My first visit to Paris happened in 2008 as my 40th birthday present. I’d loved Paris (and France) before I’d even stepped foot on its soil so finally reaching there only served to fuel that obsession.
I’ve been super fortunate to have returned to Paris another four times since that first visit, most recently in 2010 with my mum.
When Rob encourages me to go again in November, his purpose is twofold – firstly, it’s my birthday gift and secondly, he’s hoping that this will be the trip that finally cures me of a need to ever return again. And truth be told, I’ve never experienced Paris in anything other than glorious sunshine, so I’m expecting his plan to work given the time of year.
My girlfriend, Sandy, from the island is up for the eight day – and quite last-minute – trip. We’re two carefree gals about to experience the city like locals – there’s not one obvious ‘touristy’ attraction on our to-do list.
So…. if you are ever seeking to spend a week in Paris like a local, here’s a few options for you.
I can count on one finger the number of great meals I’ve had in Paris. For a city that’s known for its culinary prowess, I seem to have had little success in finding it.
Not this trip.
Lunch on day one is at the restaurant on level one of the Musee d’Orsay. First opened in 1900 as the former restaurant of the Hotel d’Dorsay, its new modern furniture is an interesting juxtaposition to the dazzling chandeliers and the painted gilded ceilings (which are listed as a Historic Monument).
The set two course lunch for 22 Euro offers a number of choices and great value. I opt for the cream of asparagus soup and the fish on lentils.
Sandy has the roast chicken (a Parisian favourite) and the chocolate nougat log. And naturally, we enjoy a glass of rose to keep us fuelled for the post-lunch wander through the gallery and home along the Seine. This is a stunning meal in a decadent setting, and highly recommended.
I found Angelina’s via Instagram – a local girl that I follow enjoys brunch there quite regularly.
We make our way along Rue de Rivoli on Sunday morning to join the queue waiting for a table. Thankfully, the view into the gift and pastry shops either side of the lobby is a pleasant visual distraction whilst waiting.
Angelina’s was founded in 1903 by Antoine Rumpelmayer, a confectioner who named the establishment after his daughter-in-law. As soon as it opened, Angelina became the place to be among the Parisian aristocracy with Proust and Coco Chanel apparently rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in fashion. There were certainly a number of Chanel-clad ladies in line with us.
Like most buildings of this era, the architecture and décor is one of complete opulence. The menu is one of complete indulgence. And indulge we did – croissants, pain aux raisens, pain and des œufs. This is one of my most favourite experiences in Paris.
Okay, I concede this could be labelled ‘touristy’ but when your travelling partner has sailed around the world at the age of 19 with her parents (some thirty years ago, before mobile phones and GPS), including through the canal system into Paris, it’s a non-negotiable for her to experience again – and for me to see how the system works.
We walk along the Seine on a brisk Saturday morning from our apartment to Pont de Solférino where the boat departs. It’s a beautifully clear but very cold day as we sit on the top deck and make our way up past the Louvre and the Notre Dame before we leave the Seine and enter the loch system heading north of the city.
Firstly, I had no idea that such a system existed and how far it extended north and south of the main city area. And secondly, it’s a great way to observe life in the suburbs – parents watching their kids at the playground, lovers strolling and embracing, and what we think is 90% of Parisians running.
We get dropped at Parc de la Villette where we enjoy lunch at a park side café before training it back to the Christmas markets.
We booked this Paris Canal tour.
You don’t make a trip to Paris in late November without knowing the Christmas markets along the Champs Elysees will be a major highlight. For those of us who dwell in the southern hemisphere, experiencing the Christmas lights, carols, mulled wine and ice skating in freezing temperatures is an absolute treat. I challenge any Grinch to not get into the spirit.
We wander through the Louvre, les Jardine Tuileries and onto the Champs Elysees where we’re greeted with what seems like an endless view of pretty decorated white timber huts lining both sides of the boulevard. Vendors are selling everything from hand-painted Christmas decorations to jewellery, chocolates, nougat and mulled wine.
We’re quick to find the champagne hut before making our way up one side and down the other and finishing with a mulled wine. It’s a magical view and experience.
The most famous markets in Paris are the Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, north of the city. This is my third time visiting the markets and I never fail to leave without a unique item- this time, a handmade leather satchel bag for my travels. Full of antiquities, furniture, bric-a-brac and curios, it’s a rabbit warren of interesting exploration, and a fun way to spend our rainy Sunday.
Rue de Mouffetard is both a market street, and a street market in the fifth arrondissement, some 10kms walking from where we are – via the Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Co, the Pantheon and St Germain. One of Paris’s oldest and liveliest neighbourhoods, it’s a narrow, pretty street lined with interesting shops, cafes and restaurants, but also with an open market of fresh produce. It’s here that we purchase most of our Secret Santa gifts.
For a brief moment, we considered buying tickets for Moulin Rouge. Thankfully, this gave way to ideas for a more authentic Parisian experience – a cosy jazz club.
I googled ‘best Jazz Club in Paris’ and found it – a mere 60 metres from our apartment door, Duc des Lombards. We purchased tickets for Friday evening – and enjoyed a fabulous night listening to the Joey CALDERAZZO Trio, as we sipped bubbles. Tres magnifique!
The tickets are very easy to purchase online.
AM I CURED OF PARIS?
Not a hope in hell.
All this trip did is prove that Paris is always a good idea.
Thank you to Sandy for making it such a special journey and to Audrey for flying across from the UK to visit with us. xx
We stayed in this Airbnb apartment on Rue Saint Denis. It’s in a very central area and within walking distance to almost every attraction. It’s also on the main train line from the airport. Below is the view from our apartment living room.