Thursday, 23 May 2013

My Obsession with Paris, France

Having spent 20+ years in the travel industry before leaving and working for the Police, I was lucky enough to travel the world. I have seen some wonderful places and met some wonderful people on my travels. I've seen some beautiful sights and some heartbreaking ones. Most of all though travelling has enriched my mind and I'll never stop wanting to travel.

Often people ask me "Where is the best place you have travelled to?". Well that is so hard to answer as I have loved so many places. My heart lies in Texas, Crete and many other places, but the one city I always want to return to is Paris, France. If you asked me why it would be difficult to say. Honestly? I haven't always found the people very friendly especially if you don't try and speak French to them, and as hard as you try to speak in your best French accent some of them will pretend they don't understand what you are saying. So why do I return? I love the atmosphere; the architecture (hardly a modern ugly monstrosity in sight); the museums; the churches; the restaurants and I could go on.

Champs Elysees

My most recent trip was with my Mum. We just decided we'd go on a girly few days away and leave the men at home. Mum originally wanted to go to Rome but thought she was going with her sister so we decided to look for somewhere else. I had been to Paris about 5 times before, but Mum wasn't keen. She finally agreed to give it a try however, and the plans were set. We got the train from our nearest station to London and went to London.
From London St Pancras we joined the Eurostar train which would take us direct to Paris in just over 2 hours. It was an efficient service and took us into the centre of Paris to Gare Du Nord station.

Hotel Rochester

 From there we got a taxi which took us to our little hotel, The Rochester, which was just off the Champs Elysees, in a little side street, so about 5 mins walk to the main strip of Champs Elysees, but a lot quieter. It was a lovely small hotel, with a small bar, a reception, an outer courtyard with some wonderful statues. Our room was furnished in typical French design and overlooked the street.

The Louvre

SIGHTSEEING - After a comfy nights sleep, we had a lovely breakfast in the hotel, and then decided we would catch the metro. It was 5 mins walk from the hotel and we got off just a couple of stops along the line, where we were to visit the Louvre. My Mum paints and has a love of art, so she was quite looking forward to the visit. I had been before but it was a long time since and I could only really remember the Mona Lisa painting. It is a most magnificent building and is an example of what makes Paris an awesome place to visit. It is a former Royal Residence. It houses not only paintings, but sculptures and so much more. In fact the Mona Lisa is a disappointment in comparison to all the other things that there are to see. There is a glass atrium which you can go up into and it comes out in the courtyard (just seen to the right above). Below it are the most wonderful sculptures.
There are artifacts dating back many years, and so much to see. You need a good full day here really if you want to take everything in. I recommend you buy a Paris Pass before you go as you can get to the front of the queue and it is also more cost effective than paying single entry into each museum. The Paris Pass also includes a 2 day hop on hop off bus ticket; A river cruise; A metro travel ticket and so much more.

We visited many other wonderful museums. One was the Orangerie which was housing a Monet exhibition. Monet being my Mums favourite artist.

La Tour Eifel

The next day we went on the hop on hop off bus which takes you passed all the sights, like The Eifel Tower, The Opera House, The Notre Dame, The Left Bank, Les Invalides to name but a few.

The Opera House

You can get off and see the sights and then get back on the next bus that comes along. The architecture is wonderful and unlike London, has no ugly buildings. If you have children you may want to travel outside the city and go to Disney Paris. You can catch a train there which goes quite regularly. Also on the outskirts is the Palace of Versailles. This is also well worth a visit too.

Les Deux Magots

EATING OUT - Paris is a wonderful place to eat. You can choose to eat from a very wide range of different restaurants. You have places you can choose to visit for morning coffee where they do some wonderful pastries and the Paris speciality of Macaroons. For lunch you can choose from any nationality of restaurant and have anything from a croque monsieur (a type of toasted sandwich with ham and cheese), or shellfish delicacies or some wonderful salads. At night the world is your oyster (excuse the pun). There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from all across the city. Mum and I stayed local to the Champs Elysees which is one of the most expensive places to eat, and not necessarily one of the best places to eat. Try if you can and eat in one of the back streets, and use trip advisor to get recommendations. The Left Bank has some great places to eat. Try Les Deux Maggots, which is very well visited.

SHOPPING - Another thing Paris is good for is shopping, and us ladies love to shop. There is a magnificent shopping arcade called La Galeries Lafayette. It is on several floors and housed in the most magnificent building. It has all the top names there at top prices, but also smaller stores too.
Galeries Lafayette
I took a photo of Mum outside a Gucci shop and their security guard chased us away. For some reason they did not want us to take any photos there. Whether there was some famous person inside I don't know but they were very rude.
Here she is outside Louis Vuitton, which you could not get inside as it was full of Asians shopping. I think it must have been their favourite store.

We did come home with several purchases of clothes but sadly not from the designer stores, but little boutiques which were much more interesting to visit. Parisians are certainly stylish and have a wide variety of stores to chose from.

NIGHTLIFE - Nightlife is varied, and there are numerous cinemas and nightclubs.You have the famous nightclubs like Le Lido, which is on the Champs Elysees or the Moulin Rouge, which is in the red light district, and certainly not a place I would want to stay as it is the seedier side of the city. Certainly if you choose to visit the Moulin Rouge, get a taxi right to the door and don't take valuables.

Moulin Rouge during the day looks like a toy town!
Moulin Rouge is the older of the two venues, with the can can dancers. Le Lido, which Mum and I chose, is classier and houses the Bluebell girls. Dance routines are choreographed by Craig Revell Horwood of Strictly Come Dancing fame. You can book a table with just champagne or you can go for the meal option.

Whatever it is you choose to see and do in Paris, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Artist in Montmartre

Check out the Tourist Board website - click here

Check out the Trip Advisor Paris Pages - click here 

For bookings on Eurostar - click here

For trips to Disneyland Paris - click here

For books set in Paris - Click here
Author - Stephanie Perkins
Blurb - Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?
Author - Jenny Colgan
Blurb - Life is sweet in this heartwarming tale of a little chocolate shop in Paris, by the bestselling author of Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams and Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe.

Mouth-watering recipes inside!

As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.

It's a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime - to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.

With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate - and herself - than she ever dreamt