348-1459. www.fulgurances.com). A showcase and stepping stone for the new chefs, this restaurant invites a guest chef to create their own menu carte blanche for a six-month period.
The first invited chef in 2015-2016 was Chloé Charles, who assisted at Septime and David Toutain’s l’Agape Substance.
In fall of 2016, Israeli Chef Tamir Nahmias prepared his unique mix of French and Israeli creations. Nahmias trained at some of the top kitchens including Frenchie and Yam’Tcha.
The team that elevated the restaurant and wine scene in the once humdrum Saint-Germain-des-Prés area that sorely lacked inventive cuisine, has struck again. Building on the success of restaurants Fish Boissonnerie, Semilla, and wine shop Le Dernier Goutte, they’ve recently opened Freddy’s (54 rue de Seine). Combining the best from their other operations, Freddy’s is a standup tapas and wine bar. Chef Eric Trochon prepares a Mediterranean palate with dishes such as Bigorre ham, crispy falafels, codfish fritters, satay duck breast, and grilled razor clams. Biodynamic, organic, and estate wines are available by the glass.