‘When spring came, there were no problems except where to be happiest.’
It might be nearly 100 years since Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ and yet today, the joys of Paris in the spring remain just as vivid; tree-lined boulevards, pavement café culture and the endless amusement of people-watching. Ahead of Paris Fashion Week, Daisy Allsup picks out some of Paris’s sustainable hotspots with a little help from Parisian Sandy Chagnaud, founder of Happy Haus:
Cycle about town with the Vélib' scheme which rents regular and electric bikes from thousands of docking stations around Paris. Take as many 30 minute journeys as you like from $1.82/day.
Before opening last year, the team behind Les Résistants went on the road to find the very best small producers in France. Everything you’ll find on your plate at this chic Chateau d’Eau restaurant has been supplied by artisan farmers, ‘resisting’ the agro-food industry and using environmentally friendly working methods.
In the same area, find the Holybelly Café, an organic Aussie café where the breakfast is more than worth the time spent queuing.
If you’re looking for a place to do some work, 5 Pailles on Rue du Faubourg is a modern, laptop-friendly café that draws a creative crowd and serves up proper coffee. At the other end of the spectrum is Du Pains et des Idees, a beautiful old boulangerie that dates back to 1860 with a hand-painted ceiling. The pastries are famed across Paris, swap your croissant for their legendary pistachio-filled escargot.
For lunch try La REcyclerie, a café, urban farm and veg garden located in a former railway station in the 18th. If it’s sunny, find a table at the outdoor bar overlooking local allotments and the overgrown disused train tracks. Inside you can join in craft workshops, or sit and relax in the vast, plant-filled space with its open kitchen and vats of natural wine sourced from En Vrac.
At teatime head to the Rose Bakery, for mouthwatering scones, gluten free lemon and polenta cake and a proper cuppa.
For dinner, Anahi is a Fashion Week favourite. A former butcher turned steakhouse that used to pull in the fashion pack (Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Olivier Rousteing et al) the restaurant closed down in 2014 but re-opened last May and is buzzing again. Spot the original hostess, Carmina who appears on weeknights only, ‘when the chic people go out.’
Paris is certainly not overflowing with sustainable places to stay; many of the larger hotels don’t seem to have woken up to the necessity of more conscious travel. However, by choosing carefully and going for smaller hotels there are some great options:
At the four star, Hidden Hotel everything is natural and eco-friendly from the use of raw materials (wood, copper, marble) in the interiors, to the organic bathroom products, Coco-Mat matresses and generous organic breakfast.
The Haut Marais’ super hip Hotel Providence has just eighteen rooms, each individually decorated with vintage objects d’art scavenged from Parisian flea markets by the owner’s wife, Elodie Moussié. Share a carafe de vin or a pre-dinner cocktail at little tables on the pavement outside the hotel like a true Parisian.
The Hoxton Paris is another design-led hotel. With a similar feel its sister properties in London and Amsterdam, the latest opening from the group blends contemporary Soho House-style interiors with the building’s historical setting; the rooms are arranged around a leafy courtyard and there’s a 300-year-old spiral staircases in the lobby and the bar.
A large and ultra-luxurious hotel with unusually good green credentials is Le Bristol Paris. As well as holding a Green Globe Gold Status, the hotel works with some of the world’s most carbon-friendly providers and has its own beehives on the roof.
And for those on a lower budget you could stay at the basic but eco-friendly Solar Hotel where a double room including organic breakfast and free bicycle hire costs just €89.
Le Tigre Yoga Club now has several locations across Paris. You don’t have to be a member to enjoy the facilities at the Rive Gauche wellness centre including yoga and pilates classes and a small spa with a range of holistic treatments and a steam room. Try the house special massage that includes a short meditation session, and refresh with a cold press juice at the organic café afterwards.
There are over 80 food markets across the twenty arrondissements, only three are all-organic. One of these is the Marché bio des Batignolles, a small Saturday market where you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and local produce straight from small-scale Île-de-France farmers.
Look out for bread from brothers’ Emile & Jules, whose family mill produces baguette, brioche and more for many of the bio (organic) bakeries around Paris, as well as for their own boulangeries on rue de la Terrasse and rue Vavin.
Famed Parisian flea market, Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is a treasure trove of antiques, vintage clothes and jewellery and bric-a-brac furniture.
Drop in to Atalier Couronnes, a cool concept store full of sustainable and artisanal clothes and homewares.
And of course, Merci, the iconic Parisian store is a must for any visitor. Stop for lunch at its café, La Cantine, where all profits from the seasonal menu are donated to charity.
Things to Do
Walk along the river from the Place de la Bastille to the Eiffel Tower at the new Parc Rives de Seine. Opening last April, the right bank now joins the left bank in being entirely pedestrianized offering 2.3km of green space next to the Seine, dotted with sustainable spots along the route. Stop at Rosa Bonheur sur Seine, an open-air barge for a glass of cold wine and tapas or a wood fired pizza.
A visit to Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton is a must. The extraordinary ecological space was inspired by the glass structure of the Grand Palais and Parisian 19th century landscaped gardens and it presents a new standard for cultural institutions. Catch the monumental Being Modern: MoMA in Paris exhibition before it ends on 5 March. On display are some of the twentieth century’s greatest artworks including Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad, the first major painting ever bought by MoMA and Warhol’s hand-painted Campbell’s Soup Cans, never before exhibited in France.
Escape the bustling city for an hour or two of calm at the Musée Rodin, where the gardens burst into bloom in spring, with mid-May the optimum time for the rose garden. The grand Hôtel Biron was formerly Rodin’s studio and it contains many of his most famous works including The Gates of Hell, The Thinker and The Kiss.
Book your tickets now for the eco-friendly rock festival, We Love Green at the Bois de Vincennes, 2-3 June 2018.