I've had such an incredible Summer and I'm sad to see it come to an end! It concluded with a weekend in Paris; one of my best friends from university is from Paris and her family still own some properties there so three of us found a great deal on the Eurostar and decided to spend the weekend there.
7:30am - London Kings Cross St. Pancras
It was an early start so I stayed over at my boyfriend's in St. Albans, which was really handy because it's a quick 20 minute train ride to Kings Cross St. Pancras where the Eurostar goes directly to Paris from. Although there's security and stuff, you only really need to be there 45 minutes before your train so I met with one of my friends and we grabbed a smoked salmon breakfast at Benugo before heading to the train.
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Shoes, River Island - no longer available - buy similar here (£25)
8:30am - The Train
Our train left at half past 8 which we chose to make sure we had a good amount of time once we arrived on the Friday, though obviously you lose an hour going out. The Eurostar is a lot more like a European train so it's far cleaner and more spacious than British public transport. It was a pretty comfortable and smooth journey and we really should've slept on the way but we were probably too excited! The amount of time you've actually in the tunnel is minimal too.
After the quick 2-hour train journey we arrived in Paris Gare de Nord and hopped on the Metro. As we obviously weren't locals we just bought tickets - it's a flat fare so you pay around €1.50 per ticket and each will give you one journey (why TFL is incapable of doing something similar when Paris and New York can is a mystery!) I wouldn't say it's a really complicated system but the maps aren't as simple and easy to follow as on the London Underground. It took us a little under an hour to get to my friend's sister's apartment in the 16th where we were staying. It's a really cute district - very Parisian (there was such a pretty view from the top-floor window) with lots of little bakeries and high-end stores. We ditched our bags, changed into something more suitable for the 27 degree heat and headed out in search of food.
2pm - Lunch at Le Polo
My friend from Paris grew up in the area so said we could wander towards the main part of the district. It can be hard to get lunch in Paris after 2pm apparently so we decided to stop at a burger place called Le Polo. It was really nice and I had a great smoked salmon burger (yes, that is two smoked salmon meals in a row...)
We passed a pharmacy and of course I was in there immediately! There are a few bits that aren't available in the UK and even with the abysmal exchange rate most products are a little cheaper so I stocked up and convinced my friends to do the same... Then we went around the nice shops in the area - most of them aren't designer but they're a little more premium than your usual high street places. One of my friends was trying on so much stuff and buying loads so we were a little late back to the apartment to change for dinner, though we still stopped for a coffee!
This is my friend's favourite restaurant so we met there for dinner. It's such a pretty little spot with a really nice atmosphere - we were there for ages eating, drinking and talking. I do think the portion sizes are quite small in Paris so I had a seafood soup to start and a vegetarian tabbouleh and curry for my main. Both were really nice but weren't as much food as I'd expected! It was actually very reasonably priced but we did spend quite a lot on wine, which was excellent.
Afterwards we went for a few drinks in the Bastille area close to where the restaurant was, which was fun. I'm not sure how but it turned into a bit of a late one so we decided to get an Uber back.
12pm - The Eiffel Tower
We had a bit of a late start because we didn't get in until almost 3am the night before. My friend from Paris had organised to visit her grandmother so the other two of us took the opportunity to do some 'tourist stuff'. We got the Metro to the Eiffel Tower; we'd already decided we weren't going to go to the top of it but it was good to have a wander around the area and take in the view. It was quite quiet and not too crowded, which was nice. We were starting to get hungry though and there didn't seem to be anywhere around the Eiffel Tower to eat. The friend we'd met the night before is a student in Paris and gave us a few recommendations that were near the Notre Dame Cathedral so we decided to get the bus for 15-20 minutes over there. I'm so glad we did that instead of getting the Metro (though it was hard to find the right stop, Citymapper was a big help) because it meant we got to see some amazing sights on the way.
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1:30pm - Lunch at Godjo
We were recommended this Ethiopian restaurant, which is a slightly odd setting as it literally feels like you're in someone's house! You essentially order these sharing plates, so we got vegetables and fish, as well as some houmous for on the side. To soak everything up you get these sort of thin, savoury pancakes and the sharing plate is made of one and put in a dish in a basket. The salmon was so good and I loved dipping into the little bits of salad, chickpeas and roasted vegetables. Overall it was so good and just really different to anything I've tried before.
