PARIS IN SPRING
It’s pretty easy to forget about a 30 hour journey when you arrive to Paris in spring. I drop my luggage at one of our favourite 3 star boutique hotels in Paris, Des Trois Poussins. http://www.les3poussins.com/en/index.php
It is located in So-Pi (south Pigalle), a fantastic area full of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Just up the road, a ten minute walk away, is Sacre Coeur.
The nearest metro is just a 5 minute walk away, so I buy my day pass there and head straight into town, jumping off at Concorde to stroll through the Jardins des Tuileries. All the flowers are out and I’m reminded very quickly why this city is such a fabulous place to spend time in. I arrive at the Louvre – pretty hard to walk past no matter how many times you’ve been here and with an interesting exhibition on. It’s not every day Hercules and Darth Vader appear together. Then it’s onwards down Rue de St Honore for fabulous shopping. All the big European brands have flagship stores around here so I head straight to Zara, Mango, H&M and Uniqlo.
Paris is still suffering from a downturn in tourists since the terrorist attacks of November 2015 so I am very fortunate to visit at a time when there are no queues for any sights but also when Parisians are exceptionally welcoming and friendly to those who are there. There a few spots that I haven’t visited on previous trips to Paris so I head for these first. The Opera Bastille, home to Phantom of the Opera, is almost overwhelming in its opulence. I almost had the Sacre Coeur to myself with only four other people inside. The morning light was shining through the stunning stained glass windows and it was a very peaceful spot to soak up the ambience. With a crystal clear day outside, the views over Paris were spectacular.
Back in to the city I headed for the panoramic roof terrace atop the department store Printemps. With 360 degree views over Paris this is an easy and free alternative to the Eiffel Tower. Take the elevator then the escalator to the top floor of Printemps, and you’ll be struck with an experience that is quite literally breath-taking. You can see the hill of Montmartre up close. On the other side is the Eiffel Tower – there are Parisian icons and amazing rooftops in every direction. There is a café up here but there is no expectation to purchase anything. The adjacent department store of Galeries Lafayette also has a similar roof terrace.
On my last day in Paris, I went on an Urban Adventure. These are small group tours of 3-4 hours hosted by a local city guide with small and interesting itineraries that you are bound to love even if you’ve visited a city before. They’re designed to take you a little off the beaten track and to spots that only locals know about and love.
I chose Bohemian Paris, http://www.urbanadventures.com/Paris-tour-experience-bohemian-paris, and so starting at the Pantheon my guide and I headed off to explore the Latin Quartier and St Germain. In this case I was the only one booked and so it was admittedly a slightly different experience then if we’d had more people but I don’t think that would have changed my opinion. Being the only one did mean we were able to change the route a little and Arthur, my guide, went out of his way to add in little things that he thought I might enjoy….eclairs from Paris’s best patisserie, http://leclairdegenie.com/content/6-boutiques-en-France. Our route through the Latin Quartier took us down one of the oldest roads in Paris, past the oldest pub, the spot where the guillotine was invented, through the flower market along the Seine, into an underground carpark to see one of the last remaining parts of the original city walls of Paris, past numerous examples of Paris’s famous street artists’ work and finally ended at Notre Dame. Again we strolled straight in and admired the incredible architecture. So in addition to seeing more of Paris then I had before, my guide was wonderfully personable, knowledgeable and great company for the afternoon.
Whilst I am happy jumping on and off the metro and walking, if I had extra time I would have hired a city bike to see more of the city. For 1.70 Euros a day these are a great way to get around http://en.velib.paris.fr/
When the time came to leave Paris, I headed for Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London. I arrived early for my Eurostar check in (similar to boarding a flight) thinking security might be extra tight and it was, but so well staffed and efficient I was through in no more than 10 minutes. Quite easily the best way to travel between these two fabulous cities, arriving into London just over two hours later.