Day 1: Friday 22nd August 2014
My friends and I arrived at Gare du Nord train station via the Eurostar from London St Pancras in the afternoon. I booked an apartment for us to stay in the lovely neighbourhood of Le Marais on Airbnb. Following our host’s instructions, we made our way to the metro station called “Republique”. We had a bit of difficulty entering the metro…. Upon entering the metro, both my friends got stuck between the barriers due to their luggage and couldn’t get through. Luckily for us, a kind Parisian man helped them get through by swiping his own metro card. It was actually quite hilarious – we all couldn’t stop laughing…
Once we settled into our lovely apartment, we decided to make our way to Champs de Elysees and see the Arc de Triomphe. We each bought a book of 10 metro tickets, and made our way to the grand boulevard. Once we arrived, we all were amazed at the hustle and bustle, and the sheer awesomeness of this boulevard!!! But hunger got the better of us, so before we began to really explore, we thought it best to satiate our hunger. Following dinner, we were keen for dessert – low and behold we found ourselves right in front of La Duree! We all bought a handful of delicious macarons and divulged in the sweet sensations as we walked around the lively grand boulevard.
Day 2: Saturday 23rd August 2014
We all had different museums to visit, and we thought it best to get there early in order to avoid any queues and to enjoy the masterpieces without the chaos. Meryem was visiting the Lourve and given that she didn’t know too much about art, I gave her advice on what she absolutely must see (besides the obvious Mona Lisa). As I had already visited the Lourve 2 years ago, I told Meryem to say “hi” to Mona from me and kept walking to the Musee d’Orsay.
I was very excited to visit this museum as it had loads of work from the Impressionists – my favourite era! As I entered the museum, I was surprised at the layout it seemed a little confusing. There was a whole bunch of sculptures and statues in the middle with separate rooms on the left and right. My mission was to first see work by Van Gogh (he is my all time favourite!!), so after asking the first museum employee I had seen, I bee-lined it to the Van Gogh section. AND oh how wonderful it was!! By far the highlight for me was the self-portrait that had a blue background. I then made my way to the section that displayed work from my second favourite artist – Monet. I was intrigued to see a lot of his earlier work here – which made me realise that even though these were amazing, I preferred his work once he had moved to Giverny.
We all met up for lunch at the bakery “Paul” in Saint Michel, which I had an amazing baguette with Brie, tomatoes and salad. Seeing as though we were in the neighbourhood, we thought it’d be nice to explore St Germain and the Latin Quarter. As we began walking we came across the gelateria “Grom” and I couldn’t contain my excitement! I first came across Grom when I was in Siena, Tuscany in 2013, by far one of the best gelato’s I have ever had! We all couldn’t resist, and what better way to spend walking the streets of Paris with a tasty gelato in hand! We made our way to the Pantheon and were disappointed to see that the dome was under construction. However, the scaffolding was cleverly covered up by JR’s art installation of his “inside out project”. I was aware that he had a magnificent art installation inside the actual Pantheon, but we didn’t have much time, so we had to give it a miss…
We then made our way to the Luxemburg gardens to sit by and watch the world go by. The gardens had beautifully manicured lawns with colourful flowers in bloom – was such a spectacular sight to see given the backdrop of the bright blue sky. As we made our way back to our apartment, we crossed over the Pon des Arts – the bridge whereby everyone has “sealed their love” by locking a padlock and tossing the key into the Seine below. At first, it appeared to be a nice gesture, but the amount of lockets that were on the bridge was actually quite shocking! Moreover, to think that each of these locks were also accompanied by a key that was thrown into the river annoyed me slightly. This is intentional pollution of the river Seine, and I’m sure there are other ways for one to declare their love… so please if you do go to Paris, do not follow what everyone else has done – otherwise YOU will be also contributing to the pollution…
For dinner we were meeting my friend Leonié, who was a local. So we met her at the metro stop Commerce and she took us to a nice French bistro called Le Café du Commerce. I ordered the Grenobloise fish dish, which I was a little disappointed, as it was not filleted nevertheless, the taste was actually ok… I was in awesome company and that is what mattered most! We then bid farewell to Leonié and walked to the Eiffel tower. Sharon was challenged to do the ice bucket challenge, so as we were in Paris, she thought it would be unique to have the Eiffel tower in the background of her video. As the sun was just setting, we were lucky to see the tower in this light. We made our way up the hill to the Trocadero Gardens so we could have a nice view of the tower. As I was shooting away with my camera, I heard a familiar voice behind me. As I turned around I could not believe my eyes – it was my friend Caio and his fiancé Rosanna, whom I had met when I first moved to Cambridge! I knew that they were in Paris as well, but what were the odds of running into them in such a crowded place! It was really nice to see them! As the big hand approached the hour, Sharon was ready and proceeded with her challenge with the Eiffel tower sparkling in the background. I was given the honour of pouring the bucket of cold water over her head, which in turn, she nominated me!
