One Perfect Day in Paris

Paris is more than the monuments. It’s a mentality—a Parisian way of living—that makes the city come alive. Combine that with the Haussmann buildings and Louis XIV relics as a backdrop, and the result is magical. But can a place with such lore, history, and beauty live up to its almost mythical reputation?

For me, Paris not only lives up to this reputation, but also exceeds it. I’m over-the-moon about living in the city. In fact, I often find myself smiling for no apparent reason, which, by the way, confuses the hell out of most Parisians. Upon meeting, French people often ask why I’d willingly leave the United States for a new life in Paris. It’s a complex question that has quite a simple answer: Paris feels like home.

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The mental transition from tourist to resident hasn’t been quite so smooth. Maintaining discipline isn’t easy here. There are so many things to discover about Paris, yet I still have plenty of work to do. I’m fortunate that the line between pleasure and profession often blurs, like in June when Atout France and Paris Tourism asked if they could help me design my perfect day in Paris. Can you imagine?

As my mind turned with the possibilities, I realized that my ideal day as a resident looked much different than one as a visitor. It wasn’t about including as many stops as possible. My perfect day was a leisurely one, comprised of things that I’d been intending to do. There were no museums or monuments on my agenda, just a simple Saturday custom-made for me.

6:30 a.m.

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Paris is a late waking city, especially on the weekends. My reward for getting up with the sun is that Paris is basically empty. My favorite place to watch the sun rise is in Montmartre at Sacré-Cœur. As the highest natural point of Paris, the basilica’s steps are normally packed with visitors and rogue beer vendors, but not at sunrise. The vast view of the city is only made more magnificent by the ever-changing hues of the sky and the sound of silence. My flat is just a few metro stops from the basilica, making the early-morning alarm more tolerable.

8:00 a.m.

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One of the first lessons I learned about France is that eating is a pleasurable event, one that should be savored. Meals consist of multi-courses eaten at a leisurely pace, except when it comes to breakfast. Petit déjeuner literally translates to ‘little lunch’ and normally consists of espresso, orange juice, and a croissant or tartine, which is fresh baked bread served with butter and jams. Gone are my breakfast tacos from Texas. I’ve adapted to this French tradition and even have a regular café. Here, I have my table and the waiters know my order: café crème and croissant.

9:30 a.m.

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The city is filled with some of the world’s finest hotels. In France, the truly exceptional ones are given the Palace distinction. I’m often asked which is my favorite hotel in Paris That’s not a question I can answer, because it changes with my mood. However, I have a special connection to Four Seasons George V. It was the first hotel I stayed at in the city, and whether it’s being befriended by Lionel Richie in Le Bar or watching Michael Jordan puff on a cigar in the courtyard, I tend to have the most surreal experiences at George V. But beyond these types of encounters, I love popping into the lobby to marvel at the latest flower creations by Jeff Leatham. For my perfect day in Paris, the itinerary would be incomplete without the Four Seasons. And since I have a small obsession with luxury hotel spas, it only made sense to visit theirs.

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Arriving early is key to fully experiencing the Four Seasons’ spa. The elevator ride down reduces my stress level a few notches, and the white, fluffy robe and ambient lighting lowers it even more. With a Skinjay Ritual body scrub booked, I take advantage of the Hammam, sauna, and swimming pool, which is one of the most beautiful in the city.

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With my skin supple and feeling fully refreshed, I sample a few sweet and savory snacks from the hotel’s kitchen before I go. I could stay all day, but, as the French like to say, it’s not possible.

12:30 p.m.

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I abhor crowds, so it’s probably rather shocking that I would choose to go to Galeries Lafayette on a Saturday. This mega department store near the Opera is filled to the brim with everything that you could want and plenty of things you didn’t know you needed. It’s also packed with people, especially on the weekends. As much as I like to wander through the levels of luxury, it’s Galeries Lafayette Maison and the promise of lunch that gets me to brave the crowds of Boulevard Haussmann.

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This multi-story building is dedicated to food. With sweets from L’Éclair de Génie, Alain Ducasse, and Pierre Hermé, I’m tempted to start with dessert. Instead, the Japanese, Mediterranean, and Indian restaurants lure me away, giving me a much-needed break from French food. The market located in the basement is a treasure trove for picking up fixings for a gourmet picnic. I love to look around and discover new foods, as well as pick up a few familiar items. Much to my amusement, there is a small section of American food. Pop-Tarts, anyone?

4:00 p.m.

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The first time I visited Paris, I wanted to find a perfume that would forever remind me of the city. With one spray, I was instantly taken back to the City of Light. I did find that fragrance, and I love it to this day. However, I’ve always wanted to create my own signature scent. With a Google search, I found Le Studio des Parfums in the Marais. Expert perfumer and nose, Sophie, helped determine my perfume personality and preferences with a series of questions. Perfect for summer, my perfume is a mix of fruit and florals. What’s really cool is that I can reorder the scent at any time, since the recipe is on file.

7:00 p.m.

