The City of Love
It’s been a while since I’ve shared a new post here on the blog, but it’s mostly due to the fact that I was giving this space a bit of a makeover! I hope that you all like the new blog format, and that you’ll have fun exploring some of the newer additions including the #Wednesdaywisdom series and new useful resources. I shared a few snapshots of a recent weekend trip that my husband and I enjoyed in Paris, as a delayed first anniversary celebration. I had so much fun snapping 1000s of pictures with my new camera, so I thought I’d share some of the things that we did, places where we ate, and a few tips for traveling to such an amazing city.
We travelled from London to Paris via the Eurostar, which was an amazing experience in itself. I found that making my way to St Pancreas International station, checking in, and boarding the train was far easier and less stressful than travelling by plane (airports can often just be rather unpleasant). We managed to get our hands on well-proved tickets that we booked about 2 months in advance. Travelling by train into Paris is also advantageous due to the fact that you arrive at Gare du Nord, which is relatively nice and central. Getting around Paris was a bit tricky at first, and the subway, RER, and normal railway systems can get a bit confusing if you don’t understand how to read any French at all. Luckily I could recall some of my high school French vocabulary and only got lost and confused once or twice haha. Just like in London and other big cities, City Mapper is amazing for navigation in foreign cities, so download it before you arrive. Aside from using City Mapper, this guide helped us get to the Palace of Versailles without much trouble.
We stayed in a very small, but well-positioned, comfortable, trendy little Air BnB apartment in the 3rd arrondissement ('borough') of Paris. It was a well-positioned apartment, close to many must-see sights including the Notre-Dame, Centre Pompidou, Pont Neuf, the Musée de Louvre and Musée de l'Orangerie just to name a few. Although I’m sure there were other accommodation options available that may have been cheaper and/or bigger, we really loved having our own space within a quaint block of Parisian apartments rather than staying at a hotel.
Both my husband and I have spent time in Paris before, so we decided not to spend our limited amount of time seeing a some of the typical Paris sights (like the Eiffel Tower). Instead, we chose to set aside the Saturday of our trip to travelling to and exploring the Palace of Versailles. It literally took up most of our Saturday but was really worthwhile. We managed to navigate our way to the town of Versailles with a bit of help from City Mapper. Upon arriving in Versailles, we explored the food market and saw some amazing fresh produce - lots of cheese, meat, veggies, fruit, fish, seafood, and preserves.
The Palace of Versailles itself is quite a masterpiece, and once you get within a couple of hundred of meters of it what stands out is the opulent golden gate and fencing that encloses the palace courtyard. Wow! We purchased the palace ticket, which cost €18 and included admission to:
- the Palace (with a free audioguide)
- the temporary exhibitions held in the Palace
- the Gardens and the Park
That’s when the fun really began. We spent a good hour and a half exploring room after room of artwork, history, furniture, decor, and more. The Hall of Mirrors was just beautiful, and has an amazing view of the gardens. The history of the Palace of Versailles is quite fascinating, and the palace itself is almost overwhelming in its grandeur and opulence. This YouTube documentary is a great one to watch if you'd like to know more about why the palace was built and what else was going on in France during that time.
On our second, and last, day in Paris I was adimant to visit the Notre Dame as I hadn’t ever seen it before. After our brunch we checked out of our Air BnB and walked to the Notre Dame Cathedral, and although it was definitely one of the more ‘touristy’ spots, it was worth the effort to go see.
Next up, we made our way through Montmartre to see the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. I think what I loved most about the Sacré-Cœur was the fact that it was so much quieter than many of the other must-see Paris sights (although I’m thinking maybe the cold weather had something to do with this). Nevertheless, it was a worthwhile visit and was particularly special thanks to it’s amazing view of Paris! Montmarte itself is a cool area of the city, but we just didn’t have enough time to really explore the streets and small cafés and sights in the area (see my ‘Bucket List’ at the end of this post).
There’s just not enough time to taste all of the good food and drink that you’ll find in Paris, but my biggest tip for enjoying the food here is to find a couple of must-visit bakeries/cafés and then just take advantage of the breads, cheeses, fresh produce, and preserves that are available at local markets and grocers. Thanks to She Is Visual's recommendation, we had to try a croissant from Du Pain et Des Idées (yum!).
In Versailles we needed somewhere to grab lunch before heading to the palace itself, and we managed to find La Place Crêperie, which had a selection of pretty much any type of crêpe that your heart might desire - from sweet Nutella-filled crêpes to more savoury versions. The other notable place to eat was in the garden of Versailles, Restaurant la Flottille, where I shared the most delicious apple tart. The restaurant has some pretty mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, but we really enjoyed it!
I have been following Holly Belly for a number of years now, probably since they first popped up in Paris (thanks Instagram☺️), so it definitely made it onto my ‘must visit’ list since we started planning this weekend getaway. We saved our visit for Sunday brunch, and just something important to note for anyone planning to enjoy brunch here on a weekend - make sure to get there before 10am, or else you’ll end up queuing for a table (yes, it turns out that it’s a REALLY popular spot ). The coffee (I had a cortado and my husband had a good old flat white) was great, and brunch was delicious. I had a warming bowl of sweet black rice porridge with seasonal fruit, and my husband enjoyed the flapjacks with eggs & maple bacon.
The Bucket List
It was wonderful being able to spend 2 days in Paris and then pop back under the English Channel (haha) to life in London again, but gosh, 2 days in Paris is definitely not long enough to experience ALL of the great things that the city has to offer. I received some suggestions, read some other cool recommendations and spotted a few places that I’d love to visit on a trip to Paris in future:
- Wild & the Moon - Another recommendation, but we just didn't have enough time to get to it. I'm not a major fan of their 'detox programmes', but their food philosophy is pretty cool (and the menu looks amazing).
- Museums - We didn't have much time to wander through some of the amazing museums in Paris, including the Musée de l'Orangerie, Musée d'Orsay, and Grand Palais.
- More time exploring Montmarte - There are so many awesome things in Montmartre that we didn't have time to explore and do (read about some of them here and here).
- Walk along the Seine - Is there anything more romantic than walking along the banks of the Seine? There are plenty of sights to see along the way during a nice stroll along the river (this is a pretty good guide), including the Jardin des Tuileries, Marché aux Fleurs, and Berthillon (possibly one of the most famous Parisian ice-cream stores).
- O/hp/e - This lovely concept store is found just down the road from Holly Belly, and although we didn't taste any of their pastries or coffee, the retail space was lovely. I'd love to sit down and enjoy something sweet there on my next visit.