After months of moving house, settling into jobs, learning the art of the tube face and getting used to being called Australians, we are finally settled enough (and flush enough) to be taking trips outside the UK – huzzah! To celebrate, Tom and I booked a long weekend in Paris and it was a true feast for the senses.
First up, AirBnB, I bloody love you. So often when staying in a hostel/hotel you feel like an outsider looking longingly through a window at a city, wishing you could be a part of it all. Thanks to AirBnB we managed to stay in a typical Parisian neighbourhood and felt like part of the furniture instantly. Here is a snap of our hood…
Being greeted by this view waking up each morning was such a buzz.
Our pad even had a separate bedroom which is saying something in Paris aka the land of sofa beds. There would be no swinging of cats in the bathroom/tiny cupboard with a shower head, but you have to compromise on these things.
The other great bonus for choosing AirBnB is that your host can tell you where to eat. Our first night we ventured to one of the recommendations for the area – A La Pomponette and had one of the best meals of my life. Despite being incredibly touristy, Montmartre has these pockets of authenticity that when you discover them are truly magical.
The restaurant was very traditional with no English menu so a lovely waitress translated the entire thing for us. What was really remarkable is that she did this with a smile, which as you’ll know if you’ve been to France is a miracle in itself. The whole evening was a delight and it wasn’t just the incredible food that made it – the atmosphere was fantastic. We were surrounded by locals who all seemed to be regulars to the restaurant with the chef coming out to greet many of them. There was even a resident cat that embodied the French spirit. He seemed to be looking down on us all as he surveyed the restaurant and gave me a look of pure disgust when I dared to pat him.
We chose the set menu of 3 courses for 38 Euros and it was indulgent to say the least. Think smoked salmon, duck confit, slow cooked lamb, creme brulee and profiteroles. They practically had to roll us out of there.
Another gem that our hosts pointed out was a bakery down the road (Coquelicot) where we stocked up with supplies for a picnic one morning. This is me in carb heaven.
Just don’t try to eat in for brunch as the service is dreadful. We asked for a coffee and were flat out refused because they were too busy. Rude? A bit. Worth it for the delicious baked goods? Totally.
From there we perused all the local delicatessens and cheese shops (of which there are many in the area) and ended up with enough treats to feed a small colony. Shopping for food is probably one of the most enjoyable things about Paris.
Another thing I love about the city is that you can set your clock by people carrying baguettes. It’s not just a stereotype, this actually happens twice a day – around 10/11 for breakfast (getting up early is not for Parisians) and 5ish in the evening. It’s the same as in Vietnam where a meal isn’t a meal without rice, only in Paris a meal isn’t complete without a baguette. We were never seated without a basket of delicious crusty bread on our table – no complaints here.
If the food options weren’t convincing enough, here are a few more reasons to choose Montmartre as your base in Paris.
Strolling around the area at dusk is a great way to spend an evening in the city and the view of the city from the Sacre Couer is almost as spectacular as the view of the building itself at night.
As we were staying in the area we figured it would be rude not to experience one of the institutions of Montmartre – the Moulin Rouge. I can see how people might overlook this as it could just seem like a tourist trap these days and to be honest it’s pretty expensive. Having experienced it though, I’d say it’s one of those things you really have to see to believe.
One of the selling points is that your ticket also gets you a bottle of champers to share and trust me, this is necessary lubrication for the show. The night begins with an incredibly long queue outside the place and you begin to wonder how on earth everyone in the line is going to be seated. Upon entering the theatre you realise it’s because they jam you in like sardines.
We glugged our champagne quickly as we sat awkwardly with strangers who had no interest in acknowledging us (most tables sit 6 people so if you’re a couple you’ll be lumped with other random people) and anxiously awaited the show. The first number featured fully clothed men who couldn’t dance and partially clothed women who could kind of dance.
From then on the night just got weirder and featured incredible roller skating stunts, painful ventriloquist acts, a pool of snakes that appeared from beneath the stage, a miniature pony parade and a talking dog. Oh and topless women, many many topless women. To say that the show was on par with a West End production would be flat out lying but the sheer ludicrousness and oddity we witnessed made the night something to remember.
I would recommend buying your tickets through 365 Tickets as we managed to get a cheaper rate than on the theatre’s website plus a free river cruise was thrown in. Another tip is to go for the 11pm show time as it’s substantially cheaper than the earlier shows.
So that pretty much sums up our time in Montmartre but there’s still more to tell you dear reader – namely, the best way to get a local’s view of the city, the palace of Versailles and more delicious food yarns…naturally.
Til next time, au revoir!