Day 3: Sunday 24th August 2014
I wanted to show Meryem and Sharon the artist quarter of Montmarte, as it has a nice vibe to it. Upon our arrival, I wanted to get a jump shot of all three of us with the Sacré-Cœur in the background, however, this proved not as easy as what I thought. We all could jump, it just wasn’t synchronised… After many failed attempts we decided to climb the stairs of the Sacré-Cœur and enjoy the view of Paris from atop. From my last visit, I knew that there was a mini plaza just behind the basilica where there were artists sketching the portraits of tourists. This area was very crowded, but we managed to weave our way through the lanes of artists and easels. Some were very impressive, and I must admit, I was nearly tempted to have my portrait sketched as well! Once we had enough of the artists’ quarter we made our way back down to the metro and along the way took selfies in front of the infamous Moulin Rouge.
Our next mission was to find a Pierre Herme boutique to sample more macarons. From my previous trip to Paris, I enjoyed Pierre Herme macarons more than La Duree. So both my friends, Meryem and Sharon were eager to try macarons from this boutique. We ended up at the one near Opera and oh my goodness – the taste was amazing, it was as if fireworks were going off in my mouth!
We made our way to Notre Dame and admired the amazing gothic architecture of this beautiful building. After saying goodbye to Quasimodo (no really, there was a man in front of the cathedral with a mask that looked like Quasimodo scaring passers by…), walked along the river till we heard music at the Tino Rossi Gardens. I had read online that on Sundays, locals would dance here. So, we found ourselves a spot to sit and watched the Parisians twirling away to samba/salsa beats. One hour into watching the locals dancing away, I realised that there was an actual DJ on the far left! This was such an amazing experience; people were here – both young and old – to simply dance under the sun. Let me tell you, most, if not all the people that were dancing, could really dance! It was nice to watch…
Day 4: Monday 25th August 2014
We bid farewell to Meryem at the early hours of Monday morning. Sharon and I caught the train to Vernon and then a bus to Monet’s Garden. The weather wasn’t too great, in fact it was lightly drizzling. As soon as we arrived at Monet’s residence with our electronic tickets (trust me this is a must to avoid the queues…), we raced over to the lily pond before it got too crowded. And what a sight it was! If you have ever seen a Monet water lily painting, just imagine that his garden looks identical to what he has painted! We walked around the pond, and the grounds of the garden – which had very beautiful colourful flowers in bloom! We also explored Monet’s house and got told off for taking photos in the kitchen, for no obvious reason… As it was raining, we didn’t want to get drenched, so we didn’t get a chance to explore the little village. Instead we thought it best to head back into Paris.
