Welcome to the first in a series of blogs from our trip around Europe. Interspersed with the usual restaurant recommendations these will hopefully provide you, future travellers, with some brief guides on how to make the most of your time in these destinations. For this we’ll have assumed you arrived late the night before or on a very early Eurostar. Regardless I’ll begin a waltz through Paris with breakfast. As they do, copious amounts of coffee and a pastry. Or numerous pastries in my case. I am a big fan of the chausson aux pommes and caneles. Sugar for breakfast whilst on a break is a wonderful thing. Our hotel was a little distance away from the Seine, we walked but it took us an hour, whilst leisurely I’d recommend taking the metro to the river Seine unless you’re close. Walk along its winding path and you’ll approach famous site after site. The Louvre is along its banks.
Stop here and visit. If you happen to be under 27 like myself then entry is free. Inside and under the famous glass pyramid you’ll find an incredible collection of historical artifacts and well preserved ancient art. Our favourites were the beautifully restored mosaics in the Roman section. There’s one thing you’ve come here to see though. Follow the signs, or the crowds for the famed Mona Lisa, and like most people (and myself) you’ll be thankful you’ve seen the real thing but probably wonder what all the fuss is about. It’s easy to spend an entire day here if you wish but my stomach was already rumbling again. The streets around the Louvre are endlessly swamped with traditional Parisian bistros and we stopped in one for a classic Croque Monsieur. Though the Croque Madame and even the Croque Bolognese deserve a mention even if not entirely French. Everywhere we went people had an excellent grasp of English but I was pleased that on more than one occasion I was responded to in French with my barely conversational ability.
After lunch I’d recommend a short departure from the Seine for the Cathedral of Notre Dame. A magnificent piece of architecture I find it best admired from the outside. The square it’s in presents an excellent opportunity to sit and people watch before one’s throat begins to dry in much need of a wine. Head for a cave a vins- you can’t miss them for a glass of French red (or white if you prefer). Many of these places take bar snacks to a new height and its easy to find ones serving excellent cheeses and charcuterie (I recommend Le Garde Robe). So if you lose track of time they make worthy dinners too. After dinner and undoubtedly in much need of a stroll to aid digestion walk to the Champ de Mars to take in the Eiffel Tower at night. It’s on the hour it does the light show that dominates the Parisian skyline.
The next morning head for the Arc de Triomphe and a long lunch, there’s time in Paris to spend over meals. I’d recommend seeing the Eiffel Tower in the daylight too. In fact, I preferred it with more of Paris visible around it. Take the opportunity to grab some macarons too. Skip the long queues at the cripplingly expensive and overrated Ladurée and head for a Pierre Hermé instead. Slightly less expensive but exponentially more delicious. There’s one a 20 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower (we walk everywhere) but it will take you through the iconic Pont de Bir-Hakeim utilised in the fashion and film worlds alike.
For dinner a distance from my last recommendation and the price might make you raise an eye at the quality but trust me. Fermier Gourmet. An excellent meal to be had in Paris as any. French grill food essentially- a range of burgers and steaks are to be had. Go for an onglet with the vegetables and fries with a mushroom sauce accompanying and you can’t go far wrong. Improve on the experience with washing it down with a wonderful glass of their Bordeaux.
I hope the above is useful to you! And if you’ve already been, what were your top spots you’d share with other readers?