Paris! When I was younger I didn’t have any interest in going to the French capital but as I’ve matured, the city of romance, fashion and culture has intrigued me and I can finally say that I’ve been. When a work colleague decided to move back to Paris, Charlotte and I said we’d soon go visit. It could have been one of those things you just say but we actually made it happen.
Flights from Leeds run daily and we found, many thanks to Jet 2*, the perfect Paris weekend break. We flew out on Thursday afternoon from Leeds and came back from Paris Sunday afternoon, with enough time to get ready for a new working week. It was my first time flying with Jet2 and unlike previous experiences with flight companies, everything went smoothly. From the lovely lady checking us in in Leeds to the quick journey – it only took just over the hour. The seats are really comfortable (as proven by me sleeping the whole journey back) and there’s enough leg room. I might have short legs but there’s nothing worse than feeling claustrophobic in your seat.
Excuse the hair, always windy at Leeds airport…
Once in Paris, we had three activity packed days ahead of us. I have tried to break it all up into the areas of Paris that we visited for you in this post. It’s definitely a city I would like to go back to as there is still so much more to see. We thought we could fit in all the museums (silly I know) but settled for a morning at the Louvre.
Paris is divided into 20 different neighbourhoods, spiralling from number 1 to 20 from the core of the city. You know which neighbourhood you’re in by looking at the street signs which will have 6 Arr, 19 Arr etc. at the top of it. Arr is short for Arrondisiments which means neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood has it’s charm, theme and rank in terms of wealth and popularity to live in. We didn’t have time to visit all of them but I thought I’d share the once we did and what you can do and see in each.
Montmartre is the 18th neighbourhood, situated on a hill overlooking Paris. It’s one of my favourite areas with the impressive Sacré Coeur at the top of the hill and lots of independent shops, restaurants and bars. Everything is very cute here, almost village like.
We spent our first night in Paris here, exploring their food and drink culture. It’s a popular destination for tourists, the Sacré Coeur is where they all swarm to. The unofficial stairs on the side which we walked up were almost empty but the main steps overlooking Paris are always crowded. Gorgeous views and definitely a spot to check out but not my favourite place in Montmartre. As much as I love architecture, food and drinks are more fun.
When you find places where the locals go, you know you’re in for a treat. We started the evening with beer and nibbles at Tagada Bar. Here’s where we experienced the drink Picon, learnt that the bar has taken its name after Tagada sweets and confirmed that cheese do indeed smell but who cares when it’s so tasty?!
We finished the evening with a couple of crepes at Creperie Broceliande. It’s in fact the first restaurant to serve crepes in Paris so I don’t think we could have found a better place to enjoy true Parisian crepes. Savoury first, followed by a sweet. Charlotte and I shared two savoury crepes: Ruche (goats cheese, honey, walnut) and Bretonne (stomach pork sausage, cheese, home-made mustard sauce). My preferred and apparently very French choice, the Bretonne. I don’t like to much filling in sweet crepes or pancakes but I do love lemon so it had to be a lemon curd filled crepe for me. We washed them all down with French apple cider and also tried Pernod Ricard, another French delicacy… If you like Sambuca, liquorice and cough medicine from your childhood, you’ll enjoy this. Mix with cold water for best taste.
We went back to Montmartre on the Friday night, this time in the Moulin Rouge area. An area I’d like to come back to one day and explore their vintage shops but to experience the Moulin Rouge properly, an evening visit is a must! The mill is so out of this world red, it’s like being in a fairytale or musical. I can really recommend visiting the rooftop bar (Bar À Bulles) to get extra close to the mill.
I had no idea what to expect watching their cabaret show but I was blown away. We weren’t too impressed arriving as we were ushered into a massive hall, trying to organise ourselves as we were about to run a marathon. No one gets any seat reservations when booking but the staff was really quick to get us all seated and we couldn’t have asked for better seats. The venue is stunning with artsy interior and mood lights and the show is spectacular. Think Eurovision Song Contest but with a lot more naked skin. I didn’t realise they’d be singing in French but closer to the end when they sang a couple of songs in English, I was thankful for the French. Sadly I can’t share any images as it’s a strict no photo policy during the show. You’ll just have to experience it yourself if you go. It’s worth the money – £110, including half a bottle of Champagne.
Latin Quarter is another quirky neighbourhood, number 5. It takes it name after the University where most student spoke Latin during the Middle Ages. If you enjoy food and drinks, this area has plenty of bars and restaurants in every corner and side alley. Really gorgeous to walk around. Sadly we were too full so never sat down anywhere but I did eat an oyster. They had a door in the wall for one off oysters and behind an industrial plastic curtain slightly bigger sit down area.
Here is also where you find the Luxembourg Gardens. A massive park which holds the Luxembourg Palace and a 25 hectare garden. It’s the second largest public park in Paris. In a far you can see the Eiffel Tower. Before going to Paris, I assumed that you can see it from every corner of Paris your in but that’s not true.