I had purchased the passport ticket, which allowed entrance into the Musee d’Orsay and the Musee l’Orangerie. After my visit to Monet’s Garden, I thought it was an opportune moment to visit the Musee l’Orangerie. You see the unique thing about this museum was that Monet had donated a series of eight Nymphéas and had requested that they were displayed in two oval rooms. As I entered the first oval room, I was in awe of the paintings, after just seeing the actual garden, then seeing the huge water lilies hung before me was a surreal moment. After spending some time in the oval rooms, I went downstairs to see work by Renoir, Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse – only to name a few. This museum was definitely worth visiting, and I would strongly suggest purchasing an electronic passport ticket to avoid waiting in queues…
For dinner we decided to dine locally in Le Marais. Finding a restaurant that was open on Monday was actually quite challenging. All the ones that were on the list of great restaurants on TripAdvisor were closed! To avoid further disappointment, we simply walked into a restaurant that looked semi-decent. I was eager to try a crepe from the creperie across the road, and after a horrible crème caramel for dessert, I thought I was deserving of a freshly made nutella crepe. It was delicious and for 3€ you really couldn’t go wrong!
Day 5: Tuesday 26th August 2014
I was aware that Tuesday was one of the busier days for visiting Versailles, but we didn’t have any other option as we were leaving the following day. We arrived in Versailles at around 11am and were gobsmacked at two things: the hugeness of the palace AND the amount of people who were queuing to get into the palace! All these people also had pre-purchased their tickets just like us, so we also joined the line… I kid you not, there were 5 lanes of people in the shape of a snake the length of the entire “driveway”. Having said all of this, we waited only 30 minutes till it was our turn to enter the grand palace. From the first moment we entered the palace, you could simply feel the wealth of the French kings. We followed the masses of people, most of who were listening to the audio guide, through all the rooms of the palace. And finally we arrived in the Hall of Mirrors – and what an amazing hall it was indeed! The wall was completely covered in mirrors with gold trimmings, and the ceiling had several paintings also in gold frames together with enormous crystal-like chandeliers with parquetry floors. It was definitely the highlight of Versailles for me!
By this stage we were beginning to feel as though our sugar levels were dropping, so we were delighted to see the sign for “Angelina’s”, as we knew this was one of the best places to have a hot chocolate! After having a spot of lunch and dessert, we were back on our feet to finish the visiting the rest of the palace. We hadn’t bought tickets for the garden as this was very much weather dependent. And by the end of the palace visit, we were quite tired and decided to make our way back to central Paris via RER. We stopped off at the Galeries La Fayette, as I was eager to see the interior of this amazing building – not that I could afford anything from here. Everything was basically high end designer… nevertheless, the building itself was spectacular, particularly the ceiling…
We met my French friend Farva for an early dinner/snack. She took us to a creperie in Saint Michel that she used to visit frequently in her student days. I went for a savoury crepe (tomatoes and cheese) and it was scrumptious! We enjoyed our crepes at the Luxemburg gardens. We stopped over at Grom again to have one last gelato (I highly recommend pistachio and salted caramel).
Day 6: Wednesday 27th August 2014
As it was our last day in Paris, Sharon and I thought it would be nice to have a late breakfast at an artisan bakery. My friend Farva informed us that if a boulangerie (bakery) has artisan in front of it, it means that the bread etc is made fresh that day and is not frozen baked. We set off on a mission to find an artisan boulangerie – but we must have been walking in the wrong direction, as we didn’t come across any! In the end we settled for a café, which ended up having nice wait staff. We wanted to randomly explore the streets in our neighbourhood, so we walked to the northern parts of Le Marais and back to Chatelet, where we came across an artisan bakery. We were both delighted and immediately bought dessert to accompany our lunch.
Paris was amazing, I definitely recommend everyone to visit this amazing city! If you are based in London, the Eurostar has offers where a return trip to Paris can cost as little as £59 (actually this is the current offer!!!). When you do visit Paris, try and do things off the beaten path, this will enable you to enjoy Paris as the locals do (and mostly avoid the other tourists!). Due to lack of time, we weren’t able to go on a street art tour, as I’ve been told that there are amazing street artworks in the 10th arr. But I’ll just have to save that for next time! Oh and definitely eat as many macarons from the good boutiques as possible – definitely worth the calories!
Merci for reading and au revoir…