As I mentioned in my 2018 Resolutions and Goals Post, one thing I really want to do more of this year is travel. So I kicked off the New Year in style, heading to the city of Paris for a weekend city break with my boyfriend! We scored a great deal on Wowcher, and although Tom took some convincing, we set off for Edinburgh Airport on the 12th of January, anticipating lots of fine wines, cheese, and sight seeing!
We arrived at our hotel, the Art Hotel Congres, after a stressful time trying to use the Paris Metro (Metro, RER trains, about 4 routes per line, all makes for a very stressful time!). The hotel was perfect – low cost and containing the essentials of a bed, TV, desk, wardrobe, safe, and bathroom. The rooms are small, but comfortable. The hotel itself is located in the 17th Arrondissement, which is renowned for it’s trendy shops, wine bars and restaurants. It’s central enough to be within easy reach of the sites, but out of the way enough for you to experience what I call “Real Paris”; the areas that aren’t too touristy, and give you a sense of what it’s like to love like a real Parisian! Tucked away down a side street, the hotel gave us a great sense of city centre living, whilst being away from the hustle and bustle of busy capital city streets. It meant we were in easy reach of the metro stations, but far enough from the main roads to be kept awake by noisy cars.
Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of the room, expect for this one of me in my Friday evening outfit. I was very overdressed, but got a lot of compliments when I put it on my Instagram Story!
Dressed up and ready to explore the streets like Parisians (that don’t speak more than three words of French – the ultimate level of tourist), we headed to Coretta after a quick Google search told us it was the place to go. I have to say, if you only eat at one place in Paris, make it here! I’ve never been so impressed by a restaurant! We showed up with no booking and were quickly squeezed in. We were given full French menus, but as I donned Google translate to try and figure out our options, a lovely waiter came up with the whole menu hand written out in English, and read us our options. We ordered our three courses there and then, and then a bottle of wine. The food was served so quickly, and was so delicious I forgot about taking photos. The price was pretty high (We paid about 127 Euros for three courses each, wine, and coffee) but so worth it. With each course we were given little extras, including some of the best bread we’ve ever tasted (brought out the accompany the mains and the starters!), little cheesy brioche canapes, and little sweet canapes for dessert. The food quality was second to none, and if I had to pick one meal to eat every day for the rest of my life, it would be the mango pavlova I had for dessert. The only thing I can commend more than the food was the service. I utterly hate being in a place where I don’t speak the language (says the girl who forgot all the French she chose to learn, and other than that knows broken German to GCSE level), but the staff were so accommodating, speaking perfect English to us and making us feel so welcome. At the end of our meal, our waiter insisted on bringing us coffee. I love French coffee, and was so excited for Tom to try it. It didn’t let us down, and we left feeling full of food, wine and coffee, with big smiles on our faces.
Huge tip left, we headed out to find a local bar to sample one last drink for the evening. The selection was huge, and in true French Style, lots of outdoor seating. We settled on Le Liere Echange, a smokey bar filled to the brim with people enjoying their evening with cigarettes and drinks.
A fair few drinks down by this point, we settled quickly into the amazing atmosphere of the brasserie. The bartender that sat us down spoke perfect English to us again, and Tom ordered a beer that came in the most extra glass! The wine I ordered was out of stock, so the bartender arrived with a different one. He promised me it was good, and he was not wrong! The wine was sweeter than my usual taste, but pretty damn tasty! We would’ve loved to have returned here, but never got a chance. Although, I did shock everyone when I pulled out my purse and paid – apparently in Paris, the lady never pays if she’s with a man. Done breaking the stereotypical gender roles of Paris, we headed back to the hotel to sleep off the booze and rest up for the next day!
We overslept by an hour the next day (thanks, wine!), but headed down for a traditional French breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Filled with crossiants and pan au chocolats, we hit the metro station with an aim of taking in as many sites as possible. On a tight budget, we decided to look at sights, but not enter. First up, the Eiffel Tower. Because you can’t really go to Paris and not see such an iconic landmark!
We caught the Metro from Place de Clichy to the Eiffel tower, and were treated to an amazing view of it from the train window as it crossed the River Seine. Up close, it’s even more impressive. We opted not to climb it, as the queuing time and cost were best saved for other options. Next time though! We had a little walk around the gardens surrounding the tower, which are simple but encased in some stunning buildings; examples of classic Parisian architecture. Be wary though – they are filled with street hawkers trying to con you out of money! (If anyone comes at you with a form featuring a disabled logo and says it’s for deaf people, steer clear!). After a quick wonder through the gardens, we hopped back on the Metro and headed to the Louvre.
The former Royal Palace that now holds the famed art gallery, the Louvre, is a sight in itself. Again, we opted not to go inside. Art galleries aren’t really our cup of tea and although we would’ve loved to have seen the Mona Lisa, a rushed shuffle past it didn’t seem worth the cost of heading inside. So we admired the outside and the pyramid, and then moved on. But not before I made Tom take a few ‘candids’ and then grabbed him for a soppy selfie!
