Visiting Paris without savouring the legendary neighbourhood of Saint Germain-des-Prés is like having dinner without dessert, or a madeleine without the memories. Under the surface, you will find the charm of a neighbourhood true to itself, where publishers and artists chat away for hours at the café de Flore or the Deux Magots. Here at “St Germain”, as the regulars call it, Juliette Gréco fell in love with Miles Davis and Serge Gainsbourg made his cabaret debut. The influence of icons of the French cultural scene, from Boris Vian to Charlotte Gainsbourg, can be seen in the understated shop signs and in the luxury of the shop windows, against a background of jazz, literature, poetry, and fashion.
The unassuming abbey that lends its name to the area speaks of the olden days. Spice up your fashion culture by discovering the revolutionary ideas of the stylish and very Parisian Sonia Rykiel. She chose St Germain as her creative home, and her house occupies a prominent place on the boulevard, not far from the famous Upla handbags boutique/studio on Rue Saint-Benoît. Stimulate your curiosity by visiting the art and antiques galleries on Rue Saints-Pères and Rue de la Seine. Stop at Ladurée; it’s so close by that it would be a pity to miss their macaroons or their divine violet cream puffs. Wander all the way to Rue de Grenelle and Rue du Cherche-midi by way of Rue Bonaparte where you can often find just what you need. This will leave you time to discover a gem of Art Deco architecture, Hotel Lutétia, which is now celebrating its 100th birthday by welcoming musicians, artists and photographers to St Germain.
In front of the Lutétia you will find Bon Marché, heaven to both male and female connoisseurs, a large store with a 19th century feel where you will find the “who’s who” of today’s and tomorrow’s fashion designers. Don't forget that the Seine flows behind this treasure chest; abandon yourself to the charm of its wharfs. The Belgian designer Dries van Noten has his fashion house right there. And why not conclude the day strolling along Rue Jacob and visiting the Assouline bookshop, an unusual and remarkable place with its selection of art books. You can then begin the evening at the Ze Kitchen Galerie and conclude it chez Castel, a favourite destination for St Germain soirées.
There you have it: all this creates the essence of St Germain. Go and surrender yourself to seduction!
Paris FW 2010