Paris seems to have that affect on people, where they pine for leisurely strolls along the Seine river, or buying macaroons to enjoy at the Tuileries garden. Whatever it is, people seem to keep wanting to come back to the most romantic city in the world. I on the other hand, would have no idea; for you see I have never been to Paris, or Europe for that matter, so needless to say I was pretty stoked to be spending Christmas in Paris. The best thing about planning a trip is the anticipation built up from the research and planning, but the worst thing about a trip is dreading the long haul flight #firstworldproblems (23 hours on a plane people!). Fortunately I watched some pretty excellent movies on the plane, most of which revolved around the concept of food, probably not a coincidence. Two of the movies I recommend watching are The Hundred Foot Journey and The Lunchbox.
I had decided to go the Airbnb route and rent out a little apartment for 6 days in the heart of the Marais, which is filled with fashion boutiques, galleries and museums, and life changing felafel, perfect for the creative type really. There is no doubt that Paris is a busy city, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting up early every morning, where I did the obligatory thing and bought a fresh croissant and baguette from the boulangerie and had it for breakfast every day.
There is a certain serenity to opening your apartment door and letting the fresh 2 degrees celsius air give you a morning greeting before wandering down side streets and seeing the city start it’s day as the sun sleepily rises to cast it’s warm rays over historic buildings and cobblestone streets.
A short walk from where I was staying there is a street Rue du Pont Louis Philippe and it is nicknamed the “paper street” because it has several stationery and paper boutiques, HEAVEN!
Window display at Melodies Graphique, it was really nice to walk in to a shop and see people buying beautiful stationery and recognising the art of a handwritten letter is not all forgotten.
On my first night in Paris I went to visit Musee du Louvre, and I honestly didn’t have my hopes up, I expected it to be super crowded and frustrating, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a relatively short queue outside the glass pyramid, no more than a 15 minute wait, so I decided to stand in line rather than go to the less crowded alternative entrances. All my preconceived ideas about the Louvre went out the window as I wandered through the wings seeing the most stunning artworks and sculptures in real life, I think the grand epicness of the architecture really added to the experience. I wont bore you with pictures of the Mona Lisa, but instead tell you about Abraham Mignon, whose works I particularly enjoyed, I mean who doesn’t love paintings of flowers and dead things?
Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters, Unkown Artist, circa 1594
What they say about the French is true.
They have amazing cakes and patisseries!
I ate at Angelina not once, not twice but three times. I have zero regrets, cake is amazing. I also tried the famous 8 euro hot chocolate, but I personally fancied the Joséphine which consists of a crunchy crumble biscuit raspberry compote and a chou bun filled with smooth Madagascar vanilla cream. Salivating yet?
For the record what they say about the French is also NOT true. Parisians in particular have a reputation for being snooty and waiters notorious for being nonchalant and rude. Not once did I encounter rudeness from the french, in fact many went out of their way to help translate French only menus, offer free coffee, offer up a metro seat to allow my travel companion and I to sit together and very polite and helpful shop assistants.
Visiting the Eiffel Tower is one of those ‘must do’ touristy things on your first visit to Paris, you have to see the iconic building that is the quintessential symbol of Paree. I was not interested in climbing to the top, but it was a beautiful day to do so, as it was perfect blue skies but it was absolutely freezing even wearing thermals, double knit, insulated coat, gloves, beanie, scarf and the whole shebang. I took a few happy snaps and quickly made my way to find somewhere warm and fill my tummy. Luckily I found Cafe Constant and had a delicious heartwarming beef stew.
Books and prints for sale along the Seine.
The Musée d’Orsay museum is actually the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900, It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, so this is where you go to get your fix of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh and the like.
Paris is such a compact city where you can literally walk to and see all the major sites, so after visiting Musée d’Orsay I only had to take a short walk to the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens to get to The Musée de l’Orangerie, and much like d’Orsay it houses a large selection of impressionist and post-impressionist works, and although the museum is pint sized, I enjoyed this museum more because I felt it was more focused, and lets face it, everyone comes here to see the soothing 8 Water Lilies murals (or Nymphéas) by Claude Monet.
One of the places I’ve had on my radar to try in Paris was Au Passage, I believe it was opened by an Australian Chef, and it is a modern French restaurant with small sharing plates. The restaurant is situated in the 11th arrondissement, and after getting lost a few times we finally saw a glowing light tucked in an alleyway. It is a small space, so it is wise to make reservations, and upon entering I was greeted and directed to a little table that was waiting for me in the corner; perfect for people watching and a nice place to sit and have a nibble with the buzzing room of locals all having a glass of wine and enjoying some good food and good company, and that’s what it’s all about.
I’m not going to lie, I admit I was really excited about the shopping prospects in Paris and Galeries Lafayette did not disappoint. It is a bit of a bank-breaker destination, but even if you don’t intend on buying anything it is worth coming to see the amazing rooftop view of Paris on the top floor of the building, and the stained glass dome.
On my last day in Paris I had planned a day trip to Chateau de Versailles, which is a 40 minute train trip out of central Paris. I arrived at 10:30am which was later than I had originally planned, but I thought at least I had pre-purchased tickets online first. Upon arrival to the palace gates nothing could have prepared me for the sea of people that stood in front of me. I ended up standing in a single line for 3 hours before I got in if that gives you an indication of how busy it was.
When I finally made it in I made a beeline for Angelina, because I deserved cake after standing in line in the cold for 3 hours (any excuse is a good excuse for cake.) When I did finally wander out in to the gardens it was quite a spectacular site. I visited in the dead of Winter which means all the trees were bare, but the pure landscaping and geometry of the gardens creating a very relaxing atmosphere, and I do enjoy topiary, who doesn’t like trees cut in to random shapes?
Alas it was time to leave Paris, 6 days was hardly enough, I felt like I left this beautiful city unfinished and only just scraping the surface of what it has to offer, I guess this is why everyone keeps coming back, and I certainly will be, even if it means another 23 hour flight.
Next stop… Munich, Germany!