Secret Paris

Tegan Higginbotham Paris wedding
Photo: Benjamin Brette

Melbourne-based comedian, writer and actress Tegan Higginbotham doesn’t just have an inner Parisienne, she can look the perfect Parisian part, too — surely few women outside of the City of Light can wear a stripy top, red lip and tousled hairstyle as well as Tegan can.

Tegan Higginbotham Rue Lamarck

Her long-time obsession with all things Parisian led her to add podcaster to the resumé; the Rue Lamarck series (named after one of Tegan’s favourite Parisian streets) has a five-star rating on Apple, and is beloved for its hilariously narrated anecdotes, faultless production qualities and seriously helpful mix of French-inspired travel and lifestyle advice.

Tegan Higginbotham Paris wedding
Photo: Benjamin Brette

Tegan is so passionate about Paris that she recently declared her ultimate amour in the city, getting married to the love of her life in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Here, she talks weddings à la parisienne, her favourite food fixes, her top day-trip destination, and much more …

Congratulations on your wedding! Why did you decide to get married in Paris?

So many factors came into play when I reflect back. But the biggest reason Paul and I decided to get married in Paris was because we wanted the day to feel outrageously special, and no place is more special than Paris! We know that we could have built something beautiful in Australia. But when we crunched the numbers, it just made more sense to go abroad. 

What’s your favourite memory of the day?

Photo: Benjamin Brette

There are so many to choose from. From enjoying champagne and rose macarons from Ladurée in the Jardin du Luxembourg after the ceremony, to speeding around the Arc de Triomphe in a tuk-tuk as we dashed about Paris getting photos, and the duck that dive-bombed our celebrant, mid-ceremony! But if I had to really narrow it down, my favourite memory was actually more of a feeling. I was over the moon, from the second I woke up to the second I went to sleep at night. It was, without a doubt, the best day of my life. 

What are your top tips for anyone else considering a Parisian wedding?

  • Forget about making it legal. Most foreign couples cannot legally get married in Paris (not without having lived there for at least 30 days and gone though and awful lot of red tape). And even then, there are still no guarantees. All non-residents who don’t have a parent living in France need a “special dispensation” to get married and unfortunately, these are rarely granted. But, this isn’t all bad! In fact, for Paul and me, it wasn’t an issue at all. It meant that we could personalise out wedding even more by asking a close friend to conduct the ceremony. (If it’s not legal, why pay for a legal celebrant, eh?) We plan on having a very low-key legal ceremony at some point down the track in Australia. But for us, that won’t be a wedding. Just paperwork.
  • As we experienced in Australia, if you mention the “M” word in Paris, prices invariably go up. So where possible, avoid telling people that you’re planning a wedding. It’s a birthday cake. Those flowers are for a friend. That flowing white dress is for a dance recital!
  • One of the wonderful things about the French is their appreciation of the simple things in life. It would be foolish not to adopt this ethos when planning your Paris wedding. With the City of Love as a backdrop, you won’t need to go as overboard with frills and decorations. So simplify wherever possible. By giving your schedule room to breathe on the day, and letting the city do the talking, you’ll find a magic you’d never expected.
  • Just remember that you can’t sit on the grass in most of Paris’s parks and gardens. One of our ideas had been to find a beautiful garden and get married under a big tree. But it’s just not possible, unless you head to, say, Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement. 
  • If guests are flying in for the wedding, factor in jetlag. Paul and I planned a lot of activities that had to be postponed or altered because out poor guests were exhausted!
  • Make sure you schedule plenty of downtime for yourself in the lead-up to the wedding. Paul and I had so much to arrange, that we didn’t have an opportunity to experience many of our favourite things in Paris (visiting the Louvre, sitting by the Seine all afternoon, etc). You’re in Paris to enjoy Paris, so make that a priority!

Do you have any other favourite Parisian memories?

After years of dating and being in (wrong) relationships, I’d failed to find anyone who would travel overseas with me. And GOD, I wanted a travel companion! Then I met Paul and he was keen-as-punch to head abroad. About a year into our relationship, he and I travelled to Paris in the late summer. We’d wake up in our tiny shoebox apartment on Rue Lamarck and spend long days walking around the city. We had hardly any money at the time, but it honestly didn’t matter. Every day was an adventure. One evening, we walked up behind the Sacré-Coeur and sat in the small garden at the back of the church. The air was warm and we were so relaxed. It was one of those perfect moments. 

What’s your preferred time of the year to go?

There’s no denying that Paris in the winter is wonderful. Hot chocolates, Christmas lights, and you can walk into places like the Louvre and the Catacombs without having to wait a single second in line.

Paris in summer

But I’m a heat-seeking creature by nature; so I’d say that my best experiences have been had in late Summer, bordering on Autumn. The crowds aren’t too bad but the weather is still lovely. 

Where’s your favourite place to stay?

In the past, I would have said the Latin Quarter, but given that Notre-Dame is now a shell (and a heartbreaking one at that), I’d avoid that area for the moment. It’s too upsetting!

Pink Mamma
Pink Mamma in South Pigalle

Instead, I’d have to opt for South Pigalle (SOPI). Central, eclectic and bursting with good food, it’s the new Marais district. 

What are your top shopping addresses?

