Paris – Four fantastic days

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Paris Je t’aime

Saturday – Early start, culture and Lebanese mezze

After leaving our house at 4.30am we arrived at Paris Charles De Gaulle about 9.25am and quickly passed through passport control. A short walk to train station and 30-minute queue for tickets later we were on the train to the hotel. Easy!

Five-minute walk to hotel Atmospheres for a very friendly welcome. We dropped off our bags and head out for food. Laura had her heart set on a Croque Monsieur so we passed a few nice-looking places but ended up in a bit of a tourist trap area near Notre Dame.

We were beckoned into a place called Saint Severin by a pleasant waitress. We were a bit nervous after ordering our food as I looked on trip advisor and found the restaurant ranked 12,846 out of 16,000 restaurants in Paris! The Croque Monsieur’s and chips were good though, as was the beer. But it was very expensive!

A stroll along the River Seine took us to the Louvre. We aren’t the most cultured of people and visiting museums isn’t high on our agenda but we couldn’t visit Paris without a trip to the Louvre. It is a huge and impressive collection of art and objects from around the world. From ancient Egyptian murals, roman artefacts and Greek sculptures to sensational famous paintings by Rembrandt, Raphael and Botticelli, and of course la piece de la resistance Leonardo Davinci’s Mona Lisa. The size and scale of the place was a little overwhelming for us average joes but it was very impressive!

Levitating outside the Louvre in Paris!

Levitating outside the Louvre in Paris!

Two of the more famous pieces of art at Louvre - Mona Lisa and The Winged Victory of Samothrace

Two of the more famous pieces of art at Louvre – Mona Lisa and The Winged Victory of Samothrace

A couple of beers and a power nap later we were fresh and ready to rumble again. We had made a reservation at a Lebanese restaurant five minutes from our hotel called Savannah. As soon as we walked in the owner, Richard welcomed us like we were long lost friends by exclaiming ‘Gareth’ as we walked through the door. The restaurant was cosy and kitsch with trinkets, dolls and all sorts of oddities decorating the place. We had never eaten Lebanese before but Richard guided us through the menu with a cheeky charm. The food was excellent (unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures as we were too busy enjoying it). We had a six-item mezze to start, two Lebanese beers and steak and chicken mains with a lovely bottle of Sauvignon Blance all for about €80. I would recommend this place, Richard was very attentive and helpful without being intrusive, the food was great and atmosphere friendly.

Lebanese restaurant five minutes from our hotel called Savannah

Lovely Lebanese restaurant five minutes from our hotel called Savannah

We stayed in the area and popped in to a dingy bar called Le Mayflower. It stunk of red bull, but at only €10 for two gin and tonics we decided to stay for a couple more. We then headed to L’Annexe for a night cap. It was a cool bar and bit more of a hip and trendy place. A couple of drinks there and we were well and truly ready for bed!

Sunday – Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and the Blues

A big Sunday morning lie in meant we were only heading out about midday.

We set off towards Champs Elysee but stopped for a French breakfast of croissant, French bread and coffee en route.

We set off towards Champs Elysee but stopped for a French breakfast of croissant, French bread and coffee en route.

A long walk along the River Seine and Champs Elysee was perfect opportunity to take in several sights including bridges, buildings and le Place de la Concord. We ambled along the Champs Elyse to the Arc de Triomphe. Here we took too many photos and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of a typical tourist trap. The intricate Sculptures on the Arc de Triomphe were impressive. You can go to the top for about €10 but we didn’t. There comes a point when you have to say no to paying for panoramic vistas and Paris has too many to pay for them all.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

A quick pit stop at trendy Bar Washington Poste off Champs Elysee before a long detour to a bar we never found.

After giving up we headed for the Rodin museum, an artist most famous for his sculpture ‘The Thinker.’ It was that sculpture and his sculptures of my tattoo ‘Dante’s Inferno’ that attracted us. The interesting display of sculptures around the garden were worth the €10 entrance fee. The gallery was nothing special but an okay wander around.

Laura was cringing a bit as she took these photos of me enjoying myself at the Rodin museum Paris

Laura was cringing a bit as she took these photos of me enjoying myself at the Rodin museum Paris

We headed to the Eiffel Tower to see what the fuss was all about. We got distracted on the way by a pint of beer at L’Officers, but suitably hydrated we continued to the tower.

We walked along the Parc Du Champ de Mars, marvelled as we looked up and down the tower, stopped for photo opportunities and eventually when we got to the base of the Tower decided to come back when it was dark to see it in all its glory. The interlude also gave me time to wrestle with my conscience as my desire to do and see all I can battled with my crippling fear of heights.

Italian was our preference and we sought out a pleasant little restaurant called Gloria. Some beautifully seasoned focaccia bread, a couple of Peroni’s and a pasta and pizza dish did the trick nicely.

Eiffel Tower Paris - I am pointing to it just in case you miss it.

Eiffel Tower Paris – I am pointing to it just in case you miss it.