We took a walk through the city and saw the town hall, the Seine and just took in the atmosphere and beauty of the city. It was such a lovely day and it's such a nice walk to the Notre Dame from where we were.
The Cathedral emerged from behind the river and it really is an amazing sight. We took our time having a wander around the exterior and through the little park next to it. We didn't have time to go inside but we took in the impressive architecture; the level of detail, from the gargoyles to the religious figures, really is incredible.
We hopped back onto the Metro to meet our friend at the Arc de Triumph. Obviously it is in the centre of a busy roundabout so use the underpass to get to it! It really is an impressive commemoration to the First World War, showing the names of the fallen as well as honouring those who have died at war since. There's also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier between the arch - an unidentified soldier who lost their life in the war. It really is a powerful place so we hung around for a while to take it all in.
We walked towards the Champs-Elysees and got a coffee somewhere a few minutes away (due to the restaurants and cafes on the street itself being notoriously expensive). It wasn't too busy because of the time of day but there were still a lot of people around. We stopped for some yummy macaroons at Laduree before heading on towards the gigantic Sephora of dreams, where we literally managed to spend over an hour before we had to rush back to the apartment for a super-quick change before heading back out for dinner!
8pm - Dinner at Le Petit Keller and Drinks
We got the Metro out to dinner again (there isn't much in the way of evening entertainment where the apartment is) and this time we chose a place called Le Petit Keller. It's a Franco-Japanese fusion restaurant that shouldn't work but does! The staff were really friendly and helped us out a lot with food and wine recommendations. The main thing people get at this restaurant are the small plates and I'd recommend at least 2 per person. It was mainly seafood anyway so we all shared and it was amazing! My favourites were definitely the squid, the artichoke and the salmon. I totally recommend this restaurant! The road that it's situated on has loads of bars and restaurants so we had a few cocktails afterwards, though left early enough to get the Metro back.
10:30am - Montparnasse
We made an early start to pack and tidy up the apartment. We'd toyed with the idea of the Louvre but decided we didn't really have time to do it properly (I would've liked to have done Versailles too but time constraints meant we couldn't). Instead we decided it was time to see Paris from the top and headed to Montparnasse. The Montparnasse Tower is the highest point in central Paris besides the Eiffel Tower; when you see the city from above you can tell that it's almost all on the same level until you move towards the financial district, besides the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower. There was a really lovely street art market in front of the tower which we had a wander through before heading into the tower. There wasn't really a queue and it was just €15 to go and see the views (plus once we were up there we almost had the viewing deck to ourselves at that time!) so is well worth doing. You get such an amazing panoramic view of the city and you can pick out pretty much all of the main sights. The viewing platform is a little like the Top of the Rock; it isn't cramped and you have time to walk around and take everything in.
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11:30am - A Wander Through Le Jardin du Luxembourg
The restaurant we planned to go to was on the other side of the main park in Paris so we decided to cut through to see the fountains and the beautiful Palais du Luxembourg, the seat of the French Senate. It's really pretty so definitely take a stroll through the garden if you get the chance.
12pm - Lunch at Fuxia
We headed for an early lunch at an Italian restaurant just outside the garden. We all chose the €23 set brunch menu which has a little bit of everything; pasta, pesto, mozzarella balls, smoked salmon and so on, as well as including a small cake and fruit salad, a hot drink of your choice and a freshly-squeezed orange juice. It was really nice and definitely kept us going for the rest of the day.
We had to head back to the station around 2pm after picking up our things from the apartment. Although we didn't see it all, we didn't do badly either! We saw most of the things we wanted to without it feeling rushed, we ate well and had so much fun. There was a bit of a scare at the station in Paris before we left but it didn't delay us and in a way it's a relief that the police and security services are doing their job and making sure any threats are removed safely. It was a bit of a long journey home during which I wrote this post, napped and listened to podcasts! Paris: it's been great and I look forward to seeing you again soon! I definitely won't be leaving it so long to come back next time...