I went to Paris, and all I got was a lousy cold.
I kid, I also got a stomach bug because my luck is apparently the worst.
Sickness aside though, Ben and I got home yesterday from a wonderful 5 days in Paris to celebrate my birthday! It was the city break neither of us thought was going to eventuate, but we got there in the end and I can’t wait to go back!
Are you ready for some bad photography and selfies? Yes? Then, here we go!
Although forecasts had predicted mild, sunny weather for the duration of our stay, we landed on Saturday afternoon to a gloomy, rainy day. But who cares about the weather – we were in Paris! A short Uber trip later, and we were at our Airbnb in Saint-Ouen, which was a ground floor one bedroom flat with a sweet, garden laden terrace. Apart from a layer of dust, and some filthy underwear left in the washing machine (needless to say I freaked when I saw them thanks to my Hygiene OCD) the flat was lovely!
Ben had been super keen to head to Parc des Princes to watch a football match, but due to a delayed flight we weren’t able to make the game. Instead, we decided to explore the local area and find somewhere showing the game, so after a brief respite in the flat, we headed out on our first adventure.
We passed many a brasserie during the walk, peeking through windows, looking for anyone showing the game, and it was a while before we found one. However, what we thought was the game in question, turned out to be a different football match entirely, and given the grumpiness of the owner, we moved on from that brasserie to another in order to get some food.
The next brasserie was a lot nicer than the first, and the owner was excited to have some tourists in his bar. After another pint, and a quick chat with the owner, we ordered some food and experienced real French bread for the first time.
The bread is amazing.
I knew I’d have to break my gluten free diet whilst in Paris, and trust me when I say the pain was worth the pain (haha, get it?? No? Damnit.)
Anyway, I ordered tagliatelle saumon, and Ben ordered a burger, and both were really enjoyable! A lot nicer than what we both expected, considering the venue, which although was nice, was a place where if it was set in Glasgow, you’d expect something pretty nasty.
As we headed back to the flat, we noticed that a lot of locals were carrying around baguettes (this is a common theme throughout Paris), and we started to wonder where we too could get said baguettes, and continue our bread binge.
Within 50m, we passed a boulangerie and as well as purchasing a baguette, we also picked up a piece of chocolate cake for Ben, and a fruit tart for myself, before stopping into a Lidl to pick up some butter.
Have I ever told you about my simple pleasures when it comes to food? Fresh bread and salted butter sits right at the top of the list, and the French butter and still warm baguette was one of the most enjoyable food experiences of my life, and we nibbled on these throughout the eve.
The following day, Sunday, was my Birthday! Hooray, I am now officially in my mid-thirties… Ben bought me a gorgeous, retro style radio for the kitchen which he gave me on Friday night, and my friends all sent me their warmest wishes on the day which is always nice!
For my Birthday, we decided to check out some of the local Parisienne flea markets. One market was close to where we were staying, and as well as having the street vendors selling knock-off designer wares and cheap toys, there was an undercover fresh food market which made me homesick for Paddy’s back home.
The cheese and the meat looked amazing and had we been staying longer than four nights, I would have bought an armload of each for some cooking adventures, but I had to resist!
After these local markets, we headed to the Paris Flea Markets, which are the world’s largest antique markets. Outside these markets though, is another thrift market, which I didn’t particularly enjoy, but where Ben was in his element, cracking jokes left, right and centre about the authenticity of the goods on sale.
Once through the thrift market, we enjoyed a brief stroll through the proper markets with their ornate chandeliers, expertly crafted furniture, and original artworks, before stopping off for breakfast, which was a chocolat chaud for myself (and a croissant), and a cappuccino for Ben.
I would just like to mention at this point, that all the croissants I ate in Paris are nowhere near as good at the croissants you can get from Sainsbury’s on Bothwell Street in Glasgow, especially if you’re lucky enough to get them warm.
Energised by our breakfast, we then went for a walk to the closest Irish Pub (which was a 60 minute walk from the markets), so Ben could watch… Football… Luckily for Ben, the walk lead us through Montmartre, which was beautiful despite the wet weather (yep, it was still raining). We passed dozens of restaurants, cafes and bistros, each more colourful than the last, and I should have taken photos of these areas, but I forgot.
What? Me forgetting to take photos? How unlike me!
Anyway, we made our way to O’Sullivans which was just down from Moulin Rouge and in one of the main tourist areas (obviously). We stayed for a couple of pints (for Ben – I had wine, despite the new found allergy), and watched the game which Ben’s team won – hooray! Won, but they were still relegated – Boo.
(Ben and I don't have very good Selfie Game due to our height difference)
It was quite late in the day after this, so we stopped off somewhere for lunch. Ben had… a burger, and I had a salad with goats cheese toasts, something I hope to replicate at home.
There was also… more bread! Most meals in Paris come with complimentary bread, which can easily lead to an addiction.
On Monday, we decided to finally do the touristy stuff, and headed out early to our first top – Arc de Triomphe. Wanting to see more of Paris than what you’d see by taking the Metro, we undertook the hour long walk to the Arc, stopping for coffee, well, chocolat viennois, along the way.
This was actually quite a funny stop – when we entered, realising we were tourists, they spoke English to us. However, after I ordered in French (I was so proud of myself), he then spoke to us in French, which I couldn’t understand a word of.
See, I can order food in French, read a tiny little bit of French, but can’t actually understand 99% of spoken French.
