Meet Rik Gitlin
Rik Gitlin is Paris Luxe’s Exclusive Concierge
Rik has a unique personal style that has garnered him a loyal fan base within the Paris Luxe family of guests. The questions and answers below will give you a better understanding why a concierge is the “secret sauce” when booking your luxury Paris vacation apartment rental.
Do you really need a personal concierge in Paris?
Rik: It’s a little like trying to cook a 3 course meal for the first time. You have some idea about how it works and you know you want it to turn out well but, but it always helps to have a recipe or two to give you some guidance. Paris is a huge city and most folks know they want to see the Eiffel Tower, walk along the Champs Elysees, see the lily pond at Giverny and walk through the spacious halls of the Louvre. But that is a little saying you want to see the Empire State, take a Broadway show and do some shopping in Macy’s during a visit to New York. Paris has 20 different arrondissements, or quarters and each one of them has a character all on its own. And there are literally thousands of restaurants in Paris. Which ones do you choose if you are in Paris for only one week? It is not about doing the best, eating at the best, spending the most.
A visit to Paris is not always about the superlative after superlative. My job is to get a sense of the guests and what they want Paris to be for them. Do they want 4 Star Michelin meals for every dinner, or do they want to explore small bistros known only to the locals? Do they want to hit every masterpiece in the Louvre or find small galleries with unknown artists who might one day be inside the Louvre? It is not about bombarding guests with hundreds of choices, they can buy a guidebook for that. It is about talking to them on the phone for weeks or even months before their visit, and listening to them when they talk about their upcoming visit. Then it is about offering them a small bouquet of choices for meals, for walks in the afternoons and in the end, about a visit that will be filled with memories and special moments that they will always hold as their Paris.
What are the top 5 Must-see dos in Paris?
Rik: There aren’t five. If there were, everyone would be at the same places. As it is, most visitors are already bumping into the same people at the Louvre who were likely next to them in line at the Eiffel Tower or the Musee d’ Orsay. But I do have a few things I try to get people to do. A visit to the Palais Royale, a stroll through the gallery shops, a stop at Willi’s Wine Bar followed by Le Grand Colbert, this is perfect for the late afternoon into the evening. The gallery (a covered walkway surrounding the gardens) has amazing perfume shops, a Mark Jacobs shop, the over the top shops selling used couture clothing for women is simply stunning. This was once home to Colette and has the Grand Vefour restaurant at the far end, in the same location since the beginning of the 19th century. St Germain-des-Pres is simply a great romantic way to see the 'artistic' side of Paris. It is filled with galleries of contemporary and period art, as well as ethnic arts from Oceania and Africa. The goal when walking through St Germain-des-Pres is about taking your time, stopping in a small cafe for a coffee or a glass of wine, walking some more, stopping again for a bite to eat. It is the source of the term cafe society and for those who want to capture the real Paris, this is one place to go.
The Canal St Martin has been used as a backdrop for many old French films, the canal itself has come back to life as the 'in' place to hang for Paris' younger set. Lined with Bohemian cafes and restaurants, it is truly one of Paris' hidden gems. Best time to visit is when visiting the BEST food market in Paris, held at the Opera de Bastille, along Blvd Richard Lenoir. The market is held Thursday and Sunday mornings and is hands-down the best place to see a real and inspiring French food market. Then simply walk along the canal away from the River Seine. You will actually think you are walking along a park at the beginning, as the canal is underground at this point, but keep walking and you will be amazed to see the canal reappear after a few blocks. There are fabulous canal boats, taking you along the canal out on to the Seine, up to the Eiffel Tower and then back along the river. Two and a half hours of romance, great views, and nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the ride!
The LESS FAMOUS flea market located at the Porte de Vanves, on the SOUTH side of Paris. The most famous flea markets of Paris are those on the NORTH side, called 'les puces' (the fleas) or the Marche de Clignancourt, named after the last line of the Metro #4 you need to take to get there. But they have simply become too big, too crowded, too expensive, and sadly, too dangerous. The GREAT hidden jewel is the smaller and (done in about an hour and a half, if you are not perusing each and every item as I do) much more Parisian Porte de Vanves market. It lasts until about 1 PM every Saturday and Sunday and is just a one minute walk from the Porte de Vanves metro stop. This market is known for 'smalls' (an antiques business term) or things you can pack easily into a suitcase: frames, things to put on tables and desks, small paintings. My house is simply full to the rafters (and then some) with objects I've found here. Stop for a coffee at the stand located halfway along and you won't regret this morning jaunt!
This last one is not in any guidebook, trust me. But every time a guest has followed our suggestion, we've been told later that this was the best day of their visit: start at a point that interests you, perhaps the Pere Lachaise cemetery (don't be fooled, it is worth a trip alone, as it is beyond belief!!) or the Opera Garnier with the Chagall ceiling, or the Institute de Monde Arabe along the Seine, or the absolutely-not-to-be-missed Musee Branly, near the Eiffel Tower. The starting point is immaterial. Once you've visited the original choice, put your guide books away and start walking (preferably holding hands). DIRECTIONS ARE TO BE AVOIDED!! There is absolutely NO end-point here. It is not about getting somewhere. It is about discovering Paris, just you, alone, with no one else to tell you where to go. You turn left when you feel like it, right if you feel so moved. You stop for an espresso, you walk some more, pausing before galleries, and odd food shops, and notice people from countries you have yet to visit. You talk to each other. You listen to each other. Whenever you have had enough, you simply look up the intersection of where you are on your Paris Plan map book as it is easy to find each and every place in Paris. Or better yet, ask someone walking by to help you. At the end of the day, you might even think that you have rediscovered love and it wasn't only with Paris!!
Why do you Paris Luxe guests rave about you?
Rik: I think guests often rave about what they feel was the level of service they received from me. They feel that I made their trip for them. What I really did was read their emails, where they tried to tell me what they were looking for. “We aren’t a family for big 3 hour meals” translates into more just finding fast bistros for them. It means they don’t need the superficial; they might not need the high priced meal as well. Remember, I was a psychotherapist for many years before I started helping visitors to Paris, so I might also try to read between the lines and see that “we don’t want 3 hour meals might also mean we don’t spend a lot of time at the table together and the main goal for all families is that their visit is not only about seeing the sites of Paris, but also about re-connecting. Remembering that they have things in common, that they love each other and perhaps in their day to day lives back home, some of that has fallen by the wayside. So when they thank me at the end of their Paris holiday, I sometimes think it was more about the fact that I organized things for them to do together not staring into a guidebook or rushing to see the next point on the list, but rather that they spent time together, laughing, talking and more importantly, listening to each other, and perhaps rediscovering the things that brought them together in the first place. For me, most definitely, for couples, Paris is about finding out why they fell in love with each other in the first place. And that is why “down time” is always built into each day because so many of us have forgotten to sit across from each other and relax with a glass of wine, and listen while the person we love tells us what they felt when they were staring at a certain painting that they had only seen in their college art appreciation course.
What is the restaurant that you MUST experience while in Paris?
Rik: Again, unfortunately, there isn’t just one. For many people, it is about trying to get a table in Jules Verne, atop the Eiffel Tower or getting a table at the impossibly difficult to book L’Ami Louis but for others, who trust me, it is about a quiet dinner at a small table in a tiny bistro in the Marias, just the two of them, left respectfully alone by their waiter, sharing a bottle of red wine, holding hands, and saying “Happy 25th Anniversary darling” to the person they’ve already shared hundreds, if not thousand of meals with already and somehow knowing that this was the reason they came to Paris.