An African American In Paris

Ricki Stevenson's entrée to the City of Light

Paris is a city of great sites and enormous style, which is quite evident from a stroll down the Champs-Élysées or a visit to a world-renowned institution such as Musée du Louvre. It’s part of what attracted Ricki Stevenson to this city of 2.1 million residents. “My mother had dreamed of taking her three children to live in Paris for a year,” says the former Oakland/Bay Area broadcast journalist, who is the founder of Black Paris Tours (www.tomtmusic.com/id24.htm). Stevenson had planned to stay just 12 months when she and her daughter, Dedie, moved seven years ago.

In France, “There was a history of black people outside of slavery, and there was a greatness.”

African Americans have long had a love affair with Paris, a city called home by cultural giants like Josephine Baker and James Baldwin. And today, black expatriates find the French capital a place where they can thrive as entrepreneurs or as employees of multinational firms like Microsoft and IBM. The Paris region, home to strong aerospace, automotive, and information technology industries, has the highest per capita gross domestic product in Europe. And with more than 20 million visitors each year, Paris enjoys vibrant tourism.
Here, Stevenson offers recommendations par excellence.

AROUND TOWN: Paris
ACCOMMODATIONS
The Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris (31 Ave. George V; 33-1-4952-7000), an eight-story landmark, offers business amenities that include airline ticketing and secretarial and translation services. There is also afternoon tea and an extensive and exclusive wine selection.

Luxurious accommodations are found at the classically French Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris (25 Ave. Montaigne; 33-1-5367-6665). Prestige suites have a private entrance with two baths.

RESTAURANTS
Stevenson calls Percy’s Place (15 Rue d’Auteuil, 33-1-4288-1444) “Southern cooking with a serious Cordon Bleu flair.” Virginia native Percy Taylor has served up jambalaya, crab cakes, and African American memorabilia since 1997.

Spicy (8 Ave. Franklin D. Roosevelt; 33-1-5659-6259) is open seven days a week until midnight and serves traditional French cuisine with a Mediterranean twist. It’s a concise menu with great offerings for every course, including dessert — all in a hip, stylish setting just off the Champs-Élysées.

NIGHTSPOTS
Le Jazz Club Lionel Hampton (81 Blvd. Gouvion Saint-Cyr; 33-1-4068-3042) is housed inside the Hôtel Le Méridien Etoile on Paris’s Right Bank. Named for the late American jazz great, this club is located near one of the city’s main business districts and is great for entertaining clients. It has a fun and impressive drink list.

For South American flair in Paris, check out Barrio Latino (46-48 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine; 33-1-5578-8475), a four-story dance club and eatery that features tapas, tropical drinks, and salsa/world beat sounds.

SPAS
The Ritz Health Club (15 Place Vendôme; 33-1-4316-3060) inside the elegant Ritz Paris hotel pampers patrons with the latest in hydrotherapy. Enjoy a body treatment of Dead Sea salts and caviar in an atmosphere inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.

CURRENCY
France uses the euro (one euro was worth $1.23 at press time). U.S.-issued credit cards are accepted.

TRANSPORTATION
Hail taxis at hotels, train stations, taxi stands, or on the street. Public transit via Paris’ vast bus, 14-line Metro subway

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