He loves me really!
We then carried on on foot, with a quick walk up the river towards Notre-Dame. On the way, we passed the Fountaine Saint-Michel, which Tom was very excited by, and dragged me over to so he could see it up close. Good call, Tom! It was amazing!
Having taken in the famous statue, we continued forward on our trek to see Notre-Dame. Once there, we took in the outside, but once again chose not to enter. Not pictured however, is the crypt of Paris, located down a little staircase just opposite the cathedral. We did go in here, and loved it. It cost just 7 Euros each, and shows the foundations of the Medieval city of Paris, with lots of information about it’s history. Despite it’s prime location, it was pretty much empty. It was the most interesting thing we saw!
On our way to Notre-Dame, we had passed a Scottish pub that we just had to check out. After all, Paris is great, but so are home comforts! A midday whiskey was drank at the Highlander, a quiet little pub just off the main streets. After 1 drink, we headed out to find lunch!
Having walked up a fair appetite by this point, we decided to be complete tourists and headed to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. Honest to God, the Parisian customer service is amazing, as our waitress was incredible. Despite how busy it was, we given plenty of attention, and although we couldn’t finish our giant burgers, we really enjoyed them! Finding ourself in a more commercialised area of Paris, I convinced Tom to let me head to Sephora, seeing as my eyebrow pencil had run out the previous day. I picked up the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz, and also the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Matte Longwear Foundation (Which I’ve written a review of here).
Fully walked out, we decided to head back to the hotel. Despite planning to head out for dinner and more drinks, we were so tired we decided against it. Instead, we raided the hotel vending machine, and had an early night. Such party animals, we know!
The next day, we woke up super late and had to skip breakfast. Instead, we packed our bags, checked out, stored our bags behind the hotel reception, and made our way to our final sight seeing destination – the Palace of Versailles!
Having booked out tickets in advance, we joined the back of the queue to get in and went through security. This does take time, and the best recommendations I have are to book your tickets online in advance, and get there early-ish. We arrived before midday, and left about 2pm. At midday, there was already a moderate queue, and it was busy. By 2pm, the queue was out of the main gate. So go there at lunchtime at your own risk!
Once in, we took a tour of the Royal Apartments, and saw the huge art collections. Always a fan of Royal Palaces and historical places, we took our time and enjoyed ourselves. It was difficult to take pictures, as you had to contend with the crowds (as I tried to get Tom to take a candid of me in a window seat, some wonderful woman came and dumped her bag next to me and started going through it, taking up the whole shot. Very helpful!). However, I got a fair few good ones! The rooms were so stunningly decorated, and I loved taking it all in (even as Tom rambled on sarcastically about how awful monarchies are… I’m not with him!).
The Royal Apartments conclude with the Hall of Mirrors, which makes the perfect backdrop for some incredible photos! Although, again, is very busy. It’s definitely better to just take it in. Still, I tried (despite one man that full on posed in my photo. I salute you, sir!)
We were a little unimpressed that they really gloss over the French Revolution at Versailles; we were so interested in reading about it. Whilst they mention it happened, they don’t really focus on it other than saying there was some uncertainty as to the palace’s fate. Oh well! After touring the Royal apartments, we went through the Queen’s Apartments, which were smaller but overall very pretty!
Sadly, this was the only picture I took, and even more sadly was because the room fit in perfectly with my current Instagram feed. Such a blogger…
Feeling pretty stuffed in by this point, we ventured into the gardens. The Gardens of Versaille are a sight to be seen, and probably my favourite part of the whole trip! There is so much space to explore, with pretty fountains in every corner, little spots off the grid to have a quiet moments, and plenty of sculptures to see (or there are when it’s not January and they aren’t all covered up…).
All walked out from the past 2 days, we headed into Versailles (the suburb that surrounds the palace) to get some food. We couldn’t leave Paris without eating some crepes, and thankfully we found the perfect place!
Rather stupidly, I didn’t get the name of this place! But like all of the restaurants visited, the food was amazing. Sadly, unlike everywhere else we’d eaten, the service was lacking. But I’ll put it down to them being really busy. They gave us English menus though, which was great!
After 2 days of solid walking, stressfully trying to understand the Metro, and seeing the most amazing sites, we headed back to the airport, ready to get home. Then a 7am start for me the next morning, as I headed back to uni for the first day of the second term…
Overall, I loved Paris and completely fell in love. Despite his initial comments of “I really couldn’t care less about going to Paris, Rachel!”, Tom loved it too. We’re already talking about what we’ll do next time we’re there. We’ll actually be back in July, although that’s for a solid Disneyland trip with my family. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, January was the perfect time to visit Paris – everything was still open, but less crowded than if we’d gone in the summer. I can’t wait to go again!
Meanwhile, I’m busy planning another trip! Our shortlist is Dublin, Budapest, or a week on the Isle of Skye. It’s a tough choice! But one I can’t wait to make!
Have you ever been to Paris? What was your favourite part? Let me know in the comments!
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