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Top 10 List: Paris in the springtime!

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As the song goes, Paris is lovely "every moment of the year," but there's something particularly magical about Paris in the springtime. That's why today Morning Living spoke with Doni Belau, creator of Girls' Guide to Paris, about her springtime "must-dos" in the City of Lights. Of course, this list was created with a female traveler in mind-- but there are plenty of suggestions that men would enjoy as well!

Louis XIV scene found in a "Secret hotel" (see #2) Photo by Doni Belau

Top 10 Paris Must-Do’s for Spring 2010
By Doni Belau, Girls’ Guide to Paris

1. Try a hammam. Hammams are Turkish spas, and they are very popular in Paris. For a true multicultural experience, visit the historic Mosquée de Paris, open on certain days for women only (for details, see the complete Girls’ Guide listing). After your steam and scrub, enjoy mint tea and couscous in a gorgeous authentic mosque from the 1920s. For a more modern experience with great massages, I like Les Bains du Marais.

2. Stay at a secret hotel. On a recent trip to Paris I found several amazing hotels through Exclusive Hotels, a service I’d recommend to any discerning traveler. Hotel Chateaubriand is a secret hideaway in the 8th Arrondissement, just steps from the Champs-Élysées. Tastefully decorated with antiques and luxurious fabrics, this hotel bears the unique stamp of its doting owner, Romain Rio. In each room you’ll find a tiny painting of a Louis XIV scene, tucked away discreetly somewhere on the silk-covered walls. Absolutely adorable! Other hotels I loved were Hotel Gabriel, the well-known Pershing Hall and Hotel Keppler. For more, visit Exclusive Hotels' website.

3. Indulge at the Dior spa. Experience the truly spectacular Dior Spa at the Plaza Athénée, with its Greco-Roman feel, über-cool lounge and larger-than-life screen playing Dior’s greatest fashion shows. Try the double massage room for a mother-daughter or couples massage.

4. Make Paris your foodie heaven. Paris is experiencing a revolution in its restaurant sector. The city’s best chefs are tossing off their Michelin stars to serve what they want in restaurants that are much more casual, more affordable and less fussy. Some of our favorites:

Le Chateaubriand serves just one set menu (with adjustments for allergies and veggies) and delivers some of the most interesting food in the capital. Plus, the waiters are terribly cute!

Le Passage is Alain Senderens’ second restaurant and bar, though it remains a bit of a secret—you have to ring a buzzer to get in. On a recent visit, the decor was modern (gold and silver) and the atmosphere relaxed. The food at Le Passage is divine, and much more moderately priced than at sibling resto Senderens. The lobster ravioli here is a masterpiece.

Le Cantine de Quentin is a casual wine bar, wine shop and eatery in the 10th, near the très kool Canal St. Martin area. This place serves a reasonably priced lunch—and only lunch. Come for the classic duck confit and the charming artsy atmosphere. It’s the perfect stop after a morning spent shopping at the stores and art-book shops in the ’hood.

Note: I could go on and on about food—it’s one of the best reasons to travel to Paris. Keep abreast of the current trends by reading our weekly restaurant reviews.

High fashion in the Marais. Photo by Doni Belau

5.  Shop, shop, shop. Shopping in Paris is a delight for the senses. There are many areas to hit, but my favorite is the Marais. In the upper Marais you can find one-of-a-kind designer shops too numerous to mention here. But you can explore them all on our Walk and Shop the Marais and Bastille downloadable tour, which is chock-full of more than 60 stores, shops and ateliers. I am a big fan of the concept store Merci, where you can spend nearly the entire day. Other stores I frequent include Zadig et Voltaire, Paul and Joe, Isabel Marant, Autour du Monde and Le Bon Marché (of course!). For contact info for all, check out the roundup we did for our friends at Bonjour Paris.

6.  Hit the sales. If you prefer to be smart and shop the incredible sales that occur each year in January (for fall/winter merchandise) and June–July (spring/summer), join us on our next Shop, Spa and Savor tour, this summer from June 26 to July 2.

Vespa tour, anyone? Photo by Doni Belau

7.  Take an unusual tour. If the idea of a traditional tour guide and tour bus makes you sick, then try these one-of-a-kind outings. City Segway Tours is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for all ages, and a great way to see the main sights for first timers and veterans alike. After you learn how to use the Segway, you’ll ride around feeling quite young again, cruising at about 15 mph. You’ll see all the sights of central Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre. You won’t want to give the thing back—I promise! If speed is more your style, I recommend the Vespa tour. Riding up the Champs-Élysées and around the Arc de Triomphe on a Vespa is NOT an everyday experience. Matt at Left Bank Scooters can teach anyone to ride these babies, and it’s a wonderful way to experience the city in true Parisian style. He also leads a trip out to Versailles!

8.  Stay on Place St. Sulpice. A very special new hotel (opened last year) that no one has written about in the US is the Hôtel Recamier, overlooking the famous St. Sulpice church. Decorated in a very posh style, this hideaway is the ideal spot for a romantic getaway or a girls’ trip. The place is run by veteran hotelier Sylvie de Lattre, who also owns the very successful Hôtel Thérèse and Hôtel Verneuil. I simply adore the busts of Madame Recamier on each floor, which pay homage to different artists—Christo being my favorite.

9. Visit the big museum shows. There are always blockbuster art shows going on in Paris, but this spring the city is teeming with beauty everywhere you look. Do not miss the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Petit Palais, which presents Monsieur Laurent as truly the last great couturier. Also check out Lucian Freud at the Centre Pompidou and Edvard Munch at the Pinacothèque de Paris.

10. Be decadent! Buy shoes and chocolate. If all else fails, buy shoes and chocolate. Stroll down the best shoe-shopping street in the world, rue de Grenelle and buy something sexy for yourself, then pop over to Patrick Roger, the king of chocolatiers, on rue St.-Germain. Treat yourself and others to gifts wrapped up in his signature turquoise boxes. The Easter treats are nothing short of amazing, including a very real-looking fried egg made of chocolate—a humorous twist on the traditional. Oh la la!

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