With Paris Haute Couture week on the horizon, Marie France shares her favorite spots in The City of Light.
LE GRAND VEFOUR: "My favorite Parisian restaurant, situated in the Palais Royal," Van Damme says. "It was the first 'grand restaurant' in Paris to open around 1780. Little brass plaques mark the favorite seats of famous diners like Colette, Victor Hugo, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Josephine. I like to go there, not only for the sumptuous décor, the beautiful food, but also for the simple yet sophisticated service from the staff. In other words, not Parisian stuffy!" 17 Rue de Beaujolais; grand-vefour.com
MERCI: "Merci is a great concept store in Le Marais," Van Damme says. "I like this destination for the shopping experience (great furniture, fashion, books, flowers) but love it for the ‘gateau a l’orange’ (orange cake with orange sauce), that you can find downstairs in the restaurant or upstairs in the café-tea room. Not only do they serve delicious desserts, but also very tasty salads and healthy dishes." One of the best items that Van Damme discovered at Merci are paper towels that look and feel like linen. "I use them for picnics on the beach and dinner parties at home," she shared. Another plus of the store: "All profits from Merci go to charity!" 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais; merci-merci.com.
GALIGNANI: "The oldest English bookshop in Paris, dates back from the early 1800s," Van Damme says. "It is probably the most elegant bookstore I have visited, and has an excellent offer. You cannot walk out of this store empty handed, even if you are not a book lover!" 224 Rue de Rivoli; galignani.com.
LADUREE: "The macarons are to die for," Van Damme says of this Paris icon. "Breakfast, lunch, or teatime, in the Chinoiserie décor of Madeleine Castaing (a famous interior designer, one must read about her, she had a fascinating life) is always a pleasurable moment. And a delicious one." 21 Rue Bonaparte; laduree.fr.
PERE LACHAISE CEMETERY: "On a beautiful day Père Lachaise, situated not too far from Le Marais, is the perfect getaway," Van Damme says. "Walk through beautiful gardens, and meet hundreds of famous people—Jim Morrisson, Edith Piaf, Yves Montand (French actor who was Marilyn Monroe’s lover), Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, just to name a few." 16 Rue du Repos.
PARK HYATT PARIS: "The Ritz, my Parisian home, is under renovation for the next few years," Van Damme says. "The Park Hyatt has been very attentive to all my needs, and have made each of my stays in their hotel a very pleasurable one. I love the fireplace in the lobby for casual snack or dinner (sushi platter), the bar serves great cocktails, the terrace outside is open twelve-months of the year (smokers love it) and my friend Ed Tuttle has created a décor that is just simply chic." 5 Rue de la Paix; paris.vendome.hyatt.com.
MUSEE D'ORSAY: "Marvelous place with an amazing collection," Van Damme says. "Fantastic Impressionism collection from Degas to Van Gogh, from Whisler’s mother’s portrait to Caillebotte's Les Raboteurs de parquet. Last but not least, the café is a nice and very convenient place for a quick lunch." 5 Quai Anatole; musee-orsay.fr.
LES PUCES DE SAINT-OUEN: "You will find great little shops at Les Puces, selling everything from antiques to junk to vintage clothes," Van Damme shares. "If you like vintage jewelry, you must stop by Art Deco...You can spend a whole afternoon walking from one antique dealer to another, there is always some bric-a-brac to buy." Porte de Clignancourt.
LE MARCHE DES ENFANTS ROUGES: "An open market, where one can find Moroccan delicacies, crepes bretonnes, and fresh products from all over the world, from Portugal to South America," Van Damme shares. "It’s a fun place to check out, if not for a fresh Moroccan mint tea, then a good Italian espresso." 39 Rue de Bretange.
LA GRANDE EPICERIE AT LE BON MARCHE: "Am I always thinking food when I am in Paris?" Van Damme wonders. "I could spend hours looking at all the products—I love the displays, the colors, the smells—I travel from one country to the other. For a food and packaging addict like me, the Grande Epicerie is heaven. I buy my favorite olive oil bottle and oil from Château d'Estoublon on each visit." 38 Rue de Sèvres;lagrandeepicerie.com.