GIRLS GONE WILD IN PARIS

 

There’s something about mother-daughter trips that make women smile.

Perhaps it’s because for many of us they evoke the rite-of-passage trips we took with our own moms, like the one I fondly remember taking to Europe the summer before college at age 18. It remains one of my most treasured memories not just because of where I traveled, but with whom I shared it. Still, for others it’s a jaunt they plan to take one day.

The trick, though, is waiting until that perfect moment when she’s just old enough and you’re still young enough to enjoy doing the same things. Think of it as the stars aligning.

That’s precisely what happened when I took my daughter, Natalie, to Paris in April for her Sweet 16. Together we turned the usual mother-daughter dynamic on its head as she unplugged and I unwound, all for the sake of a little Parisian joie de vivre. Noticeably absent were the incessant texting, Facebooking and Instagraming. (I deliberately opted-out of an international data plan on my daughter’s cell phone.)

Instead, Natalie’s iPhone simply became her camera, which she used to take beautiful pictures. But she wasn’t the only one off her game. I scarcely uttered a judgmental word and not one mention of college, homework or anything remotely resembling nagging. Well, except for the occasional, “Stand up straight.”

Traveling with your daughter means never having to explain why you need 10 pairs of shoes for a seven-day trip. Overpacking is a given, as is a shop-til-you-drop mindset, because eight hours of shopping is not the sort of thing that would generally fly with my husband or worse, my 10-year-old son. The beauty is there’s no one there to reel you in. It’s girls gone wild in Paris, which I might add is distinctly different from the spring break-bikini-tops-off-girls-gone-wild variety that usually comes to mind.

But don’t be fooled. It wasn’t all shopping for this mother-daughter duo.

Indeed, from the sublime to the frivolous, our trip was divided into four tidy categories, all of which we pursued with equal vigor – good food, art, shopping and sightseeing. Together we scoured Paris for our favorite things, from the best macarons to the most unique vintage clothing store.

For this we consulted trusted friends, travel books and good old-fashioned intuition, which led us to discover many a hidden treasure.

There were far too many wonderful moments to mention, but for me, the highlight was visiting the Musée Rodin on a balmy spring day, and for my daughter, sitting next to Kanye West at dinner in the Hôtel Costes. Okay, so maybe our interests don’t perfectly align.

A word of caution: Paris is notorious for pickpockets, so watch out for groups of teenage girls who will try to distract you while robbing you blind. Just like the bevy of girls who converged on my daughter as we descended the Montmartre stairs, until mama bear realized what was happening and scared them off.

 

PARISIAN FAVORITES

Museums

If it’s your first time visiting Paris, the Musée du Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are not to be missed, but my favorite museum is the Musée Rodin, which offers a spectacular outdoor garden and indoor setting. If possible, try to time it for the nicest day of your trip and be sure to pay extra for the audio tour. A close second, for me, is the Musée National Picasso Paris. But you should know it’s closed until the end of 2013 for renovation. musee-rodin.fr/en

 

BRASSERIE

Le Café Marly at the Musée du Louvre

When you visit the Louvre, you must have lunch at Le Café Marly. Be sure to sit outside on the shady terrace, which offers a stunning view of the Louvre pyramid. I splurged on lobster salad that was worth every last Euro.

 

OTHER RESTAURANTS

Le Castiglione Café

235 Rue Saint-Honore

lecastiglione.com

Great for people-watching if you sit outside and for burgers, too.

Les Cocottes

135 Rue Saint Dominique

maisonconstant.com

“Cocottes” mean “little pots.” All the courses are served in mini cast-iron pans.

The tiny space is modern and chic but not pretentious.

Hands-down my best meal. In case you’re wondering, I ordered sea bass cocottes.

Hôtel Costes

239 Rue Saint-Honore

hotelcostes.com

Be forewarned, this place is very expensive. The food is good, not great, but the setting is unmatchable. It’s where all the beautiful people go to be seen. Be sure to ask for courtyard seating.

 

CAFES

Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Both these cafés are great for people-watching.

Café de Flore

172 Boulevard Saint-Germain

Café Les Deux Magots

6, place St-Germain-des-Pres

 

FAVORITE PLAZA

Place des Vosges

Paris has no shortage of plazas, but this one in particular, located in the Marais section, is our favorite.

 

MACARONS

Aux Merveilleux

auxmerveilleux.com

Conveniently, it has four locations where you can pick up these sublime little treats.

 

TEA SALON

Mariage Frères

mariagefreres.com

The place has an amazing presentation of teas.

 

GELATO

Amorino

amorino.com/en/

Never mind that these Italian gelato shops are all over the globe, it’s still our Parisian favorite. No worries if you can’t make it to Paris as there is a Manhattan locale, too.

 

LUXURY SHOPPING

Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

24, rue de Sèvres

Think Bergdorf Goodman.

Hermès

17 rue de Sèvre

The interior architecture is simply spectacular.

 

VINTAGE STORES

La Boutique Noire

22 Rue La Vieuville

There were some amazing finds in this petite shop, located in Montmartre.

American Retro

40 Rue Des Francs Bourgeois

 

OUTLET STORES

Catherine Max

17 Avenue Raymond Poincare

catherinemax.com

The place sells designer closeouts. Expect to wait on line outside to get in. Check out the website for the designer sale schedule. When we went, it was Kenzo week.

Sandro

26 Rue De Sivigne

Sandro is a global brand coming to Greenwich Avenue soon. You’ll find great bargains at this location.

Zadig Et Voltaire

22 Rue Du Bourtibourg

Another popular store chain found throughout Paris. Take advantage of the sale boutique because the regular stores are quite pricey.

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