14 AUGUST 2013
FROM PARIS WITH LOVE
This weekend I visited Paris for the first time, in celebration of my mum's 50th birthday. The City of Love beckoned with all it's artistic charm and the promise of cultural (and retail) overindulgence - not to mention the opportunity to sample a pastry...or nine.
I think it would be safe to say that, with three days stretched out in front of me, I was itching to explore and just a little bit excited to see what Paris had to offer. I was not disappointed.
9 AUGUST 2013 - DAY 1
I must admit I was a little sceptical about how welcoming the Parisians would be, given that they don't historically have a glowing reputation for manners. However, within minutes of arriving, my scepticism dissolved as our airport transfer driver went out of his way to carry my luggage and help me in and out of the minibus.
After checking in at the Plaza Elysees and changing out of our plane clothes, we took the short walk up to the Arc de Triomphe. Here we stood in awe of the infamous monument, absorbing its artistic beauty before taking a stroll down the Champs Elysees towards the Place de la Concorde and on to one of the most beautiful shopping centres in the world - Galeries Lafayette. Whilst I could never even hope to earn enough to be able to shop there, just being there was an amazing experience - just look how stunning it is!
We finished our first day with a delicious meal at Cafe Hortense on rue Paul Cezanne, an elegantly styled restaurant in two large and separate buildings set across the street from one another and joined in the middle by alfresco dining tables. A novel concept for the English restaurant-goer, but a testament to this restaurant's obvious popularity. The meals we had were divine, and not unreasonably priced for the 8th arrondissment at around 20 euros a head. They also serve the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever tasted - well worth a visit if you're ever in the area!
10 AUGUST - DAY 2
An 8am breakfast beckoned so that we could make an early start on our sightseeing. The eccentric and bohemian 18th arrondissment was our first stop so we could visit the iconic villiage of Montmatre - ironically, home to both the beautiful Roman Catholic Church; the Bascilica of the Sacre Coeur, and the equally infamous Moulin Rouge; the original and famously raunchy cabaret. These are both must-sees if you ever go to Paris, but beware, when climbing the steps to the Sacre Coeur, we were somewhat harassed by men trying to sell us string bracelets 'for the church'. One particular man actually grabbed me by the arm to physically stop me going any further and force me to wear one of the bracelets which, I must admit, was quite frightening. They are forceful, but stand your ground if you don't want to be taken for a ride, and they shouldn't ruin your day - they certainly didn't ruin ours!
En route between these two fabulous monuments, we found nestled in an alley amongst an array of tacky souvenir shops, the most adorable and elegantly styled chocolate shop: Le Petit Musee Du Chocolat. Not only does this shop boast a vast array of delicious chocolates, truffles and macaroons, but on display are a variety of exquisite models made entirely out of chocolate - very impressive! Of course, I had to make a little purchase...
After a costume change (and afternoon nap) we headed to the Eiffel Tower where we took the mandatory tourist photos of this ever-impressive monument. Below is one of my favourites.
Another delicious meal followed before we ascended the Eiffel Tower at sunset, taking advantage of it's twinkling beauty in the fading light. The view from the second floor was unforgettable. Here's one of the pictures I took - a boat on the Seine adorned with lights looked like fire against the night...
11 AUGUST - DAY 3
Our final day came and we still had so much to see. An early start at the Louvre allowed us to see the iconic Mona Lisa amongst a relatively small crowd. A couple of hours roaming the marble corridors absorbing as much cultural artistry as possible was hungry work, and we left feeling intellectually stimulated but in need of refreshment. On recommendation from a friend, my brother took us to the beautifully quaint and fabulously Parisian Cafe de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Pricey but delicious, I could have sat at our table overlooking the sunny Sunday street all day, but we had so much more to explore.
We slowly made our way towards Notre Dame, browsing the vintage books and artistic prints lining the banks of the Seine as we went. On arriving at the Cathedral home to the infamous Quasimodo, we awed at its beauty, but unfortunately could not sacrifice the time to queue for entry. We did however, stop by one of the many 'Love-Lock' bridges nearby to mark the occasion of our wonderful holiday in one of the most beautiful parts of Paris. And here's what we left behind...
Our break came to an end after one final meal and the purchase of a few vintage-inspired prints, which I can't wait to put up on my bedroom wall as a reminder of our wonderful visit to The City of Love. If you haven't been already, I highly recommend it. I'm planning our return trip already! X