Being able to get on a train in London and find yourself in France two hours later is a novelty that will probably never wear off. I absolutely fell in love with Paris, and definitely now know why it’s one of the world’s most visited cities. Between the people, rich history, food, buildings, light and the colour of the changing season, I was in my element. I had originally planned to go there for the weekend to watch the South Africa vs. France rugby game, but decided to extend to 5 nights so that I could explore the city a bit more.
To be honest I didn’t really get into the food as much as I thought I would and came to the realisation that I’m the sort of traveller that tends to finds something they like to eat, and then continues to eat that thing every day. It could be down to the fact that when I’m in a new city and taking in all sorts of new and really overwhelming things, a sense of routine keeps me in check. So I stuck to a typical Parisian petit déjeuner of a croissant or pain au chocolat with orange juice and coffee, adding eggs and bacon if I was absolutely starving. On my last day there I went for a ham & cheese omelette, and while less is totally more, the omelette was really good. Someone warned me about struggling to find a decent coffee (they were right), and if I ended up having breakfast a bit later then I’d miss out on croissants because they sell out really quickly.
I ate delicious ice cream from one of Paris’ oldest ice cream shops which date back to the ’50s, called Berthillon and located on Île Saint-Louis. The macarons from Pierre Hermé in Saint Germain were fabulous, and the hot chocolate from the Lindt store near the Opera House was just what I needed to warm up from the cold. I also received a long list of restaurant and cafe recommendations from a few people who have lived in Paris (including native Parisians), but only ended up eating an early dinner at Bouillon Chartier in Montemartre, a brasserie that’s over 100 years old and a firm favourite amongst the locals and tourists alike. They don’t take bookings, which meant that my first attempt at eating there over the weekend was met with a very long queue. The food is simple but delicious, and cheap (including the wine)! My staple snack was cheese and saucisson purchased at the Franprix around the corner from where my self-catering apartment was.
So while I actually did eat French food (albeit the same things), I’ll definitely need to go back for more. Way more! Definitely didn’t eat enough cheese, drink nearly enough wine and try the vast majority of pastries on offer. Something I definitely did a lot of gawking at the old buildings, churches and the endless monuments which totally blew my mind. I even cried when walking into Eglise Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, which was the point at which my need to go into churches, chapels and any other really old places of worship took hold, purely based on the exquisite architecture. A brief walk in Père Lachaise Cemetery to find Jim Morrison’s grave also unlocked a fascination for old cemeteries. I know it’s a bit dark but the effort that goes into the graves and mausoleums in a place like that is amazing.
I walked an average of around 10km a day, even though the weather wasn’t amazing, but it’s really one of the best ways to explore a city. I can also highly recommend the topless hop on hop off sightseeing bus, which included live commentary in English that was both really entertaining and incredibly informative. Just make sure you dress for the Arctic if you do it in colder weather because it was freezing but totally worth it! The red route was definitely the most interesting for me, while I found the blue route to be a little on the boring side. Nevertheless, I did both and very happy that I opted to get tickets valid for 2 days so the sightseeing could be spread it out.
My self-catering apartment in Sentier was lovely, quite small but absolutely perfect for a longer stay. I don’t really do hotels, so much prefer to Airbnb but in this case, booked My Maison in Paris through Booking.com. I actually discovered it when doing a bit of research whilst reading a blog post by Tails of a Mermaid. It’s located in the 2nd arrondissement and perfectly located within walking distance of some fantastic spots. Rue Montorgueil, which is about 5 minutes away and one of the oldest market streets in Paris, was where I went for breakfast each day (there are loads of cafes to choose from), and where you’ll find amazing seasonal fruit and vegetable stalls, as well as cheese, meat, bread, pastries and flowers. There is also another gorgeous church at the bottom of the street, called Église Saint-Eustache. Highly recommend this spot and will definitely stay there again.
Even though I was only there for 5 nights, I feel like I only scratched the surface of the city. There is a lot more I want to do and see there, especially all of the museums and art galleries like the Louvre, which you really need an entire day for.
So au revoir, Paris! See you soon!