Paris – 3rd arrondissement
Imagine Soho, the East Village, the West Village, the Meatpacking District, and everything else you love about shopping in New York in one overwhelmingly-large, winding, and ever-expanding entity. That's the Marais district in Paris's 3rd arrondissement. While the Champs Élysée and St. Germain have their own impressive selection of super-stores, most of it is couture. That means you won't be buying your wife anything less than a $3000 purse or an $800 pair of shoes should you want to do something nice for her. All the artisan boutiques, kooky designers, affordable accessories, and Parisian hipsters are in the Marais; to the extent that you could spend your entire time in Paris just combing through all the alleyways you might have missed. It took us two days just to scratch the surface. There's so much to do there it almost induces a panic attack.
There are a number of iconic bars in Paris; many of them long established and frequented by famous literary figures of the century or so. That being said, there are also a number of bars moving beyond Parisian tradition and into their own representation of what a French lounge should be, and they're mostly located in the Marais. The Little Red Door is one of these places (NOTE: if you go, don't be an idiot like me and try to actually open the little red door. The entrance is actually the door to the left of it).
Go early, and you can spend some time talking to bar manager Remy Savage. His customer service skills are impeccible, showcasing that oft-overlooked craft that seems to allude many a mixologist these days. I've had such wonderful service in Paris these last few days and that's really forced me to think about stepping up my own game. Any location—be it a bar or a retail outlet—needs to consider the fact that, when you're a serious destination, people are coming from all over the world to see what you're about. No matter how busy you are, or how many irrational customers you've dealt with that day, we all need to remember that we're not simply providing a service; we're ultimately playing ambassador. I only chatted with Remy for about twenty minutes, but it was clear in that short amount of time that he completely understands what it means to run a world-class bar.
And he knows not only how to make a delicious and intriguing cocktail, he can do it with flare. The guy was mixing liquids from shaker to shaker, pouring between one container high over his head and another about four feet beneath it. Never once did he spill a drop. Go to the Little Red Door if you're in Paris. It's worth searching out.
Not far down the street is Candelaria, the La Esquina of Paris. If you've never been to New York's amazing La Esquina, I'll sum it up quickly for you: it's a world class taco bar that looks like a hole in the wall, until you realize that there's a secret and glamorous nightclub underneath it, the stairs leading down behind what looks like an ordinary door. Candelaria is attempting literally the exact same concept, but in Paris. Ordinary hole in the wall taco bar, but super fancy lounge in the back behind an unassuming white door. If you don't mind waiting a lifetime to get in, you might want to check it out as it's just a few blocks from the Little Red Door.