The chance to shoot our spring/summer fashion in France became the trip of a lifetime. From the moment we touched down in Paris, to our hilarious drive to the French Riviera, these are the places you should visit if you're heading offshore - looking back they have become the spots we will never forget, says editor Trudi Brewer.
Where to stay
A short walk from the Jardin du Luxembourg, one of the prettiest public parks in Paris you will find the elegant Hotel Excelsior Latin. Located in the centre of one of this city's most exquisite culinary quarters (if you love crepes the Latin district to where you should stay) this boutique hotel offers a 24-hour front desk reception, speedy Wifi, and a divine (spacious) selection of rooms and suites. It's also a short walk from the famous Panthéon Church, and 15-minutes by foot to the famous Catholic cathedral, Notre-Dame Cathedral, where restoration is well underway (after the recent fire this April). If you're an art buff, the Louvre Museum and the Musée d’Orsay are also close by, and house some of the most impressive collections of Impressionist art in the world. We could not have been that close to the pulse of Paris without the support from Booking.com. With the largest selection of brilliant places to stay in the city of love, it's easy to book online, the website and app are both available in 43 languages and super fast to navigate. The meet and greet on arrival made our long-haul travel with six heavy bags a relief (after a 36 hour-flight from NZ). For the BEQ team, getting back to this tasteful hotel after a 10-hour shooting day, we really only had one thing on our minds. Apart from steaming the clothes for the shoot the following day, it was sipping a glass of chilled rosè in the serene, tiled courtyard of the Hotel Excelsior Latin. Dressed with classic cafe-style French furniture, and pretty potted geraniums, it’s an oasis in what was a steamy summer city, where on a few days during our stay the temperatures reached 37-39 degrees. The charming benefits of staying in this 18th-century quintessential Parisian hotel are endless and faultless, including the service, and the friendly staff constantly on-hand to make sure our stay was unforgettable. Priced from (138€) a night. Learn more here
Images of the Jardin du Luxembourg Jardin du Luxembourg, Hotel Excelsior Latin, Louvre Museum, and Musée d’Orsay.
Where to eat
Don't leave Paris without wandering around St-Germain-des-Près situated on the left bank. This district is home to some of the most famous French literary legends, actors, models, a movie stars. It's also where you will find some of this cities best cafés and restaurants. One of the most iconic is Cafè de Flore (bookings are essential). Draped in flowers and greenery, it’s here you will get the best tomato and mozzarella salad, (20€), or house specialty, Welsh Rarebit melted French cheddar cheese on crunchy toast with beer (20€). If you’re going to spot a celebrity in Paris, it will be here at this authentically French cafè- the place to be seen.
We fell in love with Maison Sauvage, a two story stone building, also adorned in ivy and colourful blooms, it’s the place to enjoy an evening for two. A must on the menu is the generous serving of stracciatella cheese, with fresh figs, and buckwheat flour bread (15€), or fresh burrata with sun-ripened tomatoes and basil pesto, (19€). Another must-have is the roasted eggplant with feta yogurt, pomegranate, roasted almonds, and mint, (16€). And even if you can’t fit it in, share the creme brulee, (8€). Almost everything on this menu will leave you wanting more - we went back the following evening to taste it all over again.
A trip to Fromagerie Laurent Dubois will satisfy the most ardent cheese lovers desire to eat their body weight in delicious dairy. Their passion for raw milk cheese is visible from the moment you step inside. The store is stacked almost to the ceiling with the best blue, goat, and white fluffy Normandy cheeses - in fact, it's the most overwhelming culinary experience you could ever have. To select the perfect slice of cheese you can taste as many as you like, the friendly staff will help guide your palette to find the perfect piece. The Saint-Germain store is open from Tuesday to Saturday, and Sunday morning. You pay by weight, slices start around (3€), and there are four stores in Paris.
An institution in Paris is Brasserie Lipp, which opened its doors back in 1880, and while it’s slightly touristy, and the service is brusque, the food is quintessentially French. We recommend the sardines (12€) salmon blinis, (26€) and the light-as-air pastries with strong French coffee - the reason you must visit this iconic restaurant is like sitting on a 1930’s movie set - well that’s what we thought.
Images Fromagerie Laurent Dubois, Brasserie Lipp, Cafè de Flore and Maison Sauvage.
Where to shop
Clear your credit card to prepare for shopping in the fashion capital of the world. During the peak tourist season the biannual sales kick-off, so hit the department stores first. Both Galeries Lafayette and La Bon Marchè are iconic department stores where you can spend hours. If you're visiting in peak season, both slash prices from mid-June to mid-August in their annual summer sales.
Start out early, and enjoy breakfast, and a great cup of coffee at, Broken Arm. This hybrid fashion boutique and restaurant, is where you will find the latest from Raf Simons, Comme des Garçons, Prada, Calvin Klein and, Balenciaga. Also on offer some up and coming cool French indie brands.
