51 // Paris, Paintings and Pastries

So last month my mum and I took a little trip to Paris as her belated Christmas present, it’s a nice way to extend the that grateful feeling you have during the festive season. We went just before my birthday and it was a nice way to relax a little as I’ve been working pretty hard and right now me and Mikee are redoing our kitchen which is a bit intense. Anyway – here’s my guide to what we got up to.

HOW WE GOT THERE:

My mum and I took the Eurostar. It took two tubes from where I live in London and then the 2.5hr trail from St Pancras. Once we got off the train we walked 25mins to the Airbbnb we were staying in.


HOW WE GOT AROUND:

WALKING – We walked a lot, got achey legs and backs as you do and had very grateful end of the days when we took our shoes off.

METRO – We used the Metro a good amount, I’m not sure the ticket we bought was that helpful for us because of how much we walked but it definitely helped us get around. We got the Paris Visite Pass for 3 days which cost €26.65 and then a day pass for one day on the last day. Single trips on the Metro cost €1.90, I think I’d probably just get the single passes if I were to go back.

BOAT – We had a little river cruise the first day, my mum had been advised to do it by a friend. It cost €14 per person and they took you from Pont Neuf up to the Paris’ Statue of Liberty and back down the Seine.


AIRBNB

We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in Montmatre. It was smaller than the impression the pictures gave but still very nice to spend time in and had a lovely view. It was a nice area, very artsy, lots of local places to buy fresh baguettes and cheese and lots of stuff going on around. It was super close to the three metro stations. I literally picked it because I remembered when we did Secret Cinema Moulin Rouge last year it was set in old fashioned Montmatre and it was the only name I knew when researching.

If you can’t be bothered to read all of this the video can be your TL:DR fix.

DAY ONE : ARRIVAL & PORTRAITS

My mum came to London first and then we went to get the Eurostar, leaving Mikee to look after three little doggies. It was a little bit like going through airport security in the train station, just you’re allowed liquids which was very handy. The train was relatively boring. I don’t think you’re under the ocean for that long really because of how fast the train is going, you don’t even really notice the change in pressure. Anyway, when we arrived in Paris we walked to our Airbnb. Our host was away so his friend met us and we had a very smooth check in. My phone doesn’t work in other countries for some reason, so I had to download Offline Google Maps to navigate us around.

When we were settled we took a little walk outside and walked up the hill towards Sacre Coeur, which we only saw from a short distance away as we stumbled upon Place Du Tertre and we were approached by a little old man with a clipboard who started drawing me and said we could take it or leave it if we didn’t like it. We weren’t entirely sure but being polite we stayed and my mum and a bunch of other people stood around when he started drawing me. Then another artist came over and started drawing my mum. My mum’s portrait was really nice, mine was a bit questionable but my mum paid the asking price for both.

If we were to go back I would be more adamant to say no thank you or ask for examples of work before agreeing to stand there. If I wanted a portrait I’d walk around a bit more and find an artist I liked the style of. I also read if you don’t want to pay what they ask for leave the drawing and walk away and the price might come down. I think the drawings can be anything from €35 to €80 with €60 being an average.

We walked a bit more, admired the view and I practiced my poor French by ordering us a baguette and we got some cheese and pasta to have as our dinner. The bread and cheese were amazing. Standard.

DAY TWO : CATACOMBS, WALKING AND BOAT TOUR

On our second day we got up early and made our way to the Paris Catacombs. A few friends had advised going and having read the queues were a bit mad we thought we’d do it first. Apparently the day and time we went the queues were an ‘average’ wait time… and we waited for 3 hours.

Now, online you can purchase skip the queue type tickets which are about €70-80, which to me is madness. Though there looks like there are some for about €30 per person.  Definitely pay it on a day when it’s freezing and raining or roasting to the point you’d be burnt to a crisp and become a part of the museum by the time you get in there. Otherwise – if you’re happy to queue, take some snacks, maybe a book and maybe a small fold out chair and you’re sorted for the next few hours, and the ticket price is only €13 if you are happy to wait.

