What’s Hip and Hot in 2016

At InsiderFrance, it’s our job to select the most exciting places, people, and events that are going to make a difference in 2016–whether you travel to France or not. Naturally, we are not going to stop you from returning to your tried and true favorites–whether it’s a boutique hotel you return to you year after year, or a restaurant where you know you will can count on finding the best onion soup or steak-frites anywhere.

It is important for you to know that France is BACK–which means that people are back in the museums and in the theatres, as well as the restaurants. I know this personally–because I hosted a family for the entire last week of 2015–and found hordes of visitors at the Louvre and Versailles, and that I couldn’t get a ticket to a single seat at the French national theatre–for an performance of Romeo and Juliet in a modern version. Nor was there any empty seat under the big top of le Cirque du Soleil.  That means you should be booking your flights for France NOW, if you can.

 

COOL  SPOTS

Head to Bordeaux this year, not just because it is the largest urban Unesco World Heritage site with magnificent 18th century architecture, as well as the handsome Bordeaux Wine & Trade Museum, and a totally restored waterfront that now includes Europe’s largest lift bridge. A restaurant boom has attracted the likes of Gordon Ramsey at Le Pressoir d’Argent and Joel Robuchon at the city’s palatial Grande Maison hotel. Next year, the city plans to inaugurate La Cité du Vin, the first citadel dedicated to the wines of the world.

If you want a truly authentic regional experience, you should definitely consider the wine road in Alsace and spending some time in Colmar, starting with the newly renovated Unterlinden, home to the greatest religious work of art on painted wood: the Isenheim Altarpiece. Unveiled in December, the new museum’s 44 million euro conversion now displays work by Picasso, Monet and Léger. Be sure to discover the reopened Sinn Canal and the city’s charming cobbled streets and squares filled wth charming wein stubbe and restaurants.

Tired of the overtouristed, overdone French Riviera? Then head to the Ile de Ré, one of my favorite havens on the Atlantic Coast for foodies, cyclists and beach lovers. Here you will find over 100 km of bike paths, 10 beautifully preserved villages with boutique hotels and glorious food markets. While you think it’s a cross between the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard, it’s nothing of the sort. Zoning laws are very strict and the people who count in France come here to get away from it all. Easy to reach by car and train, but hard to leave.

MUST-SEE SHOWS

This year people are going to be lining up for some amazing exhibits around France, including shows celebrating the 70th birthday of Barbie, a one-woman show on Yoko Ono titled “The Light of Dawn” and a fabulous retrospective on the Swiss painter Paul Klee. At the Petit Palais, you will discover 400 photos of artists working in their studios, and at the Jacquemart-André museum, L’Atelier en Plein Air (The Outdoor Studio focusing on painters in Normandy, the birthplace of Impressionism.

Paul Klee

You will also want to check out the retrospective on Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground at the Philarmonie of Paris and the thought-provoking show at the Marmottan titled L’Art et L’Enfant (Art and the Child) which shows how artists from the 15th through the 20th century have chosen to portray children.

If you must see Versailles–and you must–be sure to profit from the shows celebrating the American Revolution and France in the Gallery of Battles, as well as the retrospective on Charles de Gaulle’s stay at the Grand Trianon, following the restoration of the presidential wing. If you have time, be sure to visit the Potager du Roi (the King’s Kitchen Garden), as well as the charming Musée Lambinet which traces the history and art de vivre at Versailles. Naturally, the most must-see show at Versailles are the fireworks display on Saturday night set to music--preceded by a gourmet barbecue supper in the gardens of the Trianon Palace.

NEW DINING OPTIONS

Like New York City and London, there are always new restaurants and wine bars opening on a regular basis, and closing as well. I am not going to review any of these here, but I do plan to check out the following: L’Alcazar, the former Terence Conran restaurant with a new chef and a new decor; Papillon, a gourmet bistro run by a chef you used to work for Ducasse at the Meurice and attained 3-star Michelin status; Le Camion qui fume, for its burgers; Chez la Vielle (with the American chef Daniel Rose), as well as many other places I have yet to discover. Personally, I am drawn to intimate dining rooms that welcome the neighborhood, such as the brunch at Le Pigalle. I think many Parisians agree with me, especially these days when human warmth and comfort is an essential alternative to virtual reality on Facebook.

NEW FOODIE BOUTIQUES

Check out Balibert, the grocery store that specializes in small made-in-France producers, such as fruit-flavored mustard from the Tarn, jams made in Paris, and rhubarb wine. Then there’s DADA, an organic grocery store–270 square meters of pristine white filled with excellent fruits and veggies, as well made to go dishes made with ingredients from the store. Le Comptoir des Recettes is a new concept that allows you to select the dish you wish to make and fill your shopping basket with all the necessary ingredients. Everything is shown with illustrated recipes that you can take with you.

SMART SHOPPING

Sensee is a the optician for French millenials. Invented by Marc Simonici (the creator of the hookup website Meetic) it is worth a second look–especially because you can purchase cool French-made frames for as little as 49€. For those of you who have stopped wearing shoes, head over to SneakersnStuff, the new temple dedicated to you know what. Why go there? For its exclusive designs, collabs and unique imports.

Maison Standard, which specializes in fashion basics, has now opened a store dedicated to the Home. Every month, there will be “a meet the designer” event, so you can discover their new products in greater detail. Check out a great gallery for purchasing up and coming artists: L’Illustre Boutique is the place to go for new artists who have just gotten their art school degrees or who work in the magazines. Great place for original art without breaking the bank.

boutique-sensee-lunette-made-france

 

CITY BREAKS

Le Grand Amour is not a love story but the name of a new hotel that the owners of Hotel Amour have just opened. In this new “artists’ pension” they have decorated the rooms with taste and talent. Look out for king-size beds and retro bathrooms, a patio for drinks, as well as artsy touches by the graffiti artist André. By spring 2016, look out for the opening of OFF Paris Seine,  the first floating river hotel on the Seine by the quai d’Austerlitz–the plan is to offer 58 rooms , a restaurant and a 50 ft. pool in the three-star property. Cost of a one-night stay: 160€.