A Romantic (and Affordable!) Weekend in Paris

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

...because if two things go together, its romance and budgets, amirite?

I just can't seem to get out of the habit of getting a bargain. I hate soulless swanky hotels, I don't care about posh airlines (although flying club class is an absolute dream I have to admit) and I really hate pretentious bars. I love going away for the weekend knowing I can afford to do it a few times a year, so I've always got my eyes on the RyanAir flight sales, Secret Escapes emails and the Eurostar flash sales. So in early November, when Eurostar had a flash sale for December, I had £62 return tickets snapped up in a jiffy. Absolute bargain. Within 4 hours of leaving our London flat, we were inside the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral, watching quietly as people prayed and lit candles.

It was a particularly poignant time in Paris, just 3 weeks after the horrific attacks, but tourism seemed unaffected and life had started to resume properly again. We ourselves debated on whether we should travel and intrude on a city in mourning, but decided ultimately that we couldn't live in fear of what might happen to us as we went on with our daily lives. If we allowed that to happen, we would be scared to see the best sights, to have a drink in one of our crowded local pubs, or simply to take the tube to work in the morning.

We had already booked our accommodation in a beautiful little mezzanine studio flat in the 10th arrondissement. I had chosen the area because I knew it to be cool, well-located and picturesque from my year in Paris as an Erasmus student. The fact that it was just two streets over where the attacks had happened made me realise that it really could have happened anywhere. It was quiet, perhaps more quiet than usual, and the outdoor tables were empty despite the mild weather and the cosy blankets draped over the backs of the chairs. Inside Le Comptoir General though, it was busy, and I had to shout to be heard over the music as I timidly ordered us beers in my out-of-practice French.

Not being too hungry, we ordered a platter of cheese and paté to go with our blonde beers. "I'm really sorry, but we don't have much bread left", apologised the waiter as he placed down a mountain of sliced baguette to go with it. At least I thought that's what he said.

If you're staying in the area, please please go check out Le Comptoir General - delicious craft beers, excellent cheese and great music. Also, absolutely filled to the rafters with actual French people, can you believe it?!

We headed back to our mezzanine flat for an earlyish night (and because the novelty of climbing a wooden ladder to get into your bed felt like it was never going to wear off) and decided we'd catch the 11:30 Paris free tour leaving in the morning from Font St Michel. If you're new to a city, there is literally no better way to get your bearings than to do one of these tours. Although I wasn't new, having lived there for 6 months, I still learned a lot about the history of Ile-de-France and the Latin quarter of Paris. It wasn't the best free tour I've done, but we were happy to tip 15 euros at the end.

The tour took us past Notre Dame Cathedral, along the banks of the Seine, past Pont Neuf, over Pont des Arts (where they've sadly had to remove all the love locks below) around Ile de Cite and finally to The Louvre.

It's definitely a good snapshot of Paris and ends up right in the heart of Pars, so it's easy to go out exploring after. 

We were hungry though, so we just headed in the direction of our noses.

Craig checking the football results. I told you this was a romantic holiday didn't i?

We pitched up at Les Antiquaires, where we fully intended to have something authentically French, like mussels or even boeuf bourginon. Of course we both looked at each other guiltily and ordered a burger each and a jug of wine. Oops.

Tasted delicous and this pic went down a storm on my Instagram, so no regrets. Just make sure you never order your burger 'rare' in France unless by rare you mean has rarely seen a griddle.

Full of burgers and wine, we realised we still hadn't seen the Eiffel Tower...total rookie error. Back on foot we followed the river round to be greeted with the sight of this beautiful sunset behind the frankly, awe-inspiring tower. No matter how many times I see it, I'm still stunned although I'm not sure why. Even after 5 months of living here I'd still grab my friends arm and point excitedly every time it came into view. She definitely put on a good show for us this time, though.

I finally got to test out my new camera, the Sony RX100 which I have fallen head over heels in love with. All the photos in the blog (except the burgers) were taken on it, but it really comes into its own in low light, where you don't even need to use the flash a lot of the time to get great photos.

I love this picture that I took from Place de la Concorde, blur free, despite all the jostling tourists. The sheer number of people up there did make us move along quickly though because we had one last thing to check out before wrapping up our day (can you believe we haven't been on the Metro yet?).

You can't go to a European city in December and not check out the christmas markets, that's frankly sacrilege. I do remember the market being a little tacky and over crowded and, well, they still are. However, there is one little part I definitely recommend you pay a visit to. If you can get past the hordes of people, take a left as you face away from the Champs Elysee and turn into the Marche Gourmande, the gourmet food market part of the Christmas markets.

Here you'll find santa, wooden sleigh-style seating areas, German-style sausages and even that ever-traditional French snack...snails!

Has there ever been anything more French?! Even though you have to really fight your way through the crowds to get to this little slice of sanity, it's definitely worth the elbow jabs to get there and pick up some tasty treats to eat there or take with you on your merry way. Or just grab a mulled wine to keep you warm and steamy.

The following morning was home time, so we packed up our stuff, decided we now hated the silly wooden ladder up to the bed (turns out the novelty does wear off) and deposited the keys for our host. We wanted to grab breakfast and check out Montmartre.

Again, we set out on foot. Our flat was in such a great location that we didn't need to take the Metro alllll weekend, which I loved! On our way, we stumbled across Dunkerque and were so happy as we wanted more than just a croissant and a coffee.

Craig went for ham and eggs, serves with fresh crusty bread.

I ordered erm, all the food.

Boiled egg, toast, more toast, a cup of tea and an orange juice. It was amazing and just the fuel I needed to take on the steps up to Montmartre.

Montmartre is possibly the busiest place on Earth. Don't let that put you off going, but just keep in mind you might want to whizz through. For me, the streets around Montmartre are some of the most beautiful streets in Paris. Rue Gabrielle for example is lined with cute bars and restaurants. We wandered towards the Moulin Rouge, passing the Amelie cafe and the greengrocers featured in the film (tourist attraction of the year!).

This was our last stop as we had to make a run for the Eurostar back. We only had 2 days in Paris but we managed to see so much without spending the earth. Win win.

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