I cannot talk highly enough of Paris, in fact, I can’t stop talking about this beautiful city. I just love it. There is something magical about the language, the cafe’s and bars, the pop-up markets, the arrondissements (I love that its broken up into little neighbourhoods), the way of life – a certain je ne sais quoi as they say in the classics.
We did a bold move – left the kids at home with a schedule of sleepovers (thank you Sia and Julie) and embarked on our second honeymoon. We spent 7 glorious days staying in a quaint French hotel in the Saint Germain district (6th). As a mother I feel wrong in admitting that this trip was the best thing we had done. Walking hand in hand along the Seine like newlyweds, a morning coffee with uninterrupted conversation and dinner out without an end time. It was wonderful to reignite that love and respect we have for each other that gets lost in the daily hustle of life.
Paris is very easy to get around on the elaborate train system but may I suggest that walking or hiring a bicycle are the best ways to discover different areas and soak up this wonderful city. Apart from the famous landmarks and museums there is much more to see, do and eat! Here are our top 7 ideas:
1. Picnic: Grab a baguette from the local bakery (Paul’s is a chain but don’t be put off, they have amazing bread and pastries at a good price) and some proscuitto, cheese and salad even from the supermarket is good and head to the Jardin de Luxembourg (6th arrond.) for a picnic in the park or the Tuileries Garden which runs between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde (1st arrond.)
2. Place Des Vosges is the oldest square in Paris and I think one of the most beautiful. This was recommended to us by a local (thank you Stephane) as a must visit and I’m sure glad we listened. A beautiful place to just stop and soak up the beauty. Located in the Marais district (btw 3rd & 4th arrond.) it is surrounded by arcades for shopping and cafes. Nearby Village St-Paul is also a great shopping area (antiques, brocante) in lovely narrow streets and some gorgeous hidden courtyards.
3. Coffee: Somewhat surprisingly, good coffee in Paris is not a given. We found a few places depending on where you are staying:
Frenchie To Go (2nd arrond.): this fabulous almost hole-in-the-wall cafe will delight and surprise. The service was brilliant, the coffee just like at home and a great menu to choose from. It is the offshoot of restaurant Frenchie. Gregory Marchand, chef and owner, went to cooking school in the Loire region. Greg then spent a few years in London as a chef for Jamie Oliver, then off to New York followed by Spain and Hong Kong at the Mandarin Oriental.
Upon his return to Paris, he created a place that reflected his personality and his travels. Frenchie was born and then together with his wife, he opened Frenchie To Go in the famous Rue Du Nil.
Cafe Le Mondrian (6th arrond.): on the corner of Boulevard Saint Germaine & Rue de Seine sits a lovely little corner cafe that also serves the famous ice cream from Berthillon if you don’t want to wait in line. A great place for your morning coffee or to rest, dine and soak up the atmosphere.
Eggs & Co (6th arrond.): a great place for breakfast to enjoy your eggs any way and also get a fabulous cup of caffeine. A little more expensive but worth the visit.
KB Cafe (9th arrond.): for locals and tourists alike a great place for coffee and petit dejeuner. The owner studied his barista skills in, of all places, Sydney!
Holybelly (10th arrond.): this fabulously retro style cafe is definitely worth the trip for great value good food and excellent coffee. It can get very busy especially on the weekend.
4. High Tea at Angelina: having been part of Paris history for over 100 years, Angelina is a must visit. They are famous for their delectable pastries and hot chocolate and also their signature Mont Blanc cake (they sell around 600 of these a day!) The original Rivoli tea rooms were recently closed for restoration which saw many tourists in despair. No need to fear, Angelina tea rooms can also be found in the Luxembourg Gardens, Versailles and at Galleries Lafayette.
5. Les Cocottes (7th arrond.): One of the restaurants by Chef Christian Constant, this is one you cannot overlook on your visit to Paris. I had heard reviews like “Phenomenal” and “I think I died and went to foie gras heaven”! …..so had to put it on my list. This is not your normal Paris bistro. A modern, clean and low key space providing a serene ambience. There is a long bar pretty much the whole way through the restaurant and a few bar like tables. The food was amazing. My husband travels to Paris a lot and says this is the best meal he has eaten. We went for lunch and walked straight in but it’s best to get there early in the evenings as after 7:30pm there is a queue. They also do a 2 course special but we opted to order from their menu which is not overpriced for what we received. Apparently this Chef is up and coming but personally I think he’s there!
135 Rue St Dominique, right near Le Tour Eiffel! Cafe Constant is only a couple of doors down too and has had great reviews however we didn’t try it this time.
6. Dinner at Cafe de Paris (6th arrond.) – A good dining experience is always more than just the food. Here, waiter Alex and his friends provided the best service we received in all of Paris! I realise that’s saying something but we did encounter all levels of good, mediocre and bad service at some of the more touristy traps. At Cafe de Paris, our evening (and we went back to make sure!) was memorable for all the right reasons. A simple, not over the top menu provided great selection and price point. The duck was delicious and the creme brulee was again the best I had. With live music playing in the street and great buskers busting some moves, along with Alex’s happy disposition, it provided an all round fabulous night.
7. Wine Tasting: There are many places to do wine tastings in Paris but one we recommend is Le Baron Rouge (12th arrond.). It is also one of the few places that will refill your empty bottle of wine. There are also day tours you can take that get you to regions just outside of Paris if you fancy a day of exploring away from the hustle and bustle. If Champagne is more your style, there is a Champagne tasting river cruise on the Seine.
This really only just scratches the surface of what there is to do. Let us know of any recommendations you have and keep us posted on your favourite places to go.
If you do wish to explore via the metro system, get yourself a Zone 1 & 2 Mobilis ticket via “other” on the ticket machines and for EURO6.80 you can go anywhere all day. Great value.
Also check out our Family guide to Paris