Paris, oh Paris. How much I have fallen for you. Since only visiting once as a small child, I have always wanted to go back to the famous European city that seems to encapsulate all who visit. So after a lucky work trip to the city, I put my Mum on a quick 2 hour train from London and we unpacked into a cosy AirBnb for 48 hours in Paris.
On our first morning, I jumped out of bed and stepped out into the Parisian air, following my nose for the scent of fresh croissants. Picking up some pastries and orange juice, we then sat around the breakfast table, deciding on our plans for the day ahead.
If you’re not in a hotel, take advantage of Paris’ collection of boulangeries and grab some fresh warm pastries for breakfast to enjoy in your accommodation.
We quickly decided to head to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the city’s most Parisian of districts and home to historic boulevards that were once filled with famous writers and poets. Walking up the Metro we were met by the sound of Parisian jazz, escaping from two musicians playing outside the Paroisse Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a 6th-century church topped with a landmark tower. The sound of the saxophone and piano filled the street, played by the most enthusiastic of men. Passers-by couldn’t help but stop and smile at the passion they exuded.
Enjoying the music to an early lunch were the guests at Les Deux Magots, the region’s famous café that once welcomed the likes of Picasso and Hemingway. It’s now a popular spot for tourists and supposedly overpriced however upon inspection of the menu I wasn’t too shocked… just expect to add a few euros to what the food is probably worth.
Pop for a pricey coffee at Les Deux Magots or opposite at the once equally popular Café de Flores, one of the city’s oldest coffeehouses.
Sweets and Shops
Still full from our morning croissants, we headed east down the Boulevard Saint Germain towards Rue Mazarine. Along this street at the end of the district is where you’ll find a selection of delicacies and boutiques hidden from the main road. Begin at La Jacobine, the first stop on this tour of the beautiful passageway Cour du Commerce Saint-André.
Decorated in the style of a vintage Parisian tearoom, La Jacobine is a must for all times of the day. We popped in for a true European hot chocolate, richly thick and perfect for a slightly cooler climate. The café also serves a selection of generously sized salads, homemade tarts and French favourites.
Feeling warm and sweet inside, Mum and I mooched down the rest of the narrow passage, dreaming over chocolate treats in Un Dimanche à Paris and resisting the temptation to stock up on jams, oils and sweets in the next door deli.
Avoid the queues at Angelina and instead grab a hot chocolate at La Jacobine whilst exploring the boutique shops and delis down Cour du Commerce Saint-André.
Onward we went, but not before stopping off at L’Eclair de Génie. Another must for your Parisian list of treats, the fancy bakery sells seasonally flavoured eclairs, each perfectly pretty with beautiful décor. Don’t let the 5 euro price tag put you off, for the flavour matches the Instagrammable presentation!
Armed with a strawberry mascarpone and caramel hazelnut delight, Mum and I wandered to the Le Jardin du Luxemburg. The simply stunning gardens are among Parisian’s favourites and it’s not hard to see why upon strolling through the greenery.
At the entrance to the top of the park is the Palais du Luxemburg, a once royal residence for Marie de Médicis, widow of Henri IV, built in the style of the Pitti Palace. Opposite is a more classically French antique, La Maison de Poupée. This beautiful shop has sold porcelain dolls and their intricate houses for over a century. Although shut for midday and unable to find the family owners inside, we couldn’t help peering into the charming interiors.
Entering the garden, we sat and enjoyed our eclairs on some of the park’s movable garden chairs before exploring some of the parks many statues and lawns. There is even a French puppet show and spot for petanque, surrounded by ripe orange and lemon trees.
Grab an éclair from L’Eclair de Génie to enjoy at Le Jardin du Luxemburg, but not before popping into La Maison de Poupée, a traditional French antique shop.
Views over Paris
Next on our agenda was a ride up the Montparnass Tower. Its reputation as Paris’ ugliest building means that its panoramic views are unspoilt by its less than pretty appearance. A short walk from the park, we passed many tree lined restaurants and baguette filled bakeries before reaching the entrance (around the back and up the stairs to the left).
Wizzing up in the lift (to the most typical of lift music!) we arrived on the 56th floor. Here you’ll find a tacky tourist shop and café but look beyond to the views, with helpful information points at each angle.
Excited for a better view, we walked up two flights of stairs to the terrace. Open for sunny afternoons and warm evenings, the more modern area offers a less intrusive view with a small Champagne bar and comfy seating area to soak up the surroundings.
Buy an afternoon ticket for the Montparnass Tower and enjoy a glass of Champagne on the outdoor terrace with panoramic views over Paris.
People watching in the park
With a few hours before dinner, Mum and I decided to head up on the Metro to Concorde, a simple few stops away above the river. Perfect for a late afternoon we took refuge in the spacious Jardin de Tuileries, another striking Parisian park.
As well as the Orangerie Museum which hosts an array of famous paintings, the gardens look out over the modern big wheel and Place de la Concorde, decorated in its many fountains. We took a wander through the sandy paths in search for a warm tea, perfect for sipping in a laid back garden chair looking out over the bright flower garden and striking architecture backdrop.
On route to our dinner reservation, we passed through the Lourve, a must for any tourist. Although not planning to step inside, it was worth just seeing the lovely landscapes and building, whilst of course getting a classic photo!
Tip: Grab a hot drink in the Jardin de Tuileries before wandering through to the Lourve for a classic tourist photo moment!
Dinner in Les Halles
Our dinner took place just a few minutes away in Les Halles, a modern market hall. After introducing my Mum to the wonders of Sephora (and now looking glam for our meal) we were welcomed into Restaurant Champeaux.
Launched by our beloved Dorchester resident Alain Ducasse, Champeaux is a contemporary brasserie that combines industrial style with a bright and welcoming atmosphere. The counters are casual with a traditional scrolling airport-style board, a printed version folded and handed to you as you enter. Chef Kevin Kowal mixes French classics with the best of seasonal ingredients, a perfect selection for a quick bite or lingering meal.
We each picked a plate too good to resist, Mum choosing the duck leg Parmentier served as a ‘shepherd’s pie’ style dish. I opted for the coquilette pasta, thick with black truffle, Comté and ham. It was everything a pasta dish should be and I honestly have never had one better.
Earthy from the truffle, rich from the cheese and salty from the ham, with small mini pasta swirls that soaked up all the flavour. I honestly could not stop declaring my love for it as I resisted from hastily stuffing it in my face. I would go back to Paris, just for this dish. I might write it a love letter…
ANYWAY. For dessert we then both picked the famous sweet soufflés – chocolate and a pistachio/salted caramel. Both were served with a scoop of gelato we were politely informed should be mixed in when deflated. It was light and sweet and all I wanted for a dessert.
Get the metro to Concorde and pick a spot in in the Jardin de Tuileries for classic Parisian people watching before heading to Restaurant Champeaux and ordering 5 portions of the truffle Comté pasta.
Stay tuned for my second day in Paris, exploring the islands of Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter!