Bonjour, ça va? A curator's guide to Paris

Rachel Ng, Assistant Curator at Singapore Art Museum (SAM) – Roomorama blog

City guide: Paris

Rachel is an assistant curator at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), which specializes in contemporary Southeast Asian art. Aside from working on their regular exhibitions, she also oversees the Vietnamese country portfolio and its growth through sourcing for new acquisitions, keeping track of artists’ practice and undertaking research trips to Vietnam.

What kind of traveler are you?

I think I’m a mix of laid back and organized. I like to plan my holidays in advance and make sure that transport and accommodation are settled – I can be pretty obsessive about accommodation, making sure it’s in a good location, safe, clean, aesthetically pleasing! Once the fundamentals are settled though, I pretty much decide what to do when I get there. I will have a rough list of things I want to see or do and make sure to check opening days and hours first, but I let my moods dictate my itinerary. Holidays are for relaxing so I don’t want to feel stressed that I need to follow a plan. The only exception is deciding and booking where I will be eating at! I love food and making sure I get to try as many recommended eating places and food is always one of my top priorities.

The Artist Studio, Hanoi, Vietnam – Roomorama blog

What is your favourite destination to date and why?

I really don’t have a favourite, but one of my favourite places is Paris. It’s really cliché but I love the atmosphere there. Its intoxicating to be surrounded by the beautiful architecture, boulevards and mix of contemporary and traditional shops selling all kinds of amazing produce and mesmerising things.

The idea of Paris exceeds Paris itself, and that’s what makes it always slightly surreal to be there. They also have world-class galleries, museums and aesthetic encounters at almost every turn.

Outside the chateau in Chantilly, France – Roomorama blog

I’ve been to Paris about ten times now because two of my best friends were there while I was studying in London. One of the things I love most about Paris is the food. So much incredible fresh and authentic produce – cheese, saucisson, pastries, bread, chocolates – and all so affordable because they aren’t considered luxuries but part of everyday life. It’s great how much pride and pleasure the French take in local produce and in the acts of preparing food and eating – it makes every meal an occasion in itself.

Dining in Paris is one of my favourite experiences ever.

Can you tell us where to eat, drink, party there?

I always, always recommend Jacques Genin (33 rue de Turenne 75003 Paris) to anyone going to Paris.
He is one of the best pâtissier's in the world and if I only had time to go to one place in Paris, I would choose Jacques Genin. It’s a chocolatier/patisserie/salon de thé rolled into one lush and serene interior. His pastries, chocolates, caramels and pate a fruit are to die for.

Unfortunately, he stopped serving individual pastries to go in 2013 (which is devastating), but you can still order a pastry of the day or his signature mille-feuille in the salon. Make sure you go early as the queues can get really long.

My favourite pastries were however his Saint-Honoré (three petit choux filled with vanilla pastry cream, glazed with a crunchy caramel top, sitting on top a layer of puff pastry with more pastry cream and chantilly cream), Paris-Brest (hazelnut studded choux bun piped with the most decadent hazelnut praline cream) and caramelized choux bun. I wish I could have some now… You can try some of these classic French pastries at Pâtisserie des Rêves. They have a few branches around Paris and immaculate presentation, very Japanese in meticulous packaging and decoration. When you take away, they place the pastries on styrofoam boards and secure them in place with picks so they don’t move around when you’re traveling.

Jacques Genin Pictured above: Jacques Genin (credit: Paris Mieux Mieux)

For classic French bistro food, I love to go to Joséphine “Chez Dumonet”(117 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris). It’s been around for more than a decade and still keeps the traditions of Parisian bistros through its décor, menu and atmosphere. You will always see locals inside.

Their duck confit is probably the best version in Paris, but their other classic French dishes like beef bourgignon and steak tartare are exceptional as well. Portion sizes are huge though; the duck confit comes with a mound of fries that’s enough for two, and their single serve mille-feuille was large enough to feed our group of five (and it was only 12 euros!).

Joséphine French Bistro – Roomorama blog Pictured above: Joséphine French Bistro (credit: Ms. Cooksalot)

As an art curator by profession, do you always make it a point to visit the museums in the country that you're visiting?

Yes I do, because traveling gives me the chance to see masterpieces and other forms of art that I wouldn’t be able to see in Singapore – it’s really enjoyable personal and professional development.

Where is your favourite museum to date?

Again, it’s hard to pick a favourite! But the Museo del Prado in Madrid and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Pictured above: Victoria and Albert Museum (credit: Victoria and Albert Museum)

What are some of your must do's when you travel?

To visit at least one museum, eat at recommended local places/ try local specialties, visit a supermarket or market, check out local bakeries, and visit the local pharmacy (always a source of interesting skincare brands and products).

What are your travel essentials?

  • Skin care (moisturizer, exfoliator and sunblock especially)
  • A comfy pair of walking shoes
  • A small clutch or bag for nice evenings
  • A jacket or shawl
  • Emergency medicine
  • A Bible

Have you ever stayed in a non-hotel accommodation on any of your trips?

Yes, in Barcelona, San Sebastien, Bali and Malta. It’s a lot more affordable and quite interesting to stay in such accommodation instead of hotels because you get a sense of how locals live. I’ve been fortunate so far that in reality these places have lived up to their photos. It would be nice if more of them supplied their own toiletries, but it's great that they have a supply of clean towels and bed linen. Cleanliness and comfort go hand in hand, so I really appreciated how clean these places were and the cleaners that came every other day.

If there was one celebrity's vacation home you would like to live in for a week, whose would it be, and why?

I don’t know much about celebrity’s vacation homes! But I would love to stay at Monsieur Dior’s childhood home in Granville, Normandy, Villa "Les Rhumbs". It’s now a Christian Dior Museum but the 19th centrury Belle Epoque style is preserved so well, and the colours and gardens, combined with the cliff top sea view make so dreamy.

Dior's home

Pictured above: Dior's home "Les Rhumbs" (credit: Miss Vinyl)

Stylish vacation rentals in Paris

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