You may (or may not) have noticed that Eurostar have their return to Paris (or Brussels) for £59 and I thought now might be the time to do a recap of my trip to Paris last year when I took advantage of said same deal.
First all, it’s 59 quid, that’s nothing, peanuts, cheap as chips! A train ticket to my dad’s house in Dorset is more expensive. It’s bargain-aeous in the extreme. Am I making myself absolutely clear??
It is also one of the most beautiful cities in the world (after London obviously) I mean how many reasons to you need to go? More? (It’s like Oliver Twist here). Okay I shall oblige.
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve got the inside gen on everything that’s going on in France’s capital and of course, your interests may be different, but what I do want to do is share some of the lovely places we visited (shopped at and ate and drank at obviously!)
We stayed in Le Marais, the cool district stretching over the 3rd and 4th arrondissement, with a villagey feel not unlike Soho in London, and equally access to walking everywhere by foot.
The Le Relais du Marais, was clean, friendly and right by the Temple Metro stop and stone’s throw into the heart of the Marais, with its boutiques, brasseries and boulangeries (sorry, naff eh?). And very reasonable. Three nights’ accommodation and travel for just over £200. Can’t say fairer.
We arrived late on Thursday night, the 7.30pm train, gets in about 10ish and by the time we had found the hotel and freshened up (I am turning into my mother – and I’m not afraid) it was almost 11.
I found an amazing guidebook, which is updated seasonally (Autumn/Winter, Spring/Summer) , so it includes things that might not be in older books like Lonely Planet or Rough Guide (which are also brilliant). It was particularly useful if you’re looking for gigs/bands are playing. I had earmarked Le Mary Celeste as a bar/restaurant of choice. We decided on a bottle of wine, as we felt that we couldn’t do the cocktail list justice (although amazing). Our decision may have had something do with the second bottle of Prosecco on the train. A tad overenthusiastic on our part. Holiday fever and all that. I heartily recommend an unsozzled visit. Although we didn’t eat (too late) this was one of the reasons I wanted to visit and lots of people seem to (still) be constantly praising both the food and cocktails. everyone from David Leibovitz to Rachel Khoo rates this place. Our loss.
Although we didn’t have a strict itinerary (who does?) but we did have an idea of the places we wanted to go. Walking featured heavily, after all want better way of soaking up that atmosphere and getting your bearings, wherever you are (possibly war zones accepted).
I’m a bit fan of French pharmacy brands (La Roche Posay, Embryolisse, Nuxe, Bioderma). The prices (in the UK certainly, but thank God for Escentual sales, actually Escentual in general) not so much. Enter Citypharma. An humungous and jampacked pharmacy in St Germain. This has become rather infamous, as ‘the’ place to go, so much that you really do have to sharpen your elbows to compete again Parisienne Grandes Dames, beauty bloggers and tourists alike. The aisles are very close together too, so all and all it’s a bit of a bunfight. Words to the wise. Fuel up on coffee and croissants and get there early. Make a list of want you want before you go. Get in and out as fast as you can. Done. The assistants are very helpful too. Also if you’re travelling by Eurostar you have no restrictions on liquids but bear that in mind if you’re tramping round Paris all day without planning to go back the hotel. (schoolgirl error – immediately rectified by dumping an enormous bag at the hotel and vowing never to darken Boots’ door again).
Also don’t forget that French pharmacies are everywhere, there were at least four on the street we were staying. Citypharma is not the be-all-and-end-all. Also they all have offers on different things and if I can send my little brother to Paris with a list and he can come back with the right stuff you can.
Second must do (for me anyway) was to find Le Camion qui Fume , as in London, street food has taken a huge leap forward (understatement or what?) and this is a burger van that travels round Paris serving burgers to discerning (and hungry) punters. Have tracked it down through, of course, Twitter, we hot-footed it to La Place de la Madeleine. A tense 15 minutes ensued where I paced round the church, searching for the elusive red and cream van. Apparently relief was etched on my face when we round the corner and we saw a queue and a plume of smoke. Nous sommes arrivées!
And here they are in all their glory.
Can I just add as an addendum, that it was absolutely freezing with the wind howling round so not only did they taste divine, they warmed us up.
We then proceeded to walk down Rue Royale towards Place de La Concorde, taking in the amazing Christmas decorations.
Then turning left opposite the Tuileries Gardens we visited Angelina’s for THE hot chocolate. And it really does deserve the definitive article.
Laden with goodies it was back to the hotel to rest feet, charge phones and find a bar before dinner.
If Le Mary Celeste was more a bar of the moment, Le Petit Fer a Cheval. (The Little Horseshoe Bar) was its old school equivalent, with a restaurant out back, the front is a small room with, you’ve guessed it, a horseshoe-shaped bar. With four pavement tables outside. We spent a very happy hour and a half with a carafe of house red between us (I don’t think the bar man approved of our wine choice, but hey), people watching. Glorious. There was a waiter from one of the other cafes who kept running over to shop opposite with glasses, wine, then cheese and what looked suspiciously like canapes. Maybe we should have gatecrashed?
Dinner this evening was at restaurant recommended by some French (Parisienne? – I’m not sure) suppliers of some family friends. Robert et Louise (for that is it name) was a short stroll down the same road as the bar. Booking is essential and I was in two minds whether to give you the name at all. It’s that good.
Here the meat is the thing. Don’t go here if you are squeamish either (foie gras is on the menu). It’s very French. And yes, I know that’s a cliché, but it was full of French people and that is recommendation enough for me. The food was amazing too and we got chatting to two charming Frenchmen. (WHAT?)
After this I had to be rolled home. Fit to bust.
Merci is a Parisien ‘lifestyle’ shop, for wont of a better word. It’s a bit like Pinterest in that it makes you want to throw ALL your clothes and furniture out and start again. At vast expense obviously.
As you can see it’s achingly cool and gorgeous. Those chandeliers would look right at home in Tooting don’t you think?
And then then it was time (after going to the French version of Winter Wonderland and drinking more mulled wine), we decided to admire some of the Christmas lights…
The best lights of all were the ones on the Eiffel Tower, every hour on the hour, it twinkled. Yes, twinkled!
It really was quite breathtaking. And beautiful. I’m really pleased we went all the way to the actual Tower. We may have had a glass of mulled wine sitting under the Eiffel Tower, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
By this time it was quite late and we had walked for miles, so got a cab back to La Marais. We hadn’t planned anywhere for dinner (big mistake), all the places that looked nice (think, bistro, checked tables cloths, etc etc) were heaving. In desperation we ended up in a very non-descript, and empty, brasserie, having said that, I had a delicious Poulet Bresse casserole, it was just lacking a little in atmosphere – and customers, but we were so knackered we just wolfed it down and headed back for some kip.
Our last day, Sunday we spent mooching round Le Marais and the various ‘brocantes’ which line the streets every Sunday. It’s also worth remembering that not all shops are open on Sunday as they are in the UK and some are only open until 2 or 3pm so check before setting your heart on something only to find the shop isn’t open. If in doubt – BUY IT!
We also discovered Paris’ oldest covered market, where you could eat, and buy, food from all over the world, and also surrounded by a number of different more formal restaurants.
So there you have it, a fantabulous long weekend in the City of Lights. I’m off to buy my ticket. And I suggest that you do too!
*We weren’t really!