Read at Your Own Risk! A Guide to the Sultry Side of Paris
"Wakey, wakey! We have to figure out your costume!" trills Heather, rousing me from the deep sleep of jet lag. On my first night in Paris, we're headed for a swank party at the Experimental Cocktail Club (37 rue St.-Sauveur, 011-33/1-45-08-88-09). I stretch and then dash over to Heather to be transformed into a passable flapper (sequined top, headband). Heather dons ruffled silk and pulls back her auburn hair—and we're off.
Heather's latest book, Naughty Paris: A Lady's Guide to the Sexy City, was just published (Fleur de Lire, $39), and we're letting loose in the world's sexiest city to explore the sultry outings and activities she uncovered while researching the sexpot guide. So what if Paris is normally associated with overly touchy couples this time of year? The city is equally seductive for a group of girlfriends, so we're taking back the City of Light for all girlkind, one X-rated boutique at a time.
The ECC is a tiny bar tucked speakeasy-style behind an unmarked door. Inside, I gasp. Everyone is in costume: men in starched lab coats (the invite said "Dr. Jekyll"), women in flapper dresses, top hats, even bridal gowns! And why not? In Paris as nowhere else, clothes are intended to shock and awe. I order an Experience 1 (vodka with lemongrass, basil, and elderflower) and struggle to banter with an adorable Frenchman until, to my relief, he switches to English. Heather taps my shoulder. "Let's go for a buggy ride!" she says, referring to the horse carriage hired for this party. We tumble onto the street for a hoofed turn around the cobblestoned block, drinks in hand.
Come morning, forget croissants: Pierre Hermé's famous macarons—chewy, meringue-like sandwich cookies—are superior hangover food (72 rue Bonaparte, 011-33/1-43-54-47-77). The white-truffle hazelnut and the salted caramel are divine, but nothing tops the Ispahan, a giant rose-scented macaron filled with fresh raspberries, bits of lychee, and cream.
Filled with naughty treats, I crave more. "Show me something from your book," I say. We wind through pretty St.-Germain-des-Prés to the notorious back room of Taschen (2 rue de Buci, 011-33/1-40-51-79-22): erotic-art-book central. An elderly couple bend their heads over The Big Book of Breasts. I pick up The Big Penis Book, and when the wife sees this, she sidles over to me. "Ooh la la!" we giggle, until the husband puts away the breast book and looks on, smiling.
Across the street, I check out the French-made clothing at Le Dressing de Brigitte (85 rue de Rennes, 011-33/1-45-48-30-08) and discover I can shop fluently in French by pointing and exclaiming, "C'est jolie!" at everything I like. I walk out with a dress that's a dead ringer for an Azzedine Alaïa.
Down a tiny side street sits Yesim Chambrey (1 rue l'Abbaye, 011-33/1-44-27-06-32), an emerging Turkish-born designer whose sensibilities—bell-sleeved jackets ($484), circle skirts in Liberty fabrics (the famed London department store) with wool trim ($373), velvet wrap belts ($118)—are girly but thoroughly modern. At Kusmi Tea (56 rue de Seine, 011-33/1-46-34-29-06), Heather chats with the handsome owner while I pick out colorful tea tins that'll make great gifts. We settle in at the girly white tables upstairs for a picture-frame view of the cobbled streets. My friends Laurie and Caren arrive tomorrow, and Heather has an idea: Why don't we hire a guide to show us the sexy side of the Louvre?
As it turns out, she knows just the guy: Jean-Manuel Traimond (011-33/6-86-10-57-33), a 49-year-old international vagabond and museum guide extraordinaire. We meet him inside the museum's massive pyramid, and he whisks us past crowds to quiet exhibits I've never seen. Traimond's English is perfect, and before long, he has us howling with laughter. Who knew Scandinavians had such dirty minds? Forget barbaric: Could the Romans be any more pornographic? And how on earth did I get through years of art history classes without noticing all the dirty bits—and their accompanying gossip?
What a hoot, then, to go straight to another sexy event: a party at Yoba, an upscale lingerie shop (11 rue du Marché-St.-Honoré, 011-33/1-40-41-04-06). The boutique's discreet sex toys (flat stone-like vibrators, mojito-flavored massage oil) correspond with its seductive, private-label lingerie. Every Thursday night, Yoba invites female customers to an Apéro Coquine, or naughty aperitif. Like the ECC, the shop feels like a private club: We buzz, then walk through a cobblestoned courtyard to the fuchsia door. Inside, a saleswoman hands us champagne flutes and gestures: Her colleague is applying lubricant to a golden vibrator. More laughter ensues; I feel like Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour—minus the fetishistic customers.
The next day, it's time for a little cleansing. Heather and I schedule simultaneous facials at the new Dior Institut (25 ave. Montaigne, 011-33/1-53-67-65-35, $222) in the Plaza Athénée, Paris's classic five-star hotel. Aptly enough, my facial room is palatial, with a mirrored dressing table, a shower, a limousine of a treatment bed (giant armrests cradle your limbs when you're facedown), and Dior's entire product range. My facialist finishes with a back massage and even hands me a cute parting gift: samples in a small white purse. After my whirlwind, provocative trip, I'm refreshed, recharged, and relaxed for the flight home.