Ahh Paris, what better city to visit during the most loved up time of the year: Valentine’s Day. Our stay here was short, but I adored it regardless- maybe because it is the city of love. What intrigued me most about the capital though was how despite the weather being quite miserable and no clear signs of Cupid, this didn’t hinder the subtle enchantment that Paris offered from its sights, to its people, its style and consistently chic culture no matter where you go. Plus the heaps of food, fun and pleasure you can have rain or shine!
Day 1 – Disneyland Paris
Did you forget Paris holds one of the most famous theme parks in the world? One of the few places where it’s OK to be a fully grown kid! This was the only time we saw sunshine here, and I’m grateful because it made at least some of my pictures ‘Instaworthy’. It was quite an experience returning here 20 years later too, not to mention timing it on the 25th anniversary – we’re the same age!
From the entrance to the castle, the rides to the shops, EVERYTHING screamed magic and we were loving it. We went on Star Wars’ Star Tours ride (twice), because we’re nerds and proud! Buzz Lightyear’s laser blast, some might say it was babyish, I say it was the best ride. We got photos with Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader, rode through the gigantic and diverse ‘It’s a Small World’ attraction, braved the Alice in Wonderland maze, spun around in teacups and was wowed by the end of day parade despite the rain and snow. I can’t report food here I’m afraid because we packed our own sandwiches (made in fresh baguettes!) And quite rightly so as the food and keepsakes here are pretty darn pricey. Food is coming though I promise!
Exhausted from all the excitement, we headed back home making one quick pit-stop at the Place du Trocadero for an awesome view of the Eiffel tower. We were lucky since we arrived on the hour, meaning tower goes sparkle, sparkle.
On the way back, barely remembering it was Pancake Day, we went to a crepe stand and bought… A crepe made fresh before our eyes and filled with nutella, as well as a French donut called a beignet, also filled with Nutella. The beignet was bready and filling but not as sweet as I’d hoped. On a side note the seller was nice enough to teach me some French as I (very poorly) ordered en francais.
Day 2 – The City
Valentine’s Day! Despite the relentless gloom of the weather, specks of love were blooming around the city in forms of heart shaped balloons, roses, padlocks and the odd proposal. The day began with a revisit to the Eiffel tower – this time with the intention to create a picture from me when I was five years old (doing a heroic pose at the foot of the structure). Unfortunately because of all the security bordering, getting close for the matching shot was denied, so we had to settle with taking the best snaps we could from around the perimeter.
After the Eiffel, we traversed along Paris’ efficient metro to L’Arc du Triumph, where Napoleon’s majestic structure stands proud over the infamous and stylish Champs elysees. We were going to climb to the top but didn’t fancy the workout. So we moseyed on the down the champs to marvel at all the beautiful boutiques we couldn’t afford, absorbing the glamour that was Paris. One shop we visited summarised it all in a nutshell.
World famous patisserie Lauderie, its flagship right here in Paris, the exterior clearly boasting uniqueness and speciality with its high-end boutique front. Then you step inside, and ‘wow’ should be your first word, not only because of the stunning interior design as if you entered a royal domain, but also the queue that curves round the entire shop floor in order to reach the golden far stretched counter, festooned with the most elegant looking pastries you have ever seen. The main attraction here is the macaroons, so we bought six… for 20 euros. Quality comes with a price, yet these really were quality! Ironically, to me, macaroons before this day were sickly, buttery and crumbly little critters. Yet Lauderie’s were perfectly balanced in soft texture and vivid sweetness. They made a fan out of me, and now my expectations for macaroons will be extremely high.
Back on the main road, and Paris continued to woo us with its romance and wonders, the next one being Sacre Coeur, a glorious and pious structure with a foreign looking architecture overlooking the city and attracting many tourists. Go left from Sacre Coeur down a quaint little side street to find a more authentic Paris: Montmartre. Art galleries and patisseries on each corner, painters busking from left to right, easels dotted around the main square, and depending on who you approach, they’ll draw you where you stand! What we saw looked great!
A few hours more travelling and some pastries later, daylight had descended and night had risen over the starry-eyed city, sounds like a good time for an evening boat trip down the river Seine. So that’s what we did. We cruised through the meticulous designs of Paris’ bridges, passed the Louvre, the beautiful musee d’Orsay and the glistening bronze of the Eiffel tower, again becoming a pillar of twinkling diamonds on the hour we passed. Despite the gloomy sky, it was a lovely ride overall.
Then we reached our final landmark visit for the trip… the Paris Police Prefecture – only joking! Though a stunning building at night, across the road lies the world renowned Notre Dame. Epic. Biblical. Very gothic is how I would describe the way it looms over you.
Now hungry, we stopped off at our final eatery, only a one minute walk from the Notre Dame cathedral.
The ambience was on point here, the epitome of the kind of café you would expect to find on a late night in Paris. It was cool, elegant with a hint of midnight romance, the only thing missing was a smooth jazz band in the corner. A great view of Notre Dame makes up for it though. The waiters and waitresses were also great, they knew how to melt the ice that was silence with a warm and attentive service.
Of course we started with snails, it’s France, you have to have snails. Stuffed with pesto, the fleshy snail taste that deters many palettes became a pleasantly moreish snack. The onion soup was divine, a perfectly mild broth filled with maybe a tad too much onion but rescued by the flavour of cheese and the doughy texture of soggy bread marinated in the oniony broth. A very nourishing combo. Then came a French signature, the confit du canard (duck leg) with a side of creamy and stacked potato dauphinoise. The canard was medium rare, slide off the bone greatness, my only wish was for sauce instead of potato as the dauphinoise didn’t match well. Was still a lovely dish though and well presented.
The pinnacle of the meal though was the crème brulee. Simply amazing. The sugar crackling was a therapeutic pleasure to break with a spoon, revealing the silky mousse with evidence of fresh vanilla from the seeds. Words can’t describe how stimulating the snap of caramel followed by the smoothness of the vanilla felt in my mouth. Just imagine my eyes rolling backwards while I exclaim the sound ‘Mmmm’.
I left Paris with a heightened education that needed to be digested along with my food. Childishly expecting to be surrounded by blatant public displays of affection, I realise that it isn’t the people but the city itself that evokes love. Of course, it would be much better in the spring or summer seasons, but it was evident even in winter. Being England’s neighbour, it’s cheap to get there, and the journey via Eurostar is a new favourite of mine. So I will definitely return to this beautiful capital soon, no love required.