A Perfect Day in Paris

I was recently asked which of the 25 walks from my book I would do myself if I were to find myself in Paris for a day. What a lovely—albeit challenging—question to ponder. The fact is that after researching the exceptional people I profiled in Forever Paris: 25 Walks in the Footsteps of Chanel, Hemingway, Picasso, and More, I fell in love with all of them. It would be impossible to choose just one. But it got me thinking: of all the greats haunts I covered in the book, what combination would make up my perfect day in Paris? It would be dreamy to start the day off at the divinely pretty La Durée on rue Jacob, surrounded by pastel-colored macaroons. After a little caffeine and some buttery indulgence, I’d browse my way down the Blvd. St Germain (shoe shopping being a favorite pastime of mine) to the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits (222, blvd. St. Germain). The museum recently expanded into this fabulous space and contains all kinds of wonderful historic paraphernalia—the letters of Balzac, drawings by St. Exupery, the manuscript pages of Hugo, Zola, Sand, and loads more stuff. As an editor, I love seeing the marked-up pages, the fountain-pen scrawl, the doodles and voyeuristic details that make these literary giants seem so much more human. After that, it would be time for a bit of fresh air so I’d likely double back and thread my way down through the labyrinthine streets near Odeon. I’d have to make a stop at my near-fave bookshop of all time, the Village Voice, on rue Princesse. I live in Portland, home to the greatest bookstore in the U.S., and I love getting lost in the massive maze of Powells. But the Village Voice is a close second for just the opposite reason—it’s an intimate place with a lovingly curated collection, and I always want everything in it. After inevitably making a couple of purchases, I’d grab a crepe to go at La Creperie du Comptoir and take it down to the Luxembourg Gardens. Then I’d follow in Hemingway’s footsteps south out of the gardens and then over and down through the Cimetiere du Montparnasse to see the latest photo exhibit at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. If nothing else, I’d plonk myself down on the top floor, surrounded by the master’s photos, and have a browse through his massive tomes of photographs. I’d probably then stroll north along rue de Rennes to St. Sulpice, indulge in a bit more window-shopping in St. Germain (so many shoe shops! So little time!). I might stop for a drink at George Sand and Victor Hugo’s regular haunt, Laperouse, or pop into Café Flore, Simone de Beauvoir’s preferred watering hole, for a kir. Another longtime personal fave is Au Sauvignon, which carries only tartines and wine (the perfect place to recover from a shopping spree at the massive Bon Marché nearby). Then I’d probably grab the metro back to the 9th, grab a baguette, some cheese and a bottle of red wine on the rue des Martyrs, and head home to soak my tired, deserving feet.

What would you do with one day in Paris?