Anyway, after breakfast, we made it to the Arc! Unfortunately though, they were setting up for an event perhaps, or construction, we weren’t too sure, but a lot of the area was cordoned off, meaning the usual crowds were a bit more, uh, crowded, so getting good photos wasn’t really going to happen.
From here, we had an enjoyable stroll down Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which is Paris' main shopping/tourist strip. Of course, strolling along this street meant Ben had to sing pretty much its entire length, the one refrain he knows from the song. Soon enough though, we found ourselves at the Grand Palais, and Petit Palais, which was closed unfortunately.
Seems we came to Paris at the wrong time.
Bad selfie game is bad.
At this point we had a brief refrain from the rain (yes, day three of rain…) and so sat and enjoyed the sun for a moment or two, before continuing our adventure – on to Musée du Louvre!
For this part of the adventure, we walked along the River Seine, and saw our first glimpse of Tour Eiffel! But the Eiffel tower was for another day, we were off to the Louvre, which wasn’t too far off.
Along the way we had to stop several times, as my legs had decided they’d walked enough over the last couple of days. It’s due to an old dancing injury (I think I’ve mentioned this before?), but I can’t really walk any longer than two hours these days without my legs giving out, and by this point we’d been on our feet about that length of time.
We made it to the Louvre eventually though, however decided not to go inside as we were both pretty tired by this point, and had one more stop to make before we could consider the day done with.
Via lunch of course.
This lunch was frustrating because we saw an option of three restaurants, chose the middle option, and chose wrong. My confit duck was not confit, and Ben’s tagliettele carbonara serving was no larger than his hand, and caused him an upset stomach.
Not fun, especially as when we walked an additional 100m, we saw a massive array of restaurants, bistros and brasseries we could have chosen from. Boo!
After lunch, and half an hour later, we were at Cathédrale Notre-Dame. I was unable to walk any further at this point, so sat outside and people watched, whilst Ben went inside and explored the Cathedral by himself.
Finally, our day was almost done, but not before we headed to a Scottish Pub for a pint, via Île Saint-Louis. Walking down Rue Saint-Louis en Îlle was a lovely treat, as it was lined with bakeries, chocolatiers, and sweet shops: we were considering heading back the following day when we were less tired in order to buy a thing or two for Ben’s sweet tooth, but didn’t get the chance, unfortunately.
I won’t name the Scottish pub we went to as it was dark, smelly and the staff were incredibly rude, and we didn’t stay long.
Because of our disastrous lunch, we were both starving at this point, so decided on pizza for dinner, before jumping on the Metro and heading home for the day.
When we got home though, I passed out for a couple of hours, before turning in early for the night, feeling completely exhausted.
We woke up on Tuesday to sunshine! Hooray!
Well, sunshine and a cold – turns out I wasn’t so much exhausted, but sick.
Our adventures on Tuesday took us to Place de la Bastille (via the Metro), which was surrounded by scaffolding – no photos for us, and again another sign we came to Paris at the wrong time! So instead, we walked along Bassin de l’Arsenal and explored the antiques market that lined the waterway.
From here, we headed to Tour Eiffel stopping for a glass of wine (did you know, a glass of wine in Paris is cheaper than a glass of juice?) and coffee along the way. The weather was bright and warm, so it made the day a lot more relaxing and enjoyable, compared to the previous miserably rainy days.
At the Eiffel Tower, we were considering going up, but decided not to at the last minute, opting instead for a cruise along the Seine! It was only an hour, and travelling by boat is one of my greatest not fears but traveling across water on anything that it’s reinforced concrete and steel isn’t my favourite thing in the world. I like knowing that me feet are on solid ground, thank you very much.
The cruise was lovely though, especially given the weather, and we got to see a lot of the historic sites that line the Seine. We also got sunburnt. Oops.
I was, quite obviously, in need of a lipstick touch up at this point.
By this time I was starving, so I suggested we head back to Montmartre, where we had seen a vast array of eateries earlier in the week. With the sun shining, the streets looked even more beautiful than days previously, and we easily found a lovely place to sit outdoors to enjoy our evening meal. I chose the fillet steak with shallots and new potatoes, and Ben chose... a burger.
Pretty much every café, brasserie, restaurant et al in Paris offers outside seating, with the chairs facing the street for prime people watching. Because of the miserable weather the previous few days, we hadn’t been able to enjoy sitting outside, but as the weather today was a little short of spectacular, we finally got to get out people-watching on!
The only downside to this day, which was by far the most enjoyable day, was rather than walking everywhere we had decided to take the Metro where on two occasions I had a very unpleasant experience. People pushed past me on to get onto the train first, and then abused me. Not fun.
Metro drama aside, our day was over and we had one sleep left before heading back to Glasgow.
We had no time on Wednesday morning before we had to head to the airport, but at this point my cold was in full-mode, and I had developed severe stomach cramps during the night (not from the gluten – much worse than the type of pain gluten causes).
Anyway, I’m home now, and still sick and sore, but have a lot of fun memories in a beautiful city, with my favourite person. Paris is definitely on my list of places to visit again, with a more structured visit including the theatre, and spending time in museums and the like.
I don’t think Paris is the type of city where you can take everything in in a short period of time – you need a few visits, a few stays, to truly enjoy the atmosphere, to understand what the city has to offer, and enjoy everything it has to offer, as there are so many things to do, places to see, and most importantly – food to eat!
So, here’s to Paris for my birthday in 2018!