Paris in the summertime is always tres jolie but when you've been invited to the exclusive Diner en Blanc, it's a dream come true. An annual flash mob par excellence, ?Dinner in White? saw some 9,000 dapper guests descend on the Grand Royale and the grounds of the Louvre and Tuileries respectively, with tables, chairs, white table clothes, glassware and crockery, flowers, candles, food, wine and champagne in tow - all for one hell of a street party.
Going for a Midnight in Paris look, I channelled my inner Zelda Fitzgerald with a white 1920s frock (Folkster - je t?aime; folkster.com) and met mes amis somewhere on the outskirts of Paris to join our magical mystery bus to the secret location. I was shocked and awed by not only the spectacle of so many elegantly-dressed partygoers in a historic location but also at the impressive speed of setting up. Within no time, we were feasting on gambas skewers, quinoa salad, jars of artichokes, charcuterie, eclairs, and clinking champagne flutes while live music played on. And at precisely eleven bells, as per tradition - Diner en Blanc has been going for 27 years - we lit our sparklers with epic joie de vivre.
The event's strict Leave No Trace policy was a sight to behold - at 12.15am everyone started packing everything into poubelles. It was all over as quickly as it started. I woke up the next day wondering if it was all just a midsummer night's dream - I even revisited the Grand Royale's pristine courtyard the next morning, and you'd never guess what had happened the night before.
Certainly it wasn't a typical night out in Paris - but I did ?go tourist? after that, pounding the halls of the Fornasetti and textile galleries at Les Arts Decoratifs (lesartsdecoratifs.fr/en); marvelling at the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Grand Palais (until August 3; grandpalais.fr/en), and silently weeping? - yes weeping - at Jean Lanvin's exquisite ?absinthe green? frocks at the Palais Galliera (until August 23; palaisgalliera.paris.fr/en). I also learned the following rules a la Parisienne:
We all moan about how expensive Dublin can be on a night out, but that's nothing compared to Paris, where even far from the tourist trail a basic salad can cost €15. And so sniff out the prix fixe menus - you'll get two courses for around €15.
Even off the beaten track expect to pay between €6-?8 for a pint of Heineken. Even a glass of vin averaged around €5/6 - a mad markup when you pick up a nice bouteilles from the supermarch? for the same price. So therein lies the solution: Pick up a bottle of plonk and sup away on the banks of the Seine just as flaneurs, tourists and hobos have done for centuries. Sante!
Paris has a reputation for being sartorially superior, and rightly so. Everyone dresses to their own body shape for a start, and style trumps fashion every time. So pack your classiest threads (my white trilby, Zara tee and sailor pantaloon earned Brownie points at the Grand Palais, where two security guards told me I was ?tres chic?), install yourself at a street-side cafe and play Spot the Tourist. I guarantee all the Irish/Brits/American men are wearing cargo shorts, T-shirts, and socks-and-runners, while their female counterparts, formerly of white-blue pallor, are now fifty shades of Ronseal. They're not just back from St Tropez - but, zut alors!, are they are wearing it.
Shoebox-size rooms are the norm. But that's okay because you'll be too busy enjoying the cosmopolis to care. I've stayed everywhere, from a youth hostel as a whippersnapper to one of the Best Hotels I've Ever Encountered (Saint James, Paris? only chateau hotel; its Bambi Sloan-Designed decor a pleasing, riotous melange of antiques, animal print and trompe l?oeil; saint-james-paris.com). Location is much more important though than square-footage, and this time I had the good fortune to stay at Hotel l?Antoine (hotelantoinebastilleparis.com/en), a five-minute walk away from the Bastille Metro, in the hip Marais. Rooms are ergonomic - and designed by Christian Lacroix - staff are friendly, there's an honesty bar, no extra charge for having breakfast in bed (boom!), and best of all is the plethora of decent eateries and drinkeries on the doorstep. Oh, and Isabel Marant and Cos.
Lucy White is deputy editor at Cara magazine. Aer Lingus flies from Dublin and Cork to Paris daily.