Read the first part of guest blogger-photographer Elizabeth Lippman’s special series about departing from the fashion flock here.
In the beginning: disaster. ALL my luggage is lost. I have my cameras and my computer, but no clothing. Let me repeat: NO. CLOTHES. For PARIS FASHION WEEK. I have only what I am wearing, my traveling-at-4am-clothes, and a toothbrush.
Happily, my husband Jac is meeting me at CDG, and we take the RER together right to the neighborhood of our first Paris apartment—"Le Studio de St. Paul" from Airbnb.com, which I've booked for three nights for $359. It's a TINY studio with a loft bed, RIGHT on Rivoli/St. Antoine in the heart of Le Marais, and packed with the clothing and personal items of the owner, a young actress. She greets us, and gives us the keys.
The apartment is above a French chocolate store, the L'Atelier du Chocolat, and the scent of bittersweet chocolate wafts thru the open windows. Not bad. My husband has only been to Paris once, and I am eager to show him “my Paris,” my bars and cafes and, most importantly, now that I have no luggage, my favorite boutiques, all in the Marias—Blancs Manteaux, Les Petits, and Maje. BHV, where I stocked up on Princess Tam Tam and Etam undies. We make our way to Rue Charonne. Luckily for my bank account, the Isabel Marant boutique at no. 16 is closed.
We stop for brunch at Cafe Ruc, a chic “fashion café” across from the Louvre where tout le monde de la mode ends up between shows. One day before fashion week begins, it’s quiet, and we really enjoy meal—a Salade Tres Verte for me and Le Club Sandwich for Jac. I refuse to look at the bill, as I know it's outrageous, but I am used to eating here on an expense account and was craving the food, so I sign and leave happy, reasoning that this part of the trip is a mini-honeymoon.
That afternoon, we find ourselves, as always, in the labryntine streets of the Marais. We stop to dance to a troupe of American jazz musicians playing on the street, and for a beer at La Perle, scene of the recent and notorious John Galliano episode.
My luggage, blessedly, arrives. We run back to the tiny studio, lug my stuff up 3 flights of stairs. That night, we decide to have dinner at a place recommended by our hostess—the adorable, cozy Cafe Louis Philippe (66 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville). Dinner is leisurely and delicious and very French. I have the Boeuf Bourgignone and my husband has the Charcuterie plate and the Soup a L'Oignon. We sip wine and look out over the lights of the Seine.
Soon, we move to a large, elegant 2-bedroom apartment in the nearby Montorgueil neighborhood, booked for free, and in exchange for use of our apartment this summer, through LuxeHomeSwap.com, the website that aims to offer fine home exchange vacations around the world. Luckily for us, the apartment's owner, Paul Fischmann, is the founder of Paris8 Apartments, a “boutique apartment collection.”
His place is clean, sunny, large, and nicely-appointed, with mints on the pillows, a washing machine, and lightening-fast wi-fi.
We do laundry and unpack, intending to make this “home” for the next 8 days. Jac goes out to find croissants at Stohrer patisserie (recommended by our new host) on the pedestrian-only “permanent market street” Rue Montorgueil. This, it turns out, is a bad idea—the croissants are PERFECT, better than any I've had at the Paul chain, and they become, literally, an addiction. I MUST start every morning with one, fresh out of the oven.
Most days I am out shooting fashion shows, running all over the city in heels and dresses. In the evenings, pooped from our days exploring and working, we stay closer to home, and explore our neighborhood further. It turns out to be a little mecca of cool stores, like the famous Kiliwatch, (64 Rue Tiquetonne), where hip Parisian girls score vintage jeans and bags. Also on Rue Tiquetonne, we find a cluster of hipster men's shops, including a Le Coq Sportif store with a very funny window display of sneakers in what appears to be a chicken rotisserie:
Another local find we stumble upon is a bar called Le Pin-Up. It is an odd but pleasant mix of super-modern with old-world details. We have a drink here while waiting for a table at another neighborhood discovery, Aux Trois Eléphants (36 Rue Tiquetonne), a Thai restaurant packed with an eclectic mix of hip young French groups and couples and actual Thai folks.
We DO leave our neighborhood during our stay, with wonderful visits to old favorites for dinner, like the incredibly chic Costes Group hot-spot L'Avenue at 41 Avenue Montaigne (always a great place for model- and celeb-watching) and Le Bar a Huître, where I used to eat alone while traveling on business, and where the same barman has waited on me at the raw bar for 5 years and always remembers the oyster variety I like best—Special Gillardeau.
But between the work, the madness of Fashion Week in 4 countries in 4 weeks, the jet-lag, and the general Fashion Fatigue that creeps in after the entire circuit of shows, I find that most often, most times I'm free, I’m blissfully content to walk around “my” neighborhood, to live and breathe Paris in a completely non-touristy fashion, to become a regular at the coffee shop and the croissant counter, to wave hello to the oyster-shucker around the corner, to feed a night-time treat to the little Jack Russell that lives up the street.
By NOT staying in a fashion hotel, and by staying instead in two very different but quintessentially Parisian apartments, I have fused with my neighborhood—and I feel I've become, for a short while at least, a real Parisian.
New York-based photographer Elizabeth Lippman is the co-creator and photographer for the New York Times' Life as a Runway column in the Thursday Styles section. Visit her website here.