Despite having been there more times than I can count since my first visit at just 5 months old, I’ve somehow never written anything on here about one of my favourite cities in the world – Paris. In fact, I realised I’ve barely written about France at all. Considering that all my family lives there, I used to live there, and it’s the country where I’ve spent the most time and done the most travelling, I’m not sure how this is. But I’ll make a start on it with my most recent visit, which was mostly Paris with a brief but lovely trip to my family hometown of Metz for my cousin’s wedding.
This was also the first time in probably around 15 years that all of my family went on holiday together. Although we were heading to Lorraine, the easiest way to get there is to fly to Paris then take the TGV across the country. It had been a few years since I’d spent any real time in Paris so me, my mum and my brother Mike had decided to stay there for a week after the wedding. Stepping off the plane into the late summer warmth and sunshine, I felt like I was home again.
Before we caught the train we had a couple of hours to kill; not a difficult thing to do in Paris! Our first port of call was dinner, and as my dad is from the East of France he had been dying on a proper, traditional choucroute. For those not familiar, it is a mound of fermented cabbage with about an entire pig worth of meat on top of it. Personally, it’s not for me. But my dad and Mike were very happy and the rest of us enjoyed a delicious meal and of course some very nice French wine (the first of many on this trip!).
After dinner we still had a bit of time, so the girls (me, my mum, and Jess) went for a walk and ended up by the Canal St Martin, one of my favourite places in Paris. Just wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere of the city made me realise how much I had missed this place, and even just being there for a couple of hours I already didn’t want to leave. Eventually we had to of course, and the long day of travelling continued. By the time we arrived at the hotel in Metz we were all exhausted and had a wedding to look forward to the next day, so it was an early night all around.
The next day was a blur of family and wedding things, which I won’t go into detail of. It was an amazing day though, an absolutely gorgeous wedding, and so lovely to catch up with the family. I would have loved to spend more time in Metz and around Lorraine, but on Sunday we caught the train back to Paris. My dad, Chris, and Jess then headed to the airport and back home, while the rest of us got to stay in the city. Summer seemed to have arrived late in France as well as in the UK, so it was another lovely evening. Once we located the AirB&B we were staying in, we went for a quick walk around the neighbourhood and for a drink before dinner.
For dinner we went to Le Chartier, an old favourite that does cheap traditional food served in a gorgeous old dining hall and is equally popular with locals as with tourists. The service is pretty hit and miss, and unfortunately that night it was definitely a miss. But the food was good and I was finally able to have some French cider, something which is notoriously difficult to track down in a country where beer and wine are most common. As we were staying relatively close by, we took a walk up to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur after dinner to watch a truly amazing sunset.
I spent Monday largely by myself, indulging in a bit of “Flâneuserie” and browsing the shops. I did however have to pay a visit to the recently opened Parisian branch of my favourite ice cream shop from Australia, N2, which was just as amazing as I remembered.
Continuing with the theme of good food and over indulgence, the next morning I made us all walk across town to the best bakery in Paris for breakfast. Du Pain et Des Idées, just off the Canal, has won numerous prizes for its traditionally baked breads, pastries, and all sorts of other delicacies, so naturally I had to check it out. By the time we got there it was late morning, the queue was out the door and they had almost sold out. But we managed to get some croissants, pains au chocolat, and escargots, which we enjoyed with some lovely coffee while sitting by the Canal in the sunshine. Bliss.
The rest of the day was spent exploring Paris and actually visiting some places that I had never been to before, the Palais Royal and Sainte Chapelle. After a LOT of walking (again – when in Paris…) we picked up some dinner supplies and had a picnic on the Champ de Mars, because although I’ve seen it countless times I still find the Eiffel Tower pretty special. It was one of those moments where the second you stop walking and sit down you realise just how tired you are and how much your feet hurt, and it took all of our collective energy to get back to the flat – although this time we did take a Metro!
On Wednesday we took the train out to Versailles. Again, it’s somewhere I’ve visited numerous times in the past, but it had been a while and it’s not really somewhere you can overdo as there’s so much to see. It was an absolutely scorching day, perfect for wandering the 800 or so hectares of gardens. I had never been to Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon and estate, so we decided to head down to see her own private “little” garden, complete with it’s own farm.
On Wednesday night, the weather finally did the usual French thing after a long hot spell and there was an epic, all-night rain and thunder storm. This was supposed to ease off the next day but unfortunately the rain continued. We spent most of the day shopping in an attempt to keep dry, after initially getting soaked the second we stepped foot outside. Of course we were fuelled by another delicious breakfast from Du Pain et Des Idées – this time I opted for a summer fruits and cream cheese escargot, which if possible was even better than the first. It was another day of miles and miles of walking, but in my opinion that is the only way to do Paris.
We were leaving on Friday afternoon, but as we had the morning and the weather was still being unpredictable, we went to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, where my mum wanted to see their exhibition on Barbie. Initially I wasn’t very interested, but my inner child got the best of me so I went to see it as well and it was actually really great. Eventually though it was time to leave, and it was with a lot of reluctance that I bade Paris goodbye (for now).