The weather didn’t hinder my first day in Paris. My schedule was set and included going to Fondation de Louis Vuitton…a not-to-miss-not-to edifice and art gallery in the Bois de Boulogne.
The building itself is reason to go. Designed, in my opinion, by the most innovative architect in the world today. Toronto born, Frank Gehry, has created outstanding buildings, many which I have had the opportunity to see.
The art collection was from the Russian born brothers, Mikhail and Ivan Morozov. The excellent exhibition, when I was there, were 80 canvases, La Collection Morovoz; Icones de l’Art Moderne. It started with Modernism from Russia and then most importantly, the new art movement then from France.
And what a great few hours to spend out of the unusual cold in this incredible building with outstanding art.
Of course, when in Paris, EAT.
Since I was on my own, I didn’t go to any 5 star rated restaurants. I find being on my own, not sharing the tastes, the experience and also the surroundings somewhat alienating. But that said, many of the top chefs have left Paris and gone to greener pasture. Some have also become small inn keepers so guests can stay longer and eat some of the best meals served for the ‘foodies’ of the world. Eating local food, gathering the veggies and herbs from their large acreage, serving only what these chefs can get nearby, has made a huge difference and it may have an ongoing reality with the pandemic and politics.
However, there are still so many great chefs in very famous eateries in the city but I ate at the very good local bistros (alone), street cafes (alone), all reasonably priced, friendly and delicious, but certainly not in the same category as five star listed restaurants.
I love shopping but there was hardly any on this trip. For starters I hadn’t worn my clothes in two years since the start of the pandemic. Besides I knew I would take cabs, my walking somewhat wobbly, and more so on the wet streets, so those wonderful shoes and that great sweater will become memory. Priorities with my Euros were taking cabs.
I decided to stay on the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) at Hotel de L’Abbaye, 10 rue de Cassette. It’s located in a most desirable area in the middle of Paris on the Rive Gauche (Left Bank).
Little did I know that Hotel de L’Abbaye, in Saint Germaine, was an 18th C convent now completely renovation into one of the coolest boutique hotel with only 44 reasonably sized rooms. This ‘wonder” is set back from the street behind wrought iron gates. It’s a quiet oasis with patios, gardens and fountain, a favorites with the most sophisticated, understated, wealthy and polite world travelers whom I met and saw at breakfast.
The hotel staff is so friendly, the spotless rooms are large for Paree. My breakfast was included in the price. I’m not a big breakfast person, really a cup of coffee is all I need. But who could resist their perfect croissants? And for those who enjoy a large first meal of the day, the menu includes various styled eggs and other delectable edibles.
There are 2 plush public rooms for breakfast and tea, but my favorite is the addition, the atrium. Even on rainy days, the gardens and furniture made me think of a private grand mansion. And tea time, all the 3 rooms are always filled.
A few facts why I decided on L’Abbaye in Saint Germain district. It is centrally located, a short walk to the Luxembourg Gardens, and the Cathedral Notre de Paree, a two minute walk to the famed cafe, Les Deux Magots, and the fashion-forward, one-stop-for-everything, fashionable, Le Bon Marche. Almost next door is the ultra grand, Lutetia Hotel which was a Nazi headquarters during the German occupation in WWII. This hotel is filled with history, very beautiful and “tres, tres” expensive. I did have my second or was it my third ‘cuppa’ (?) just to see the lobby, seating areas and get out of the precipitation.
However, if there was one problematic and dangerous element, it was this-the lack of safety measures in the bathroom.
The marble shower floor ‘sans matte’ is slippery and when I mentioned my fear of failing, I was told that I should have asked for a mat. But there wasn’t any signage about this hazard. So next I opted for a bath. (Big Mistake). The curved European tubs are beautiful but beware. They are very curved at the top and very narrow at the bottom. And there are absolutely no handles to grab, the faucets are at the other end, the sides are high, the soap dish also too far, hence leaving me struggling to get out of this very narrow space for over 20 minutes. I could have become an ‘artiste’ for the Cirque de Soleil. But most importantly, there wasn’t an emergency cord to pull anywhere.
That said, I would return to L”Abbaye, without hesitation, It’s the perfect hotel in the perfect location with perfection from food to cleanliness and friendly, helpful staff. And although I have travelled around the globe, Paris is still my favorite city that slowed down with the onset of Covid19. If there could be one aspect that was good from this awful pandemic, it is the Parisians realized that visitors were essential to their economy. It seemed to make them less rude, less snobbish, more approachable and pleasant. And although I do speak French, I didn’t have to beg to get their attention. Merci Paree.
Get travel insurance which could, if possible, include delays and overnight hotel stays and refunds.
If you’re in a large city, try to get a direct flight. It’s easier on the body then a stop over.
Travelling on your own does have challenges but I follow a few long ago learned tips…always be polite. You may even find yourself upgraded on the plane.
I always carry the hotel address and phone number of the hotel where I am staying and also where I am going.
I never tell strangers where I am staying or for how long.
I find getting around by cabs recommended than losing time trying to navigate unfamiliar metro/subway or bus stops. I justify this by using funds I might have spent on buying that wonderful cashmere pully or pair of shoes.
I don’t just wear my fashion sunglasses for the look. I never make eye contact with men when I am out walking.
Wear a simple wedding band, married or not, when out. Leave the diamonds at home and even leave the fakes at home too. Pick pockets don’t carry their jewellery loop with the before tearing them off your lobes, neck or fingers.
I eat my main meal of the days at a cafe as late as possible, unless there is a good bistro/cafe near or in your hotel. I feel safer not walking to or from a restaurant in the dark or worrying about getting a taxi which in itself can be a scary outcome.
And for a night snack, I pick up something from a market or cafe during the day for a light/night snack.
When booking your air ticket if you need assistance, let them know about your disability and book a wheel chair.