A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I spent a weekend in Paris, then got the train out to the Loire Valley for a few days with my parents touring and tasting the wine region. We got really, really lucky with the weather in that it was boiling hot with bright sunshine, out of peak season. So we got to try amazing wine in a quiet atmosphere without a million other people around; we couldn’t ask for more.
We got the Eurostar to Paris at early o’clock from Kings Cross St Pancras. We live in London so its super easy for us – much easier than flying. For one thing, its much closer and for another, its a lot less stressful because the security takes less time and there’s no running to boarding gates 20 minutes away. Plus, you can take your large bottles of liquid, including your hot drinks that you may be holding (as we were). They just put it in a little cup holder for you and slide it through the security machine.
I’ve taken the Eurostar a few times before – a couple of times to Paris and also up to the alps on the ‘snow train’. The carriage we got in though, was unlike any of the other trains I had travelled on before; it was like a train from the past. To look at, it was really kitsch and cute – much more spacious and with less seats in, but good god, the seats were so low it made it ridiculously uncomfortable. For children, fantastic, for an adult not so much. I felt like I was going to slide off my seat onto the floor the entire journey. A good workout, though.
Anyway, enough moaning. We got there at 9am on a Saturday morning and headed straight to our hotel (Hotel Elixir, in the Marais – my favourite area to stay in). I had already picked up some metro tickets a few weeks back when I was in Paris for work, so we could get straight on the metro when we arrived – the machines can be a bit of a bitch when everyone is fighting to get their metro tickets at the same time, so if there is any way you can do this, its a good shout.
Our first stop in the Marais is one of my happy places – Parisian vintage shops. My favourite ever Levi denim jacket with film memorabilia embroidered on, was purchased from one of these shops for a mere 20 euros. That may not sound cheap but you would pay at least £60 for that in London, if you could even find one like it.
Since then, I’ve returned to these shops at every chance I’ve got and always purchased something amazing (I’ve written posts on it before, link here). My favourite shop is called Vintage Desir, its on Rue des Rosiers and full of gems. It doesn’t look that amazing from the outside (they haven’t even changed the sign from coiffeur) but its super affordable with an amazing variety of good quality stuff. Is this is your scene, its worth a look.
The Marais is pretty good for vintage in general and you’re likely to see shops on every corner – I’ve always focused on cheaper ones, in all honesty, so the designer-y ones I’ve kind of ignored. You will be able to find them but I am lacking in recommendations. For more affordable shops though, I would check out Rue de la Verriere for kilo shops and Free P Star. I also highly recommend bringing something back for me. Doesn’t have to be anything too large or expensive, I’m humble – I’ll accept gifts of any size.
THE BEST CREPES IN PARIS
We’d worked up an appetite by this point so made our way down to Breizh Cafe, which is known for making some of the best crepes in Paris. I’d never been but was more than ready to try some. I’ll point out that I had started not feeling very well here, I’m not sure what it was but I was desperate to sit down.
I had made a reservation but it was for an hour later than we ended up arriving so we chanced it and were seated within 10 minutes. They have a main restaurant and then a little shop next door – they offered us seats in the shop which some other people didn’t seem to want but actually, it was really nice. There are only about 6 seats in the shop and no one really came into browse while we were there, so it was really chill and relaxing. We both had passion fruit pancakes with lemonade (to drink) and they were an absolute dream – definitely make time to go.
They’re also famous for their wide selection of cider – there were bottles of it (full ones) all around the shop. As we were about to start a wine tour and grow a collection of bottles of wine, I figured there was no harm in starting early by buying a bottle of cider. The bottles looked lovely and they were only 8 euros so I excitedly put it into my backpack and we carried on.
EIFFEL TOWER/ARC DE TRIOMPHE
It was only when we got to our next stop, the Eiffel Tower, that I realised my mistake – big, new signs (from when I was last there) said ‘no glass bottles allowed’. We chanced it and queued up but they obviously noticed. Annoyed, we left and walked to the Arc De Triomphe – I looked up whether they had restrictions on glass bottles too and nothing was mentioned, so we chanced it.
We shouldn’t have. By this point, I was very very frustrated but annoyingly you can’t go back in time and change your decision, so we went back to the hotel and dumped the bottle of cider (and had a nap, as I still wasn’t feeling great).
Thankfully the nap revived me and we headed back out, to the Eiffel Tower. Its changed a lot since I’ve last been there, in that you don’t walk underneath it any more to queue up for tickets – all of that is closed off until you’ve initially queued and gone through security to get inside. All of that used to happen underneath but its completely closed off now. There are still a lot of people selling things outside but it does stop that happening while you’re in the queue inside which is a lot nicer. Hard if you want to take a picture of the tower without paying to go in though.
We accidentally queued up for the corner of the tower that is walking only and didn’t realise until we were way too far into the queue but took it up as a challenge. Even though we were knackered from the day we had already had, it was actually really fun and only cost me 5 euros. My phone says we walked 10 miles that day.
We didn’t go the whole way up because there was a 40 minute queue to get up there but I’ve been up a few times before and wouldn’t say its a necessity. You can see everything more comfortably from lower down (as in, there’s more space to). I think this was my 5th time going up the tower (I used to go on French exchanges a lot when I was at school) so not to sound ungrateful, but it probably wasn’t as magical for me as it was for my boyfriend seeing as it was his second time going up there (the first time was a long, long time ago) . Its quite lovely seeing someone else’s reaction to something, as it does to an extent feel like you’re experiencing it.
We were pretty tired by this point so headed to dinner but I must admit I’m still gutted we didn’t make it up the Arc De Triomphe – I have only been up there once and it was at night, in freezing winter weather so I was looking forward to being up there in the sun. Nonetheless, this of course does give me an excuse to return. Not that I need one.
Paris (through my eyes) is the city that forever keeps on giving, I never get sick of it. There are still museums and galleries I have never visited, and lots and lots of food I’ve never eaten. I have no immediate plans to return but I’m excited for future me when she gets to.
After the Eiffel Tower, we grabbed some dinner (in a mad Italian restaurant near the Notre Dame where the waiter kept playing practical jokes on diners) and then some drinks at a bar in the Marais, before retiring to bed ready for one more day in Paris (where we hit up the Pompidou and Sacre Coeur), and then an evening in Tours.
Which I will get to, in the next post.
Do you have a place you return to again and again?