How To Spend: A Weekend In Paris

7 June 2018

Oh Paris, Audrey Hepburn really did say it best - you're always a good idea! And an extremely good idea that my boyfriend had late last year was to whisk me off to France's capital City Of Lights for my birthday as a surprise... such a keeper! The Airbnb he'd booked fell through which meant that our trip was rearranged for December, and visiting in the most festive month of the year was truly magical!

We had such a wonderful, whirlwind time and I wanted to share some highlights with you in case you're planning on visiting one of the most romantic cities in the world for a few days.

First up, props to the Eurostar service from London St Pancras to the Gard du Nord for being the most easy and seamless transition from England to France ever - it's actually quicker than the journey from my house to Will's, would you believe! Upon arrival at midday we jumped in an Uber and headed straight to our Airbnb which was the most perfect 'base camp' for a weekend's stay - unfortunately I don't have the details but I remember that the address was Rue Chénier (I just checked that and my little yellow Google Maps street view guy was plonked right outside of our red front door, so that's definitely it!) and it had everything we needed as well as the most minimalistic Instagram-worthy decor.

We added another layer of clothing on under our coats to go for a stroll and ended up on a gorgeous parade of shops, bars and cafés. One of the things I love most about Paris and something that you should definitely experience whilst you're there is their café culture - all of the chairs face outwards from the buildings which makes for total people-watching heaven and everywhere has outdoor heating, so even though the air was frosty we were completely toasty and happy to sit for a while enjoying a coffee and a plate of French fries.

After having a little mosey around some antique furniture and clothing shops we started walking home to our apartment, and Will suggested that we stop to pick up some food (he has this brilliant ability to make a cooked breakfast every morning no matter where we're staying in the world, I once woke up in an Airbnb in Budapest that had an empty fridge and cupboards the night before to a complete breakfast buffet!) so we stopped off at the local boulangerie to pick up some freshly baked ciabatta. The haul continued in another little shop where we got some essentials: eggs, tomatoes and spinach to go on top of our toast for breakfast, and garlic and chilled stuffed olives, tapenade and red wine for the evenings.

Back at the apartment we had a little mini-feast (you can't go wrong with the old trusty classic of crusty bread dipped in oil with garlicky olives on side and a couple of glasses of vino, so good) whilst we got ready for the evening. I must mention that we discovered that there was a new series of one of our favourite tv shows 'People Just Do Nothing', but we couldn't watch it on BBC iPlayer as we were out of the country! Instead we put the Baby Driver soundtrack through the speakers whilst we drank and danced to American soul, which looking back was way, WAY more romantic than Kurupt FM - sorry, MC Grindah.

With an Instagram DM inbox packed to the brim with Paris suggestions (thanks guys, we really appreciated it!) we decided to head to Popolare which is a very trendy pizzeria, but they may want to change that 'o' to a 'u' and get rid of that 'e' as this restaurant was POPULAR, all caps! The queue of young people waiting to get in seemingly snaked around the whole city and wasn't moving anywhere fast, so we dove into a warm and welcoming wine bar next door for a drink whilst we chatted and planned our next move. We were intrigued by Popolare but didn't fancy waiting, and therefore found ourselves walking along the parade we'd discovered earlier in the day. Not feeling too hungry thanks to our mini-feast earlier, we enjoyed simply strolling around and being spoilt for restaurant choices. 

Every place we passed looked super inviting, but the menu outside Little Italy Caffe caught our eye and as soon as we opened the door we were hit with this real palpable buzz. It's not a spacious restaurant by any means, but that only added to the charm and we were more than happy to wait by the bar 'cheers'-ing with a glass of wine until a table (that you need to be physically 'tucked into' because of the narrowness of the building, no joke!) became available. Will did that classic thing where you see someone else in the restaurant being served something that looks amazing and you have a 'I'll have what he's having!' moment so he had a seafood pasta dish, and I had 'pappardelle al porcini' which was delicious. I'm a spicy food fiend and have copious amount of chilli flakes on everything, and we discovered that night that chilli in French is 'chili'... good to know!

