Pouting and pottering in Paris
Back in Europe for my brother’s wedding I took the opportunity to jump on the Eurostar over to Paris for a romantic minibreak. My beau and I had booked into Hotel Beaumarchais, the self-styled 'cheapest three star funky hotel in the Maradais district,’ after I’d become infatuated with images of colourful spacious rooms on their website.
Sadly, my enthusiasm was slightly dampened when I discovered we’d actually managed to book the hotel’s smallest suite complete with a teeny tiny bathroom which was about as roomy as an Easyjet toilet.
My complaints were met with indifference from a pouty man on reception.
'You don’t know me, I don’t know you. What can I do?' he said shrugging nonchalantly.
Before I was overcome by ‘Paris Syndrome’ (a condition said to affect a dozen Japanese tourists a year who, on discovering the city is not as romantic as it seems and that Parisians can be very rude, have a psychiatric breakdown) I too pouted with displeasure and flounced out the foyer.
Thankfully, after two nights, we were able to move to the hip Mama Shelter hotel. Our suite was modern, clean and spacious and a little quirky with moody lighting and kinky Shrek and Batman masks in the bedroom. The hotel’s funky Island Bar attracts a cool crowd and serves excellent cocktails (I loved the Water Melon Mint). Likewise, the extensive breakfast buffet is the stuff of gluttony dreams.
Keen to take in as many sights as possible my boyfriend and I opted for a Paris Pass which gave us two days of entry to over 60 of Paris' world famous museums, art galleries and historic monuments. The pass, which came with a guidebook filled with tips about the attractions, also included a two day hop-on-hop-off bus tour as well as a free travelcard for public transport.
We used the bus to journey effortlessly from attraction to attraction taking in the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysees, Grand Palais and stunning gothic Notre Dame Cathedral.
It was well worth climbing the 387 steps of Notre Dame’s south tower to join the gargoyles in looking out across Paris.
More stunning architecture came at The Louvre thanks to the mix of old and new with the 12th Century palace offering a majestic backdrop to the ultra-modern glass inverted pyramid which was added just 20 years ago. One of the finest art galleries in the world, the Louvre is home to thousands of classic and modern masterpieces – none more famous than Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
After pounding the halls of the extensive museum the perfect refreshment came at O Chateau, just a ten minute stroll away. This relaxed wine bar has a selection of 40 wines by the glass (and over 500 by the bottle) and a team of bilingual and friendly sommeliers on hand to help you chose. We headed downstairs to the tasting room, situated in a smart looking wine cellar, to sample O Chateau’s highly recommended ‘Tour de France’.
For the next two hours we were treated to a whirlwind tour of six wines from six French regions including Champagne, Bordeaux and the Rhone.
Perhaps we should have ended our boozing there but lured in by the laidback Parisian surroundings, good wine and cheese plates we stayed on for a good couple of hours chatting to our fellow wine-tasters.
You would be pretty hard pressed not to find somewhere good to eat in Paris but by far my favourite eaterie was the gorgeous Le Coup de Fourchette. A gem recommended by Parisian friends, this relaxed restaurant offers reasonably priced authentic French dishes served by genuinely friendly staff who were very patient as I attempted to order in French and even helped me with my pronunciation.
For a sweet treat near the Champs-Elysees we headed to Laduree, an ornate tea and pastry house famed for its array of colourful macaroons in all different flavours.
With our minibreak drawing to an end we took a last evening stroll around the winding streets of Montmartre, a quaint district situated on a hill in the north of Paris. Climbing Montmartre Hill up the steps to the beautiful Sacré-Coeur Basilica we relaxed at the top taking in breathtaking views of the city.
Afterwards we ambled around Montmartre enjoying the array of quaint wine bars and bistros on a perfect Parisian evening.
Need to know
- A two-day Paris Pass costs €110 for adults, €64 for teens and €36 for a child. A four-day Paris Pass costs €160 for adults, €86 for teens and €46 for children. For more information visit www.parispass.com
- O Chateau’s Tour De France wine-tasting sessions cost €50 per person and take place every day at 5pm. Visit www.o-chateau.com for more details.