Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Pop to Paris - Day 1 : FURTHER AFIELD


Paris is always a good idea.” 



― Audrey Hepburn


Exactly Audrey, exactly. It may always be a good idea but it doesn't always have to be expensive. If you're a Londoner getting to Paris is easy and cheap! I recently did a weekend in Gay Paree for a grand total of £215 and, considering we travelled to a-whole-nother-country, that is a total bargain, especially when you see what we managed to pack in. There's quite a lot to tell you so I'll split this bad boy into two posts.

So here you go gang, a step-by-step to 'doing Paris' on a shoestring....

Firstly, we got a brilliant deal on Eurostar tickets and I'll let you know a little secret - all tickets are at their absolute cheapest on the day that they go on sale and this is exactly 15 weeks in advance. So work out when you want to go and have your finger hovering over the Book button 15 weeks before. Simple! This means you'll be able to get a return ticket for £69 - even at peak times. Snazzy. And it gets better - if you book as a large group (we were a ten) you can get the group rate of £63! Cracking stuff. C'est parfait! 

So after work on the Friday we all skipped out of our respective offices, floppy hats and fluffy coats in tow, and gathered at St Pancras station - which in itself is an experience. The architecture is just beautiful and it houses the longest champagne bar in Europe. A glass of bubbles starts at £13 so if you're feeling a little flush why not kick off your trip off with some fizz?




We however smuggled a small haul of prosecco onto the train so had our fair share of fizz, as well as every snack imaginable....



The journey takes just over two hours and suddenly you're in Paris. The train glides into Gare du Nord....it's very Railway Children, 'daddy, my daddy!'-esque with the train steam et al. We purposely booked a hostel close to the station so that we could dump our bags quickly and head out for a Parisian beverage.



For those of you that haven't stayed in a hostel before - they're basically a very basic hotel for when you don't intend to do much sleeping but need a base for a quick snooze and a shower. We decided to get a ten bed dorm room, y'know boarding school style. It was simple, clean and fantastically located. We dropped our bags and headed to the bar to plan the following day...

Saturday

After a breakfast of granola, natural yoghurt, apricot jam smothered baguettes and orange juice we headed off to Sacré Coeur in the Monmartre district of the city. It was a brisk 15 minute walk up to this beautiful spot, including a lot of steps but it's so worth the view.





And it's from here that we got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower - and my gosh is it huge! I couldn't believe my eyes. It is so, so much bigger than any other building in the city. With that little taste of what was to come we headed off into the centre of the city. We decided to walk and it took about half an hour. Winding down through the streets we wondered past lovely fruit shops, bakeries, butchers and even a theatre!

Look! There it is!


  


We found a lovely little coffee place called L'entracte right opposite the Palaise Garnier (the Paris equivalent of our Royal Opera House), on Rue Auber, for a pit stop. Coffee is a delicacy in France and there are a million different versions but most of them come in espresso size. I plumped for a cafe noisette and it gave me that little zap of mid-morning energy a proper tourist needs! 





With the caffeine zipping through us we walked the last little bit to the Louvre so got the posing underway.




We of course were feeling really rather peckish by now, especially after all that jumping, so off for some lunch we went! We completely lucked out and stumbled across La Cooperative where we all ordered some form of cheese to refuel for the afternoon. It was such a sweet little place and the waiters were very patient (and a little flirty, wink wink!) as I attempted to order in French and pretended to understand when they explained the specials. Nod and smile guys, nod and smile!

Once every morsel was devoured we skipped off to le Jardin des Tuileries which is a beautiful public garden that runs along the side of the river from the Louvre. At the end it joins with the Avenue des Champs-Elysees which is famous for it's luxury shops but there was only one that we were aiming for and that was Laduree - the famous macaroon shop! Now, there is a queue to get in but it really is worth it! Waiting to be served is an experience in itself, this is true, luxury Parisian baking. We bought a box together and I went for a Rose one - my god was it scrummy! I can still taste it now! If you want to try one but don't have the time to pop over to France there are three little Laduree shops in London, but shhhhh!









We than skipped down the rest of the Champs-Elysees to pose cheesily in front L'Arc de Triomphe. By this point we were all utterly pooped so we hopped onto the metro (just like the tube but cheaper more spacious!) and headed back to the hostel. 

 
For dinner, on the recommendation of a friend, we were booked into Le Point Zero - now it's a not the kind of place you go if you want a 'truly French experience' but we were the only English people in there and the food was absolutely fantastic. We of course started the meal with a round of cocktails (gin, lemon and basil - phwoar) and a lot of baked camembert.



It's a really lively place and people from other tables kept popping over to say hi and one person even gave us the business card for their blog! We had such a laugh with everyone in there - as we left some of the other patrons were trying out their English 'Bye bye! See you soon! Catch you later!' and the waiters were ringing the bell behind the bar - utterly hilarious!
 
We were then led through the streets by Catriona to a secret speakeasy style club that was hidden down a rickety old spiral staircase behind an old, unmarked black door. I wouldn't usually suggest knocking on unmarked doors in unfamiliar cities but go on, this ones brilliant! It's called Le Ballroom du Boeuf and you'll find it at 58 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They have quite a strict clothing policy on the door so make sure you're dressed up. Here's a sneaky little blog about it from when it first opened. We arrived just before eleven and managed to grab a table from which we partied the night away.....










Day 2 to follow! Bisous, xxx