Simon Pagenaud’s Paris
Direct flights from Indianapolis to Paris launch this month on Delta, and no one is more excited than Simon Pagenaud. The 2016 IndyCar Series champion is a native of Montmorillon, a French city renowned for its macarons, and has been exploring his country’s capital since age 6. Here’s his Paris.
You have a 24-hour layover in Paris. Where do you start?
“Not enough time!” says Pagenaud. “But the first thing I would do is go on one of those boat tours, because as touristy as it sounds, it’s the best way to see Paris from the inside.” From the Seine, you’ll get stellar views of the Louvre, Notre-Dame, and everything in between. Next stop: the Eiffel Tower, of course. In Pagenaud’s book, it’s a sin to pass through Paris without snapping a selfie under the monument. Then, for the most sweeping views of the city, walk up to Trocadéro, a large square just on the other side of the Seine that lends lovely vistas of Paris. Pagenaud would finish off the day with a glass of Bordeaux at a corner cafe.
Visit Paris “when it sizzles.”
While Simon adores the holiday ambience of Paris in winter, for him, nothing beats the serenity of May through August in the city. “I love seeing people in the summer having a drink at a cafe or a nice dinner outside,” says Pagenaud. “The temperature is really nice, and Paris is always super-quiet in the summer.” Except for the Indy 500 of bike competitions, the Tour de France, which concludes with a dramatic dash down the Champs-Élysées on July 29.
Take in the best view of the city (you won’t find it from the Eiffel Tower).
The Sacré-Coeur Basilica may be perched atop a treacherous number of steps, but you’ll be rewarded for your climb with glimpses of Paris you won’t find anywhere else. In nearby Place du Tertre square, handfuls of artists are usually parked behind easels painting portraits, landscapes, and more en plein air. For another surprise right there in the 18th arrondissement, wander around the west side of the basilica and descend into the Rue des Saules to find a vibrant vineyard right in the middle of the city.
Stroll Paris by night.
The City of Lights shines its brightest come nightfall, which suits Pagenaud fine. “I always feel like a city at night has a better kind of feel than during the day,” he says. Drop into the 6th arrondissement for drinks at the top-secret bar La Main Folle.
When it comes to entertainment, just remember: the french invented the word “risqué.”
“The Crazy Horse is an awesome show,” says Pagenaud. “Some people might feel uncomfortable, but I think it’s beautiful.” The notorious nightclub’s current revue, “Totally Crazy,” stars 12 cabaret women dancing through acts designed by artists like fashion icon Christian Louboutin. If not the Crazy Horse, see who’s playing at Le Bataclan. This theater in the 11th arrondissement is Pagenaud’s go-to for concerts by up-and-coming acts.
Brunch the Parisian way.
One of Pagenaud’s first stops is always the restaurant Môm with, you guessed it, his mother, Sylvie. The name is a play on words—you can guess its meaning in English, but in French, it means “little kid.” It’s a subtle nod to the hybrid of local cuisine and Americans’ favorite meal of the day. When settling in for a Sunday brunch here, Pagenaud orders—what else?—crêpes, served with lemon zest and sugar, raspberry jam, or Nutella.
Taste a local delicacy.
Escargot just a bridge too far? Maybe try the mussels served at one of Pagenaud’s favorite eateries: Léon de Bruxelles, perfectly situated on the Champs-Élysées for a light bite after climbing the Arc de Triomphe.
Cut through traffic with a motorbike taxi.
Racing from one sight to the next at lightning speed is possible when you reserve a motorbike taxi for your arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport. For Pagenaud, it’s a welcome break from work—he’s glad to take the back seat for a change as a professional driver jets between cars and dodges public transportation and city traffic. You can book a ride online through companies like Citybird or Motocab. Bon voyage!