We were back at the tower by 8ish and queued for tickets to summit after a lot of deliberation and hesitation on my behalf. Tickets to the top were €17 each and the queue took about half an hour. The airport style security check before entering really adds to the drama.

I was very nervous and not ashamed to say scared. Squashed into the lift like sardines we were up to the second level viewing platform in no time. I was looking at my feet the whole time trying to convince myself this was okay. From this level, you get impressive views of the city and a real sense of how bloody high you already are, particularly when the wind blows. As I was feeling a little panicked, Laura and I debated for 20 minutes or so about whether to just go back down, Laura go up to the top herself or if I could take the steps needed to make the assent.

Finally, I plucked up the courage and said okay let’s do it. We queued for another short period and then I was in the lift. No turning back now. As the lift travelled to the top I kept telling myself “‘it’s okay, you’re supposed to try and leave your comfort zone.Don’t panic just relax.” I didn’t relax. We got to the top and I looked around staying as far from the edge as possible. I popped my head outside but the gale was unbelievable and uncomfortable. Now I had made it to the top I just couldn’t wait to get back to terra firma again. Whilst I am glad I made the assent and overcame my fear I did not enjoy it one bit and feel panicky now just writing about it.

Eiffel Tower Paris - My fear of height may be irrational but it doesn't seem to matter how many of these overpriced towers I visit I can't shake it!

Eiffel Tower Paris – My fear of height may be irrational but it doesn’t seem to matter how many of these overpriced towers I visit I can’t shake it!

After that exhilarating experience we were ready for a drink. It was a long trip back towards the Latin Quarter as we struggled working out the best route using the Metro so started walking. We eventually hopped on bus and it was only €2 each.

We went to Caveau des Oubliettes, a live music venue within a cave/cellar. It was jam packed and was certainly the busiest cave bar I have ever seen. We stood enjoying our beers to some fantastic blues music played with passion to a crowd that was mesmerised and loving every minute. The atmosphere was amazing but there was a bloke with unsettling, ill fitted high waisted red trousers dancing like there was something wrong with him and it was kind of off putting. Lucky at the interlude quite a few people made their way home, presumably Parisians getting their shut eye before work on Monday morning. That made room for us to sit down at the front. The second set combined a great house band with an open jam session that saw an unbelievable amount of talent take to the stage. A few beers, GnTs, spiced rums and €100 later we decided to hit the sack at 2am although could have stayed all night.  This former prison is a hip underground place steeped in history and brimming with talent and atmosphere. Well worth a visit.

Caveau des Oubliettes, a jam packed live music venue within a cave/cellar

Caveau des Oubliettes, a jam packed live music venue within a cave/cellar

Monday – Parisian breakfast, Sacré-Cœur, Moulin Rouge and a speakeasy

A google search of breakfast in Paris led us to Cafe Saint Regis on Ile St-Louis. It was exactly what we were looking for, quintessentially Parisian with beautiful decor and professional and attentive staff. We devoured a croissant, freshly baked baguette – we even saw the baker deliver it, apricot jam, freshly squeezed orange juice and superb coffee. If you imagined yourself enjoying breakfast in Paris, you would imagine yourself in this place!

Cafe Saint Regis on Ile St-Louis

Cafe Saint Regis on Ile St-Louis

We planned on visiting Notre Dam next but whilst having breakfast the heavens opened and a short walk to the cathedral convinced us that standing for an hour in the pissing rain wasn’t worth it. So, we looked for a bar and eventually ended up at Le Rampart. We just had a drink each but the food arriving on the tables next to us looked really tasty and homely.

The rain continued so we altered our plans and hopped on the Metro to Sacré-Cœur. It’s an impressive Basilica from outside and visiting it was a great way of adding about 50 flights of stairs to my Fitbit. The views across the city from the top are magnificent, but annoyingly you can’t see Eiffel Tower. Again, we didn’t pay to climb to the top of the dome, but we did go in which was free. The Basilica was like several churches all merged into one with various alters.

Sacré-Cœur, an impressive building but the hordes of tourists and plethora of tacky signage and salesmanship took away any spirituality this place might have had.

Sacré-Cœur, an impressive building but the hordes of tourists and plethora of tacky signage and salesmanship took away any spirituality this place might have had.

On the way back down the many steps I stopped for photo shoot with a graffiti representation of our cat.

Hacksaw - graffiti of my cat in Paris

Hacksaw – graffiti of my cat in Paris

Next stop was Moulin Rouge for a quick photo, but when we got there the rain was bouncing off the pavements so we made a hasty retreat to Chat noir.  A good decision because it also happened to be happy hour, so whereas we were getting used to paying €20 for two pints here it was €9 for two. It was a lovely, spotless but traditional place to sit and enjoy a drink.

When the rain slackened off we wandered down the road to Moulin rouge. We snapped a few photos of us both looking soggy and checked the ticket prices. The cheapest was €130 each and decided we couldn’t justify it, especially when we had somewhere else in mind for the evening’s entertainment. (Although with no titties). It’s a good excuse to come back too.

