Every time I’ve visited Paris I’ve felt like it is was for the first time. There are always new little cobbled streets to explore, vintage shops to browse, incredible French food and wine to taste and someone new to experience it with. As it is often depicted as one of the most romantic cities in the world I felt it was about time I visited with a boy!
How to get to Paris?
I have a confession to make. Until this trip, I was a Eurostar virgin, crazy I know! Especially for someone who loves travel and has been living in London for over four years. My first Eurostar experience lived up to all my expectations. Affordable, comfy and quick. We travelled in Standard Premier which was a very pleasant way to travel with a spacious seat, free wi-fi and a light meal (complete with a glass of wine). Eurostar one-way fares start from £29 and if you want to treat yourself and travel in Standard Premier it will cost from £97.50 one-way.
Where to stay?
Pete and I were lucky enough to spend a night at Hotel de la Trémoille; a stylish boutique hotel in a ridiculously central location just off the Champs Elysees. As you step into the lobby you can’t help but feel like you’re being welcomed into your own Parisian apartment. All of the staff are incredibly friendly and will do everything they possibly can to ensure you have the best stay.
The other main thing you notice is the picture hanging up in the entrance of Louis Armstrong and Duke Elliott playing their instruments out of the first floor windows to a small crowd gathered on the street. It’s then that you feel the history of jazz has seeped into the hotel’s very walls. Even more so, by the fact on Thursday evenings you can listen to live jazz while enjoying an aperitif at the regular Bubbles & Jazz evenings.
We also enjoyed a delicious three-course dinner in the Louis 2 Restaurant. After an agonising decision (I am a frequent sufferer of food envy) I settled for the spring roll with salmon, ginger and lemongrass to start and lobster linguine for my main. For dessert, we tasted the Chef’s signature Paris-Brest; a divine puff pastry filled with light chocolate cream. No one can do puff pastry quite like the Parisians!
Where to grab a cup of coffee?
This will have been my fourth time to Paris and as a book lover I can’t believe I’ve only just been introduced to Shakespeare and Company; the most famous book shop in Paris and probably the entire world. This three-floored literary utopia is tucked away on the Left Bank overlooking Notre Dame. Once you’ve explored the maze of tiny rooms with thousands of books crammed into every corner you can relax with your chosen read and a cup of coffee or chocolat chaud in the little cafe adjacent, which opened in October 2015. From spring 2016, the café will sell “A Moveable Feast” picnic baskets (€20-30) for Seine-side eating, which will include wine, cheese and a short story. We will just have to come back now that spring has finally sprung…
Which museum to go to?
Like London, Paris is saturated with some of the world’s most fascinating museums brimming with history and art. If you are short on time and can’t decide which one to choose I would definitely recommend a visit to the newly refurbished Rodin Museum, which reopened last November after three-years of work. We were given an amazing tour of the museum by one of the curators who described herself as a ‘Rodin Groupie’ and by the end of our visit I could see why. (It’s also a little more manageable than the Louvre!) The museum features over 300 pieces of his work across 18 rooms and each work bears examination – they’re all beautiful and have interesting stories attached to them. Like most creative geniuses he had a way with the ladies. We listened to the heart-breaking tale of his ten-year love affair with his pupil and muse Claudie Claudel, who tragically was so consumed by the affair that she became mentally unwell and was admitted to an asylum, where she lived for 30 years. One of the highlights of the museum is the beautiful seven-acre sculpture garden. It is apparently one of Paris’ most desirable places to get married and I can definitely see why (cue a look of panic on Pete’s face). They even let newly weds come in and have their pictures taken among the sculptures for free!
Where else to eat?
L’Opera restaurant is built into the Palais Garnier opera house’s east facade and has a real wow factor when you come through the door. As the building it is based in has historic monument status, the architect had to create the restaurant without making use of any original walls, pillars, or other structural elements. The modern and deeply surreal interiors were inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, a story set in and inspired partly by the lake the does exist under the Opera Garnier. The food didn’t fail to disappoint. The Head Chef; Chihiro Yamazaki, is from Japan and she has created an inspired menu with French dishes infused with an Asian twist. We were recommended to have fish as this is her specialty and the sashimi of sea bream with exotic fruits and passion fruit sauce was divine.
I also have to recommend another restaurant which could not be more different than L’Opera but equally as lovely in its own way. Café Constant is a humble bistro on the rue Saint-
Where to go in the evening?
On the Friday evening I went on a Context Travel Jazz Walking tour with a local jazz musician. Clara gave each of us a mini ipod and whilst walking to Paris’ legendary jazz locations we were invited to listen to various tunes which really helped to set the mood for the evening.
Having been so inspired to hear some more jazz, I dragged Pete back to the jazz district and we went to a show at Le Baiser Salé (the Salty Kiss) on the Saturday evening. We were intending to go to the famous Duc des Lombards, but owing to a long queue and a slightly more expensive entry fee, we opted for the Le Baiser Salé, which is right next door. We had an enjoyable evening drinking red wine and listening to a uniquely French mix of jazz and steel drums played by Djazil. We seemed to be the only people there who weren’t family friends, but their upbeat style and amusing antics on stage kept us entertained before we wandered back to the Metro and home to the hotel.
A la prochaine Paris…