17/30 All the Things I Tried for Future Client Experiences in Paris

All The Things I Tried For Future Client Experiences In Paris

Paris is divided into twenty municipalities. When you view a map of the city, you will see that they are numbered and radiate out in a concentric circle, like a snail. You will often hear people say, “Oh I went to visit a friend in the 1st.”  He or she is simply referring to the number of the municipality or “arrondissement.” 

I drive my leadership development business with a big element of adventure. I love  taking someone out of their daily routine and what it inspires.

Below, I have broken down all the experiences I tried in Paris this time, either with clients or in service of a future VIP Day.

Macaron making class. L’Ateliers des Chefs. 8 Rue Purnelle. (1st arrondissement)

The class was in a sunny glassed in commercial kitchen on a well travelled street (Rue Purnelle). I was an hour early, having misread the time and always chronically early for things. So I walked around the corner and bought a dress at the Madrid based sustainable brand Ecoalf. L’Atelier des Chefs is in a well travelled spot in the 1st, where Chef Souria Kezzouh led us in the making of the famous French macaron. She stopped to explain things in English. I made a friend in class. Chiara. She’s originally Italian, but makes her home in Paris. She pitched in and translated as well. Chef Souria had us help mix the almond flour and sugar with a hand mixer. We poured the batter into the plastic tubes. We poured the batter into little concentric circles on a pan and inserted them in ovens to bake. 

While the Airbnb experiences are fine, the attendees are all American. I didn’t come all the way to France to hang out with people from Chicago. A friend back home who is of French origin recommended this immersive at the L’Atelier des Chefs. 

Wine and cheese tastings. Hotel de Ville (1st) and Latin Quarter (5th)

I tried two of these through Airbnb experiences. The first one had me at the word “Cave.” Hosted in the Hotel du Ville area, (1st Arron) Miguel, originally from Mallorca, is the affable host. He is advancing his degrees in cheese and wine education in Paris and his extensive knowledge of the subject matter is evident. I learned that a cheese that is high in fat needs to be paired with a wine with low acidity,. The reverse is also true.  The wines were absolutely delicious. The wine cave is in a restaurant that sits right off the Seine in the first arrondissement. Circular stairs bring you downstairs to Miguel’s lair. While the entire group was American, I didn’t mind it. It was a mix of young couples attending a wedding, and a mom-sister pairing. A total of 10 people but it felt intimate. I really appreciated that Miguel went around the table and asked us to share a little bit about ourselves. It made the experience about us and forging relationships with one another as well.

I signed up for a second wine and cheese tasting through Airbnb, hosted by Alexandre. I was excited by the marketing “visit the oldest market in Paris.” The architecture in the Latin Quarter is lower to the ground (two floors max) and immediately let me  know I was in a different part of town. I was reminded of the  souk in Marrakech as we walked with our host.

I didn’t love this experience for two reasons. It was way too much talking for the first hour. Admittedly, I was spoiled by how excellent the first tasting was and appreciated that we got right down to business with tasting the goodies. Alexandre, while knowledgeable, could have shortened the talking piece. We finally saddled up for a tasting in the back of a restaurant, that was dull and lifeless. I didn’t love the group I was with. I think this experience swore me off any more tours with Americans. 

Drawing class. Luxembourg Gardens. Latin Quarter, left bank Place de l’Odéon.

This class with will forever remain etched in my mind as one of my favorite memories of Paris. The host Kristina meets you in front of the theater at Place de Odeon. She rolls up on a bicycle, chock full of art goodies. She is spending her retirement meeting interesting people through this experience. As she walked our mighty little crew to the Gardens, she told the story of a young man who signed up for the drawing class with his soon-to-be fiancé. He planned to propose over the course of the class. As the class wore on, he got paler and paler. She took him aside and learned that he was afraid his girl would say ‘no’.   Kristina shared her painting of him on bended knee and his would be fiancé offering a resounding ‘yes!’   

She is incredibly maternal and ushered us to her spot in the “Jardin,’ stopping to share hidden fountain.  It was a beautiful, hot day in Paris. I appreciated the small group of 5. It was a mom and 6 year old son duo from Australia, a lone Saudi woman who had accompanied her sister to Paris on business, and me. In the shade, on the iconic green metal chairs, Kristina explained how Christina of Medici was once queen, but when her teenage son decided to be king, she moved out. Given her money,  she built the over the top castle that anchors the Gardens.  We set about drawing with pencil, something I haven’t done since I was a kid. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I picked the balustrade that circles the inside of the park to sketch. Kristina walked around, weighing in on each of our drawings and offering helpful suggestions.  My painting sits on my desk as a sunny reminder of that beautiful morning.

