The French have always measured world distances from Notre Dame; they consider the gothic masterpiece on the Ile de la Cite to be at the centre of the globe. I like this philosophy. It's the reason Paris has been my home for two years. This art de vivre is everywhere and it's free. The French use the word flaner, meaning to stroll, and it should be your mantra in Paris. The centre is small, so walk everywhere. Your taxi trips will be short and cost less than EUR10 ($13); the airport (Charles de Gaulle) trip is the exception at EUR50.
It's impossible to overstate the pleasure of a EUR3 coffee sipped at Cafe Hugo on the 400-year-old Place des Vosges, considered the most beautiful square in Paris. From there, you can walk to my two favourite museums: Musee Carnavalet (23 rue de Sevigne), dedicated to the history of Paris, and Musee Picasso (5 rue de Thorigny), which has the largest collection of Picassos in the world. Paris also abounds with new museums: the Musee Branly (Quai Branly), a Jacques Chirac initiative of non-Western art, has a fashionable 'vertiginous' plant wall of 4,000 species. The Musee des Arts Decoratifs (107 rue de Rivoli) has just emerged from a EUR35 million restoration and the key attraction is three beautifully recreated rooms from the home of the great couturier Jeanne Lanvin.
Art, theatre, dance and music provide a rich diet. Ticket snobs should ignore the urge for the best seats, turn up at any theatre, opera or concert 30 minutes in advance and buy a EUR7 ticket. This admits you to seats with a restricted view, but a bird's eye view at Opera Bastille or Opera Garnier still promises a great performance.
Of course, a city built on luxury does call for a little lashing out. The world's finest business cards are at family-owned Benneton Graveur (75 blvd Malesherbes). Charvet (28 Place Vendome) makes beautiful business shirts and the most beautiful silk underwear is at Sabbia Rosa (73 rue des Saints-Peres). The elegant Palais Royal, built in 1630 for Cardinal Richelieu, has the great perfumery Serge Lutens, where you can have a fragrance blended. Parisians favour Bon Marche (24 rue de Sevres) as their department store and avoid all others. The food hall is unrivalled, but the best cakes come from Pierre Herme (72 rue Bonaparte). Guidebooks will send antique lovers to Clignancourt, but don't be tempted; it's over-priced. Parisians prefer Vanves (Porte de Vanves).
The subject at the fore of all French minds is dining. Chez L'Ami Louis (32 rue du Vertbois) is a Bill Clinton favourite; it's tiny and discreet with a classic (and pricey) French menu. The Argentinian Anahi (49 rue Volta) is your address for the best steak in Paris, and Le Grand Colbert (4 rue Vivienne) tops my list of brasseries. If you find yourself around Place d'Iena (and if on business, you well may), Waknine is a delightful restaurant to hold your business lunch (9 avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie). Ever since Laduree (16 rue Royale) supplied the pyramids of macaroons for Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette, tea has become the new obsession for Parisians. Cafe de Flore (172 blvd St Germain) is truly joyful for breakfast on Sunday morning when it is tourist-free.
Everyone knows the great palace hotels, but if you're travelling at the high end, the rooms at the Meurice (228 rue de Rivoli) overlook the Tuileries gardens, and the bar, with newly restored murals, has great charm. The choice of medium priced hotels is overwhelming, but for location, contemporary design and winning service, Hotel Therese (5 rue Therese) excels. If you'd like to stay in an apartment, the most charming are at www.parisattitude.com. These are often somebody's home and you'll feel a true Parisian staying there.Susan Owens is a freelance journalist based in Paris and writes on the luxury goods industry and contemporary culture