Planning ahead for the inevitable après Christmas lull, Chris and I booked a trip to Paris. As we’d been together before, we set off on boxing day, determined to have a few days of Parisian style rest and relaxation, rather than our usual manic-walk-till- you-bleed vacation. I’m pleased to say that we did exactly that. We arrived in the early afternoon and our airbnb was easily found, located right in the heart of Le Marais. While the location was perfect, albeit surrounded by a number of colourful massage parlours, the common areas of the building were a bit derelict. It was the kind of place where you walk on the stairwell half expecting Jason Bourne to come flying down past you. Within a few minutes of walking around the area, we realized that we were staying about 15 mins away from where we had rented our first apartment together on our trip to Europe circa 2010. Our feelings of warmth and nostalgia were only matched by hunger at this point, so when we stumbled across the same pizzeria we’d visited years before, the choice for dinner was obvious. Nestled amongst the other diners, we squeezed into a table outside and ordered the first of many glasses of wine (it was 2 for 1 and who are we to argue with the French). With the outside temperature at a balmy 14 degrees, and some lovely heaters strategically placed, we happily sat facing out toward the busy street for a few hours of wine, pizza, people watching, and the inevitable second hand smoke.
The next day we left our apartment and walked to the nearest bakery, which, as luck would have it, is my new favourite place in the world. To me, civilization is a world in which pasty for breakfast is standard and thanks to Chez Meunier my dream was a reality. Custard tarts, pain au chocolate, and a coco baguette that I’m still dreaming of fuelled the start of our day. After we ate we walked to the Eiffel tower, as Chris wanted to recreate the photos we’d taken there on other visits. He has a love of recreating photos we’ve taken in the past, and any time we find ourselves somewhere a second or third time, an inevitable recreation of photos is a required activity. We strolled over, stopping at the Jardin des Tuileries along the way. While the metro in Paris is definitely convenient, I’d always recommend walking when you can. There’s so much to look at and admire that an amble through the city is surely one of the best Parisian activities. The Eiffel tower was packed and once we’d snapped our photos and admired the landmark, we went a few streets over to find some food. I’d looked up some nearby places and the research definitely paid off. We had a lovely lunch with more wine and lots of great food, followed by Berthillon gelato, which is said to be some of the best in the world. It was pretty damn tasty I must say. We walked along the Seine, enjoying the company of all the people out and about, taking pleasure in the lazy Sunday sun. The Seine took us all the way to the Ile de la Cité, where we found the Notre Dame and admired the gargoyles in all their gothic glory. As hunger rolled around again we rambled into the garment district to hunt for crêpes. Thanks the Breizh we ended the day exactly as sweetly as we’d started it, with salted caramel and pear crêpes for me and a chocolate and almond one for Chris.
Day 2 started in our bakery with even more baguettes and croissants. As we’d seen the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay before, we chose to visit l’Orangerie this time around. The hour in line wasn’t fun but once inside it was certainly worth the wait. But I suppose that wall-to-wall Monet always will be. After dabbling in impressionism it only seemed fitting to pay a visit to the modern world, so we went off to the Centre Pompidou, where we stayed for 3.5 hours. The views in particular were a highlight and it was a warm enough evening that we were able to stay outside in the rooftop sculpture garden to rest our feet. We were pretty starving by the end of our visit and thankfully around the corner was Le Petit Marcel. In a tiny and packed bistro with mirrored walls and bow tied waiters, some seriously tempting smells greeted us as we walked through the swinging patio doors. We had wine and omelettes and frites and ended with some crêpes and crème glacée. It was a wonderful evening and definitely one of my favourite parts of the trip.
Our last full day started off the same as before (I must note that as I write this I’m horribly disappointed that I no longer start my day with pastries). We spent the morning exploring through some shops and ended up buying some wonderful goodies from Muji, now known as Chris heaven. Chris’ research had turned up a restaurant called Bouillon Chartier, an apparently infamous Parisian institution that opened 1896 and had such an interesting reputation that we didn’t mind the 20-minute wait to get inside. Despite both Chris and I having French as a second language, our immersion schooling did not include traditional French food terms which meant that we had no idea what we ordered. Well what Chris ordered to be precise. I had chicken and fries while Chris, after looking up at the waiter and saying with just a hint of desperation, “I just want a sausage and fries”, ended up with some varieties of meat on a bed of sauerkraut. We also had a carafe of wine along with crème puffs and a mont blanc, which one day I will definitely try to make at home. The meal itself wasn’t the best of the trip but it was really good value for money and the experience of the restaurant alone is well worth a visit. The place apparently hasn’t changed since it opened at the turn of the century and it’s crammed full of tables with high ceilings, mirrors and large bulb lights throughout. Waiters run around at lightening speed, balancing an inordinate amount of plates on their arms, frantically scribbling people’s orders on the paper table cloths that adorn each table. After having our fill of wine and desserts we left the chattering diners behind and set forth for a much needed long walk. We made our way back to the Seine and ended up right at the Notre Dame as the sun began to set. We snapped some photos and enjoyed the view, perfectly content to watch the world go by, as the sky became the colour of candyfloss. Once the city was comfortably dark, we walked to the Louvre to spend some time and admire it all lit up for the night. From there we made our way back to Le Marais, stopping for an almost unbearably delicious butter and sugar crêpe on the way. We collected some baguettes, fruit and tarte tartin to go and had a quiet evening in.
On our last morning we returned to Le Petit Marcel for a not so petit déjeuner. Juice, chocolat chaud, eggs, ham, and baguette fuelled us for an afternoon of traveling. With only a few hours left we went back for one final look at the Seine before stopping at not one, but two boulangeries to pick up some baguettes and pastries for our lunch and breakfast the next morning back in Edinburgh. After one final butter and sugar crêpe it was back to the airport and back to Scotland. The flight was horrid, with an unfortunate fellow traveler smelling so putridly that Chris, myself, and all the neighbouring passengers spent the flight breathing through sleeves and jackets. Thankfully we had some lovely fresh air awaiting us in the city and before you know it we were back in our flat, ready to spend 30 hours at home relaxing and celebrating hogmanay before leaving again for our next adventure.