I tend to find shopping in the centre of Paris, around Galeries Lafayette, a tad boring. The big department stores don’t really offer anything you can’t buy at a million other places around the globe. During my last trip, I found a bunch of cool, vintage boutiques around Rue des Martyrs in South Pigalle, and the food is great there, too!

What’s the best souvenir you’ve ever bought in Paris?

Shakespeare and Company Paris

For me it’s all about the books. I adore the ritual of heading to Shakespeare and Company and spending hours putting together my reading list for the coming months. It was in Paris several years ago that I discovered the work of Zadie Smith. The impact of her writing has lasted till this very day. 

Do you have any ‘Secret Paris’ addresses you can share?

Square des Batignolles Paris

Tucked all the way in the North West of Paris you’ll find the 17th arrondissement. Outshined by its much noisier neighbour, the 18th arrondissement, the 17th is often overlooked. But take some time and head towards Rue des Batignolles. It’s authentic Paris sans the tourists. Grab an ice-cream and spend some time in Square des Batignolles. The last time I was there, a family of ducks came to play in the small, picturesque lake while a woman sat nearby, capturing them with her paint easel. 

What’s your ultimate Parisian breakfast?

One of the most enjoyable breakfasts I ever experienced in Paris was actually spent at home. My family and I had rented a fabulous apartment in the Latin Quarter looking over Square René Viviani and Shakespeare and Company. One morning, Dad and I got up early and we scoured the area for croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee. Then we all sat around a bright table with the windows open, enjoying the view as the bells on Notre-Dame rang out in the crisp morning air. Perfect!

Where’s your favourite place for lunch?

Yam-Tcha Comté buns

Boutique yam’Tcha. The Comté-filled steam buns are life-changing! As seen on Netflix’s Chef’s Table: France, Boutique yam’Tcha is the offshoot of the Michelin restaurant Yam’Tcha. It’s French-Chinese fusion at its most exciting and for approximately €4 per bun it’s so worth a visit!

What’s your favourite dinner spot?

So often, my memories of a meal will come down to the company I shared as much as the food itself. Therefore my recommendations are quite varied! I had an unbeatable bowl of pasta at Faggio (72 Rue de Rochechouart 75009) with a table full of wedding guests. Desi Road on Rue Dauphine is amazing if you’re hankering for Indian Cuisine. Otherwise, try stopping by at one of the city’s numerous ‘Poulet Rôti’ (Rotisserie Chicken) vendors. Chicken and potatoes with a fresh baguette in the park? Yes please!

What’s the best thing to do in Paris if you’re on a budget?

Paris is EASY if you’re on a budget! Just grab a baguette and walk. From idyllic laneways to lush gardens and the vibrant, powerful Seine, you really can’t get bored. This city is just dying to be looked at! And even if you are a little pressed budget-wise, it isn’t hard to make space for a crêpe, a macaron or a scoop of ice cream from Berthillon.

And if you could splurge, you’d …

Le Jules verne Paris

Paris is a very fun city to be in if you’re in the mood to splurge! I recommend a trip to the recently reopened Le Jules Verne restaurant. Halfway up the Eiffel Tower, Le Jules Verne offers a sophisticated dining experience with unbeatable views of the Paris skyline. In the kitchen, three-star Michelin chef Frédéric Anton leads a team of some of the best talent in France.

Salon Proust afternoon tea

Another option is to head to the iconic Ritz Paris. Stop by for French-style High Tea in the Salon Proust, then mosey on down to the David Mallet hair salon for a bit of pampering!

What’s your most loved museum?

Winged Victory Louvre

I know this is boring… but it’s the Louvre! I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve visited, but still I find myself discovering hidden nooks, new works, and having different experiences. The Winged Victory of Samothrace still takes my breath away.

Do you have a favourite day-trip destination?

Chantilly chateau

I highly recommend heading out to Chantilly, to the north of the city. Only 25 minutes form Paris via train, it’s the home of Domain de Chantilly, one of the “jewels in the crown of France’s cultural heritage”. It contains the second largest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre and a series of vast gardens that rival Versailles! For heaps of “wow” attractions, but far fewer tourists than you’d expect, Chantilly is a must!

If you only had one day in Paris, you’d …

Whenever I’m pressed for time, I always end up doing some variant on this same thing: I check in, and dump all my stuff. Then I head straight towards Rue de Castiglione to buy macarons (rose and passionfruit) from Ladurée.

Laduree macarons Tuileries

Then I go to the Jardin des Tuileries, and walk below the sculpted chestnut trees. If it’s not too busy, I might sit for a while at the Grand Bassin Rond. From there, I’ll meander past the Louvre via the Pyramid, and continue along the Seine to Pont Neuf. I’ll shop for a bit, including at Shakespeare and Company. If I have more energy, I’ll keep heading further east to the Jardin des Plantes and stop in at one of the vast greenhouses. Otherwise, I cross back north, into Le Marais, and from here head along Rue Saint-Honoré. Then it’s up to Montmartre for drinks! 

The next time in Paris, you plan to …

Relax more! Getting married in Paris was a definite life highlight. But I’m looking forward to heading back and taking things much more slowly next time. More long walks and days without time restrictions…

Any final words of Parisian wisdom?

Pack good shoes! During my last trip abroad, I hurt my foot badly and couldn’t walk nearly as much as I wanted to. It was incredibly frustrating! When you’re out in Paris, you don’t want anything slowing you down. So by all means, pack footwear that you feel confident in. But just make sure they can do the miles. 

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