Piano concert. Chopin. Saint Ephrem Church (5th) 

I love little intimate concerts like this in chapels. I recalled some members of my group doing this in Dubrovnik last year. I signed up for this intimate concert on the site CLASSICTIC.comwhich lists all the small musical happenings in cities around the world. A well qualified and very talented pianist played some of Chopin’s most difficult pieces, all from memory, surrounded by elegant candelabra.  

Picnic by the Seine. (1st)

If you are high maintenance, this is not for you. You will be sitting on well worn stone that is cracked and dirty because of the sheer amount of foot traffic that walks on this French boardwalk. But if you are thrilled at the prospect of dangling your feet over the side of the stone wall and watching the boats go by, its a ‘must do’ in Paris. The sun doesn’t set until well after 10pm, so its beautiful to watch the big boats (The Bateaux Mouches) float by, with veritable armies of tourists on board. Being on one of those boats would be my very definition of hell. I’m reminded of the Circle line cruises at home on the Hudson River. But its fun to watch them motor past. Grab a baguette, cheese, wine and a blanket. If you are looking for a nicer place to picnic, I recommend Place des Vosges or Luxembourg Gardens, under the box shaped trees. 

Paris Opera House or the Palais Garnier. (9th)

I made two separate trips to this building. Once on a Sunday during the day to see the actual opera house. The building is an absolute work of art. The ceiling rivals that of the Sistine Chapel, with gold detailing like Versailles (or Trumps bathroom, take your pick) Everywhere you look, there is beauty to be absorbed. I went to the ticket counter to explore  getting tickets to a performance. Opera season doesn’t kick in until the winter months, but I was assured I could see the ballet.  While Sunday night was sold out, he offered me a lone box seat on a Tuesday to see the “History of Manon.”  Fully expecting to pay over $100, I braced for him to tell me the cost. He viewed his screen with intense scrutiny. The summer months are popular at the Opera house too. I nearly fell over when he told me the cost. “12 Euros for Tuedsay night. One ticket.”  That’s it? I exclaimed, self-aware that I was being painfully American and loud at that moment. “Yes,” he said with French accent. “Do you still want the ticket?” F&* yea man. 12 euros. That’s a venti latte at Starbucks. I felt like Abraham Lincoln walking into that velvet jewel box seat Tuesday night (minus the assassination attempt and all). My seat was a little obstructed, in that I couldn’t see the full stage, but I had a glorious perch overlooking the orchestra and if I hung over  the ledge just a little bit, I was a kid in a candy store. I was really taken by the athletic risks and creative risks this dance troupe took with Manon. There is a moment where the lead ballerina, perched on the shoulders of another, dive bombs into an upward facing dog posture, all while being held by an army of male dancers. Like a couple of times. Relegated to the whore house, the once convent bound Manon is being taken advantage of by a surly man. The simulation of oral sex would probably never ever see the light of day on an American stage. I’d be curious to see the same performance at home in New York and compare notes.

Montmarte, Sacre Coeur. Paris at Sunset. (18th)

This is another ‘must do’ in Paris.  I took the subway to Chateau Rouge stop to meet a friend who has since relocated herself and her business to the city. Once above ground, the sights and sounds of a largely immigrant community clobbers you over the head in a summer heat. Three things you need to know: Brace for your cardio to be tested, because both the hill and the steps to Sacre Coeur are steep. This is tourist central. Once on the steps to Sacre Coeur, you will feel like you’re at Yankee stadium, with Bangladeshi men selling Heineken singles to any one who wants to one, while gazing out over the spectacular view of the city.  Come here to watch the sunset. My friend and I clambered over a fence to sit in the grass and watched a rat foraging in the blades. A singer did a cover of a Coldplay tune to a grateful crowd. I marveled that American tunes are loved everywhere.

Other experiences I will detail later.

Musee du Vin, 16th.  www.lemparis.com

Quietly nested by the Eiffel Tower is the Paris Museum of Wine (Musee du Vin).  

When I showed up at 10am, the fella checking folks in exclaimed, “You know this is all in French.” I knew.  Earlier, I had expressed to my friend Chiara, an Italian transplant in Paris, that I was weary of the Airbnb experiences, with only American attendees. She recommended visiting Musee du Vin in the 16th. I’m always looking for a way to familiarize myself with the city, so new neighborhoods do have an allure.

