my recent trip to france was simply smashing. the best part perhaps, was wandering aimlessly, mostly by myself in la marais and i couldn’t have been more content. i’d pick a random destination and google map my way there, stopping along the way anywhere that piqued my interest — my favorite way to travel. i feel like i see much more of what i want to see when i wander this way and discover things i might not normally find had i a ‘big plan’. for instance, i ran smack into Paris’ biggest brocante along rue de bretagne and around the Square du Temple in Upper Marais, or Haut-Marais. this flea market only happens twice a year in May and November, and if you’re heading to paris, i think it would an excellent idea to plan your trip around this most divine flea market. i found lots of little treasures, and that painting that i just couldn’t let go of. there’s everything from vintage furniture and accessories, to art and vintage clothing galore. i also stumbled upon a great little (quite literally, since it’s paris’s smallest cafe) spot for coffee and a pastry boot cafe, on rue du pont aux choux — a former cobbler and just adorable (‘cordonnerie‘ just below). i thought i’d round up for you a few more of my new discoveries, and a few old favorite paris haunts.
i stayed at the hoxton hotel and can’t say enough nice things about this place. An elegant 18th-century residence in the 2nd arrondissement, i stayed there on my layover in paris (en route to shop the flea markets in lyon for fresh collections for super marché) and then when my business finished early in lyon i headed straight back to the hoxton for two more nights. it’s charming, friendly with an amazing and helpful staff, especially when you don’t speak much french. it’s got a bar & restaurant, tons of communal lounging/working space, and intimate speakeasy and a quaint cafe. the rooms are so cozy and impeccably decorated with amazing steel doors and a splendid bathroom with pretty tiles and brass fixtures — très élégant, but very affordable. each night you place a paper bag they provide you with outside your door and in the morning, magically fresh squeezed orange juice, a yogurt parfait and a banana appear. a vintage-inspired radio greets you as you enter the room with french lounge tunes. it’s the little touches that i love about a hotel that makes it feel like a home away from home — just lovely.
along my wanders, i headed to an old favorite — merci, of course, which was charmingly decorated for the christmas season. in fact, most of the streets i strolled were decorated for the holiday season with illuminated banners and lights crisscrossing the streets in the old school way — just so merry! La rue Montorgueil in the Montorgueil-Saint Denis-Les Halles district was completely decorated and all the gourmet food and cheese shops and bakeries were ready for the holidays, too. florist shops all had christmas trees and pretty wreaths for sale out on their sidewalks. it’s the kind of place Parisians socialize while doing their daily shopping and a great place to pretend you’re a local. i hadn’t anticipated the festive atmosphere here and all around the city, so i must say if you can travel to paris at the holidays, do that to be pleasantly put in the christmas mood.
Le Marché des Enfant Rouges covered market is also a great stop, especially if you’re hungry or in need of fresh flowers. filled with fresh food stalls, fruit and vegetable vendors and local’s cafes and communal and counter dining, it’s as charming and as Parisian as it gets. also located on rue de Bretagne in le Marais, which was once the Jewish quarter, it’s been there since 1615, thus Paris’ oldest covered market which takes its name from the 16th-century orphanage that used to occupy the site — look for the inconspicuous green-metal gate and you’ve found it.
also in le marais very near merci, check out bonton, a concept store for kids, but adults love it, too. i can never resist their photobooth for two euros and their children’s collection never cease to inspire me — it’s almost as if milk magazine has come to life in this adorable shop. i also visited paper tiger a darling stationery store with a Scandinavian vibe. be sure to stop in and pick a few pretty pouches, pens and journals. another beautiful shop i discovered was maison de vacances (they have a couple of locations) — a wonderful home decor shop with lots of moroccan accent pieces and gorgeous linens and pillows. also, le labo is a really cool little shop in the area for fresh fragrances, candles, and skincare. the french gent here was so kind and shared many a delicious scent with me. should you be getting peckish for yummy gourmet snacks (and the perfect picnic supplies) visit maison plisson. i stopped in for french mustard, olives and a baguette! until my next trip — au revoir!
• all photography by victoria smith for sfgirlbybay.