Norma Thiessen, who lives in Toronto in “a little blue house,” adores all things French: the people, food, fashion, history, architecture, countryside and culture. But most of all, she loves Paris. For the past five years, Norma has been living a dream many of us have and some are lucky enough to carry out. And of those lucky ones, some are gracious enough to share this dream with us. As Norma says, “creating a website on Paris was my hope that out of my singular brand of passionate, wild devotion for this city, I have something to offer future travelers.” After reading these insights and perspectives from Norma, you’ll want to immediately go to her website, “My Beautiful Paris.” Enjoy…
I have traveled to Paris many times during the spring season. The weather is most definitely not guaranteed. But whether the forecast should show rainy and cool, or sunny and warm, it’s not important to me. The weather is not what attracts me to Paris in the springtime. No, it’s that exciting feeling in the air, the optimistic vibe, the cheerful mood, the magnolia buds, and the exhilarating sense that everyone is ready for summer. That is what lures me to Paris in the springtime.
Bettie Pardee and I met last fall in Newport, Rhode Island. The meeting was by chance and the story somewhat long, so I’ll chalk it up to serendipity. I am delighted to have met such a kind, lovely woman and proud to call her my friend. Knowing my passion for Paris, Bettie asked if I would share a few of my favorite things to do in Paris during the invigorating season of springtime.
If the weather doesn’t allow for long walks and picnics in the parks, taking it indoors is not so bad when you’re visiting one of the most beloved cities in the world.
Other than the obvious and world famous museums such as the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Rodin and so forth, the mansions-turned-museums are my favorite to tour. Their beauty, their splendor –- and their exquisite furniture –- always leave me breathless. Getting the feel of how the former inhabitants lived intrigues me to no end.
My favorite is the lesser-known Musée Nissim de Camondo, a private home that belonged to the wealthy Camondo banking family. The mansion was built in 1911 and modeled after the Petit Trianon in Versailles.
One of my favorite rooms in the house is the kitchen. It’s a large, light-filled space with a stunning collection of copper pots.
Of course, shopping is another wonderful way to spend a gray day. And in Paris, it is such a thrill! There are a slew of boutiques I frequent, but the ones I return to again and again…
Astier de Villatte truly makes my heart melt. This shop is a rustic piece of heaven that holds the most wonderful hand-made pottery I have ever seen. The simplicity of this pottery is what makes it so desirable. Every time I am in Paris I add to my collection, the ‘Alexandre.’
Buly 1803 is a luxury perfumery first opened in the 19th century. I go there to admire their dreamy teal, tiled floor, and also for their luxurious creamy hand soaps and, for a serious treat, their delicious toothpastes.
Le Bon Marché is hands down my favorite department store in Paris. Its elegance, glamour and warmth pull me right in; always creating a special experience. And, of course, I must mention its neighboring gourmet grocery, La Grande Epicerie.
An important part of your time in Paris is where you stay! There are too many incredibly beautiful hotels to mention; therefore, choosing my top favorites will be impossible. However, I can certainly suggest a few that will not disappoint.
If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience for that extra special occasion, you will die and go to heaven spending a night or two at George V. Every moment in this hotel will be an ultra-luxurious one. The experience will be as close to perfection as it’s going to get.
For something a little more intimate (and less dear) Saint James Paris is breathtaking. This chateau hotel offers opulent rooms and suites and has a stunning grand staircase, lovely lounge, manicured lawns, super-friendly concierge, and a notable feature: hot air balloon wallpaper. It is enough to delight anyone!
Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais is located in the bustling Marais district. The small, quaint hotel, with its rich and beautifully vibrant exterior, offers the perfect Parisian experience, and will keep you more on budget.
The staff and cozy rooms are incredibly charming!
I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy people watching, especially while in Paris. The sidewalk café scene is indeed a serious one! Whether you’re enjoying a café au lait or glass of wine you can sit in contentment for hours watching the passersby.
There is a multitude of cafés to choose from, on just about every street and every corner. Many are worth a mention. However, I’ll recommend two: Carette in Place des Vosges, my favorite square in all of Paris, for its prettiness and their perfect almond croissants…
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” – Thomas Jefferson
My initial word of advice to anyone visiting Paris for the first time is, walk, walk and walk. Cherish the simple things and wander the streets with no destination in mind. Don’t fill up your days running from one attraction to another; it’s exhausting. Give yourself at least one day off and blend in, stopping along the way to sit in one of Paris’ many exquisite parks.
For the lucky ones heading to Paris this spring, I wish you a fantastic time while you devour the most delicious pastries and take in the magnificent sites.
Do enjoy Paris!
Norma Thiessen, My Beautiful Paris
Featured Image Credit, Carin Olsson.