Isn’t Always Fashion Week in Paris?

We came for the food.

My puffy green jacket was the least stylish garment I could wear this weekend.

At least it kept me warm during Paris’ windy and damp February—isn’t la mode supposed to be all about functionality?

Besides, we came for the food.

We almost didn’t make our Friday evening reservation, though.

Eurostar pulled in Gare Du Nord just in time for the rush hour traffic exacerbated by the global fashionistas commuting to the shows we weren’t going to attend.

But after hopping on the metro, we witnessed a spontaneous, trendy display.

Parisians from all walks of life, from traditional North African to urban fabulous to mime chic, served style on the moving runaway.

So much so that we almost missed our stop at Le Marais, where we promptly checked in Hotel Duo, changed into boring but Michelin star-appropriate button shirts, and headed out to Restaurant Pages.

Chef Teshi’s spot seemed too bright initially, but I soon realized the lighting worked perfectly with the immaculately white walls, smartly dressed staff, and delicately executed French/Japanese cuisine.

Restaurant Pages

A frosty city greeted us the following day. Chinese lanterns commemorating the Lunar New Year lined Rue Chapon on our way to a new favorite: Parcelles.

The child of a bubbly French couple, the restaurant/store was established right before the pandemic and thrived by keeping Parisians fed and boozed via delivery.

Smily servers approach your table, happy to translate the menu and make food and wine recommendations from their inventory and beyond—something only those extremely confident about their offering can do.


Brunch warmed our hearts and fueled us with calories for a chilly stroll.

We saw Instagram models posing next to the Louvre Pyramid and tourists taking selfies against the Yayoi Kusama installation at the Louis Vuitton Champs-Élysées store.

Louis Vuitton Champs-Élysées Store

As temperatures continued to decrease that evening, we corroborated that no one makes comfort food like the French.

A warm staff, top-notch wine, and succulent roasted lamb shoulder with seasonal vegetable casserole welcomed us to an old favorite: Le Villaret.

Le Villaret

On Sunday noon, we enjoyed a walk through the neighborhood.

The advanced stage of Notre Dame’s restoration was reassuring, as was spotting the Hôtel de Ville decked out with the Olympic Rings in anticipation of the Paris 2024 Summer Games.

Hôtel de Ville

Next, we were off to the 15th arrondissement, home to Le Cagouille, our last culinary stop before catching the Eurostar back to London.

One of the world’s freshest fish and seafood restaurants, with superb wine pairings, is also the best spot to watch the locals enjoy Sunday brunch with their friends and families.

Seeing kids on the neighboring tables tackling coloring books instead of iPads made our day.

La Cagouille

Back in Gare du Nord, we realized beautiful creatures had invaded the place.

Supermodels of all genders and races looked even more stunning, fresh off couture, waiting for the train like the other mortals.

They rubbed off us with some of the glitz and glamour of this ever-magical and romantic City of Light.

Previewing the Heat Wave in Historical Bourdeaux and Cap Ferret

Sweltering temperatures started to punish France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region earlier this summer.

Bourdeaux and its beach town Cap Ferret, were hot.

The Southwestern wine capital, which, after Paris, has the most registered monuments in France, looked stunning with the cloudless bright blue summer sky as a backdrop.

The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

The Grand Théâtre, which stands at Place de la Comédie, is an excellent place to start admiring Old Bourdeaux.

The Girondins Monument, Bourdeaux

A 5-minute walk toward the waterfront, The Place des Quinconces, Europe’s largest square, serves as the city’s most important public transport hub.

At the center, the Monument aux Girondins commemorates the Girondists, a political group that initially supported the French Revolution but ended up being one of the first casualties of the Reign of Terror.

Place de la Bourse, Bourdeaux

Keep walking towards the water and make a right along the promenade. In 8 minutes, you’ll find Place de la Bourse, where the people destroyed King Louis XV’s statue.