Moulin Rouge - I could have been a dancer (well if I could kick with a straight leg)

Moulin Rouge – I could have been a dancer (well if I could kick with a straight leg)

We were cold and wet and sought refuge in La Fourmi. Another recommendation from our Lonely Planet guide. It’s a reasonable (for Paris) €6.50 a pint with an unassuming atmosphere.

A bit gritty and if you are a lady you may have to hover when visiting the loos, and Laura’s weary legs were struggling to hold her form after climbing the steps to the Sacré-Cœur!

Onwards, to Salle Climatisée to be precise. €5.50 a pint due to the wonders of happy hour but the place was dead. It was decent enough inside and looked like it might get busy late in the evening for karaoke!

A metro ride back to the hotel to warm up and a change into dry clothes then back out to a busy little restaurant a block away.

La Petite Pergourdine was jam packed but they managed to squeeze us in. We chose the charcuterie board for starter with a side of Sauvignon Blanc. It was massive and could have fed an army but it tasted magnifique, especially the pate which I would never order. For mains, I had French marinated chicken with potato dauphinoise and Laura has pork belly with sweet potato purée. It was grandmas cooking at its best. Wholesome, tasty and extremely satisfying food. The waiters were at boiling point with the business but they kept on top of everything with an amazing professionalism.

La Petite Pergourdine - great food as can be seen be our clear plates

La Petite Pergourdine – great food as can be seen be our clear plates

Our final stop the night was a Lonely Planet Recommendation Chateau de la Huchette. Wow! Could not have had a better evening. We have never been to a jazz/swing club before but this underground cave is a real gem. It felt like we were thrown back seventy years to the 40s/50s era.

The band was made up of a guitarist, double bassist, saxophonist and skiffle board player that could all sing a tune. All generations dancing the night away. It was sensational. It just made you smile. Especially when the bassist sung as every song sounded like the jungle book’s Balou ‘king of the jungle.’ I wouldn’t recommend you go to Caveau de la Huchette if you are in Paris, I would recommend you go to Paris to go to Caveau de la Huchette.

Chateau de la Huchette - amazing jazz/swing speakeasy.

Chateau de la Huchette – amazing jazz/swing speakeasy.

Tuesday – Notre Dame, Panthéon and home

Getting up later than planned had become standard for this trip. We eventually checked out of the hotel around midday. The hotel Atmospheres was an excellent choice. Clean, contemporary perfectly situated in the vibrant Latin Quarter and the staff were cheerful and helpful, even the ones we woke late each night to let us into the hotel.

For late breakfast, we returned to Cafe Saint Regis, but alas we were too late and were presented with the lunch menu. We had our heart set on pastries so ordered from the desert menu. A Mille-Fueille (a posh vanilla slice) for me and Laura had a raspberry tarte washed down with strong coffee. The cakes were divine. But at the end of the day it was just two coffees and two cakes so the price of €32 was breathtakingly steep and almost as scary as the lift to the top of Eiffel Tower!

For the third time in four days we walked to Notre Dame. This time the queue was still long but it wasn’t raining and it seemed to be moving swiftly. In fact, to our surprise we were only queuing for twenty minutes or so. The Cathedral is impressive in terms of size, decor and opulence. It wasn’t as tacky as Sacré-Cœur but due to the tourists and selfies still didn’t feel spiritual. It is free entry to the cathedral and worth waiting in line for. The stain glass windows and murals are magnificent. When we went to leave the rain was lashing down so we retreated back in till it subsided.

Notre Dame - and not a hunchback pose in sight

Notre Dame – and not a hunchback pose in sight

I was ready for some proper food and bursting for a piss so we wandered to the Point Neuf area. We ended up in Brasserie Le Benjamin. The Chicken burger was exactly what I needed, the pint of Pelforth was good but the chips were disappointing. I did also have my wee when we first got to the restaurant and it brings me to a point about Paris and many European cities for that matter. They do not have enough toilets! One toilet for a large restaurant is not enough! Sort it out Paris!

For our last couple of hours in Paris we ambled up to Panthéon, originally a church and now a mausoleum. We just looked around the building rather than pay the €7 to go in as Paris had bled us dry!

Romantic, indulgent, extravagant and expensive – Paris Je t’aime

As I sit in the airport typing up this Paris blog, I have to say what a fantastic break it’s been. There is so much to see and do with art galleries, museums and monuments. The food is excellent and choice beyond compare. Visiting the Eiffel Tower is every bit as awe inspiring as you would imagine, but going to the top when you are afraid of heights is every bit as scary as you can conceive. Like the millions and millions of tourists before me I would highly recommend a long weekend in Paris. But don’t expect it to be cheap! The hefty price tag on everything you eat, drink or look at is just about the only drawback I can see.

Paris Je t’aime

Paris Je t’aime

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