Last weekend I returned to Paris with my father, again on the speedy Eurostar, but this time in Standard Premium. Definitely worth paying the extra for – lots of leg room, a better than expected meal (big step up from aeroplane food) and a glass of wine. The perfect way to zip to Paris, in just 2.5 hours.
This is what I loved about my last visit:
Discovering new affordable Bistros
We were staying at the Mandarin Oriental – as luxurious as it gets – so going for dinner at down to earth French bistros was just what we needed.
A la Biche au Bois is a short walk from Bastille Metro. It is small and unassuming, but the decor is nicely done. A large mirror covers one side, giving the impression the place is larger than it is, and it has a cosy feel. It is a little cramped, but by chatty locals, making the experience all the more French. They have a great 4 Course offer for €29. And we are talking huge portions of hearty French food. For starters expect duck terrine and onion soup. For the main the special was Coq au Vin but I had steak with pepper sauce and a huge pile of fries. The cheese board was delightful. And for pudding you could have chocolate mouse, creme brûlée, creme caramel or chocolate ‘gateaux’. I went for the latter and could barely get up afterwards. Definitely will return. Book at least a week ahead.
L’Ange 20 is also a charming French Bistro. I found it on Trip Adviser and was curious because of its exceptionally high rating (I think No. 7 of all the restaurants in Paris). None of the reviews had a bad word to say. And it was again very reasonably priced – 2 courses for €22, 3 courses for €28. Situated right by the Pompidou centre (not my favourite building but always quite fun to see) in a small, quiet side street, but surrounded by a few other tempting looking restaurants, Le Ange 20 is a very welcoming place. It is TINY, with an open kitchen and as many tables squashed in as possible. The waiter was charming, spoke perfect English and was very attentive. The food was a bit more refined than A la Biche au Bisous, I had gambas with guacamole and salad to start and slow-cooked lamb with fresh veg and pumpkin puree to follow. I skipped pudding. The only bad thing was the other guests. All decidedly not French. We had a Russian family next to us who unapologetically spilt wine all over us. And a lot of Americans. I was obviously not the only one who read Trip Adviser. Still, recommended. Book at least a week ahead.
Lunch in a flowery side-street in the Marais
Sunday is the day to go to Marais. Much of Paris shuts its door on this day but the Marais is in full swing. Buzzing with locals and tourists a like, the winding cobbled streets of vintage shops, cute cafes and antique shops are full of life. Place des Vosges remains one of my favourite squares and is worth a wander around.
For brunch/lunch there are plenty of places but we wanted somewhere which was peaceful and preferably in the sun. We didn’t get a place in the sun but we did find the perfect flowery side-street with a few lovely restaurants/cafes. We choose TresOr and enjoyed a healthy and tasty salad and white wine amongst the flowers. Food itself was nothing that special and not cheap but the location really made it for us.
Sunbathing in the Tuilleries Gardens
My past visits to Paris have all been in the autumn/winter, when the weather was quite chilly. This time the sun was out most of the time and it gave Paris the added beauty of a warm glow. We were like a broken record, constantly commenting on how beautiful Paris was. The Tuilleries Gardens can’t real be compared to the royal parks of London. People don’t sit on the grass drinking beer or Pimms. You don’t really have the gloriously imposing Louvre as a view from Hyde Park. But the Tuilleries Gardens are, like the London parks, the place locals and tourists come to bask in the late-spring sun. Not so much on benches but on green metal chairs with slanted backs which are surprisingly comfy. Wonderful to sit and watch the world go by. We even spotted a girl walking with a big sign which said ‘FREE HUGS’. You’d think Parisians wouldn’t really appreciate that too much. But she got a few hugs from randomers. Pretty amusing.
The view from Le Meurice Penthouse Suite
There are certainly perks of working in the luxury travel industry. I was curious to see the famous Le Meurice (Dorchester Collection) – one of the top Paris palace hotels. And so we were given a guided tour by ‘Guillaume’. I found some of the rooms a bit stuffy and dowdy, but the main lobby and their English-style bar very comfortable and cool. But the highlight by far was the terrace of the Penthouse Suite which we were lucky to see. The views of Paris were the best I had ever seen. So good it gave me goosebumps. I still think they should make the terrace a restaurant, there wouldn’t be a restaurant in town that would beat that view (plus they have a 3* Michelin cook).
Brunch at Raffles The Royal Monceau
Such a cool hotel! Interior designer and architect Philip Starck has cleverly thought out the ‘look’ behind this hotel. Its quirky and fun but retains the highest standard of luxury. Some may think it a bit OTT, but I loved it. Best bit was their main restaurant and bar. The buffet offers everything you want. The puddings are all made by Pierre Herme. Enough said. Go there as a treat because it does not come cheap.
Stumbling across hidden gems
With a city like Paris you are bound to stumble across new places/streets/buildings which make you stand still and think ‘wow, how did I not know about this?’. One of those places was Rue des Barres, on the edge of the Marais/Hotel de Ville, close to the Seine. On a sunny Sunday afternoon it was totally rammed with everyone sitting outside, and I got the feeling this was not one of those tourist traps. Beautiful views of St. Gervais-et-St.-Protais Church and very peaceful as it is set back form the main road. The restaurant/’cafe du thé’ which looked most appealing was l’Ebouillante, with a reasonably priced menu and a bright terrace.
Finding a cool Book Shop
Shakespeare & Company is the cutest bookshop you will ever come across. Right opposite the Notre Dame, on the river Seine, you will find this small, higgledy piggledy book shop, first opened in 1919. It’s friendly and welcoming. I love the fact that the staff there put their own reviews on their favourite books. Sadly it has become a victim of its own success – it was so overcrowded when we went that I struggled to walk around. This may have been because it was a Saturday afternoon but I think also simply because it is so famous and everyone wants to have a look. They also do a few cool literary events in the shop every month.
La Biche au Bois
45 Avenue Ledru-Rollin
Metro: La Bastille or Ledru-Rollin
6 Rue Geofrroy L’Angevin
Raffles Le Royal Monceau
37 Avenue Hoche
Metro: Champs Elysees
Le Meurice, Dorchester Collection
228 Rue de Rivoli
Metro: Tuilleries or Louvre
7, Rue du Tresor, 75004 Paris
Metro: St Paul
Shakespeare & Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
Metro: Notre Dame