Across the street, the 2006 Water Mirror (photo featured) is the world’s largest reflecting pool, a much-needed oasis to relieve the 100+ F temperature. 

Calihau Gate

The Port Calihau or Calihau Gate will take your breath away just five minutes back into the town.

Functioning as the main entrance into medieval Bordeaux, it was built in 1495 to celebrate King Charles VII’s victory at the Battle of Fornovo. 

Port de Bourgogne

The 1750 Roman-style Port de Bourgogne is another jewel. It was created by the legendary architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, famous for redesigning the Petit Trianon at Versailles and Place de la Concorde in Paris.

The Grosse Cloche

Venture westward towards the medieval town through the Cr Victor Hugo, and you’ll come upon the 15th-century Grosse Cloche at rue Saint-James. 

The old Hôtel de Ville bell tower used to announce the harvest season, and it’s the city’s symbol, as seen on the coat of arms.

Place de la Victoire

The culmination of several of the city’s main streets, Place de la Victoire, is one of the main squares.

It features the Porte d’Aquitaine—a 17th-century stone arch—and a 2005 bronze and marble obelisk to commemorate wine production.

Bourdeaux Cathedral

Finally, it was time to quench my thirst with a well-deserved glass of local vin, which I fittingly drank across from the Bourdeaux Cathedral, where Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII in 1137. Cheers to them!

Palais Rohan

Nearby, admire the Palais Rohan (City Hall). Constructed in the 1770s as the Archbishop’s Palace of Bordeaux, it also served as the Gironde department prefecture after the French Revolution.

It was almost 8 PM, despite what a bright sun and a 95-degree temperature might’ve suggested. Time to go back to my digs, figure out dinner and pack for tomorrow’s check out. 

Maison Fernand, Bourdeaux

Shoutout to Cleo and Ahmed from Maison Fernand, who made sure I enjoyed my stay in and out of their charming B&B, accompanying me via WhatsApp with recommendations and securing a table at the coveted Restaurant LouLou.

Restaurant LouLou, Bourdeaux

As per Ahmed’s advice, I checked out the Chartrons District, located northeast of the capital’s historical center, the following day.

Temple des Chartrons, Bourdeaux

Strolling through this mix of bourgeois and bohemian, built in the 14th century and lined with lovely wine bars and antique shops, was a delight.


Highlights include the Church of Saint-Louis-des-Chartrons, the ancient protestant Temple des Chartrons and the CAPC Contemporary Art Museum of Bordeaux.

The CAPC Contemporary Art Museum of Bourdeaux

It was time for Le Ferret, 45 miles west of Bourdeaux and accessible via coach from Place des Quinconces.

The region is famous for outstanding oyster farming, the magnificent Dune of Pilat and its iconic lighthouse.

Cap Ferret Lighthouse

Most impressive to this WW2 nerd were the ammunition bunkers or “Pill Boxes” built by the Germans to protect the entrance to Arcachon Bay against Allied invasion.

WW2 “Pill Box”

Some graffiti-covered structures are still visible, albeit in different spots from where they were constructed due to erosion.

A group of locals have set up an association to research, understand and preserve these relics, which still give the peaceful beach unmistakable “Dunkirk” vibes.

Our Pilgrimage to French Wine Mecca

A biking tour through the villages and small well-defined parcels of vineyards (climats). 

It turns out that Paris is NOT the culinary capital of France.

The title belongs to Lyon, France’s third city, located in the east-central part of the country where the Rhône and Saône rivers converge.

Founded in 43 BC, by the 17th century it was the silk capital of Europe. Its rich history includes being a major center of la résistance during WW2.

Lyon, France

We reached Lyon from Paris via TGV, France’s intercity high-speed rail service. Inaugurated in 1966 as turbo trains powered by gas turbines, the network evolved into electricity due to the 1973 oil crisis.

TGV: France’s electric high-speed trains

We stayed at the historic Intercontinental Lyon Hotel Dieu, a UNESCO World Heritage site across the Rhône River. Dating back to the 17th century, when it served as a meeting place for clergy members, The Hôtel-Dieu became one of France’s most important hospitals in 1454.

