Sightseeing in Paris: The Palais Royal
Last week I was taking visitors sightseeing in Paris when we stumbled upon the Palais Royal, an enclosed garden surrounded by shopping arcades, just across the street from the Louvre. This royal palace was once home to Cardinal Richelieu and then fell into the property of the Orléans family. Louis XIV grew up here, honing his sword-fighting skills in these very gardens. After the civil uprising of la Fronde, which seriously threatened the young king’s power and his life, Louis grew to hate the palace, which inspired his move to Versailles.
Today, the Palais Royal houses the Ministry of Culture, the Comédie Française, excellent dining and some unique luxury shopping. One of the most romantic restaurants in Paris, Le Grand Véfour, is in the northwestern corner of the palace. This is where Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte would come to discuss politics and hold court with their various followers. Since then, André Malraux, Colette and Simone de Beauvoir have all stopped by, adding a historic patina to the jewel-like setting that is enriched by the extraordinary cuisine of chef Guy Martin.
There are more casual places to dine, like Le Restaurant du Palais Royal, which overflows with locals from the ministry and the theatre troupe. While you don’t have to rush off to work, you may want to head out to some of the most enjoyable shopping in Paris, featuring antique shops with military medals and other collectibles. Didier Ludot’s La Petite Robe Noire has become so famous for vintage little black dresses that Guerlain recently invited him to create its newest fragrance, with the same name. There are art galleries, cutting-edge fashion designers, music-box shops, a classic toy store and even a few glove artisans. My fetish handbag designer, Corto Moltedo, has a shop here, as does the rock-and-roll designer Rick Owens.
To continue your sightseeing in Paris, the gardens, with their inviting chairs, geometric trees and contemporary art, are a great place to sit and rest, and feel like a true princess as you try to locate behind the windows the apartment where Colette once held court. Or perhaps you’ll arrive just in time to hear the shot of the canon méridien that goes off daily at noon, telling us the time of day.
Le Grand Véfour
Le Restaurant du Palais Royal
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