The nature of our trip to Paris was so excessive that I’ve had to split it across two posts. I could write about the food alone for days to be honest. All you anti-carb/fat/fun advocates need to spend a weekend in Paris and you’ll be converted. I didn’t see a single woman who wasn’t glamorous, thin and halfway through a baguette or chocolate pastry.
That said, we did manage to squeeze in some sight seeing between meals. I mentioned in my last post that I’d let you in on a little secret when it comes to seeing the city through a local’s eyes. To be honest, it’s not a secret at all but I’ve told several people about what we did and no one has heard of them so thought I should spread the word (on a side note, I found out about this through Time Out Paris – which is a great travel resource in itself).
The organisation is called Paris greeters and it’s a not for profit setup where you register for a walk and they hook you up with a free local guide. I could tell that Tom was highly skeptical whilst we waited outside the metro for our ‘greeter’ (mugger/kidnapper/murderer for all we knew) but we were both pleasantly surprised when a pretty French girl in her twenties approached us with a friendly smile. She then proceeded to take us on a tour of her neighbourhood – the second district of the city – where we discovered some real treats including a beautiful old church, covered galleries full of quirky, boutique shops and the oldest bakery in Paris (three words: salted caramel eclairs).
Elise, our greeter, was so lovely that she refused to take a tip from us at the end of our walk (which spanned a couple of hours!). She seemed genuinely happy just to have been able to show us her favourite spots and make sure that we really enjoyed our time in Paris. It was such a great experience that we ended up making a donation to the website. I can fully recommend these guys!
Ok time for more food chat. Elise was also kind enough to point out the best places in her area for authentic French cuisine, one of which was L’Escargot on the buzzing Montorgueill street. As you might expect, the restaurant is famous for it’s snails and I’ll admit that I wasn’t actually that jazzed about trying them however, it turns out that they are DELISH. After telling Tom I’d only have one, our shelled friends arrived swimming in the traditional garlic, butter and parsley sauce and before he could blink I’d demolished my half. Here they are in all their glory.
What was even tastier though (and I feel a tad guilty saying this) was the plate of frogs legs we ordered. Seriously, think of the tastiness level of KFC and amplify that a couple times…probably even more greasy than the Colonel though.
As with all good French meals we were served a generous bowl of crusty bread along with another serving of softer sandwich bread which we assumed was for our cheesy onion soup – another traditional dish done fabulously well here. To top it all off, we had a nice crisp white wine which was reminiscent of a quality NZ Sauvignon Blanc (but actually produced locally by a friend of the restaurant owner).
You’re probably sick of me going on about amazing food experiences by now so to make this more of a realistic recollection I should probably share a quick food fail. To give you some background, I had already been to Paris once whereas Tom was new to the city. I came a few years back on an epic backpacking trip with my gorgeous friend Julia. One of my highlights from our mini Parisian adventure was stumbling across the best rotisserie chicken shop ever and following our meal with a delicious bottle of 5 Euro Bordeaux red whilst sharing conversation with the other interesting (and a bit mad) guests in the courtyard of our hostel.
I decided to try and recreate this memory with Tom and we ended up with an overcooked, dry chicken and corked bottle of wine which we couldn’t even force down back at our apartment. Note to self – don’t try to relive past times, instead make new memories!
And that we did. We actually managed to fit in a lot of tourist attractions and learnt a few things which could have saved us some time and effort so I figured it would be useful to share. If you ever find yourself in Paris, take note…
The Louvre: There are mixed reviews as to whether this is worth the crowds and I’ll admit it’s manic but the building alone is so incredible that I say do it. Just be prepared to have about as much breathing space as you get at 8.45am on the Northern line for many of the popular works. Also, Lonely Planet tells you to pick up tickets from the Carousel to save time. This is a lie and I’m not sure why I thought it would be accurate considering that it is in the Lonely Planet. Duh.
Versailles: The glorious palace requires some patience to get to (about an hour by train) but it is visually stunning – the level of extravagance is simply off the charts. If we were to go again we would make sure to buy a ticket online as there was a breakdown of communication and it turned out that our Palace + Entrance to the gardens ticket was to be taken literally. We got to the entrance of the gardens and were stopped where we had to fork out more to actually enter the gardens. Also, don’t wait around for the ‘musical fountain show’. Again, the French are literal beings and the ‘show’ consists of music blaring through a loud speaker whilst they turn on the fountains. I would recommend giving yourself some time to stroll around the town of Versailles as it is super cute and has a great laid back vibe.
The Eiffel Tower: The best advice I can give you is simple – go at night. The lines are far shorter (by a couple hours!) and you get to see for yourself why they call it the city of lights.
Seine River Cruise: I can’t really comment on price as this was included with our Moulin Rouge ticket but we both really enjoyed our boat trip. As with the tower, I’d recommend going at night to fully appreciate the beauty of the lit up landmarks…also it’s dark so no one can see you sneak on booze. We went with Vedettes by the way.
So that was our first proper European jaunt since living in the UK and I have to say it was a great success. Paris is a funny one as it’s often so over hyped that people end up having a dreadful time. I think the best way to enjoy yourself there is to try and scratch beneath the romantic label it so often gets lumped with and instead embrace the diverse, dynamic and exciting Paris that is waiting to be explored…and eaten.
As always, photo credits must go to Tom – the one who can actually do more than point and click with our super duper fancy camera. Although I must say his selfie technique could do with some improvement. Here we are in front of the palace at Versailles….