Spree is the place to find great accessories from labels such as Isabel Marant, Golden Goose, and Helmut Lang. Don’t leave Paris without visiting Sèzane. The L'Appartement Paris is one of the most exquisite boutiques in the city. It’s like stepping into an intimate, French living room that is full of fashion. Expect to wait at least 30 minutes before you get inside, but it’s worth queuing for. From limited-edition striped T-shirts to pretty floral print dresses, and must-have handbags and stunning shoes, you can have a coffee and croissant while you shop from the built-in café - it's everything we expected and more.
If like us, you're obsessed with beauty products, visiting a French pharmacy is a must, and there is one just about every street corner, but one of the best is CityPharma. They stock skincare and haircare essentials, from brand such as Avène, Bioderma, Caudalie, Nuxe, and Phyto. It's here you can spend the best part of the day finding that beauty gem you never knew you needed.
Images Galeries Lafayette, La Bon Marchè, Broken Arm cafè, Sèzane, City Pharma, and our favourite beauty buys Nuxe oil and Aveve skincare.
Never travel in the Metro anywhere in Paris without a ticket. Some train stations (especially early in the morning) are not manned by staff, the self-select booths are often closed, but the gates can be open to the trains. If you're setting out early buy your tickets the day before (especially if you’re on your way to the airport). Otherwise, you may be subjected to a large fine (we had this unlucky experience). The Metro officials are quite intimidating, to say the least. None of the tour websites we ever read mention that without a Metro ticket (and it's impossible to buy one during one of our trips), means you can be subjected to a 50€ fine each - which left us thinking was this a scam of some kind?
A short drive from Nice, (5kms to be exact) you will find Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. The locals call it a haven, away from the frantic tourists that descend on the French Riviera from mid-June to early September. This is the place to find exquisite food and wine, private beaches (that are not too crowded), and breathtaking views over harbors of Villefrache-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur on the French Riviera. This is the place to enjoy that relaxed Provencal lifestyle. Our favourite spot was Passable Beach, west-facing it enjoys brilliant sunshine all day, originally designed exclusively for the use of guests at the Grand Hotel built at the tip of Cap-Ferrat. Today it is open from Easter to the end of September, and everything is catered for. From gorgeous indoor and outdoor showers, beach towels, and umbrellas to rent, (you can also have a seaside massage), a range of cool bars, and authentic French restaurants, and if you're into watersports, jet skiing, and kayaking is on offer. It's here we found the ideal spot for a swimwear shoot, and a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean sea after a long day in the sun.
Don’t forget to explore the oldest village in France, Èze, nestled in the mountains between Nice and Monaco it stands proud on a hill 427 meters above the peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. It's not well-known by tourists or frequented by the French for holidays, however, we were drawn to the ancient Chateau of Eze (Château Eza) that sits on the top of the hill overlooking the Mediterranean ocean. The only way up to the Chateau is by foot, through picturesque streets (ideal for a fashion shoot), where you will reach the highest point of the town. Almost at the top, you will find an exotic garden built on the ruins of this ancient castle. Terraced, it’s home to 13-meter cactus, giant agaves and a plethora of sun-loving succulents. You pay a small fee (6€) to view the garden (that the locals look after), and it's here you can soak up the panorama view of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the coast of Corsica.
If you’re looking for a romantic escape, or some downtime after a busy week in Paris, the place to relax and unwind, is Royal Riviera. This is one of the most exquisite boutique hotels along this coastline. The Art Deco and Neo-Hellenic designed buildings are set in stunning landscaped gardens abundant with hot pink and cerise red bougainvillea. It’s what we would describe as a tranquil paradise, where you can visit the private beach, or sit on the edge of the aqua pool, enjoying the very best French locally grown produce at Baie des Fourmis, the Jasmin Grill & Lounge. Don't forget to book at La Table du Royale for a long lunch. The French food is at it's best here, thanks to the unique Mediterranean flavours. It's here you can sip the best fruity French rosè while staring out over the shimmering ocean. Book dinner or lunch here and there is also free parking and car park service available.
A few days at this luxe-y hotel on the French Riviera is exactly what a holiday of a lifetime feels like - it’s a place you will never want to leave. Royal Riviera is just 30 minutes drive from Nice airport, expect to pay from (800€) per night.
It’s a gorgeous drive to the French Riviera from Montpellier airport, however when taking the fast route expect a number of tolls on the way. Ranging from (3-30€) it feels like there is a pay toll almost every 30 minutes. Rookie mistake (we thought it would be easy to shoot swimwear in Saint-Tropez) during peak season Saint-Tropez is closed off to cars, great for pedisians, but not so good for our stylist, and a car packed with clothes for a fashion shoot. From June until October, parking charges are strict around (3€) per hour, (that’s if you can find a carpark that isn’t full), and forget leaving your car on the street - each 12 minutes it costs (0,60€), and infringement ticketing starts from 8am and run until midnight.