JULIANNA MARGULIES CHARTS A COURSE THROUGH HER FAVORITE FRENCH CITY.
"FRENCH WAS MY FIRST LANGUAGE," says Julianna Margulies, "but of course, I've forgotten it all, except for the accent." That's understandable, given that Margulies moved to Paris with her mother and two sisters when she was only three and stayed there just two years. Her parents had divorcecd, but in an effort to keep the family together, they both moved from New York to Paris when her father's work as an Advertising executive took him overseas. "My dad lived on the right bank, and my sisters and I lived with my mom on the left bank," she says. "I don't remember much, except for what they tell me. But Paris has always just stayed with me."
That's why the actress started making nearly annual trips to the French capital once she'd grown up and put some money in the bank. At first, it wasn't much money. Her initial return to Paris was just after high school graduation, when she visited the city as a backpacker. "It isn't so much fun in Paris when you're broke," Margulies says. On her next trip, she wasn't quite as broke; she was on a publicity tour for ER, the NBC show on which she earned a fan base, critical acclaim, an Emmy Award, and enough money to do what she wanted to artistically. In 1999, after six seasons on the show, Margulies walked away from a $27 million contract extension because she felt that her character - nurse Carol Hathaway - had run its course. But in April she returns to series TV with a new character in a new profession. In Fox's Canterbury's Law, Margulies stars as Elizabeth Canterbury, a criminal-defense attorney who is smart, sexy, and willing to push the limits of the law in order to protect her clients.
Margulies's return to TV is highly anticipated in Hollywood circles. But when she wants to escape those circles, she returns, as always, to Paris, where her main objective is just to get lost. Here's her "map" to losing yourself in the City of Light.
She Said …
Here's where Julianna Margulies finds herself when she gets lost in Paris.
Jardin du Luxembourg
6th arrondissement (near Sorbonne University)
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme
Musée du Louvre
Musée National Picasso Paris
Opéra National de Paris
Hôtel Costes (very expensive)
Hôtel Le Bristol (very expensive)
Hôtel Montalembert (very expensive)
Le Café Marly (very expensive)
But you could also be here (where someone else makes the bed): I've stayed at the Bristol hotel, which I liked very much. I prefer staying on the Left Bank, though, if I'm going to stay in a hotel, just because the people there feel a little more like my kind of people. I've also stayed at the Montalembert. It's a great hotel and has a great restaurant. I love the food there."
Margulies recommends that you head down the street, er, la rue, in the morning and stop when you smell the coffee, er, le café. "We always wake up early and go straight to a café espresso bar," says Margulies, referring to herself and her husband, Keith Lieberthal, with whom she is expecting a child in January. "You can sort of see Notre-Dame across the bridge. You would sit there and have a double espresso and a croissant. Then you set off on your day. And you walk everywhere - that's the only way to see Paris."
Here's where we find ourselves when we get lost in Paris.
Hôtel des Batignolles (inexpensive)
We uncovered two noteworthy budget hotels for you.
This one is a pleasant property in the tranquil Batignolles neighborhood.
It may be short on four-star amenities, but its location, within easy walking distance of two metro stations and great dining and shopping, can't be beat.
Hotel Eldorado (inexpensive)
Another great place to save some euros is this charming and slightly Bohemian hotel in a distinctly French part of town (witness the late-night chatter at the accompanying bistro). It's bare bones but homey, and it's not short on character.
Crêperie de Plougastel (inexpensive)
Of the dozens of crêperies in Paris, the best ones, like Plougastel, can be found in Montparnasse.The varied crepes here are plump with fresh ingredients and would be excellently topped off with a glass of hard cider.
Bois de Boulogne
A vast acreage donated in 1852 by Napoleon III, this fabulous park will keep you busy for hours. Boat on one of several lakes, take a horse-drawn carriage ride, or simply picnic among the lush grounds. Note: Opt to go in the daylight hours, as nightfall brings out a somewhat seedier side.
340 rue de Pyrénées. Not many people go to a shopping mecca like Paris to buy secondhand, which is, perhaps, why this is one of the city's few thrift stores. But the finds are many, the prices are right, and the proceeds go to charity.
"You never know what you'll find when you lose yourself. In Paris, we walk probably six hours until we find an area that we don't know. Then we go into whatever local bistro is there and get a great bottle of Rosé and have lunch."
