I’ve just returned from a two night stay in Paris with my lovely teenage daughter – a little (or should that be big) reward for working so hard throughout her GCSEs. We jumped on the Eurostar from St Pancras to Gare De Nord at 7am on a Tuesday and came home at 7pm on the Thursday, staying in a little hotel in Montmartre, all courtesy of LastMinute.com – no they didn’t pay – I simply mean we arranged it very last minute through them and the whole trip and accommodation was cheaper than booking just the return train ticket through Eurostar direct!
Anyway it was tricky to select just 10 top treats from all the fantastic things we did over the 3 days and 2 nights – but here goes (in no particular order…)
1. Brunch in Montmartre
Although this is now a very touristic area – it’s still a must visit. And after a sweep browse of the fabulous Sacre Coeur we headed to a charming bistro, La Mere Catherine on the edge of the main square and people watched over our crepes, juice and coffee. Obviously you’re paying extra for the location – but watching the street artists go about their business and soaking in the atmosphere made it more than worth it.
2. Drink fizz on a rooftop
There are many lovely rooftop bars and hotels in Paris and we headed for the bar at the top of the original Gallery Lafayette (as a break from our shopping!). It’s well worth a pit stop here and we enjoyed fizz (me champagne – she Coca Cola) with an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower and Paris mapped out beneath us.
3. Take in a show
We love a bit of theatre and we’re delighted to discover that Grease Le Musical was currently playing in a lovely theatre just a stone’s throw from the Gallery Lafayette. We picked up some tickets for about €30 and enjoyed a Franglais interpretation of one of our favourite musicals – with dialogue in French, songs in a mixture of French and English – but with subtitles on large screens throughout (who knew Grease contained quite such bad language!). A fab experience.
4. Picnic in a park
Now theatre, shopping and Eurostar aside – we were meant to be on a bit of a budget. But believe me picnicking in a Parisienne Park is no hardship or compromise. After a photoshoot at the Louvre pyramids – we found a shady spot in the Jardin Des Tuileries. And we enjoyed our al fresco lunch experience so much that the next day we ate takeaway sushi in the park in the Champ De Mars in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower followed by a can of pop in the Trocadero Gardens. What a view!
5. Watch sunset from the Eiffel Tower
Due to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris there is increased security throughout the city – which is a good thing, as we certainly felt very safe. The downside is you can no longer just wander about freely beneath the Eiffel Tower (or indeed around other monuments/galleries). Instead you have to go through airport style security before venturing near the ticket office. However once we were through security and beneath the Tower we opted to walk up the Tower – watch the sunset over Paris, which was amazing – and then take the lift to the very top to see the city light up. C’est magnifique!
6. Admire the architecture
Talking of magnificent French structures, we spent quite a few hours wandering the streets of Paris admiring the fabulous architecture. The glass pyramids of the Louvre were a particular favourite of my daughter. We also enjoyed Notre Dame, the Sacre Coeur, the Arch De Triumph, the Grand Palais, and the Pompidou Centre, to name but a few.
7. Shop till you drop
At the risk of sounding sexist the fact that we were on a girls’ trip meant that we could shop till we literally dropped. We did the big department stores of Boulevard Haussmann, the boutiques of Le Marais, the chain stores (a la Brandy Melville, Bershka, etc) all over the city, and the arty shops in Montmartre. Luckily, unlike with flying, there seems to be no luggage limit on the Eurostar!
8. Stroll along the Seine
No visit to Paris is complete without a stroll along the Seine. I love a bit of Left Bank action, and I also enjoy walking across the bridges. However I’m sad to report that the padlock bridge – the fabulous Pont Des Arts – is no more… or to put it correctly the padlocks are no more. We only discovered this when we went to try and find the padlock that we attached a few years ago…Apparently all of the padlocks were removed a few years ago due to safety concerns for the weight on the bridge – and Perspex screens have been erected to prevent any more padlocks being attached to the Bridge of Romance. Sad times.
9. Go to a gallery
Now my daughter is an artist – actually that all sounds a bit grand! She is however very good at art and leans towards relaxed subjects at school. So, where better place to go to for a bit of art then Paris, the spiritual home to starving artists everywhere. Unfortunately the galleries in Paris are pretty pricey to enter (apart from on the first Sunday of the month when many of them are free) – so this time we only went and looked at the art at small private galleries, and even in these we found some fabulous modern pieces to admire. We also admired the outside of the Louvre and the outside and foyer of the Pompidou Centre!
10. Meander around Le Marais
I’d heard much about Le Marais area of Paris and was keen to explore. Unfortunately we had just a couple of hours before we had to head for our Eurostar home, but even in this short amount of time we saw the potential and are keen to return in our next trip. With its niche boutiques, cute galleries, cosy cafes and super-cool bistros, we will definitely be paying Le Marais a return visit.