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As the inventor of the dinner show, the Lido has been a fixture on the Champs-Élysées since 1946. In October of 2014, I was honored to attend one of the last performances of “Bonheur,” a show that ran for over a decade. In the winter, the Lido closed for about four months to make way for a newly designed theater and show created by Franco Dragone, who’s also created for Cirque du Soleil and Celine Dion. I’d been intending to revisit the Lido for quite some time, and this day was the perfect opportunity to do so.

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Dinner seating begins at 7:00 for the 9:00 show. For over 30 years, chef Philippe Lacroix has been at the helm of the Lido. Different three-course menus at various price points are available, and I choose the one that includes Champagne and wine. With amazing precision, the wait staff serves, clears, and pours as if choreographed by Dragone himself. With over 190,000 covers per year, I’d say they’ve got the system down. The food is pleasing, as is the atmosphere, which is much different than my usual Saturday nights in Paris.

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At precisely 9:00 pm, “Paris Merveilles” begins. With fantastical costumes and ever-changing sets, this new show stimulates my imagination. Singing, dancing by the famous Bluebell Girls and Lido Boys, ice skaters, a sword swallower, and acrobats all meld together to create a beautiful tribute to the city I love most. My expectations are blown, and I hate to see the show end. And judging by the applause and buzz from the crowd, I’m not alone.

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There’s not much time to sit and savor the moment, because several thousand others are lining up outside to see the 11:00 performance. For a second, I contemplate hiding in the restroom just so I can watch “Paris Merveilles” once more.

11:15 p.m.

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My perfect day in Paris has concluded, and I make the short walk to Charles de Gaulle – Étoile. The metro is somewhat quiet, and I take the time to reflect upon my experiences while waiting for the train. I look around at all the tourists with their ‘Paris glow’ and I smile. While they only have a few days in this magnificent city, I get to live here. After all, every day that I awake in my tiny flat in the 8th arrondissement is another opportunity to have one more perfect day in Paris.

I was a guest of Atout France and the Paris tourism office. In no way was I swayed to write a positive review based on the post-spa glow, the unlimited eclairs, or the free-flowing glasses of Champagne. As always, opinions are mine.

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

Thank you to Arnaud Moreau, who took the featured photo. Find more of Arnaud’s work on his Facebook page, Art’No Shoot.

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  • Jalan2Liburan
    July 31, 2015

    almost midnite and you still look fabulous ; txs for the tips over Le Studio des Parfums 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      August 10, 2015

      Oh, thank you! Give Le Studio des Parfums a try. It’s a very cool experience.

  • Renuka
    July 31, 2015

    Great read! Excellent way to live a Parisian way of life. Love coffee and croissant. 🙂

  • Henry | @fotoeins
    August 1, 2015

    Leah, that is one tremendous and glorious day in the City of Light!

    • Leah Walker
      August 10, 2015

      I have zero complaints, except it couldn’t be more than 24 hours. 🙂

  • Mike McLellan
    August 1, 2015

    Good read. I notice you also like the roof of Galleries Lafayette as a place to photograph the Eiffel Tower. Great view.

    • Leah Walker
      August 10, 2015

      Well, it’s one of many places to photograph the Eiffel Tower, though it’s not my favorite spot.

  • Georgette Jupe
    August 3, 2015

    I love love love this post Leah, I think you may have inspired me to do a similar one for Florence! That sunset is incredible and I agree that the Four Seasons has the best spa ever..

    • Leah Walker
      August 10, 2015

      I can’t wait to see what you decide to do in Florence. Maybe we can switch cities soon. 🙂

  • Stephanie
    August 3, 2015

    Absolument magique! Gorgeous pictures. And now I’m dying to go to the Four Seasons spa.

    • Leah Walker
      August 10, 2015

      Yes! Four Seasons Spa is definitely a splurge-worthy experience.

  • Liz
    August 8, 2015

    Beautiful post! Living in Paris is really a dream.

  • Doc
    August 27, 2015

    I have not read your blog since 2014. You have had an incredibly courageous 2015! This post was truly an amazing day, an incredible reward for someone who realizes that the impermanence we all face makes every moment IMPORTANT. THANK YOU FOR SHARING and making me miss Paris so much more than I already do.

    • Leah Walker
      August 29, 2015

      It’s been a year worthy marvel, that’s for sure. Sometimes I wonder how I made it through the first three months, but yes, Paris is a perfect reward. I hope you get to the city soon. I know what it’s like to miss it so much.

  • Becky
    December 19, 2015

    Love the Paris Merveilles suggestion. My days seem to be more active and adventurous than yours (just a personal preference) but I love ending my evenings with a big bang!

  • Mary Truesdell
    March 5, 2017

    I came across your site while researching Paris. I will have one day to spend on my own in Paris in the fall and rather than do typical tourist sites wanted to something more relaxed. I am traveling alone and joining a river cruise from Paris to Normandy. I definitely enjoyed reading your suggestions and look forward to trying some. I have visited Paris before many years ago and did the typical. Now looking forward to slowing down and breathing in the atmosphere. This will be my first cruise as I like you have never been enamored with idea of large cruises. Friends have spoken very highly of the river cruises so I am going to give it a try. I have enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to your future postings.


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