Only 200 people are allowed in there at the same time so that’s why the queue can be super slow but it’s definitely worth it. You’re probably only in there for an hour, but despite the obvious morbid nature of being there it’s incredible to try and comprehend just how old the tunnels are and how many peoples bones are down there. The ossuary that contains the bones is only takes up 1/800th of the tunnels that run underneath Paris and the ossuary contains 6million peoples remains from mass graves. You have no idea who they were, and at time by the way the bones are arranged you could forget they were even bones at all and just think it to be a pebble wall. I would definitely take the time to go to this if you visit. You can see buildings, gardens and take river cruises all over the world but it’s only a one off where you might be able to see something like this.

After we were done in the catacombs we walked. We walked through a flea market that was bit like a boot sale, we walked up to the Palais du Luxembourg and through the gardens there where a sausage dog was playing with a labrador and it was the cutest thing. We stopped for a bite to eat because we were getting hangry. Then we walked up to where the Notre Dame sits, had a look at the outside as the queue was again super long and walked around the building. We walked past people enjoying themselves with friends sitting next to the Seine. And we found ourselves in a little shop next to the river that was built into the wall, I got myself a little ring, a portable bamboo cup and a Paris postcard.

As we found ourselves next to the river my mum suggested we do a river cruise, so we rushed over to the only boat point we could see and had a little trip up and down the the Seine which was nice. It was probably the closest we got to the Eiffel tower.

DAY THREE : THE LOUVRE, WATER LILIES & PASTRIES

We decided to go to the Louvre on the third day. It was lovely and sunny out so it was a shame to be indoors but the building was amazing and we got to see lots of cool stuff. Before we got in I wanted to take some photos outside and while I was doing that a woman approached my mum with a clipboard saying ‘it’s for the deaf’ my mum signed and another woman came up to me getting a bit too into my personal space. I signed but then it came to a column that said ‘Amount’ I said I had no money on me and my mum offered to pay €5 for me and her. Another lady came over and they were asking for change for a 20 and the latest lady put her clipboard over my mums purse and tried to nab some money, luckily I was watching and stopped her. They walked off pretty fast after that and we were a little bit shaken but after that London me took over – otherwise it was very clear people will take advantage of you. I was still quite angry about it in the evening and it took me a while to get to sleep that evening and I never really get angry about anything.

Moral of the story, don’t talk to random people who come up to you with clipboards or who stand too close to you. They’re there to mug you.

Anyway, after another queue of about 30mins to get through security into the Louvre we made it in and bought our ticket which I think was around €19. We went around looking at the French Sculptures, decorative arts, the Greeks, the Egyptians and Napoleons quarters which were actually really interesting to look at. We skipped the Mona Lisa because we’ve seen the picture before and quite frankly she isn’t that interesting. Though it did get me thinking about what it would be like to have someone create your portrait and that become one of the most famous portraits in the world with people going to see it for hundreds of years after. As the creator that would be amazing, as the subject, would it be flattering? Would it be embarrassing?

Anyway, we walked down to Musée de l’Orangerie which is a lot smaller where they hold Monet’s Water Lilies among other paintings by very famous artists. This is very dumb of me but I never realised that the Water Lilies were a series of paintings, there are about 250 paintings that he did and in the gallery they had about 8 of them. They were huge, the colours in them were so vivid and rich. They were rather beautiful to see in real life, and luckily with the Eurostar ticket the entry into the museum was 2 for 1, costing us about €10 to get in. This was definitely worth the visit.

Afterwards I was dying to get some macaroons and some pastries because cake is my life. So we went to Pierre Hermé and I got two boxes of macaroons. One for while we were still in Paris and the other to give to Mikee as a present. They weren’t cheap that’s for sure but they were definitely worth the cost. You could tell the ingredients were high quality, they were delicious and completely delicate. Then we went to Angelina’s and picked up an eclair, one famous praline mont-blanc and a pear jelly pastry. The classic eclair was probably my favourite, could definitely have eaten about ten of those, an the pear one was my second favourite. It had pear jelly on the outside, and was filled with a chantilly cream and pear chunk filling with a hard pastry base with nuts on the outside.

