So you have stood a line for hours and shared an intimate moment with 1000 strangers gawking at the Mona Lisa, wondering what the fuss is all about. You have learned to navigate narrow sidewalks, improving your collision avoidance skills in the process. You have inhaled an ungodly amount of diesel particles while skilfully avoiding buzzing, speeding scooters.
And you are exhausted. Of course, you could return to your pocket sized hotel room and take a nap. Better, follow your tour guide to a more peaceful Paris.
From the Avenue de l’Opéra, look for la rue des Petits Champs. A couple of hundred meters on your left, you will find the passage Choiseul, the longest covered passage in the city. An eclectic mix of unlikely neighbors – clothing stores, fast food, a toy store, coexist peacefully. But your destinations are closer to the end of the passage, where for decades the art supply store Lavrut has been providing artists and architects with everything from pencil to canvas, and where, maybe, you may run into a famous artist…. In that same alley, find wonderful gifts at all price points just next door to Lavrut.
Retrace your steps to rue des Petits Champs, make a left. 300 meters to your right is the rue Vivienne. A few steps and you will enter another century, a place of absolute quietude, les jardins du Palais Royal. Do not miss the music box store that welcomes you as you approach: from the most humble to the absolutely decadent, you are sure to find a music box whose songs will trigger an uncontrollable bout of nostalgia. Stroll around the arcades, and then sit on a bench or a chair, by the center garden or the fountain, or in a shaded area beneath centennial chestnut trees. Close your eyes: there is not a car sound to be heard, just birds and the distant laughter of children playing in a sandbox. You may, or not, sit at one of the surrounding cafés for a cup of tea. You may, or not, reflect on the fact that the writer Colette lived here. But you will feel rejuvenated.
Now of course you want to eat. My favorite Parisian restaurant is located on what is possibly the ugliest street of the most boring arrondissement in Paris. And of course, it is Italian “Non solo Cuccina”, rue du Ranelagh. Since you are adventurous travelers, not tourists, I will not say one more word as to why you should eat there. Do bring a valid credit card or cash equivalent, as it is somewhat pricey….
Shopping for gentlemen: if you would rather wear English shoes made by craftsmen than fluo plastic adolescent contraptions manufactured in the sweat shops of Bangladesh, three franchises can be commended as they offer bespoke styles at modest prices: Finsbury, Bexley and Loding. You will be forgiven if you assume that those are English shoes, they are in fact 100% French!