When the man you love suggests taking you to Paris for your birthday, the only possible response is 'oui'.
During our summer weekend in Barcelona we discussed the relative merits of Barca vs Paris, arguing over the food, rating the climate, pondering the architecture. We came away swayed by the Spanish city, wondering if it had indeed stolen the top spot from the city of lights. There was only one way to find out...
After staying in that silly St Pancras clock tower apartment, we hopped on the Eurostar and were at the Gare du Nord by lunchtime. A few stops round on the metro took us to Rue Sebastapol, to our Airbnb apartment where we dropped off our bags before heading out into the unseasonably warm Parisian afternoon. Afternoon activities were pretty standard: a croque monsieur for lunch followed by stroll along the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower as the sun was setting.
Rather than writing this as if it were a school diary, here are a few of the places we enjoyed food and drink. Look out for another post rounding up our art and shopping experiences.
PLACES TO EAT IN PARIS
Our apartment was two streets away from Rue Montorgueil, famously THE foodie street of Paris. Each day we took a stroll down the road on our way to somewhere else, but each day it took an age due to the incredible shops, cafes and bars that line it.
Stohrer is one of the oldest, most famous Parisian patisseries and is sensory overload - the sugary scent as you walk through the dark, creaky door, the dazzling colours of the iced cakes and pastries.
We bought a couple of brioches sucrés (my go-to French pastry) and a little box of delights - religieuses in chocolate and coffee - tied up with ribbon. These are choux delights stacked up, full of crème pâtissière and drizzled in toothachingly sweet icing. (The religieuse is said to be the cake that inspired Wes Anderson to create Mendl's famous courtesan au chocolat in The Grand Budapest Hotel.)
For baked goods of a very different kind, head to Du pain et des idees in the 10e, which is a hipster hot spot right now.
Also on the Rue Montorgueil is Bistro Les Petits Carreaux, a traditional Parisian neighbourhood bar and restaurant but one famous across the city and beyond for its sauteed potatoes. This is where we ate on our first night in Paris - roast chicken for me and steak for Mike, both with pommes sautées, salad and sauce. It was a pretty perfect French meal.
While wandering in the Marais one day, we stumbled across Breizh, a creperie recommended by Jorge (our Airbnb host). I wasn't entirely convinced that a crepe is ever what I want to eat for lunch, but it turns out I was entirely wrong. These crepes are incredible - buckwheat flour simply bound with egg, milk and butter but topped with the tastiest combinations, like bacon, egg and potato, or goats cheese, walnuts and rocket. Crepes and cider are traditionally paired, so we drank a couple of Kir Breton aperitifs which made our afternoon all warm and fuzzy.
Midway through our trip, we met up with a friend I used to work with in Bristol who's lived in Paris for the past seven years. He suggested we meet for dinner at Soya, a vegetarian restaurant up near the Republique. It just goes to show how things have changed (or how long it's been since I've visited Paris) but this restaurant was so good! Previous attempts to eat at vegetarian restaurants in Paris have not been especially tasty, shall we say. Here, we ate spicy tagine washed down with craft beers.
My pal suggested we try Candelaria, a secret bar and taqueria in the 3e that's currently winning awards all over the place. If you fancy it, persevere. We followed the map to where we thought it should be and were foxed by being able to see in the windows of the bar at the back but not being able to work out how the heck to get inside. Turns out you go through the tiny taqueria through the white door at the back, and then you'll find yourself in Margarita heaven. But first, a little something to eat - it's more than worth waiting for a stool at the bar or around the table at the front. Order delicious guacamole and chips, tacos and beans - authentic Mexican street food made and served in the smallest of kitchens by a super speedy chef who passes dishes to the sole barman, whose acerbic English-with-a-French-accent-but-actually-Mexican chatter drives the brilliant atmosphere here. Then through that door to the bar for drinks afterwards.
PLACES TO DRINK IN PARIS
More places to drink in Paris! Did you know there's a champagne bar at the top of the Eiffel Tower? Yup. As well as shopping and ice skating, the elegant monument has all manner of restaurants. But take the creaky lift right to the top - and I mean right. to. the. TOP - and you'll be windswept and squiffy on bubbles. Proper tourist nonsense, but irresistibly so.
For a classic Paris experience of a more laid back variety, head to the Places des Vosges on the edge of the Marais where you'll find Cafe Hugo. This lovely bar is just what we needed after getting some bad news from home. Giant goblets of gin to drink and salted popcorn snacks helped ease away the lines from our foreheads, while the beautiful interior and classic exterior (we sat neither in nor out - under one of those patio heaters on the deck) reminded us where we were and brought us back to the moment.
And if you're in the 10e, right by that famous Amelie canal is Le Comptoir General. Like Candelaria, this is a doorbell bar, set back off the street and hidden away. Secret bars always suggest small to me - cramped cubby holes or little nooks - but this bar is anything but. I think the building is an old hospital but could be wrong. It's definitely industrial or institutional in some way, and is vast. If faded glamour is your thing then Le Comptoir General will be right up your rue. It's like drinking in Grey Gardens. Or a reclamation yard. Or one of those weird dream sequences in a sixties film.
Come back soon for my Parisian art and shopping tips!
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