PARIS -- "Paris is always a good idea," says Sabrina, played by Julia Ormond in the 1995 movie remake of "Sabrina." And evidently, everyone agrees.
"Prior to 2020, France was the world's most visited country, with 89 million international visitors," said Kate Schwab, New York-based media manager at Atout France, the country's tourism-promotion agency. "During the lockdown, shows like 'Emily in Paris' helped keep Paris front and center in travelers' minds, and we're pleased that since the borders reopened in June 2021, American visitors have returned in full force."
The Eiffel Tower lit up in the evening. Photo Credit: E.Livinec/SETE
Of course, Paris is an even better idea when you can get there inexpensively. Over the past 18 months, the low-cost, long-haul airline French Bee's flights to Paris Orly (from Newark, San Francisco and Los Angeles) have put the capital within more travelers' budgets.
And since last December, thrice-weekly flights from Miami have offered South Floridians the most affordable fares to France, starting at $217 one-way. I tested this route myself at the end of last year, for a memorable weekend in Paris. Let this be a guide.
A Paris hotel near the Louvre
For accommodations, consider the Kimpton St. Honore, which opened on Boulevard des Capucines last summer. Once part of the storied department store La Samaritaine, the hotel, with an art nouveau facade and art deco-influenced interior, has 149 rooms, a spa, a pool and a hammam. It's walking distance from L'Opera, Place Vendome, Tuileries Garden and the Louvre.
Drink and dine at the Eiffel Tower
Ward off jet lag by staying active. Browse neighborhood shops (Galerie Lafayette's flagship on Boulevard Haussmann is five minutes' walk away). Or hop the metro at L'Opera to Ecole Militaire, from where it's a short walk to the city's "iron lady," the Eiffel Tower. Currently being spruced up for the 2024 Olympics, the 135-year-old, 1,083-foot-high icon is still absolutely worth seeing, no matter how many times you've been in the City of Light.
Madame Brasserie opened on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower last spring. Photo Credit: SETE
Toast to your arrival at the outdoor Champagne bar at the summit. Or dine at Madame Brasserie, which debuted on the first floor of the tower last spring. Reservations are essential for either of two dinner seatings here, which feature a five-course prix fixe menu by Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx.
Or do dinner-and-a-cruise on the Seine
If you'd rather see the city from the Seine, consider dinner and a cruise with Vedettes de Paris. The five-boat tour company has been around since 1976 and offers one-hour cocktail cruises and sailings narrated by English-speaking guides. New this season is their Seine-side, three-story floating restaurant, Francette, which will impress oenophiles with its "cave" of exclusively French vegan, natural and halal wines -- and everyone else with its views of the Eiffel Tower.
Walk or run the Bois de Boulogne
Resist the urge to sleep in -- you're in Paris! -- and get the blood pumping with a run or walk through the 16th arrondissement's Bois de Boulogne, one of the city's largest parks. Follow the "Tour De Longeur" signs and you'll traverse 10k from the Port de la Muette entrance.
A breakfast reward
By the time you've finished you'll have earned a patisserie or three, so reward your efforts with delectables from chef Cedric Grolet, known for his trompe l'oeil creations that look like fruit and pastries topped with "flowers" made from airbrushed white chocolate. His Opera store opens at 8:30 a.m., but the line outside starts to form at 6 a.m., so plan accordingly.
Shop your hotel: La Samaritaine
It's no exaggeration to say that La Samaritaine is not simply a department store but a destination in itself. Established in 1870, the emporium, famous for the fanciful facades of its art deco and art nouveau buildings and grand, gold-leafed interior staircase, was closed for 16 years before its purchase and renovation by the LVMH luxury-goods company, and its long-awaited reopening was last year. The original pair of buildings and a new undulating glass structure pack a retail punch, with an expertly curated selection of big brands displayed alongside clothes, shoes and accessories from emerging designers.
Refuel with lunch at any of six restaurants (Le Voyage on the fifth floor is a slam dunk) or refresh with a treatment at the Cinq Mondes spa in the basement.
Try this art exhibit: Frida Kahlo
Shoppers could easily spend most of the day here, but if that's not your thing, check out the traveling exhibit, "Frida Kahlo: Au-Dela des Apparences" at the Palais Galliera. In Paris until March, it's a fascinating display of more than 300 of the artist's intimate effects -- clothing, jewelry, correspondence and her orthopedic braces — that were sealed in her bathroom and closets for 50 years after her death until their revelation in 2004. Together, the collection of items tells a story of tragedy and triumph and explores the intersecting themes of gender, sexuality and disability.
A typically Parisian bistrot
Looking for a typical Parisian restaurant for dinner? You know, with café tables outside, red leather banquettes inside and white-shirted waiters who are either brusque or irresistibly charming, depending on their mood? Look no further than Le Champ De Mars, a bustling bistro five minutes' walk from the Eiffel Tower. Order French onion soup, a side of fries and a flute of Champagne and consider your French food pyramid complete.
Brunch in the Palais de Tokyo
Begin your day with a leisurely yet luxe brunch at Monsieur Bleu in the contemporary art venue Palais de Tokyo. You'll be in the company of a coterie of the city's most stylish citizens as you linger in the handsome, high-ceilinged dining room or on the terrace, savoring truffle omelets, lobster rolls or filet mignon.
Contemporary art at Bourse de Commerce
Next, feed your soul at the Bourse de Commerce -- Pinault Collection, where billionaire businessman Francois Pinault shares with the public the contemporary art he's amassed over the past half-century. Housed in a 16th-century building that was once a grain market and financial exchange, the exhibition opened in 2021 under an agreement that requires Pinault to remove the art and restore the building to its original condition when it expires in 2066. Encompassing film, photography, sculpture and music, it's a multisensory feast that's as delightful as it is puzzling.
Home stretch: A quintessentially French meal
End your visit with a typically French flourish at Restaurant d' Amour, the eatery attached to the boutique Grand Hotel Amour in the 9th arrondissement. Whether in the cozy dining room, covered patio or garden terrace, the atmosphere is intimate and convivial, with small tables set close together in what you'll realize by now is typically Parisian fashion. It's all about traditional cuisine here, so order a pâté en croute or steak frites and savor your final flavors of France.
The final word: Instagram opp at Moulin Rouge
Caught an after-dinner second wind? You're only a 10-minute walk from the Moulin Rouge cabaret, where the iconic red windmill is another distinctively Parisian photo opp.