 Online, I enrolled in a 10:30am wine and cheese education experience at the Wine Museum, more curious to see who would show up to taste 6 wines and 6 cheeses at that hour of the morning.  Tip if you sign up for this online: You have to buy a ticket first “Billetterie,” THEN you register for the specific ‘degustation’ course. The ticket purchase generates a code you enter. 

All French. I make it a habit, after speaking on panels to deepen my relationships with folks by inviting them to things I’m attending. Amanda, founder of the Association of Women in cryptocurrency,  and one of my panelists at the InvestHer Summit, agreed to join me.  The Wine Museum is built into a stone interface, so I was in a cold wine cave once again.

Paris wasn’t as hot this day but I welcomed the cool temps offered inside the cave. At a long table, there was a hearty group of 20 assembled.   The host had a map of France perched on an easel, delineating the different parts. I would stop him to give me the gist of what he said in French and he obliged. He explained that France produced a prolific amount of cheese and wine. Goat, sheep, cow. Yes, the entire course is in French, but a delight all the same. The wines were amazing. After this tasting, I am craving a visit to the South of the country to experience all the little towns where the wine and cheese come from.

Tip when you book this experience online:
Step 1 You have to buy a ticket first. Its about 75 EUR.
Step 2. That generates a member code.
Step 3. You use that member code to book the specific tasting or ‘degustation’ course.  In this case, we booked the 1030am

Musee D’orsay, 7th

If you sign up for nothing else on Airbnb experiences, please please sign up for this 2 hour tour with Hugo and Vincent. It’s just ‘wow.’ Hugo and Vincent will ask you to meet them in front of the museum between two statues. One of a hippo and one of a rhino. They are easy to spot. Hugo was right on time, which I appreciated.  My tour paired me with a small group: A young couple from Oregon, with their young son and a mother daughter duo.   Hugo LOVES his work and its a joy to watch someone so enamored of his profession.  He smartly distilled the 3,000 pieces in the museum down to one thesis: “What was outrageous about this 19th century painter?” And this thruline will swoop you past some notable pieces in the museum including the Rodin sculptures, but that’s okay. Any museum can be overwhelming without a thread tying all the stops together. He’s got a great command of not only the English language but the nuances of American humor and incorporates this into his tour of Neoclassicism, Realism, Romanticism, Impressionism, Post impressionism. Hugo knows his Gustave Courbet, Seurat, Van Gogh inside and out. He also knows how to engage a crowd,  leaving you feeling like you made a friend that day.  As we were parting ways, he could tell I was craving more. He suggested I read a book, able to be purchased at the Museum gift shop for ‘8 euros.’ Van Gogh’s letters to his brother, expressing his deep sadness that he didn’t make it in the Paris art scene. In fact, he was rejected because he was ‘a pain in the ass.’  And he suggested I visit the Latin Quarter of Paris.

Eiffel Tower

Les Sources des Caudelie. Bordeaux. Website: https://sources-caudalie.com/

Note: This is a 2 hour high speed train ride from Paris. A taxi picked me up at the train station. I pre arranged it with the hotel.

I first read about “Les Sources des Caudelie” in an article in Vogue. A New Yorker transplanted to Paris wrote how her beauty regimen had altered drastically as a result of the move. She showed up with trunks full of lashes, makeup, and colored contacts to hide her flaws. Now 10 years into her residency in Paris, rather than hide her gape in the teeth or minimize her nose, she elects to be beautiful from the inside out, which means regular visits to the spa in service of self care. She wrote about the Caudelie spa which is a quick 2 hour train ride from Paris. Located on the Chateau Lafitte vineyards, its an enclosed compound, complete with hotel, spa and the Chateau Lafitte vineyard. I watched a blue helicopter land in it, ferrying passengers for the day.  Another blogger, who talks about Paris extensively (and smartly), also cited her visit her so I made the trip, given the ease of getting there.  

I had booked the guest house at first, but ultimately switched it when I arrived to stayed at the main hotel. Biking the path at night would have been a bit dicey or an expensive taxi ride. My room featured double French doors opening onto a little patio and view the vineyard. A spa visit will run you 180 EUR and includes a massage, access to the hammam, pool, jacuzzi.    You can get drinks by the pool, but I stuck with cucumber-infused water instead.

Bastille Market. Le Marais.


Canal St Martin. Vintage Shopping

Jacquemart-Andres Museum

Musee National Picasso

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