She recalls a recent trip on which she found just such a local bistro. "I knew I wanted to go to the Place des Vosges [in the Marais neighborhood] because of the galleries there. I had bought art there a few years ago, which I loved, but I wasn't quite sure where the Place des Vosges was in terms of walking from the Île Saint-Louis. I'm not very good with maps. But you always have to carry a map because Paris is not on a grid. So we looked at a map and said, 'We will just sort of try and take this route, but wherever we end up, we end up.' There are plenty of restaurants, but I prefer not to go to the fancy restaurants, because that's where all the tourists tend to go. Really old wonderful bars and bistros are what Paris was, sort of, founded on. Experience it; go where the French people go."
"After all the walking, you deserve a fine meal. The beauty of French food is you can eat whatever you want. Most of it is so natural, without any chemicals or pesticides. I always come home a few pounds lighter because I've walked and eaten really good food. Everything just tastes better in Paris - coffee, croissants, everything. There is one special place I like to eat, which isn't as touristy as it sounds. It's Le Café Marly. It's a very posh restaurant, and you feel like you've entered another time in there. I have gone there and dressed up for the evening and made it an event with a whole bunch of friends. On a warm night, you can be up on a balcony, and they will keep all the windows open. It feels old-fashioned.
"As long as you're dressed up and in the area of the Louvre, stop at the fashion-industry-friendly Hôtel Costes. I've been to the Hôtel Costes for dinner, and you can also go there for drinks. But being there makes me feel like I'm in L.A. It's star-studded and full of all the people you're sort of getting away from when you go to Paris. But it is lovely, and the food is good, and it's fun for a night out if you want to go get drinks with some friends."
"The gardens are another spot you shouldn't miss. One of my favorite places is the Tuileries gardens. That's probably because when I was little, that is where my mom would take me. There is a great merry-go-round in that park. And you can bring your kids there and rent these little sailboats. It's a fond memory. The park at Jardin du Luxembourg is also stunning. There are places to just sit and take in your surroundings rather than just go, go, go.
"Heading beneath ground isn't for everyone. But it's fascinating. Beware the skulls. I went to the catacombs, and for a claustrophobic person, it is not a great thing to do. If you have any kind of fear of being enclosed in small spaces, I highly recommend that you don't go. But otherwise, it's something that I think everyone should experience. You keep walking down, down, down underground, and you just see bones and skulls, and it is all dug up. You can't believe the number of bodies that have been buried there. I've never seen anything like it. I'd never do it again, but I am glad I did it."
"The city's most famous bridges should be on your itinerary. The Pont Alexandre is beautiful. No matter how many times I go back to this big bridge where you see all the monuments, it always takes my breath away. You always feel like you are in a movie. You walk over it, and you can't believe it's for real. I think if I lived there, I would probably stop being in awe of it all the time. They are so lucky to have that in their city. I walk New York bridges all the time. I've walked the Brooklyn Bridge a gazillion times, and I love it because you feel the history. That is what is so beautiful about the bridges in Paris too."
"Take some time to enjoy a theater performance … and more food. "You should go to the national theater. It's right off the Champs-Elysées. I saw beautiful flamenco dancing there with a woman from Spain called Sara Baras. It was spectacular, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. I've never seen dancing that brought people to tears like that. Right around the corner from there is a restaurant - I can't recall the name - that my dad used to go to when he was there in the '70s. You can get the best moules and pommes frites - mussels and french fries - there. You have to order that at least once when you go to Paris. Everything in the restaurant is red velvet, and you really feel like you are back in the '20s. It looks out onto the river."
"For more music, go back to the Marais and find a jazz club. Any jazz club. Stop. Listen. Love. One night, after we had this great dinner, we were walking around, meandering, and we were both like, 'You know, it would be really nice to listen to some jazz.' But we didn't want to look in a guidebook as to where to go for that. We ended up just walking. This is one of the things I love about Paris. We walked into this hotel because we heard a piano playing. It was a little hotel on a back street that turned out to be a fivestar hotel, and it had a jazz band set up in the back courtyard. There were bottles of Champagne and candles - it was like a movie set. There were a few people sitting here and there, smoking a cigar, drinking Champagne, and we just pulled up a table and sat and listened to beautiful jazz. To me, that's the romance of Paris: There is music coming out of everywhere. You just have to listen and go and follow it."