This post is so delayed it now almost seems like my trip to Paris was 10 million years ago; a distant memory. Now that I find myself with some free time this Christmas I’ve been writing like a maniac to get as many posts out as I can.
Paris was way back in October and was definitely the highlight of 2015 for me. Of course, with recent developments in Paris, a lot of people would be dubious about visiting the city or wouldn’t even go at all but, in my eyes, that’s absurd. If you allow people to scare you out of doing things you would never do anything or go anywhere ever again. If you want to go to Paris, do it. Book that flight, book that hotel and go experience the wonderful culture the city has to offer. Since ‘The Hills’, Paris will always be the city to say “YES” to even if a Jason tries to stop you from going.
I hadn’t been to Paris in about ten years and felt compelled to redo every single tourist thing I could fit into the trip. Yes, we had done the Eiffel Tower, the Seine and Montmarte before but I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing and experiencing them. We booked our Tower, boat trip and Louvre tickets prior to flying via the Get Your Guide app and managed to save ourselves a fair few pennies in the process. Megan and I like to think we are very European anyway and due to the fact we have, what some may say, constant resting bitch face, it meant we became accustomed to Parisienne life very quickly. After checking into our really cute boutique hotel, Exe Paris Centre, in the 8th arrondissement, we decided to head out, explore the area and have our first dinner. Contrary to popular belief I hadn’t written a schedule of restaurants, nor had I memorised the Metro system before the trip. Had I not been so busy on the run up to it then, of course, there would have been a laminated version.
We happened to stumble upon the most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever eaten at, Mollard. It only took a few minutes for us to make the decision to eat there after seeing how busy it was inside; which is always a good thing, right? The interior was something to behold but the ceiling left us both in awe.
Considering the fact we were in France we decided to order filet de boeuf Poêlé au Poivre or for you commoners, steak with peppercorn sauce and chips. It’s usually a filet mignon coated in peppercorns which means you can have a perfectly cooked rare steak with a crunchy coating. It was the best steak I’ve ever eaten. It came with chips and peppercorn sauce, obviously, green beans and a batch of freshly baked bread. We washed all this goodness down with a bottle of Bordeaux; could we be any more French?
After some much needed rest, it brought around the first full day in the city with plans of an Eiffel Tower trip, a burger joint that I’d found the day after we booked the flights and the Arc de Triomphe.
From the above picture you’d be let off for thinking that the weather was dry and clear but this was most definitely short lived. It sure is lucky that we’ve both been to the top of the tower before because upon reaching the very last level, we really could’ve been anywhere in the world.
Other than the fact we had the weather against us, we had a marvellous day which included meeting the happiest French guy I’ve ever come across, eating pastries, drinking hot chocolate and having major lols at all the ‘models’ around the tower. These people were the brunt of many jokes for a very large part of the day.
The pastries and hot chocolate were devoured at one of the Manon bakeries. This one being the Aux Pains de Manon on the Rue de L’Annonication in the 16th Arrondissement. This area was, quite clearly, where all the rich people live; the ‘Upper East Side’ of Paris, if you will.
Another thing to note here is how incredibly easy and brilliant the Metro system is in Paris. After the first trip we became professional Metro users. Please don’t be put off or scared by it because you might not speak any French but all you need to follow are numbers and colours. It’s very similar to the tube in London; if you can use that, you can use the Metro. So, now for the first foodie place that I researched… Blend. The one we chose to eat at was in my favourite area of the whole city, the 2nd Arrondissement. The restaurants and bars here were my absolute dream. It reminded me of Shoreditch and had a real London vibe about it. It seemed very young and very cool; no, I’m not talking about me but if the shoe fits.
Blend was on the Rue de L’Argout, along with a mixture of quirky bars and hot dog joints and I fell a little bit in love just from the outside.
If anyone had to guess where I’d want to eat in Paris I think most would know I would make it my mission to find a great burger joint. I did. I really did. They had all my favourite things; rare burgers, brioche buns, beer and wooden benches. I ordered the Signature burger which involved a really juicy patty, emmental cheese, blue cheese, bacon, baby spinach and onion compote with balsamic vinegar. To accompany that bad boy I drank a bottle of Agent Provocateur, which is part IPA and part Belgian golden ale. It’s brewed by a guy called Craig Allan and sold mainly in France and strangely enough, he is actually from Edinburgh!
From here we made our way to the wonderful Arc de Triomphe where I almost collapsed at every step to the top. Maybe it really is time I joined a gym. Even though we drove around this remarkable arch all the those years ago, we didn’t climb it and if I’m completely honest, I didn’t know that much about it.
There she is. Isn’t she beautiful?
The arch honours all those who fought and died in the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars and has the name of every single general and French victory inscribed on the walls.
The above was the display of a variety of war uniforms ranging from Russian to British to German which was inside the monument. My inner history nerd reared it’s head and I left feeling very knowledgable.
Ps. If you’re 25 and under with an EU passport you’re entitled to free admission to a lot of places in Paris. I won’t say all as that isn’t strictly true so double check before you go and make sure you buy tickets beforehand for things like the Eiffel Tower.
