Paris is a feeling. I get chills thinking about it. The first time i visited Paris, i was around 18 years old. I was only there for 20 hours, whirlwind i know but you guys should know me by now i love last minute trip and as I was staying in Normandy i thought why not, and boy did it leave an impressional. The people, the architecture, the food, you name it - i fell in love instantly. This time around i whisked my Mum to Paris for her "big" birthday - if i told you she'd kill me. She was completely oblivious to this trip, in fact my brothers and I told her she was going to Blackpool for her birthday which, naturally, she wasn't over pleased about. We travelled to Paris with Air France first class and arrived in Paris late Friday afternoon. Luggage dropped off hotel we headed straight out to take in this beautiful city, sat in a cute little bistro by The Eiffel Tower.
Our apartment was situated in The Opéra district in Paris which, again, i conveniently booked there because my favourite shopping mall is situated in - Galeries Lafayette. This 120-year-old family business flagship store off Boulevard Haussmann is a top destination spot for Paris shoppers year after year, second only to the Eiffel Tower.
With 3500 brands, the halls of Lafayette Paris contain a new men’s department and a new 3,500 square meter lingerie department. It’s not all shopping, though. Just to see the Neo-byzantine style stain glass windows and the 1912 dome roof, the design of the building is impressive in itself.Built by master glassmaker Jacques Gruber and designed by Ferdinand Chanut, the spectacular dome is visited and photographed by thousands every year. Also, don’t forget to check out the amazing rooftop terrace which has unimpeded 360-degree views over Paris which also boasts a roof top bar, the perfect opportunity to sit back and relax with a crisp glass of champagne whilst taking in the breathtaking views of Paris from above.
Next up - The Notre Dame! One of the most iconic churches in the world, the twin steeples tower above all the grand buildings nearby. You can't go to Paris and not go into The Notre Dame. Don't be put off by the queue outside, it really does go down rather quick - the architecture blew me away. I'm not a religious person however i felt so many different emotions when visiting here, i certainly do believe in a bigger power out there.
Paris' most iconic museum - The Louvre. With over a million pieces of art, you could spend a whole month in the Louvre and still not see everything! Be sure to book in advance to avoid the queues.
I highly recommend you take a visit to le Café Marly. Situated in the 1st district, always in fashion, certainly very Parisian, the Café Marly, a half-modern, half-Napoleon III era "brasserie" enjoys an exceptional view of the Louvre and its pyramids. The menu is attractive and full of character without being pretentious and their breakfast is the perfect way to start your day.
The Grand Palais. To me, this is quintessential Paris. One of the loveliest buildings in the world! Just on the other side, is the Petit Palais - They are exquisite and a testament to French architecture. The Grand Palais is a museum and exhibition hall, often with events taking place. The Petit Palais is an art museum, worth the look inside, as the whole building is art in itself.
The Sacre Coeur in Montmartre is a must. This beautiful basilica is found at the summit of Montmartre hill, the highest summit in the city. As you would imagine therefore, there are excellent views on offer from up here. The Basilica is relatively new, with construction being completed in 1914. Its white domes are instantly recognisable, and you can climb to the top for a fantastic view of the city. Entry to the Sacre Coeur itself is free, although there is a fee for accessing the towers.
Montmartre itself is an area which has long been popular with artists, and many famous artists of the Belle Époque era had their studios in this area. Today, you can get your portrait, caricature or silhouette painted at the famous Place du Tertre, a short walk from the Basilica.
Of course, one of my favourite things to do is just to walk around and see the city. It’s so romantic and tells a story with each step. For me, I love Paris. It is a city which has it’s own romantic, magical energy to it that was just contagious and it’s such a beautiful place to wander around and explore. It's exciting getting lost in Paris, sometimes i like to put my phone on silent, no Google Maps, no nothing and you'll be pleasantly surprised. For example, we got lost whilst in Paris but instead of worrying we embraced the city, found some fabulous hidden treasures and stumbled across a little Italian deli style bistro, Capriccio Sorrentino on 26 Rue de Monttessuy, 75007 Paris. The staff there where fabulous, super welcoming and the food was fab, traditional Italian style. The interior was a modern, upscale wood and white brick décor. The main seating is a long counter with several high-back stools on both sides and standing-only counters along the walls - perfect if you're looking for a casual dining experience. If you do try there, which is highly recommend tell Françoise i sent you, he will certainly look after you!
My top tips for Paris would be:
1) Learn the basics. Most Parisians do speak a little English, but you’re going to get a much warmer reception if you make an attempt with French. Just by being able to say “hello”, “goodbye”, “please”, “excuse me”, “do you speak, English?”, and “thank you” is much better than nothing! English has become the international language, especially in capital cities like Paris. You can use it, but don't assume everyone speaks it.
2) Wear comfortable walking shoes. You’re going to do a LOT of walking if you’re doing it right. Be sensible and chic a la the Parisians and opt for a leather ankle boot, simple ballet pump…or some good looking trainers!
3) Keep your wits about you. There are pick pockets, as there are in the majority of cities, so stay aware of your surroundings especially late at night. I’ve never had a problem, but I know people who’ve had run ins. Make sure to carry your bag or purse in front of you or have it in sight, at all times while in public domain. Don’t leave anything in your pockets either.
4) Try some traditional French dishes that you may not have tried at home. My recommendations? Escargots (snails cooked in garlic and butter), steak tartare (raw beef mixed with spices and an egg), confit de canard (duck cooked in its own fat), cassoulet (a dish with beans, sausage, and confit de canard), quiche lorraine (quiche with cheese and ham), and moules marinières (mussels cooked in white wine, garlic, and spices). And plenty of macarons, baguettes, and pains au chocolat, of course!
5) Buy the Paris Museum Pass. It will save you so much time and a little bit of money. It eliminates waiting in line after line at the major museums and you won’t feel bad if you stop into a museum for just a few minutes and leave. Order your pass in advance and have it shipped to you at home so you don’t waste time picking it up on your trip.
6) Relax. You won’t see everything you wanted, there’s just too much. It’s okay. Just accept it and think of it as a reason to look forward to your next visit. Take your time and enjoy the magic of Paris.
We finished off our final evening seeing the Eiffel Tower light up at night. There is absolutely nothing in the world like it. This is where I fell deeply in love with Europe. There is so much to see and do, you really can’t go wrong with what you do in Paris. But having a plan beforehand is always a good idea. I ticked off many things from our list but we also went off the beaten track, got lost, met some amazing people and made some great friends! I have one rule in Paris, and while travelling in general, embrace it! Be a tourist. Take the photographs. Learn about what you're seeing. I promise you'll treasure these memories forever.