What an amazing treat. While visiting my family and friends in England towards the end of 2015, my best friend treated me to a surprise trip away, in Paris! Completely coincidentally, I happened to be reading Audrey Diwan, Sophie Mas, Caroline De Maigret and Anne Berest’s best-selling book “How to be Parisian; Wherever You Are” in the weeks preceding our trip, and once Crissie finally dropped the bomb that we were going to Paris, the timing only excited me all the more!
Of course, I had been to Paris before. As a child I had visited on school trips, family vacations and alike. But I was so excited to finally get to see Paris through the eyes of an Adult. The romantic culture, chic style, classy etiquette and infamous Parisian attitude; that’s bucket list material, you know? Paris has to be done in one’s lifetime, and really has to be done as a grown-up!
How to Get There
Paris has an International Airport accessible from all major routes around the world. From London, you can take the Eurostar from Kings Cross St Pancras International Train Station straight into Paris City Centre in just two and a half hours, however my preference and personal recommendation is to fly British Airways from London Heathrow to Paris. The flight is under an hour, and a short taxi ride from the airport will have you into the heart of Paris in no time.
What to Pack
If you are visiting Paris in any other season than Summer, I would recommend flat leather boots, a knee-length stylish coat, a chunky scarf and a pariesienne hat. For travelling, relaxing at the hotel or in a Pariessiene coffee chop in the City, take a few good books. My recommendations are “How to be Parisian; Wherever You Are” by Audrey Diwan, Sophie Mas, Caroline De Maigret and Anne Berest, and “A Guide to Elegance” by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux.
Where to Stay
As the trip was a surprise, my best friend made all the travel arrangements. We stayed at Hôtel Parc Saint
Where to Eat
Everyone is accustomed to French cuisine. We eat French delicacies the world-over. But sampling French cuisine in France, and in Paris no less, simply reinvents the way your French favourites react with your tastebuds.
Take your pick from almost any street corner and you’ll find a Parisienne al-fresco cafe to grab your morning croissant or a crepe fix. Coffee-lovers will not be so easily impressed I’m afraid. But when in Paris… try a hot chocolate with your croissant instead!
After sampling an array of lunch destinations, truly my absolute favourite was simply stopping at one of the many sandwich stalls outside pretty much any major attraction or metro station. The crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside baguettes filled with fresh deli meats and French cheeses are out of this world. A great cheap street eat and oh so French!
Dinner in Paris is a whole other affair. Soupe à l’Oignon (French onion soup) is a firm favourite of mine and well worth indulging in an entrée for! Among those less-adventurous foodies like myself, it’s almost like a dare to go to Paris and try L’Escargot (Snails) or Cuisses de Grenouille (Frogs Legs). I didn’t take the dare unfortunately this time, although we did search high and low in the Latin Quarter for a suitable place for my best friend to try them! I couldn’t choose a favourite restaurant out of the ones we visited for dinner, though they were all very similar in terms of the menu offerings, prices and the al-fresco dining, so my best recommendation would be taking a twilight evening walk from your hotel and seeing what you stumble across!
For Dessert, head to a chocolatiers or pattiserie for some indulgent chocolate or macaroons. We stumbled upon Maison Georges Larnicol near out hotel and it became our regular cheeky little stop on the way home each day for a couple of macaroons and seriously to-die-for Kouignettes (a cross between a doughnut and a croissant)!
And what to drink? Champagne, of course. Enough said!
What to See
If you are only in Paris for a weekend then there is a number of must-see attractions that mean you have no choice but to jump on the tourist band-wagon in order to see them. Obvious ones include the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. Be warned: There will be queues. There will be touts. There will be pick-pockets. But they are well worth the visit and another ‘tick’ on the bucket-list. Other attractions include the Arc De Triomphe, Montmartre and the infamous Moulin Rouge. If you want to visit the Moulin Rouge for dinner and a show whilst you are in Paris, remember to book weeks/months in advance of your arrival to avoid disappointment! I would definitely recommend an after-dark visit to the Tour Montparnasse tower. The 56th floor observation deck and open-air rooftop terrace sit atop the 210-metre office skyscraper that towers over the whole City. Looking down over the (much smaller) Eiffel Tower lit up in front of you in all it’s glory and the bright lights of the City as far as the eye can see, this was my very favourite tourist attraction in Paris and one that I would definitely do again for a romantic evening with my beau if I ever return again!
How to Get Around
If you understand very little French, the metro station can be a little confusing at first. But through trial-and-error, it quickly becomes the fastest, cheapest and best way to get around the City.
There are plenty of rickshaws kicking around Paris as well which, while it can be a fun alternative to travel across the City above-ground, beware of little tricks the drivers and touts can pull; generally the prices on their menu of ‘from this attraction to this attraction’ are per person, so don’t be surprised when you are charged double the price when you reach your destination if you’re travelling with a friend. Also, once we got a rickshaw from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc De Triomphe and, knowing we weren’t familiar with our surrounds, our cyclist/driver dropped us off somewhere completely different claiming that it was only another 100 metres to our destination when actually it turned out he’d barely taken us halfway for what we’d paid him!! Beware the tourist trap!
If all else fails, use your feet! Paris is beautiful City to walk around and with so many landmarks and the river Seine to use as points of reference, it’s surprisingly easy to find your way around like a true Parisian!
Where to Shop
All your friends come back from Paris and tell you about shopping on the Champs-Élysées, right? The Avenue is 1.9 kilometres long and 70 metres wide, running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle (where the Arc de Triomphe is located). The boulevard is lined with Designer and High Street shops alike, offering something for every budget. It reminds me a lot of Oxford Street in London though, and I like my shopping a little more boutique then that, so I have to admit I got bored pretty quickly and was instead looking for the nearest place to sit back and drink champagne and watch Paris go by!
Do you have any recommendations on where to sleep, eat and shop in Paris? Let me know in the comments!