Day 2 was my favourite day of them all. It saw our first ever trip to the Louvre. I adored it. We started the day by eating a delightful breakfast of Croque Monsieur for Megan and a Croque Madame for myself and all the coffee and fresh bread we could get our hands on. Yes we double carbed.
After a fairly short walk we found ourselves in the shadow of the infamous pyramid. Of course, we couldn’t enter the museum until we had done a mini shoot outside the pyramid. I mean, that’s what everyone else does.
Of the millions of people who have visited the museum I would probably bet money on the fact Megan and I are the only ones who found it somewhat challenging trying to pin down the Mona Lisa. It took us 4 attempts and circuits of the same floor before the realisation that Megan should never be allowed to read a map really hit me. Once I had control over it, it took next to no time (just saying MR). We had been warned of the slight disappointment the Mona Lisa would bring but after working up a sweat just trying to find the bloody thing it seemed to maximise the feeling ever so slightly. The painting on the wall directly opposite the tiny Lisa though, is absolutely breathtaking and left me wondering HOW BIG WERE THEIR PAINTBRUSHES?! There is absolutely no way you could do this whole museum in a single day. In fact it would probably take one whole month to get around every single artefact or painting and completely appreciate it or if you’re anything like Meg, you’ll get lost and it will take you close to a year. The list of things to see is absolutely endless…
After this level of exploring and looking at paintings I only wish I knew the meaning of it made me extremely hungry and thirsty. An Instagram friend _THEMORRIS had recommended a place called Carette which, by all accounts, made the best hot chocolate in the history of hot chocolate. I have never ever tasted anything like it. I can only insist that you make this the first place you visit if you’re a fan of hot chocolate and beautiful cakes. They have a few shops dotted around the city so find your closest and move fast. The cake I chose was coffee flavoured, which I appreciate can be somewhat controversial but trust me, it was perfect. No amount of hot chocolate I drink in future though, will ever come close to this. It was actual liquid heaven in a floral, china teacup.
This was the first time I could truly appreciate the wonderous Notre Dame in all its glory. I’d never been inside and it completely took my breath away and embarrassingly it almost drew me to tears. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and even though I’m not religious it had a feel about it that I can’t even describe. The singing, once inside, added to the whole effect and I can’t quite put my finger on what was so amazing about it but it gave me goosebumps. If you get the chance to go in, do it. I mean, you won’t meet Quasimodo or Esmeralda, much to my dismay, but it will make you feel something that you certainly won’t expect.
This experience was quickly followed by red wine and an amazing meal which I only wish I remembered more of. Those close enough to me will appreciate my issue when it comes to alcohol. I remember it being small, being full of fresh fish, eating snails, mussels, crèpes and being sat next to a man I fully believed was going to kidnap us. It turned out he was a food critic and only interested in finding out our views on the meal. Close enough though eh?!
We were staying near enough to Montmatre that we were able enjoy a lovely walk all the way to the very top of the city with a little stop off via Pigalle, where we could see some of the city’s Red Light District and the more than famous Moulin Rouge for a pastry-filled breakfast.
This was the coldest day by far and as I’ve been telling everyone since, was 8 degrees. Obviously this is more than likely an overexaggeration but it is exactly how cold it felt. I was well equipped for the bitterly cold weather and made sure I wore my New Balance with no socks, a mid sleeved jumper and no coat. I’m always well prepared.
Montmatre is such a brilliant part of the city as it’s laid back, arty and houses the resplendent, Roman Catholic Church, Sacré-Cœur in its cobbled streets. I remember buying postcards galore on my first ever visit to the ‘Artist Quarter’, as it is sometimes known, all of which are still pride of place in my bedroom.
After this we decided to go explore Pont Alexander III which is near the Grand Palais. For me, this bridge IS Paris. It’s the beautiful one with all the gold sculptures on, if you aren’t familiar with the name. It was built between 1896-1900 so definitely classifies as Parisienne history. We had the best day for it, the sun was shining, even though it didn’t feel it, and we could see the Tower perfectly; it was glorious.
We decided to go eat lots of mussels and fries and drink more Bordeaux after this to really make the most of our last night in the city and to fuel us for a night on the Seine.
The river tours on the Seine really are spectacular and something I would recommend to all new visitors to the city. The light display on the Tower will never get old to me and yes, it might be super ‘touristy’ but it’s just superb to watch. With our hot chocolate in hand we sat and watched the 5 minute light display before heading back to the hotel.
On our final day we ate bagels from Bagelstein where we received the most unique (for want of a better word) customer service ever. Only in Paris eh? I put away a seeded bagel full to the brim with cream cheese, pastrami, onions and marinated peppers. My first question upon finishing said bagel was “when shall we eat next as we don’t want to be hungry on the flight do we?”
We made sure we soaked up every last bit of atmosphere before heading to Charles De Gaulle for the unwanted journey back to Bristol. I am so glad I experienced the trip with another like minded individual who also wanted to eat all of the food and see all of the sights.
2016 will see my second trip to BIG BAD BCN but this time for the hen of one of my nearest and dearest. It will also, hopefully, be spent getting hipster in Berlin and eating at one of the 13 Michelin Star restaurants in Copenhagen.
I’ll keep you posted.