Intercontinental Lyon Hotel Dieu Lyon, France

It contains a permanent exhibition of the history of medicine (a recurrent theme in the region). Le Dôme Bar, a 104-feet (32 meters) high magnificent dome located on the first floor, is a perfect place to pre-game or have a nightcap.

Le Dôme Bar at Intercontinental Lyon Hotel Dieu

We took the 15-minute walk to Vieux Lyon, the Old Town, one of Europe’s largest Renaissance neighborhoods inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998.

Three historical sections: Saint-Jean (where the iconic Cathedral of St Jean sits), Saint Paul (15th and 16th-century bankers and merchants) and Saint Georges (where the silk weavers lived).

Cathedral of St Jean, Old Lyon, France

At night, we stayed on our side of the Rhône to explore the modern city center, where we admired the Nouvel Opera House (home to the Opéra National de Lyon), redesigned in 1985—on the site of the historic 1756 building by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, the architect of the Panthéon in Paris. 

The surrounding area swarmed with multicultural youth who packed falafel places and a dive bar with cheap, cold draft beer decorated with dozens of brassieres (classy). We strolled across the Saône River and into the Quai de Bondy district filled with picturesque restaurants and wine bars. We were in heaven.

Nouvel Opera House, Lyon, France

The next day, we drove 96 miles (156 kilometers) northbound to Beaune (pronounced “bone”), the epicenter of Burgundy in the heart of the Côte d’Or wine region (recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site). 

The plan was a biking pilgrimage through the many villages and small, well-defined parcels of vineyards (known as climats). 

Basilique Collégiale Notre-Dame, Beaune, France

Our lovely Airbnb was above La Maison du Colombier, the go-to wine bar in the town center and across the street from the Basilique Collégiale Notre-Dame (Basilica of Our Lady). 

Immediately, we started exploring the town, from the ancient city gate to the other example of Medieval medicine: The Hospices de Beaune Hôtel-Dieu.

City Gate, Beaune, France

Founded in 1443, after the Hundred Years’ War and an outbreak of plague left the majority of the population destitute, the Hôtel-Dieu is a vision. 

Now a museum, its iconic tiled roofs, and interiors, classic examples of fifteenth-century Burgundian architecture, are perfectly preserved.

The Hospices de Beaune Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, France

Hôtel-Dieu is quite the religious experience: there’s a hospital ward inside a chapel. Architects furnished the Room of the Poor with two rows of curtained beds leading to the altar so that the sick could attend Mass from their beds.

The Domaine des Hospices de Beaune is also famous for being a non-profit organization that hosts a wine auction dating to 1859. It takes place on the third Sunday in November during Les Trois Glorieuses (The Three Glorious) festival.

The Room of the Poor, The Hospices de Beaune Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, France

And so the day of our pilgrimage arrived. As we rode through the Côte de Nuits, we understood why wine and religion have been intertwined since the Middle Ages. 

The rise of Christianity declared wine sacred, symbolizing the blood of Christ. The increasingly important role of the clergy caused them to receive land as gifts from the local nobility.

Côte d’Or, Burgundy, France

Over many centuries, bishops and monks established the delineation of the vineyards, which are still maintained. When tasting wines today, you may hear the expression “the monks got it right,” as La Romanee-Conti tastes quite different from Romanee St-Vivant, even though a mere gravel road separates them.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti-Cross, Burgundy, France

48 Hours Holding Our Breath in Paris

Like London and New York, Paris always feels like the first visit. This time, however, you could cut the tension in the air as a divided country decided on a close presidential race between opposite poles.

Eurostar will always amaze me: 2+ hours from Pancras International in the heart of Central London to Gare Du Nord in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, without commuting to the airport at least 2 hours in advance—and leaving your laptop and toiletries inside your bag!

Amtrak could never.