The Marais is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Paris spreading across the 3rd and 4th arrondisements. Originally built on a swamp, not that you can tell today, apart from its name – Marais which in English means swamp. The area has a lot of historic buildings, including the first public Parisian library. It hosts a big Jewish community, notable with all the restaurants and bakeries. Awaiting a big brunch, it was hard not to be drawn to the smell of freshly bakes. Marais is also centre for Paris’ LGBT culture and we spotted a cute corner framed with rainbow paints.
Walking around in this area you soak up all its history but also can’t help but spot various artistic works all over. This is why I really like Marais, art in various and quirky forms are really cool. I would have liked to browse the shops but they’re all closed on Sundays, which my bank account is happy about. Worth remembering if you’re here for a weekend break. Sunday’s are made for chilling and enjoying brunch anyways, which we did at Social Square. French brunch does not include unlimited drinks but instead focus on delicious food. We don’t call it French toast for nothing, very popular breakfast and brunch option.
Quartier du Palais-Bourbon
The name if the 7th neighbourhood which is perhaps the most visited neighbourhood as it’s here you’ll find the Eiffel Tower. You remember a couple of sentences earlier when I said that I thought you can see the Eiffel Tower wherever you are in Paris? It wasn’t till the second day that we actually saw it and I started to realise that we were in Paris. It came as a shock! We turned a corner and there is was, so unexpected. You should have seen the surprise expressions on my and Charlotte’s pretty faces. Definitely a Paris highlight. Another highlight – walking up it. Friday around 11 am and the queue to get in was super quick.
We decided to walk up to the second floor but you can also get a cable lift should you don’t want to. It’s cheaper to walk and I was surprised how effortless it was. I had more trouble with acrophobia and more so when walking back down. We were satisfied only going to the second floor and in all honesty, I don’t think we’d seen more of Paris going all the way up. Up here you realise how white Paris is, most buildings are in light colours, making it look grande and clean. You’ll also spot a miniature Statue of Liberty at one of the bridges.
From here, we walked to a street called Rue Cler. It’s the most famous and best market streets in Paris. Here you find everything from cheese to flowers, all fresh and lots of cafes to enjoy a drink or two.
Champs-Elysées is the 8th neighbourhood in Paris. It’s situated around the massive and famous avenue – Avenue des Champs-Elysèes. One of the broadest streets I’ve ever walked. We started at Pont Alexandre III (bridge), leaving Les Invalides behind. Here’s where many famous officers are buried, including Napoleon.
Before finishing at the top by Arc de Triomphe we spotted plenty of department stores, grande restaurants with massive signs and of course the most expensive shop for macarons – Ladurée. It’s so pretty in there and I of course had to buy a few. Four for €10!!! Expensive but how often am I in Paris? I was so happy to find out they do a liquorice flavoured macaron, so delicious! I also had the classics: lemon and pistachio and last but not least a mix of chocolate and raspberry. Surprisingly really tasty.
The original itinerary had all the museums on the list to go to but we quickly realised it wouldn’t be possible. We settled for The Louvre, can’t miss seeing Mona Lisa when in Paris, right? The Louvre is gorgeously situated opposite the Tuileries Garden. A lovely park to stroll through or relax and soak up the chill it gives out. Take a moment at the steps and admire the full park view spotting the an Egyptian obelix in the distance and with Carrousel Arc de Triomphe behind you.
Before heading in to the museum, we of course had to take a couple of photos outside. I know it’s very popular to try and touch the glass pyramid, or pose as one of the famous statuettes here but I’m not one of those people. Sorry, not sorry! Heavily certificated it’s a wonder Charlotte managed to capture me with hardly any cars or tourist buses in the way.
In all honesty, I admire the building more so than the art it holds. It’s stunning both on the outside and the inside. I think I took more photos of the ceiling inside than the famous paintings we were there to see. Most museums I’ve been to previsouly are easy to get around but it took us a while to get out bearings right. Having to take a map from a man we thought work there but actually was a tourist himself was so worth it. We managed to tick of the list of top 15 art works to see at The Louvre and it only took us three hours. The highlights for me were Liberty Leading the People, The Coronation of Napoleon and Mona Lisa, although she’s very small and the memory will be of everyone else trying to get a selfie with her.
Ile de la Cité
A stone throw away from the Latin Quarter, Ile de la Cité is an island neighbourhood in the centre of Seine. It’s a gorgeous area with stunning bridges crossing over the river. On sunny days and evenings, people come here to hang along the river. Make sure you get an gelato with a macaron on top from Amarino.
In this neighbourhood is where you also find The Notre Dame. Very much like the cathedral in York, Notre Dame seems a bit out of place with its 69 metres height. Construction of this French Gothic church began in 1163 but it wasn’t completed until 1260. Imagine starting a project that you’ll never see finished.
Have you ever been to Paris? Did you go to all these neighbourhoods when you went? What can you recommend I do next time I visit? If you haven’t been before, is there anything on this list you’ll definitely do?
*The flight tickets to and from Paris were complimentary from Jet 2, everything else has been paid out of my own pocket. All my words, photos and views are as always my own.