a petite guide to visiting france. / sfgirlbybay

apologies for the tardiness of this post, but with so many photos to edit and links to gather it’s taken me some time to pull it all together, but at last, here we go — to france! so often, paris is the it place everyone wants to go — and ouí, it is a dream. but on my recent travels abroad, i visited a few other french cities and found them to be trés jolie. we traveled by train which is my favorite kinda way to get about — it’s quick and comfortable, affordable and very efficient. the trip from lyon to paris was just a few hours and we sat in very comfy seats complete with dining tables. we went from lyon to avignon to Marseille and back to lyon and then on to paris, all within a week.

a guide to marseille. / sfgirlbybay

so let’s start with marseille. we only had an overnight stay in marseille, but this port city in very walkable (except for an exorbitant amount of wind the day we strolled around) and the harbor area is very pretty. i’ve told you about our beautiful pension edelweiss — a must stay — and we walked everywhere from there. we did take a taxi after literally being blown away along the marina to a very special lunch at trés fancy le petit nice for a seven or eight-course meal that was quite divine. if you can, treat yourself — you’ll feel as though you’re in a french film or a movie star, or something trés chic. we had eaten breakfast at our pension, and had a light dinner later so we didn’t feel like we were blowing our budget or anything, but it is expensive and there’s a reason for it, and part of it is the view you see just below.

a guide to france. / sfgirlbybay

the sights of marseille. / sfgirlbybay

soaps for sale in marseille. / sfgirlbybay


bistrot l’horloge — a charming bar & cafe near the marina. we had a delicious dinner (steak & pom frites!) and felt very much like we were dining in the local’s go-to spot.

epicerie l’ideal — this gourmet grocery was so beautiful and so full of gastronomic eye candy. we just stumbled upon it and i’m so glad we did. lemons the size of footballs.

la savonnerie marseillaise — everyone needs to bring back soap from marseille, and this is the spot. there must have been dozens and dozens of fragrances and i’ve been loving the very lathering soap i brought home.

le petit nice — this is the fancy restaurant i mentioned. reservations are a must, i believe and it is pricey, but it’s so worth the bit of extravagance.

marianne cat — this concept store had the cutest designer clothes and i put together a few ensembles i would have loved to buy. beautiful perfumes and candles, too.

pension edelweiss — previously blogged, our amazing wes-anderson inspired home away from home.

masion empereur — i told you about their ‘secret apartment’ to stay, but this was one of the highlights of our trip. what a fun and wonderful store. part hardware/part homewares/toy shop/cook’s dream — this store has everything you’d ever want all under one roof and merchandised beautifully. love, love, love masion empereur.

colorful textiles in marseille. / sfgirlbybaycity guide to france. / sfgirlbybay


next up, lyon — it’s a beautiful city with not just one but two rivers running through it and at one point the Rhône and the Saône converge. the shopping is wonderful and the cafes equally so. a few of my favorites places to shop and stay. be sure and visit the beautiful Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière overlooking the city with incredible views — i was enthralled with the exquisite stained glass and domed ceiling. nearby is The Tour métallique de Fourvière (a miniature eiffel tower!) which is lit up at night and a gorgeous site to see. lyon is large, but very walkable and that’s the best way to see it. as in all european cities — bring your comfiest shoes and leave your vanity back at the hotel.

lyon building with black double doors and pink interior. / sfgirlbybay the sights of lyon, france. / sfgirlbybay

when in lyon:

auguste et cocotte – a stunning homewares boutique featuring some of the prettiest (and largest) basket lamps i’ve ever seen. they also carry lovely linens and tablewares, bespoke jewelry and fragrances. trust me, you’ll want it all.

bistro les boulistes – we went here our first evening in lyon for one of those 5-hour dinners with just as many courses. it was delicious all of it, especially a poached sea bass that melted in my mouth. a great neighborhood vibe without feeling one bit pretentious.

caravane – another beautiful homewares shop with walls and vaulted ceilings of raw stone. so cozy and inviting i wanted one of everything but settled for a small handmade pouch that fit easily in my luggage.

chocolat Sève – this patissier treated us like royalty when we stopped in for a visit. we left with pounds of the most gorgeous handmade chocolates and macaron in every flavor.  the cakes were works of gastronomic art. do stop in!