We arrived in The City of Light to make our 10:15 PM reservation at Le Villaret, an old favorite and one of the many French restaurants pummeled by private-flying wealthy foreigners trying to deplete their precious wine programs.

Ever the political junkies, my partner and I kept refreshing our phones to the locals’ chagrin for news about the all-important presidential run-off that would take place on Sunday.

President Emanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen would face off in a contest eerily reminiscent of the Trump vs. Hillary fight in America and the controversial British vote to leave the European Union.

No wonder the French were edgy.

The Russo-Ukrainian War added another layer of tension to the French presidential contest

After closing the restaurant, as one does, a quick Uber ride took us to the thick of Le Marais, where a massive queue made it impossible to enter Le Raidd. Maybe it was for the better as a packed journey of walking and sightseeing awaited the following day.

The real treat came in the morning as we popped into the nearby Café La Perle, where designer John Galliano went on his pathetic anti-Semitic rant on the early days of social media.

We wolfed down on tartine (the delicious yet straightforward baguette with butter and jam) and a couple of allonger coffees.

Paris is the most walkable of all walkable cities.

A good stroll across both banks of The Seine would parade you through The Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Louvre Museum and Tuileries Garden.

Other landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Cœur at Montmartre, Champs-Élysées and the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery require longer walks or a quick Uber or Metro ride.

Sitting around the font at Les Tuileries to rest one’s feet is a very Paris thing to do

The cultural differences between French and Americans are (in)famous. And it’s fair to say that, occasionally, both sides contribute to annoying their counterpart.

But we had never experienced a bad service bordering on rudeness as at Le Climats, which is a shame because their food and wine program are outstanding. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t that full.

Luckily, with Paris being Paris, there’s not a shortage of places with equally good food and libations and a genuinely lovely service that makes you want to go back. 

If you’re looking for it, I recommend Parcelles (young, hipster vibe) and La Cagouille (a little off the beaten path, passing Montparnasse).

The latter serves one of the most fantastic fish and seafood I’ve ever tried. 

“Let me take a photo pretending I’m holding the Eiffel Tower,” said no one ever

Sunday afternoon, we took Le Metro to Champ de Mars, the Eiffel Tower’s gardens.

A huge stage had been installed that presumably had to do with the presidential election, judging by the number of French flags flying in the background. It was about 5 PM, and the polls would close 3 hours later.

Unfortunately, it was time for us to head back to Hotel du Petit Moulin, our cozy and charming digs from where we had checked out that morning, to retrieve our bags and make our way to the train station.

We still had time for a pint, so we popped in Cox, our favorite gay beer blast in Paris, hoping to perhaps watch the election returns on a big screen March Madness-style, but we were too early for the crowd and they had no TVs. 

After about 20 minutes of watching our lone bartender trying to bum a cigarette from a passerby, we moved down the block to Open Café.

We were looking for a Club Sandwich, so we didn’t have to rely on Eurostar’s late and tiny dinner (however impressive it is that a train serves an airplane-style meal).

Gare du Nord: time to catch the last Eurostar back to London

Sadly, some Paris cooks go home on Sunday afternoon. And, since it was around 6:30 PM already, we had to go by with sparkling water and diet coke before popping into a nearby Thai joint.

Am I the only one who thinks that although Thai food probably won’t blow your mind, it is consistently hearty and satisfying wherever you are?

We kept refreshing our Twitter feeds. Still no election returns. Even though Macron had a solid 10-point lead in the polls, people were nervous. “We’ve seen this movie before,” I remember thinking.

Every time we said “Macron” or “Le Pen” over our dinner conversation, the tables nearby flinched.

As we rode Le Uber to Gare du Nord, the refreshing finally worked, and we saw Macron projected as the victor.

His voters erupted in joy on Champ de Mars, where we just had been a few hours ago.

Fifty-eight percent of French voters (and us) were relieved. France had dodged a bullet.

For now.

Au revoir, París. Until next time
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