If you're a serious pasta person then Little Italy Caffe is well worth a visit - it's reasonably priced, the portions were very generous without lacking in flavour (quantity and quality, not always easy to find!) and the staff did a beautiful job of navigating the restaurant and making the smaller space seem cosy rather than cramped. You really feel like you're in an authentic Italian family restaurant!

The following day we decided to do some sightseeing so we bundled up in lots of warm layers and called an Uber to the Louvre. We saw the Eiffel Tower and thought about going up, but a famous French singer named Johnny Hallyday had sadly passed away and we'd been advised by my viewers to avoid some of the larger Paris monuments as lots of people would be paying tribute.

It was one of those 'heaven help you if you forget a hat and gloves' types of days and it was beginning to rain, so we got in the queue for the Louvre which moved fairly quickly. Entry was free as we're within the 18-25 year old EU resident bracket, and once inside that glorious pyramid we set off exploring. As you can imagine there's an endless amount of history to be seen and you can get lost for hours looking at whatever takes your fancy, and of course there's Da Vinci's Mona Lisa - a lot of people comment that it's far smaller than you might expect, but I don't think that detracts from the pleasure and honour of seeing the real thing in real life (albeit over the heads of lots of people and their selfie sticks!)

After getting our fill of art for the day, we left the Louvre and walked along the Seine, passing a sign that read "we serve beer colder than your ex's heart!" which made us laugh enough that we wanted to investigate further. At first I couldn't see where this quirky place was, but we realised that the sign was pointing down some stone steps where a lovely little bistro called Maison Maison sat on the river's edge. It seemed closed, but it turns out that the door just needs a very large and firm push! My immediate thoughts were that it was a sweet and humble establishment - there was a metal bucket underneath a leak in the roof towards the far end of the restaurant and fresh flowers on every table. We were greeted by a lovely lady called Deborah who spoke fantastic English, which was really helpful as despite the menu being small I would've needed to Google Translate almost everything!

Will and I both had oricchiette with 'courge et trévise' which is pumpkin and radicchio (the dish also came with sardines which they were able to take out for me as I'm a vegetarian) and I kid you not - this was one of the best meals of my whole entire life! Every bite was to die for; the pasta was fresh, the chicory was cooked to absolute perfection and the sauce was so exquisitely creamy yet delicate and downright heavenly that I savoured each mouthful. It was, quite honestly, heaven on a plate. The location couldn't be more perfect either, as you look out of the window and the Seine is eye-level which just made me want to break out into a rendition 'Audition (The Fools Who Dream)' from La La Land - it's truly magical. Maison Maison will be one of the sole reasons I return to Paris, and Will can confirm that the beer was icy cold!

Full and happy, we climbed the stone steps again feeling extremely thankful that we'd discovered such a hidden gem and crossed the bridge, stopping to look at all of the 'love locks' on our way. Our afternoon was one of wandering - we took some photos for my Instagram, had lemon and sugar crêpes with mulled wine and saw Notre Dame before Uber-ing back to our cosy base camp to shower and go to town on the bread and olives.

The lovely waitress Deborah from Maison Maison had been really friendly and chatted to us about our evening plans, which were to head across Paris to see if we could find a rooftop restaurant so we could have a nice romantic meal, ideally with views of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Cœre. She wrote us a little list of her favourite places that weren't too far from our Airbnb, one of which was called Benichat. The walk was longer than we'd anticipated and we arrived ready to shrug off our coats and tuck into some hot food. We were expecting a restaurant and instead found a very small bar, so maybe they only serve food early - always Google before you go, kids! - but seeing as we'd walked all that way we decided to stay for a drink that turned into two, three, four...

The guy behind the bar at Benichat served us a generous bowl of olives whilst we sampled their gin selection, our favourite being Monkey 47. It was the perfect place to chill and chat with a proper G&T and we spent most of our evening there, before realising that it had gone 11.30pm and the chance of a proper meal might've passed us by. Undeterred (and with our gin jackets on) we left the bar in search of a late-night food joint that might offer up a burger or a wrap with chips - hopeful, but safe in the knowledge that we had enough 'nibbly bits' back at our Airbnb to make a banging antipasti board.