Fourvière Hotel – we stayed in this incredible former convent ideally located on the top of the Roman amphitheatres, a stone’s throw from the Basilica, the Fourvière Hotel has reinvented the former convent of the Visitation built by Bossan in 1854 into a modernist dream. each door to the guestrooms is wallpapered with the colorful characters who shaped france.

Home Autour du Monde Bensimon – home to those adorable french sneakers we all love, bensimon also carries some equally cute clothing, as well as some wonderful homewares. their lyon store is charming and their staff was so sweet.

hotel saint vincent – i loved this petite boutique hotel tucked up a narrow street just beyond lyon’s mural painting “Mur des Canuts”. they had to upgrade the doors to their guestrooms with fire safe doors, so they then used the beautiful old tall wooden doors as closet doors. so charming and a lovely place to stay.

Hyggelig — a little bit of Scandinavia in france, this two-story shop carried many handmade products with French, British and Scandinavian flair.

le bistrot du potager — i loved this quaint bar/cafe right around the corner from hotel saint vincent. a very local vibe and healthy portions. stop in for a glass of vino and their delicious charcuterie plate.

monoprix — think target but with that french je ne sais quoi, and the same bargain prices. several floors of everything from make-up and accessories to groceries and wine all in one big department store.

pop and shoes – a charming concept store with really friendly staff. think beautiful clothing, cashmere scarfs, fancy french shoes and gnomes — yes, they have gnomes. it’s a great spot.

lyon shop guide. / sfgirlbybay

okay, on to the city of lights — paris! i was only here for a day and a single night so i didn’t get around as much as i’d have liked to, but still we walked and walked (21,000 steps in one day, mind you!) and saw as much as we could fit in. a walk through the streets to the marais and its beautiful square, Place des Vosges and charming shops like merci and bon ton. then on to the grounds of the louvre and gorgeous jardin de tuileries (named for the tile factories which previously stood on the site) and its charming carousel. wandering paris is the best way to get around, and see so much more than perhaps underground on the metro — especially if you’ve got just one day. but here’s what we saw.

the sights of paris. / sfgirlbybay

when in paris:

mercí — you’ve heard it before, but this is a must-stop when in paris. fuel up with a latte and a light lunch at their library cafe and then peruse the three floors at your leisure. from fantastic homewares to clothing and accessories and so much more in-between, mercí is the best.

bon ton — just down the street from mercí is this darling children’s shop. it may be for kids but i always get inspired here, plus there’s a photobooth!

le sirocco — this is an amazing Moroccan restaurant with a warm and cozy vibe. it’s a very authentic setting, where you can taste the many flavors of Moroccan cuisine with very generous portions.

la trésorerie — much like the general stores and bazaars of the past, drugstores and hardware stores in which one could find everything necessary under one roof to equip a household, la trésorerie brings together objects and products that are beautiful as well as useful.

peonies — this charming little coffee shop seems a little bit british — almost. but then there are all those wonderful french pastries awaiting you with your latte. not to mention all the beautiful blooms, because it’s a floral shop too. green floors with pink tables — what more could you want?

hotel Henriette — we didn’t stay here because it was booked, but after dinner right down the street at le sirocco, we popped in for a look-see. the very kind concierge gave us a tour of the rooms and they are so adorable. i’d stay here next time for sure!

hotel panache — this is a trés chic spot to stay, complete with those famous headboards all over instagram. i loved the design, and the cafe next door was charming, too. but i’m going to give their staff a tip: work on your personality and cleanliness. enough said.

bakery in paris. / sfgirlbybayguide to paris. / sfgirlbybayfrench fruit stand. / sfgirlbybayparis flower market. / sfgirlbybayparis hotel accomodation. / sfgirlbybay