I'm a hater of all things hyped. New York, the Rolling Stones, croughnuts -- overrated! It is a surprise then, even to me, that I am so besotted with Paris. Could there be a metropolis more absurdly romanticized? Even New York doesn't hold the mantle of the most defied plot of land on planet earth. Despite all the hoopla about Paris -- the cinema, literature, poetry, music and art --it still exceeds my expectations.
As a nonbeliever in hype, I am also firmly against places you "have to go" before you die. As if some generic deathbed checklist (skydiving! scuba diving! do all the diving!) is the sum of a satisfying human experience. And yet...I felt strangely compelled to go to Paris, it was the one place I had to see before I bought the farm. Burrowed in my cynical heart was the certainty that all those luscious films -- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, An American in Paris, City Lights -- knew something that I didn't.
This is a city you slip on like a velvet glove. That you savor more than a melting salted caramel. A city that is as pleasant with bite of wind and fallen leaf as it is with buttery sun and fragrant bloom.
What a pity that Parisians never get to visit Paris.
Bistrot Paul Bert. They did things with asparagus that I never thought possible.
Berthillon. My only regret in life was that my second time in Paris it was too cold to eat ice cream.
Candelaria. When the big wines, fluffy quiche and creamed spinach become all too much, this fresh taquería with cool cocktails is the perfect antidote. I had a soup that tasted exactly like tamale, but in soup form. Enough said.
There is no shortage of good wine, but Paris is also perfecting the craft cocktail. Here are a few places to take a break from sumptuous Burgundy's and bright Bordeaux's.
Experimental Cocktail Club. An excellent place to brush elbows with hip locals while an aloof French DJ mixes Koko Taylor.
Le Marie Celeste. The best oysters I've ever had the pleasure of, and a cucumber cocktail is filled with all that is good and pure in this world.
LMDW. This chic liquor store that will make you salivate: bitters with looping ink fonts and gold-embossed labels, and glistening colored-glass bottles filled with small batch heaven. But most important they have an upstairs bar where they do mixology training and whiskey tasting. Why buy boutique cocktails when you can make them yourself?
Les Marionnettes du Luxembourg. This mirthful piece of theatre will have you simultaneously filled with enchantment and hatred. Enchantment for the magic filled hour of puppetry and hatred that Paris is, in fact, amazing enough to have a five-euro marionette theater in the middle of glorious Luxembourg park.
Cabaret. The Moulin Rouge may be costly and touristic, but it's also good, dirty fun and I highly recommend it. If you're looking for cabaret off the beaten path, then check out the Aux Trois Mailletz instead. The show gets started late and slowly builds to a magnificent crescendo before your wine-glazed eyes.
Vélib' Bikes. The cheapest and most thrilling form of entertainment you can have in gay Paree is a bike ride through the sweeping boulevards. Go ahead, put a baguette in your bike basket. Treat yourself. You're in Paris after all.