Paris was kind to us on this night as we stumbled upon an Irish pub, which I'm pretty sure was called Corcoran's. We were greeted by the smiliest host who ushered us in and told us, to our absolute delight, that the kitchen was still fully open and we could have what we liked. After a quick glance over the menu (we were ravenous by this point) we both swiftly chose pizzas which were kind of average, but when it's bordering on midnight and you thought you'd be having a tapenade toastie for dinner - who's complaining?

On our final day in Paris the heavens opened, but it didn't stop us from having the best day ever! After packing and locking up our trusty, faithful Airbnb and telling it "its been real", we wheeled our suitcases along in the drizzle until we found a cute café (it doesn't take long in Paris, let's face it!) for petit déjeuner as there's nothing like good coffee and good croissants to get you ready for the day ahead.

Montmartre was the last stop of our trip, and driving through the winding hill of the 18th arrondissement is a pleasure in itself. Amélie, one of my all-time favourite films, was set in Montmartre so it was a dream come true to walk around and spot different landmarks from the movie. It really is like something out of a film there - the smell of homemade French onion soup wafts out of the blue painted wooden shutters of rustic restaurants, elderly men walk the streets with paintbrush in hand and the view both inside the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœre and outside it are completely idyllic. Even the blustery winds couldn't dampen our spirits as we simply ducked into a family-run place to sample some of that French onion soup we'd been craving, and once the rain had died down we continued our stroll again.

Will spotted a sign for a Salvador Dalí exhibition and in the spirit of enjoying our final day, being spontaneous and adding a little more culture to our trip, we bought two tickets and went to the exhibition. I can't tell you how fascinating it was! I was unfamiliar with Dalí's work before (I recognised the melting clocks, but that was it) and I really did fall in love with his imagination - he was a true genius and both of us were totally absorbed in his work. Barely ten minutes went by where Will or I didn't hurry to find each other and show them this-piece-they-absolutely-HAD-to-see, and I'm so glad we went. It was run by Espace Dalí and I couldn't recommend it more - I've always been way more into literature than art and sometimes feel as though things go over my head, but this exhibition was perfectly accessible and I left feeling like I could talk about the experience all day.

Whilst looking for somewhere nice to enjoy our last meal we found Roberta, and boy were we glad we did! The staff were all smiles and the decor was really modern with a relaxed feel. We ordered a Negroni each which were delicious, these pack a punch but are perfect for sipping on whilst you chat and peruse the menu. We asked to order but were a couple of hours early for the dinner service, so instead we helped ourselves to the deli counter which had every cheese, meat and pickle you could possibly wish for!

Our original idea was to sip our cocktails and carry on nibbling until dinnertime, but as the clock ticked we agreed it was best to head to the Gard du Nord and eat somewhere closer by, as there's nothing worse than being far away from the airport/station etc when your travel time is approaching. If anything happens like your meal takes ages to arrive or there are no taxis, you can't even enjoy your food or remaining time with the panic of possibly missing your journey home looming - it's best to get to where you need to be first.

A quick trip to the toilets in Roberta was necessary but tinged with sadness as we had to walk past their fresh pasta section - we were practically drooling over the homemade gnocchi, but knew it was more sensible to head off so we paid our bill and jumped in an Uber. We ate at Le Zinc Du Nord which was exactly what we needed, our food arrived promptly (Will had a burger and fries, I had risotto) and we didn't have to rush as we were already opposite the Gard du Nord with plenty of time before our Eurostar back to London. It was the perfect place to clink one final G&T and cheers to such a wonderful trip!

Big thanks to Will for organising this, he made it such a special birthday for me and planned everything beautifully. I hope this post gives you some ideas if you're visiting Paris, and please feel free to leave recommendations below in the comments for others. Au revoir!

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