It’s a gloriously clear morning in Paris and on the Trocadéro a small, committed group of early risers has assembled for the greatest light show in town. It starts with a molten strip across the horizon that grows ever brighter until the distinctive esplanade outside the Palais de Chaillot has a pinkish glow. As the sun finally drags itself into the sky it backlights the Eiffel Tower, on the other side of the River Seine, to the stunning effect, turning the city’s most recognisable landmark into a beautiful piece of shadow theatre. Having a front-row seat to watch dawn breaking over the City of Light is the perfect start to my day. By the time the sun sets I will have endeavoured to get a real taste of what Paris has to offer, from expertly crafted pastries and great art to the majesty of the show-stopping sights and parks.
Just down the road at the Cimetière de Passy I pay my respects to Impressionist painter Édouard Manet, who was laid to rest here in 1883, before I stride down Avenue Paul Doumer to marvel at the artist’s work at the Musée Marmottan Monet. The museum also displays more than 300 works by Claude Monet and paintings by Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir among many others. The building used to be a lodge for hunters, who had plenty of wild animals to shoot at in the bordering Forest of Rouvray (now the huge green space of the Bois de Boulogne). These days the only shooting of deer is with a camera at the Jardin d’Acclimatation at the northern end of the bois. With lunch approaching I head down Rue de Passy towards the Seine and along the aptly named Avenue de New York to the beacon that is the Flamme de la Liberté. The full-sized, gold-leafed replica of the flame held by the Statue of Liberty is a glittering symbol of Franco-American friendship put up in 1989 to commemorate the centenary of the International Herald Tribune newspaper. For millions it is also an unofficial memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales, who was fatally injured in a car accident in the tunnel beneath the statue in 1997.
As a late-afternoon party atmosphere takes hold in Paris I head back across the river in search of another watering hole, using a Hollywood A-lister as my guide. According to the locals, Brad Pitt never misses a chance to drop by at the Chez Prune café in Rue Beaurepaire opposite Canal Saint-Martin whenever he is in Paris. It’s easy to see why. Lived-in but lively with odd decor (old photos, ornate vases and what looks like a mannequin head all share shelf space), it has a lot of character and a charcuterie plate to die for Chez Prune reflects the mood and style of the Canal Saint-Martin area, one of the capital’s trendiest neighbourhoods. Wall-art is everywhere and the streets are packed with boutiques and coffee shops such as Sésame where followers of fashion can tuck into home-made cakes and stroke their designer beards.