In the Neighborhood – La Rive Gauche

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Ever wonder why Paris is the number one travel destination for people from all parts of the globe? It’s the hoods, baby…the neighborhoods. Called arrondisements (districts), each one has a unique flavor and style all its own, and there’s one for every personality.

My most recent trip to Paris focused on La Rive Gauche (aka Left Bank), specifically near the Luxembourg Gardens where the 6th and 7th arrondisements edge each other and this lively neighborhood always beckons with it’s cute cafés, cool stores and quirky maze of streets.

After the eight hour flight, the best way to relax, look refreshed and ready to enjoy Paris is to treat yourself to a facial; and a favorite spot is the relatively new Clarins Boutique and Skin Spa at 10 rue de Babylone just across the street from Le Bon Marche department store. Besides offering facials and other spa treatments for both men and women, you can pop in to buy Clarins products and get personalized advice and attention, or have a professional makeup application before a special soiree. The sleek, yet serene, white and red boutique has two spa treatment rooms and my esthetician, coincidently also named Candice, had a wonderful touch which instantly melted away all those airplane muscle cramps and travel tensions. After a skin analysis, we chose the Extra-Firming Youthful Treatment which consisted of gentle cleansing, exfoliation, draining massage (heavenly!), and the application of various Clarins botanical treatments on my face, neck, shoulders, décolleté and hands. Following that was a soothing well being massage, a face and neck firming mask followed by an application of contour serum, day cream and finally after my hour and 15 minutes in heaven, a refreshing spritz of the famous Clarins Eau Dynamisante to finish it off. A complimentary makeup application is offered, but my skin looked sooo good, I chose the more Parisian style of au natural skin with just a touch of lipstick.

Love souffles??? Head straight to restaurant Le Cigale Recamier located on rue Recamier. This charming yet au courant restaurant, situated on a pedestrian only street offers many traditional French dishes, however the specialties de la maison are their lighter than air, over the brim soufflés. My dining companion and I started with a glass of champagne while we carefully perused the menu trying to choose from the varied selection. She chose the pea soufflé and for moi, asparagus. They arrived hot and heavenly, and as we gently poked them open with our forks a fragrant burst of steam escaped like a genie floating out of his magic bottle. The French insist that any meal which starts with a soufflé should also end with one, and who am I to argue? For dessert we each ordered a strawberry rhubarb soufflé that sent my happiness meter way over the edge.

So with massaged muscles, gorgeous skin, and a fabulous “welcome back to Paris” lunch with a delightful new friend, I set off to wander one of my favorite streets in this area, rue de Cherche Midi, which literally means, “to look for noon”. For you trivia fans, it’s a shortening of the expression “chercher midi a quartorze heures” – to seek noon at two o’clock – suggesting those who seek lunch at an odd hour. They must have been thinking of the traditional Poilane Bakery at 8 rue de Cherche Midi where you can find something delicious at any hour of the day. A visit here is not to be missed for their high quality breads, pastries and “punitions” – delicious little butter cookies which are not punishment at all, though they are habit forming! Also not to be missed are the fashionable shops along rue de Cherche Midi which range from the pricey trend setting Robert Clergerie shoe shop and the sexy Eres Lingerie to less expensive boutiques with clothing, accessories, shoes, handbags and even a sustainable shop with all bamboo cloth fashions. This is a street you could wander along for hours yet hardly travel far. Definitely shopping heaven!

My last stop before calling it a day was Le Bon Marche Department Store at 24 rue de Sevres. This beautiful store is the first department store in Paris and doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of stores like Galeries Lafayette or Printemps. Le Bon Marche offers the French favorites from Chanel and Hermes, to Paris darling Vanessa Bruno. Their main floor cosmetics department boasts a fine selection, including Serge Lutens perfumes. The gourmet department, “La Grande Epicerie”, is superb and here you can buy take away pastries, exotic oils, wonderful salts and lovely teas to bring home as gifts…if you can bear to part with them!

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