DAY FOUR : L’AURORE & JEU DU PAUME

We’d booked a scented candle making workshop through Airbnb Experiences at L’Aurore which was super fun. Justine, the owner, talked us through the manufacture of perfumes and the history of perfumery. We learned that leather was the first scent to be made, to fragrance leather clothing so it didn’t smell bad. It can take a long time to train in perfume making and you have to take the same career path as someone studying pharmaceuticals. We also learned that natural fragrances can change year to year depending on the crop yield so the creators will hold back batches from previous years to blend together to create an average in the smell – the same thing happens with Champagne. Also many floral scents are man-made, think sweet peas and lily of the valley. Iris can be made naturally but the scent is taken from the root of the flower, say whaaat. And rose has hints of citrus/lemon in it.

She made us really delicious tea and provided some typical French pastries. Then with Justine’s guidance five of us worked together to blend the fragrance for the candles we’d be making. First blending the synthetic ingredients together, then the natural, then mixing those two together to come up with a citrus, cedar and cinnamon scent. We then mixed that in with our wax and placed a wick in the candle and waited for it to solidify.

Mum and I bought some wax melts from her at the end of the workshop and she advised us where we could get food. It was a really great experience, so nice to have a little keepsake at home that we made and she also had a super cute dog called Pins in the back.

After we’d had some food, mum and I decided to try and go to The Grand Palace, which looked like it several really cool exhibitions on, but they were having a special ticketed event so we couldn’t get in. So we walked to Jeu Du Paume, which is a photography museum that sits opposite the Orangerie museum, and has the same entrance deal on. We saw the work of Raoul Hausmann who was important to the Berlin Dada movement. He had very different stages of work and I quite liked the early stuff.

Then we saw the work of Susan Meiselas, who documented a lot of conflict in Nicaragua. The images spanned from early days in New York and photos of a friendship group growing up. To her conflict documentary. To a more recent series on domestic violence. Again, pretty morbid stuff but some of the photos were incredible. So also worth a visit. Though it’s worth noting that while they’re all in the same vicinity, The Louvre, the Orangerie Museum and Jeu Du Paume are all closed on different days.

Fun trivia fact: Jeu Du Paume was in Sex and the City in the last season. It’s were the Russian has his exhibition.

LAST DAY

On our last day we left our Airbnb, dropped our luggage off into storage lockers at Gare Du Nord and went to do one final bit of exploring. We went to Centre Pompidou but the queue again was massive so we skipped that and just looked in some shops, I found a cute one called Bobart where I got me and Mikee some lose leaf tea, a box of pencils and a little orange bracelet to remember the trip. I also bought myself a summer dress from another shop.

We went back to the station, collected our luggage and went through to the Eurostar waiting area. We got some food and I bought Mikee a fancy Easter egg from Le Chocolat by Alaine Ducasse with my leftover euros. It was definitely worth the money: super rich chocolate, layered with praline, more chocolate, praline, and then more chocolate again. It took us a week and a half to eat haha. Finally we got on the train again and made our way back home.

Now I think I would go back to Paris but it wouldn’t be top of my list of places to visit as I feel we have very similar things in London. It would be nice to go for a long weekend at the end of the summer maybe. I appreciated the art and the architecture, I loved that people were just chilling by the Seine in the evening even though it was mid-March. The Catacombs were amazing. But I’d be more savvy next time: be aware of what to look out for so people don’t take advantage. I’d want to eat more food and go and see more galleries and exhibitions but hopefully with less queuing at some point. That being said, with the terror attacks France has had over the last few years it was reassuring to see the security everywhere and knowing that those queues were for everyones safety. I’m not sure if it was the atmosphere there or just seeing lots of art but I also left feeling rather philosophical and thinky, maybe I’m just weird. I think our next trip will be to Scotland, that’s where mum said she fancies going.

If you want to visit Paris I hope you’ve found this a useful guide (if you even got this far). I know I ramble on, I mainly do these posts for me to remember what we did and if it helps other people that’s a plus. Au Revoir for now.

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