Sunday, 21 August 2011

Une Nuit En Paris - Updated

Considering I love to travel it is quite surprising that I've never 'really' been to France. Now it is so fast and easy with the Eurostar it really is travesty. This was rectified on Thursday.

Although it was a business trip I was determined to see a bit of Paris so I'd booked the latest train back on Friday night.

On arriving in Paris Gard du Nord I instantly liked it, it helped that it was a beautiful day. So in the taxi through the streets of Paris I had my camera poised (like a right idiot). The first thing I seen that got my heart rate up was an enormous Louis Vuitton shop! This is the point I realise we are approaching le Arc de Triomphe on les Champs-Élysées. It really makes you realise how much we now take for granted in London, I am usually the person judging the tourists taking the photos - now it was me! Here is the best shot I managed to get of le Arc.

The office is located in the North East of the city - I did however get ever so slightly excited every time I seen a boulangerie or patisserie! We actually ended up going for sushi at lunch - it was delicious, but as far away from French cuisine as you can get! Later on in the evening we went to a very nice square again in the business district to an Italian restaurant (getting closer!) After enjoying quite a few bottles of wine and based on recommendation I ordered buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad - it honestly was better than anything you would get in London - why is that? The tomatoes (which I'm not normally a fan of) were enormous, almost meaty - the mozzarella (cheese...yes! I'm in France now!) was parfait! Unfortunately I don't have a photo but the portion was not to be sniffed at - I of course devoured the whole lot!

The seafood pasta was fresh and tasty - but only as good as something you can find in England. What was nice though is that we sat outside all evening. And, although I had heard I really didn't realise how much the French smoke! As a non smoker I'm very aware in England of how much people smoke, generally because if you're with them they're disappearing outside usually once or twice in an evening (no?) Sitting outside in Paris however, it was chain smoking, and everyone does it!

I also (on recommendation!) had a delicious digetif that was very refreshingly mint flavoured and not harsh or strong at all (as some digestifs can be on the first couple of sips). It was bright green and mint flavoured but I cannot remember the name (potentially 'jet' something) so if anyone knows please let me know!

The next morning at breakfast I decided to go very French...cheese, cured meats, pain au chocolat, muffin (OK so maybe wanting the French tastes was actually a ruse for being greedy!) It was all delicious,, I definitely wanted to buy some cheese to bring home, but that would have to wait until after work!

Today much to my delight we visited a boulangerie! So for lunch more fromage et jambon! Baguette and crepes - yay! It was again, much better than you would get in London if you were buying a baguette! Why?! Why can France be so good at bread, cheese and meat...and we are stuck in Pret!

Thankfully everyone in the office was more than willing to help me out with where to go in my limited sight seeing tour - so it was deemed going back to Champs-Élysées, try and see the Louvre, take in a couple of shops and then work out from there how to whip down to the pièce de résistance - La Tour Eiffel. Also in this time I wanted to sit and enjoy a glass of wine in an outdoor cafe (standard) and buy some cheese and wine for enjoying back in London...all of this while learning how to use the Metro.

As you may know from prior posts, tourists on the London Underground irritate I was about to be one of those people! Reassuringly the Metro map looks a lot like the tube - so I knew the principles would be the same. My French is however basic so signage could prove a problem! Again my French colleagues were a god send! More than useful in telling me exactly what tickets to get, where to go and more importantly what line NOT to get on (the RER - I still don't know why!)

In the end I was really proud of myself, I took in about 4 or 5 lines by the end. Luckily I just got it. My personal directional ability did however leave a lot to be desired! I was very proud of myself when I arrived at the correct tube, but which way was the Louvre again?! I started off in the direction I thought it was (usually I can't possibly get lost with my trusty iPhone, but I would not be racking up £££'s in data roaming charges thank you very much!). I walked by a couple of really beautiful museums on approach to what looked like a palace (oh err!). Thankfully the bus stops have detailed maps on indicating 'you are here'. I wasn't heading towards the Louvre (whoops), however I was heading to the Eiffel Tower!

About this point I approached the Seine, and got a better view of the tower! This far all I'd seen of it was in the taxi - and managed to get this picture, which still excited me greatly!!

Walking along the river was very pleasant, even though I was doing so at quite a rapid pace! It took around 30 mins to walk to the tower. It was lovely, quite different in the surrounding area to what I'd expected previously only seeing it from other peoples posing pics. I was amazed you could walk all the way around and under it. Had I had more time I would have liked to walk up to the second floor - this also had the shortest queue!

So, I was hoping to kill two birds with one stone here and enjoy a glass of wine in an outdoor cafe but there was a distinct lack of them around the tower. There was however an ice cream stall! Oh why not...une boule please...leading to this pic!

 So back on the Metro - another place that had been recommended was Opera, why not it was in the right direction to the station. On getting out of the Metro here I was so glad I did! Exactly what I wanted! I sat outside Cafe de la Prix, parfait! Here I had my glass of wine and also a particularly delicious crème brûlée, as you can see here.
My people watching view - overlooking the Academie Nationale De Musique

It really was a special cafe - totally loved it, people watching and generally relaxing, I just wish I had more time!
Highly recommended
After this I decided it would be safer to head back to the station as to not miss my train (on the way to St Pancras on Thursday morning I was literally RUNNING through the station as the trains at that time were so infrequent - something which I hadn't accounted for in my timings! Luckily I made it but it was really stressful, this time I would not end up that stressed...especially as I'd never been to this terminal - in London I know exactly where I'm going.) The cheese and wine can be bought nearby (I'm hoping!)

The area around St Pancras isn't great from a tourist point of view, luckily around Gard du Nord it was a bit better! I found a local shop and was totally disgusted by the price - we get so ripped off in London! It was under €3 for a Grand Reserve Prestige Cotes du Rhone. How is that ever fair?! I also bought a nice looking camembert - less than €1.50, again so unfair!

On the Eurostar back the only time I didn't have any phone signal was when I got back into the UK! Typical, how come they can cope on the Metro with a bit of signal and we're so useless! I'll definitely be heading back with more time hopefully!

J'adore Paris!

Update: I have since learnt the real name of the fab drink, it's Jet butchering of the French language completely mispronounced the vignt sept!! I'll be buying some of that when I can!
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