Sunday, 9 October 2011

C'est formidable ou c'est diabolique?

I am just returning from a long weekend in Paris with the gorgeous Mr P and while he snoozes on the Eurostar it seemed a good time to reflect on the past 4 days we have spent in the capital of France...

It should be noted that it is quicker to travel via Eurostar from London to Paris than it is to get from London to Weymouth! I really do live in deepest darkest depths of the UK!!!

So here is my pocket guide to Paris:

1) Stay somewhere nice!
I don't necessarily mean in a uber posh hotel but choose your area carefully. We stayed on the banks of the Seine a stones throw from Notre Dame. Not only did we have one of Paris most famous landmarks on our doorstep it was also a lovely area full of restaurants, cafes, shops etc. We visited many other areas of Paris while we were there and none were as nice as the area we were in. In my opinion avoid staying around the Gare du Nord and the Sacre Coeur horrendous is not too strong a word!

2) It's not as easy to find a patisserie as you might think!
Call me naive but I expected to be tripping over quaint little patisseries serving buttery soft croissants and steaming mugs of coffee and hot chocolate. The first day we tried to find such a venue for breakfast it seemed far more of a challenge than we expected. After walking around for ages spotting lots of cafes and tabacs but all with sullen French men sat smoking outside I started wishing that Anneka Rice would turn up leaping out her helicopter and start running alongside us shouting "follow me". Thankfully day 2 meant we found a local Paul's for the most excellent pain au chocolate and cappuccino sat outside people watching on a busy shopping street. Bliss!!

3) Not all tourist attractions are worth the visit
Now again call me naive but I hadn't expected it to be so busy during October. Most places required queuing which by the way as a British resident and therefore queuing expert is supremely frustrating in France as the NO ONE knows how to queue. Seriously it's not hard, I sense a new career calling as a Queue Guidance Counsellor and Trainer. I could explain the fundamental elements required for a good queue system and how to adopt this in all scenarios....Anyway as ever I digress! We visited many of the "must sees" and some far exceeded my expectations, others less so...

i The Eiffel Tower - we went all the way to the very top (not for the claustrophobic or those scared of heights I can tell you the lifts were terrifying!) However the views were incredible - seeing Paris all sparkly and twinkly from so far up was the outstanding moment of the whole weekend for me. The queuing to get in and highly annoying other tourists with no sense of invading personal space aside of course! Even skipping down the steps from level 2 to 1 was lots of fun (as long as I didn't look down). And controversial it may have been when they started doing it I adored the sparkly lights on the tower after dark. It just seemed so magical to see this most famous monument dancing in the moonlight.

ii The Louvre - I went to the Louvre wanting to see the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa and sample a little of the rest of the exhibits. I'd read how vast the Louvre is and knew that there was no way we could attempt to see even half of it during our brief stay in Paris but I wasn't prepared for how impressive the building itself is. Beautifully symmetrical, intricate carvings and adornments and the most breathtaking ceiling art far outshone the majority of the exhibits we saw just because of their scale and detail. I adored the Louvre and would happily go back to while away afternoons there meandering around staring up at the ceiling if not at the art!

iii Notre Dame - is as impressive as you would imagine. Super hectic busy with a throng of tourists at all times, but awe inspiring for sure. We didn't go inside (queues were massive) we did do the crypt museum - not worth it in all honesty just lots of stones....

iv The Champs Élysée - I know it's supposed to mega tacky and is the most expensive shop retail space with millions of € spent per foot however on our first night we walked all over this area of Paris. It was far colder than expected so we drank hot chocolate from the Haagan Dazs cafe, we ate fantastic food and sat people watching the mix of Parisians and tourists and I loved it!

v The Pompidou Centre - yes it looks odd but it's a fantastic place. With art, cafes, children's play areas, cinema amongst the attractions it is well worth checking out if just for the amazing views from the top. We went and saw the Munch exhibition that was displaying. Very good if a little disappointing not to see the Scream. But some beautiful pieces and a very interesting insight into the mind of a creative genius.

Now for my big disappointment - the Sacre Coeur. From the moment we left the metro station this whole area felt dirty and seedy. The narrow cobbled street up to the Sacre Coeur was reminiscent of Ibiza as Mr P put it - full of shops selling tat and salesmen trying to hawk their wares. The paths up the side of the hill were lined with young men all hovering around ominously eyeing up the tourists (yes I probably read too much crime fiction but not being funny why else were they lurking there if not to cause trouble??) And the monument itself frankly not that impressive when you compare it to the wealth of architecture in Paris.

4) And the less famous venues that are worth a look?

i HD Diners - fifties Americana with really reasonably priced food that was fantastic! A clear hit with tourists and teenage Parisians alike it was a really fun eatery.

ii The Guinness Tavern - an Irish live music venue where we watched F-Com play awesome guitar rock with strange accents on all the lyrics - apart from one Red Hot Chilli Peppers song that was all in French (I don't remember that version being on the album!!)

5) Expect to go home broke!
Maybe it's the current exchange rate, maybe it's just because it's Paris, maybe I have expensive tastes but the price of things in Paris I found quite shocking. Some in a good way - if wine is cheaper than coca cola then gues what I'm drinking! But on our last night we went to several bars (mostly Irish bizarrely - for some reason they love their Irish pubs in Paris) and each round of 2 drinks cost €19 that is just shy of £20 a round! For 2 of us! Ridiculous I only hope the Parisians earn equivalent salaries to afford a night out every now and again!

So there is my whistle stop guide to Paris. I had the most amazing weekend, with fab food (oh the pastries) fab wine, fab sights but most of all fab company. But back to normality soon :0(

Have any of you been to Paris? What did you love/hate? Anything I missed that I need to include for my next trip?


P.s. it is now just under 14 weeks until we jet off to Canada for our skiing holiday to Whistler so the countdown is on!

1 comment:

  1. I adored Paris even on my 2nd visit. I did find it more expensive than the UK though so it did end up costing. However it was worth it :-)
    Another tip. Order your steak and hamburger WELL DONE in France!!!!